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Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society Reprint Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674792913
ISBN-10: 0674792912
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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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (October 15, 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: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 75 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 4, 1999
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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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By ingonyama VINE VOICE on 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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By KDonovan on September 13, 2014
Format: Paperback
One of the most helpful reads in history that I've read. This is a book that you KEEP, read and reread for years to come. The process of scientific evaluation is highly regarded for many reasons and this book enables you to participate in this exploration. I highly recommend.
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18 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "b_arkis" on 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 By Nick Hirsch on 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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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Frank T. Manheim on October 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
One can sympathize with the engineer who wanted to throw the Latour's book at the wall. "Engineers do, while scientists discover and write". Latour is not about coming to firm conclusions, identifying and clarifying problems, and providing cogent summaries of scientists' activities. One could perhaps describe him in terms of a hypothetical analogy involving a disinterested sportscaster at a university. The sportscaster does not identify with or root for a given team. He doesn't provide statistics on comparative performance of players. Rather, he makes eclectic observations about sports, like comparing the weight range for football players with that of championship tennis players; racial breakdowns by sport, critical skills involved in different sports, characterizing audiences and fans of each sport, and perhaps tracing typical histories of players as they rise to high achievement in their sports.

Latour is an observer (and also a writer) of sophistication. However, France can perhaps afford his kind of detached exploration better at the present time than can the U.S. We have current crises that are less serious in France. These include domestic conflict over global climate change policy; and lack of communication between interest groups, and consequences of longstanding avoidance of political policy problems like systems for sustainable support of major social services. My my own preference is that our scientific and conceptual talent move more from the Latour model to that of the engineer!
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