Instrumentalization theory and reflexive design in animal husbandry

Social Epistemology 22 (1):29 – 50 (2008)
Abstract
In animal husbandry in The Netherlands, as in a wide variety of other societal areas, we see an increased awareness of the fact that progress cannot be attained anymore by simply repeating the way we modernized this sector in the decades before, due to the multiplicity of the problems to be dealt with. The theory of reflexive modernization articulates this macro-social phenomenon, and at the same time serves as a prescriptive master-narrative. In this paper, I analyse the relationship between Feenberg's instrumentalization theory and reflexive design; that is, the approach of doing reflexive modernization. Feenberg's analytical distinction between primary and secondary instrumentalization is useful in highlighting the way social and political values are inscribed into technological arrangements, but is not meant as a method. Reflexive design, on the other hand, is meant to be a reflective and deliberative method that aims to articulate, assess and reintegrate hitherto unquestioned values and presuppositions into new designs of production systems. Reflexive design thus may be seen as a conscious strategy of making explicit the separate stages of instrumentalization in advance, instead of criticizing the implicit embedding of dominant values in technological artefacts once they have been realized. The approach is illustrated with a case from animal husbandry.
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