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Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society [Paperback]

Bruno Latour
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 14, 1988 0674792912 978-0674792913 Reprint

Science and technology have immense authority and influence in our society, yet their working remains little understood. The conventional perception of science in Western societies has been modified in recent years by the work of philosophers, sociologists and historians of science. In this book Bruno Latour brings together these different approaches to provide a lively and challenging analysis of science, demonstrating how social context and technical content are both essential to a proper understanding of scientific activity. Emphasizing that science can only be understood through its practice, the author examines science and technology in action: the role of scientific literature, the activities of laboratories, the institutional context of science in the modern world, and the means by which inventions and discoveries become accepted. From the study of scientific practice he develops an analysis of science as the building of networks. Throughout, Bruno Latour shows how a lively and realistic picture of science in action alters our conception of not only the natural sciences but also the social sciences and the sociology of knowledge in general.

This stimulating book, drawing on a wealth of examples from a wide range of scientific activities, will interest all philosophers, sociologists and historians of science, scientists and engineers, and students of the philosophy of social science and the sociology of knowledge.


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Editorial Reviews

Review

One cannot but be impressed by the scope of Latour's work...This is no mere bricolage, but a coherent and powerful framework for research. I predict that Science in Action will have an impact comparable to Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions both as a provocation to philosophers and as an inspiration to sociologists and historians of science. (Nicholas Jardine Times Literary Supplement)

Latour's Science in Action is a "must read" for all sociologists, not just because the sociology of science is a dynamic and growing subdiscipline, but more importantly because Latour's thesis challenges the notions that underlie sociologists' efforts to distinguish our field as a "science"...Latour's thesis is that science, including sociology, is collective action and that facticity is a consequence, not a cause, of collective action...An excellent and enjoyable introduction to the sociology of science. (Joan H. Fujimura Contemporary Sociology)

There is a wealth of material and some titillating insight into discoveries beginning with the framed race to find the structure of DNA--the double helix--and in Latour's hands, it becomes a true cliffhanger...This [book] will reward those who want to probe science and the modern world in depth. (Kirkus Reviews)

This account of science as composed of drifting, recombining networks is presented with considerable charm and humour. There are many brief case histories to enliven the text, and the book works very well as a guide through scientific reasoning. (Steven Yearly Nature)

About the Author

Bruno Latour is Professor at Sciences Po, Paris and the 2013 winner of the Ludvig Holberg International Memorial Prize.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (November 14, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674792912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674792913
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 75 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Latour today can be regarded as one of the leading philosophers of science and technology. After his first work with Steve Woolgar, "Laboratory life", this is his second major work in which he generalises on various topics that he only touched in a very preliminary way in the above work. Latour adopts a very original way of following scientists in their struggle to "produce" scientific truth. He studies them as if they were a tribe (Latour is originally an ethnographer).
His conclusion is that scientific truth and the designing of succesful technological artefacts is not so much a "unveiling of some hidden truth behind things" or a logical construction, but a very heterogeneous project in which money, resources, statements, objects, people and numerous other things are linked in such a way that a strong chain is formed. Something is true if the chains is strong enough to withstand "trials of strength". Latour does away with metaphysical ideas of "The Truth" but insist in stead that truth is very much a stage in a process of negotiation between human and non-human actors. The idea that truth is the result of a logical process in which an abstract "reality" is discovered is, according to Latour, a story that is told afterwards to defend the theory itself and not something that is inherent in the forming of the theory itself.
In a very easy-to-read way Latour guides his readers through the work of science and technology "in the making". A must for any student in science and technology as well as for any scholar in social sciences and philosophy.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars extremely though-provoking February 6, 2009
Format:Paperback
In 20 years in higher ed. in the social sciences, I am hard pressed to think of a book that immediately and permanently transformed the way I understand the world more than this one. It opens up hundreds of questions and is a delight to read. Probably the best starting point for a newcomer to Latour's ouevre, too.
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18 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Engineer's Opinion... October 10, 2000
Format:Paperback
I'm an electrical and electronics engineer, working for a governmental R&D Institution. I also study on Science and Technology Policy Studies for an M.S. degree. I found the book quite useful, especially in its aspect of analyzing the scientist and engineer in his own time, his own context, his own psychology... It is a well organized, fluent, clear book. It may not be a complete guide or a definitive study, but it is a good point to start. Recommended...
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Deeply Engaging Read October 19, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bruno Latour provides an excellent framework for understanding the production of scientific knowledge. His "black box" theory of the development of facts is a useful metaphor which can be extended beyond science studies into the other arenas of intellectual discourse and fact-making. Anyone interested in the social construction of knowledge should give this volume a close read.
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