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We Have Never Been Modern Paperback – November 14, 1993
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[Latour] stakes out an original and important position in current debates about modernity, antimodernity, postmodernity, and so on. These debates can only be enriched by Latour's attention to the practical coupling of the human and the nonhuman, and they can only be enlivened by the thumbnail critiques offered along the way of thinkers as diverse as Kant, Hegel, Bachelard, Habermas, Baudrillard, Lyotard, and Heidegger. (Andrew Pickering Modernism)
An interesting and deeply thought-out presentation of the large scale problems of our world seen in relation to the idea of 'modernism.' The book focuses on the interrelationships between three large-scale domains: science and technology, politics and government, language and semiotic studies… Latour examines the premodernists, postmodernists, antimodernists, and so-called modernists and concludes that we really never were modern and now need to pursue a form of modernism (which he describes) purged of its counterproductive features. (Choice)
The present book is essentially a work of metaphysics, a kind of political ontology. Latour's goal is to break down traditional philosophical categories of nature, power and language… Latour's insights are abundant, from his advocacy of multinaturalism (versus multiculturalism) to his call for social theorists to recognize the historicity of objects… This is a wonderful book to disagree with―a refreshing break from the straight-jacketed sycophancy that defines so much of the history and philosophy of science. It is not an easy book, but the reward for the philosophically minded is well worth the wrestle. (Robert N. Proctor American Scientist)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Latour, for those of you who don't know him, has been at the forefront of the emerging field of "science studies", the history and sociology of science, for the past 15 years. He's also a rather bizarre fellow. His "Aramis" is a book of real sociology that is told in the form of a novel, in which the metro car of a failed Parisian public transportation project becomes one of a series of narrators. In "We Have Never Been Modern," he conscisely summarizes the theoretical basis of his work, and stakes out ground that is genuinely new. The book should excite humanisitic academics, scientists, and intellectually adventurous people from all walks of life with a taste for theory.
The thesis -- the basis for the "we have never been modern" part -- is that the "great divide" between nature and human, subject and object, science and society, was never real. Instead, he says, this subject/object divide was the great dirty fiction of the "modern" world.
To give you the gist of the argument as briefly as possible: the separation of nature and human, that has marked Western intellectual life since the 17th century, allowed both science and the humanities to make their own claims for absolute truth. This divide was the basis for our image of "modern western man."
But these claims hid the fact that "hybrids" were springing up all the while.Read more ›
Mr. Latour traces our modern confusion to a series of debates between Thomas Hobbes and Robert Boyle in the seventeenth century which led to divergences in the study of nature or ideologies on the one hand and science or facts on the other; modernity became defined by the knowing of what was previously unknown. Mr. Latour contends that the 'purification' or incontestability of scientific facts and ideologies has failed to account for the 'hybrid' ways in which society and nature actually respond to change. Indeed, the interjection of science into the real world has created a multiplicity of what Mr. Latour calls 'quasi-objects', or phenomena that are located in the midpoint between science and nature; examples of quasi-objects include global warming, genetic engineering, the AIDS epidemic, and so on. Mr. Latour believes that we are ill-equipped to address these problems inasmuch as the institutions built around Enlightenment ideals have failed to account for the nonseparation of social practices from nature.
In this light, Mr. Latour rejects the idea that humanity has ever really broken away from its premodern past. To begin with, Mr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The starting point of this essay is Latour's construction of a vast conspiracy, a us vs. them. He pretends there is a movement our group of people he calls "the moderns" as if they... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Hochdorff
Think about this for a second. Someone who is reading this book likely cares very deeply about modern philosophies. Read morePublished on August 30, 2013 by NathanS
Apparently, we have never been modern ... but how we're different from Middle Ages European society, or anything else for that matter, is unclear. Read morePublished on April 25, 2013 by M. Zavala
A book stunning in its analytical reach, We Have Never Been Modern shows the futility/centrality of Nature/Culture debates. Read morePublished on February 6, 2010 by Richard C. Sha
Unfortunately I have not finished the book yet due to time constraints, but I have completed the first few chapters. Read morePublished on November 12, 2008 by Tanya R. Peevey
i loved this book: it questions the idea of repeatability, which means that it questions the religion of science (as practiced by amateurs)and it shows you how language has served... Read morePublished on July 18, 2003 by the sparrowhawk
I'd like to think I'm not a dummy, but this was hard to read. It looks to me like the book was translated to English by someone who might know more about Anthropology than written... Read morePublished on October 29, 2000 by kent dahlgren