Latour is a world famous and widely published French sociologist who has written with great eloquence and perception about the relationship between people, science, and technology. He is also closely associated with the school of thought known as Actor Network Theory. In this book he sets out for the first time in one place his own ideas about Actor Network Theory and its relevance to management and organization theory.
Chapter 1 FROM ORDER TO DISORDER 5 mins. John enters and goes into his office. He says something very quickly about having made a bad mistake. He had sent the review of a paper. . . . The rest of the sentence is inaudible. 5 mins.
Political enunciation remains an enigma as long as it is considered from the standpoint of information transfer. It remains as unintelligible as religious talk. The paper explores the specificty of this regime and especially the strange link it has with the canonical definition of enunciation in linguistics and semiotics. The ‘political circle’ is reconstituted and thus also the reasons why a ‘transparent’ or ‘rational'political speech act destroys the very conditions of group formation.
Technology is epistemology’s poor relative. It still carries the baggage of a definition of matter handed down to it by another odd definition of scientific activity. The consequence is that many descriptions of “things” have nothing “thingly” about them. They are simply “objects” mistaken for things. Hence the necessity of a new descriptive style that circumvents the limits of the materialist definition of material existence. This is what has been achieved in the group of essays on “Thick Things” for which (...) this note serves as an afterword. (shrink)
What has happened to the project of ‘symmetrical anthropology’ in the last twenty years? What difference does it make to consider a multiplicity of cultures over the background of a unified nature, or a multiplicity of natures in addition to a multiplicity of cultures? In which way does it open up another type of scientific anthropology, no longer based on comparison but on ‘diplomacy’? Can modernity, as an interpretation of the former West, be recalled? Translated by Stephen Muecke.
The field of “science studies” has often been suspected of dubious moral grounds because of its intensive concern with nonhumans; the accusation is made by those who use a roughly Kantian definition of what it is to occupy the moral high ground. By evaluating four contrasting texts (by Comte-Sponville, Kant, Serres, and Lovelock) in tandem, this article explores what an “objective morality” would look like, and it considers how to compare the Kantian axiology with the actor-network theory's possible definition of (...) a thing-oriented morality. Especially important in this context is the moral intensity of a text, which this article defines semiotically in terms of the ability to feel responsible by responding to the “call” of more beings than the human beings so exclusively attended to in the moralist tradition. (shrink)
The author of the present paper argues that while trying to explain the institutional success of the science and its broad social impact, it is worth throwing aside the arguments concerning the universal traits of human nature, changes in the human mentality, or transformation of the culture and civilization, such as the development of capitalism or bureaucratic power. In the 16th century no new man emerged, and no mutants with overgrown brains work in modern laboratories. So one must also reject (...) the Great Divide between the cultures of the scientific and pre-scientific and replace it with multiple, uncertain and unexpected ‘not-so-great divides’, which can be described in meticulous anthropological studies. Although the achievements of science are certainly spectacular, and the gap between scientific practice and other areas of activity is so obvious, this does not mean that one must look for the “great” reasons behind this situation. One should rather focus on quite down-to-earth practices and tools used by scientists. A significant part of their activities can be described by referring to the craft of writing, reading and transforming of various types of inscriptions , and broadly understood visualization – their combining, performing, interpreting, confronting, comparing, shifting, shuffling etc. The important role of these tools and methods is especially visible in situations of scientific controversy. It is so because scientific controversies are won by the one able to muster on the spot the largest number of well aligned and faithful allies, and the technology of writing, printing and visualizing play a special role in mobilizing them. These are necessary to ensure that certain factors can be mobile – easy to move from place to place, and yet, immutable – not undergoing deformation as a result of the movement. This way, scientists are able to not only diffuse different types of factors relevant to the dispute and the process of constituting science, but also concentrate them in the centers of calculation, where, through accumulation, one can take actions not available elsewhere. (shrink)