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Introduction: STS and Neoliberal Science



In this special issue, we focus on the particular impacts of neoliberalism as a regime of scientific management. Drawing on a wide range of studies from other fields, as well as the four cases in this issue, we argue that while there are important differences in how neoliberalism has been implemented across nations and disciplines, there are a set of key principles and common outcomes that can serve a heuristic function for STS scholars attempting a more careful examination of neoliberalism. These common outcomes include: the rollback of public funding for universities; the separation of research and teaching missions, leading to rising numbers of temporary faculty; the dissolution of the scientific author; the narrowing of research agendas to focus on the needs of commercial actors; an increasing reliance on market take-up to adjudicate intellectual disputes; and the intense fortification of intellectual property in an attempt to commercialize knowledge, impeding the production and dissemination of science. Taken together, these shifts suggest that the impact of neoliberal science policy and management extends far beyond the patent system into the methods, organization, and content of science. We thus urge STS scholars to undertake a detailed exploration of exactly how the external political—economic forces of neoliberalism are transforming technoscience.
Social Studies of Science
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/0306312710378549
2010 40: 659Social Studies of Science
Rebecca Lave, Philip Mirowski and Samuel Randalls
Introduction: STS and Neoliberal Science
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Rebecca Lave, Department of Geography, Indiana University, 120 Student Building, Bloomington, IN,
47405, USA.
Introduction: STS and
Neoliberal Science
Rebecca Lave
Indiana University, USA
Philip Mirowski
University of Notre Dame, USA
Samuel Randalls
University College London, UK
In this special issue, we focus on the particular impacts of neoliberalism as a regime of scientific
management. Drawing on a wide range of studies from other fields, as well as the four cases in
this issue, we argue that while there are important differences in how neoliberalism has been
implemented across nations and disciplines, there are a set of key principles and common outcomes
that can serve a heuristic function for STS scholars attempting a more careful examination of
neoliberalism. These common outcomes include: the rollback of public funding for universities;
the separation of research and teaching missions, leading to rising numbers of temporary faculty;
the dissolution of the scientific author; the narrowing of research agendas to focus on the needs
of commercial actors; an increasing reliance on market take-up to adjudicate intellectual disputes;
and the intense fortification of intellectual property in an attempt to commercialize knowledge,
impeding the production and dissemination of science. Taken together, these shifts suggest that
the impact of neoliberal science policy and management extends far beyond the patent system
into the methods, organization, and content of science. We thus urge STS scholars to undertake
a detailed exploration of exactly how the external political–economic forces of neoliberalism are
transforming technoscience.
commercialization, neoliberalism, political economy, privatization
Social Studies of Science
40(5) 659–675
© The Author(s) 2010
Reprints and permission: sagepub.
DOI: 10.1177/0306312710378549
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660 Social Studies of Science 40(5)
While the idea that the 20th century was a golden age of science free from outside influ-
ence is clearly mythic (Kleinman, 2003; Mirowski and Sent, 2002; Rasmussen, 2002,
2004), it is also clear that the relations between public science and private profit have
shifted dramatically over the past 30 years with the broad global movement towards neo-
liberalism.1 Neoliberal policies, while varying across national contexts, have shifted
methods, organization, and content in similar ways throughout the university. Given both
the powerful impacts on the university and the growing attention to neoliberalism across
the social sciences, it is surprising that STS scholars have not given more concerted atten-
tion to neoliberalism. The existing literature in STS has been notably vague about neolib-
eralism’s definition and temporal and geographical specificities, as well as the extent to
which neoliberal political–economic relations beyond academia shape what happens
within it. The tendency instead has been to attribute many of the great transformations to
actors internal to the university, ranging from the ‘performativity’ literature on economics
(MacKenzie et al., 2007) to the rise of strong intellectual property (IP) (Berman, 2008),
and to the accommodation to corporate protocols (Shapin, 2008). Curiously enough, this
may have been one legacy of the modern STS field’s repudiation of the Mertonian divi-
sion between internal and external influences on science. While rejecting this division has
been enormously productive for building the STS field, we believe it is time to reconsider
what it portends for science studies in an age of neoliberal policies.
Thus, for this special issue, we have brought together four case studies that explore
the broader territory of relations between private profit and public science. In each
case, the authors identify neoliberal-influenced policies and philosophies at work in
reshaping the production and consumption of a particular scientific discipline, focusing
on the contextually specific ways in which neoliberal practices have been adopted. It
thus falls to this introduction to briefly gather together the threads from the individual
papers in order to speak to broader themes about commercialization and privatization in
In this introduction, we first provide an outlandishly brief history of neoliberalism and
introduce its key concepts and the debates that surround it. We then describe the limited
treatment of neoliberalism in STS to date, and make the case that such political–economic
analysis should become a more prominent part of the STS toolkit. We conclude by
introducing the papers in the special issue with particular attention to the lessons that
can be drawn from comparison of these four case studies on issues such as the role of
the state and the impacts of neoliberalism on the practice, content, and management
of science.
Neoliberalism can best be understood as the product of an (‘inFleckted’) historical
‘thought collective’ (see Plehwe, 2009) constituted through the Mont Pelerin Society,
which was founded in 1947. The Society was formed to create a transnational network
of neoliberals (academics and professionals) to promote their image of the market as
the central agent in human society, and thus shift government focus from public wel-
fare to market creation and protection. Its first President (1948–60) was the Austrian
economist Friedrich von Hayek. Consequently, neoliberalism has been associated with
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Lave et al. 661
Austrian economics, although there are good reasons to incorporate far more than this
(see the essays in Mirowski and Plehwe (2009)). Other early members more recognizable
to the STS community were Karl Popper and Michael Polanyi. Through decades of
vigorous debate, Society members developed neoliberalism’s core principles on issues
ranging from public universities to legal frameworks, and their thinking eventually
came to dominate a set of influential institutions, from Chicago School Economics to
think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan and George Marshall
Institutes (Mirowski, 2008), to international financial institutions such as the World
Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
While neoliberalism has varied in its manifestations in different countries and regu-
latory arenas, the common core has been the promotion of market-based solutions to a
broad range of issues. Neoliberalism brings together the classical liberal economic
faith in the ability of properly functioning markets to improve social welfare with a
new political commitment to expand market relations into traditionally public arenas
such as healthcare, education, and environmental management (Harvey 2005; McCarthy
and Prudham, 2004; Mirowski and Plehwe, 2009; Peck and Tickell, 2002). As it devel-
oped after World War II, neoliberalism diverged from classical political liberalism by
renouncing the passive notion of a laissez-faire economy in favor of an activist
approach to the spread and promotion of ‘free markets’.2 Contrary to classical liberal-
ism, neoliberals have consistently argued that their political program will only triumph
if it becomes reconciled to the fact that the conditions for its success must be con-
structed, and will not come about ‘naturally’ in the absence of concerted effort. This
had direct implications for the neoliberal attitude towards the state, as well as towards
political parties and other corporate entities that were the result of deliberate organiza-
tion, and not simply unexplained ‘organic’ growths. ‘The Market’ could not be
depended upon to naturally conjure up the conditions for its own continued flourishing.
It needed a strong state (divested of its unnecessary social welfare encumbrances) and
the backing of international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF to take its
proper place in the neoliberal order.
Chile became the infamous first test case for neoliberal policies in the 1970s under
General Pinochet, as national policy was substantially shaped by Chicago School econ-
omists, including students of Milton Friedman (President of the Mont Pelerin Society,
1970–2). Neoliberal policies were subsequently rolled out at the state level in a number
of countries, including the UK and the US through the rise of Milton Friedman-inspired
politicians under Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Neoliberalism became the
dominant philosophy of the World Bank and IMF, leading to the era of structural
adjustment and the global dominance of neoliberal principles. As Margaret Thatcher
infamously declared, ‘There is no alternative’, a quote so frequently repeated to assert
the dominance of neoliberalism that it is now referred to simply as TINA. While the
ongoing global financial crisis has created doubt in some quarters about the rationality
of neoliberal policies, neoliberalism remains the dominant organizing rationale for the
global economy.
The key to understanding the relevance of neoliberalism for science studies is to
appreciate that it is based upon some foundational precepts concerning knowledge
and how it is best organized. On the organizational front, as part of the shift towards
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market-based solutions, national science policies have been (and continue to be)
molded to encourage private investment in science and university–industry partnerships,
through avenues such as strengthening intellectual property and decreasing public
funding. At an even more fundamental level, neoliberalism reifies the primary func-
tion of an ideal economy as a ‘marketplace of ideas’. The fundamental role of the
market is not, according to neoliberalism, the mere exchange of things, but rather the
processing and conveyance of knowledge or information. No human being (and no
state) can ever measure up to the ability of the abstract marketplace to convey existing
ideas and to summon forth further innovation.3 Hence the novelty of neoliberalism is
to alter the ontology of the market, and consequently, to revise the very conception of
society. By its very definition, the market processes information in ways that no
human mind can encompass or predict. Both of these characteristics of neoliberalism
have profound implications for the organization and practice of science.
In the interests of summarizing our immediate concerns with what eventually
became the core principles of neoliberalism – the commercialization of science and
the university – we here risk oversimplifying its tenets into eight grossly telegraphed
1. The Market is an artifact, but it is an ideal processor of information. Every suc-
cessful economy is a knowledge economy. It knows more than any individual,
and therefore cannot be surpassed as a mechanism of coordination. This is the
core neoliberal argument for why socialism must fail.
2. Neoliberalism starts with a critique of state reason. The limits of government are
related to intrinsic limitations on a state’s power to know, and hence to supervise.
These limits are not fixed for all time. Nevertheless, the Market always surpasses
the state’s ability to process information.
3. Politics operates as if it were a market, and thus dictates an economic theory of
‘democracy’. This explains why the neoliberal movement must seek and consoli-
date political power by operating from within the state. The ‘night-watchman’
version of the state ends up repudiated. This tenet justifies alliances with the
powerful in order to push the neoliberal agenda, and reinforces right-wing suspi-
cions of what they consider ‘radical democracy’, that is, political action outside
a market framework. This is combined with an advocacy of the ‘wisdom of
crowds’, as long as that wisdom is expressed through market-like frameworks.
4. Governmental institutions should be predicated on the government of the self.
Freedom is not the realization of any telos, but rather the positing of autonomous
self-governed individuals, all naturally equipped with a neoclassical version of
‘rationality’ and motives of self-interest. Foucault (2004, 2008) is strongest on
the role of these ‘technologies of the self’, which involve an elaborate reassess-
ment in concepts of human freedom and morality.
5. Corporations can do no wrong, or should not be blamed if they do. Competition
always prevails. This is one of the most pronounced areas of divergence from
Classical Liberalism, with its ingrained suspicion of joint stock companies and
monopoly. It underwrites a ‘degovernmentalization of the state’ through privati-
zation of education, health, science, and even portions of the military.
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6. The nation-state should be subject to discipline and limitation through international
initiatives. This was initially implemented through neoliberal takeover of the
IMF, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and other previously classi-
cal liberal transnational institutions. It began as advocacy of ‘free trade’ and
floating exchange rates, but rapidly became subordinate to the wider agendas of
transnational corporations, to whom it became attached. Neoliberal ‘reforms’ can
therefore be imposed outside of standard political channels by supra-national
7. The Market (suitably re-engineered and promoted) can always provide solutions
to problems seemingly caused by The Market in the first place. Monopoly is
eventually undone by ‘competition’; pollution is abated by the trading of ‘emis-
sions permits’; McCarthyism is mitigated by competition between employers
(Friedman, 1962: 20). There is no such thing as a ‘public good’ or ‘market fail-
ure’, but only a series of problems handled by different governance structures,
themselves determined by relative transactions costs (Coase, 1960, 1974).
8. Redefinition of property rights is one of the most effective ways the state exerts
neoliberal domination, since once such rights become established, they are
treated from then on as ‘sacred’. Neoliberal economics often presents property
rights as though their specific formats were relatively unimportant for the opera-
tion of ‘The Market’, but simultaneously they admit that, once created, they are
very difficult to reverse. Hence the best way to initiate the privatization program
in any area that previously had been subject to communal or other forms of allo-
cation is simply to get the state to institute a new class of property rights.
The last 30 years demonstrate clearly that these principles manifest in contextually spe-
cific ways. They are useful, however, as heuristic devices for STS scholars interested in
more careful examination of neoliberalism. These principles point towards commonali-
ties across technoscientific contexts, and also to key arenas for analysis of changing
patterns in the organization of science and technology under neoliberal regimes, as states
enact policies (often with the aid of international institutions) to develop and protect
property rights, self-government, privatization, and the prioritization of the market in
delivering services.
Neoliberalism and STS: Why we should pay more attention4
STS scholars have primarily addressed the impacts of neoliberalism through studies of
the commercialization of biomedicine and biotechnology, addressing topics such as the
impacts of patenting, the power balance between states and corporations, and the effects
of private funding on public science. The authors of these studies tend to polarize into what
Mirowski and Van Horn (2005) refer to as Economic Whigs (for example, Baltimore,
2003; Owen-Smith and Powell, 2003; Thursby and Thursby, 2003) – promoting technol-
ogy transfer and public/private partnerships – and their opponents the Mertonian Tories –
sounding the alarm to protect the norms of science, while preaching deliverance through
a return to the supposed Mertonian Golden Age (for example, Brown, 2000; Croissant
and Restivo, 2001; Krimsky, 2004).
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664 Social Studies of Science 40(5)
This debate does not address many critical issues raised by the increasing privatization
and commercialization of science. The ongoing integration of public science and private
profit has not been limited to the biomedical sphere, but has spread out across the natural
sciences and into the social sciences as well. Further, the impact on universities and the
sciences is more profound than the biomedical debate would suggest, as demonstrated
by a small but growing body of literature (Fallis, 2007; Fisher, 2009; Michaels, 2008;
Nedeva & Boden, 2006; Foucault, 2008;5 Giroux, 2008; Goldman, 2005; Pestre 2003,
2005; Tyfield, 2010). The surge in university patents is indeed important, but as a mani-
festation of much deeper changes in scientific practice, management, and content as
neoliberal concepts have been used to justify major innovations in the structure and
organization of science.
The shifting relationship between markets and universities during the 20th
Some STS scholars argue that because science has always been beholden to its patrons,
the character of those patrons is not particularly important; science has ‘always been
commercial’, so the rise of neoliberalism is simply a difference in intensity, not in kind.
For example, Steven Shapin writes that:
Throughout history, all sorts of universities have ‘served society’ in all sorts of ways, and, while
market opportunities are relatively novel, they do not compromise academic freedom in a way
that is qualitatively distinct from the religious and political obligations that the ivory tower
universities of the past owed to the powers in their societies. (Shapin, 2003: 19)
By contrast, we argue that particular regimes of science management and funding have
specific and profound impacts on the character of scientific production.6 Science may
always have had economic and political dependencies, but the character of those depen-
dencies matters deeply. As Dominque Pestre pointed out, ‘the fact that Galileo succes-
sively worked in a university, then for the Republic of Venice, and finally at the court of
the Grand Duke of Tuscany is of direct relevance to the kind of knowledge he produced’
(Pestre, 2005: 30; also Biagioli, 2006a).
The US, for example, experienced three quite different regimes of scientific organi-
zation during the 20th century. The post-World War II shift to military organization and
funding of science was a marked change from the decentralized organization, pedagogi-
cal focus, and rejection of public funding that had characterized academic science dur-
ing the first half of the century. As we will describe in the next section, the shift away
from military organization and funding with the rise of neoliberalism created a similarly
stark contrast.
Why neoliberalism is different
In the name of national security and nation building, the Cold War science management
regime provided a sustained subsidy of academic research via the innovation of overhead
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payments on research grants. The state also supported the democratization of education
via the GI Bill, provided generous fellowships integrated into grant structures, and
insisted on the open distribution of research results (Asner, 2004; Mirowski, 2010).
The rise of neoliberal science management regimes since 1980, particularly the insis-
tence on the commercialization and privatization of knowledge, has created substantive
shifts in the organization and practice of science. Perhaps the most obvious shift is the
rollback of government funding for, and organization of, public research universities.
During the Cold War, excelling at science was considered a key element of national
security, and thus the military served as the primary manager and patron of public
research. But by 1980, private spending on scientific research in the US surpassed
Federal funding for the first time in decades. This private funding is not being spent on
in-house research and development, however: American corporations have been
steadily jettisoning in-house research and development functions over the past three
decades, and are investing in targeted research by contract research organizations and
by university-based scientists newly starved for funding (Mirowski and Van Horn,
2005; Varma, 2000). Similar trends can be found in other advanced nations.
In the US, public universities also are losing direct subsidies at the state level. As
universities have been increasingly re-envisioned as providers of human capital, rather
than educational institutions that prepare students for citizenship (Lambert et al., 2007),
it has become increasingly difficult to maintain public support for state-subsidized
higher education (Apple, 2003, 2006). Individual universities are thus encouraged to
solicit more private funds to offset cuts in state subsidy. But the more the university
becomes embroiled in market activities, the more it loses any political justification for
state support, resulting in a downward spiral of appropriations and the de facto privati-
zation of the American public university system. Before the current global financial
crisis, state contributions to budgets of flagship public research universities hovered at
about 20 percent, but with the economic contraction, even that paltry contribution has
fallen. As a number of analysts have pointed out, this neoliberal re-envisioning of the
role of higher education is part of an effort to turn universities into competitive global
service industries. Universities are being exhorted to become more like corporations
whose products are ‘information’ and ‘human capital’, and whose customers are
students – as a prelude for the state to withdraw from all responsibility for the provision
of education.7
Another impact of the emphasis on commercialization is the reversal of the Cold War
trend of viewing teaching and research as mutually reinforcing activities. If the goal is
to produce knowledge that leads to profits, teaching becomes a secondary function.
Thus many universities have started replacing tenured faculty with adjunct, often tem-
porary, faculty (as well as with legions of postdocs). As of 2005, more than 48 percent
of faculty positions at American colleges that award federal financial aid were part-time
and non-tenured, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (Lederman,
As Sismondo (2009) reveals, commodification of research has also led to the disso-
lution of the scientific author through the growth of industries devoted to ghost-writing
of papers and ghost-management of the research process. Companies hire specialists
not only to control data as intellectual property, but also to shape the interpretation of
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666 Social Studies of Science 40(5)
those data by writing papers and then approaching academics to append their names to
the finished product. It is a consequence of neoliberal conceptions of knowledge to buy
the ‘person’ to whom the research will be attributed, as well as buying the research
A last widely noted impact of the neoliberal science management regime is the
aggressive promotion and protection of intellectual property in hopes of gaining com-
mercial value from knowledge. There is an intimate connection between the neoliberal
recasting of the market as an information processor, and the growth of the conviction
that knowledge should be commodified. This connection seems all the stronger when
one considers that, as several recent studies have pointed out, for the vast majority of
universities patenting has been a losing financial proposition (Geiger & Sa, 2008;
Greenberg, 2007; Newfield, 2008: ch. 12; Powell et al., 2007). Insisting upon the com-
mercialization of knowledge has, so far at least, proven more ideologically effective
than economically practical.
While STS scholars tend to focus on patents and point to the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act
as the watershed moment, it is important to note that neoliberal intellectual property
protection is more complicated. Bayh-Dole was only one bill in a sequence of legisla-
tion throughout the 1980s that expanded the reach of intellectual property in the US
and internationally (Berman, 2008; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2002: 86). Vastly expand-
ing the scope of this American legislation, representatives of corporations in high-
tech industries formed the International Intellectual Property Alliance in 1984 to
insert issues of intellectual property into larger trade negotiations (Drahos and
Braithwaite, 2002; Sell, 2003). They were wildly successful in doing so, using the
Uruguay Round of negotiations over the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to
impose US standards and levels of intellectual property protection on developed and
developing countries alike, and to enforce them with trade sanctions through the
World Trade Organization. Over the same period, corporations sought and won
numerous amendments to strengthen both patent and copyright, and in 1982 they
managed to have a special Court of Appeals in the Federal Circuit dedicated to patent
cases.8 The scope of what is deemed susceptible to patenting in America has been
progressively broadened, and challenges to the legitimacy of patents have become
less successful. It is now possible to patent anything from living beings, to computer
code, to business practices; the patent system has come dangerously close to allowing
the patenting of ideas themselves, particularly when those ideas arise in scientific
research.9 The very notion of a public sphere of codified knowledge has been rolled
back at every point along its perimeter.
Patents are not the only, or even the most important component, of the rapidly
expanding protection of intellectual property. Even with loosened patenting standards,
it would still be far too unwieldy and time-consuming to patent every single research
tool. Material transfer agreements (MTAs) have thus become the instrument of choice
to control the commercial implications of cutting-edge research. MTAs affect scien-
tific practice through confidentiality clauses and various permutations of prior restraint
upon publication or other disclosure of findings, which retards their presentation and
publication, as Evans (2010) demonstrates in his paper in this special issue. But the
deeper effects of MTAs come from the so-called ‘reach-through clauses’ that lay
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claims upon any IP that might arise in future research by the recipient of the research
tool. These clauses lately have come to include options for licenses on future research
materials, grant-backs for newly discovered uses for the existing material, splitting of
future royalties (or costs), royalty-free access to the organization’s patent portfolio,
broad claims over ‘derivative’ materials (such as offspring of organisms, related cell
lines, collateral secretions), patent prosecution controls, indemnification against any
liabilities that might arise from use of the research material, and time limits on the use
of the material (Mirowski, 2010).
Unwillingness to sign such overreaching clauses has slowed, and sometimes
blocked, both individual research projects and knowledge transfer among scientists.
Surveys of scientists published both in mainstream science journals and in specialist
biomedical journals argue that MTAs are an increasingly common roadblock in the
practice of science.10 Henry et al. (2003: 446) report in a survey of 46 research orga-
nizations that all of their respondents used MTAs to protect unpatented information
and material, and that almost 75 percent of them reported having at least one MTA
negotiation breakdown within the past year. In one survey in Belgium, 60 percent of
researchers reported abandoning projects because of problems with intellectual prop-
erty restrictions on research tools (Rodriguez et al., 2007). As the university becomes
more commercialized, the circle of research tools encumbered by MTAs has contin-
ued to widen, and so have the impacts on scientific practice.
We have argued here that neoliberal science policy is creating a regime of science
organization quite distinct from the Cold War science management regime. While
there are important differences in how neoliberal ideology has been implemented
across nations and disciplines, there are some telling similarities: the rollback of pub-
lic funding for universities; the separation of research and teaching missions, leading
to rising numbers of temporary faculty; the dissolution of the scientific author; and the
intense fortification of intellectual property in an attempt to commercialize knowl-
edge, impeding the production and dissemination of science. We turn now to the ways
in which these broad trends manifest in the particular cases in this issue.
The case studies in this special issue
Neoliberalism has had a broad range of impacts on scientific practice and organization,
and the papers in this issue thus examine a variety of phenomena, investigating the
impacts of public/private partnerships on scientific publication practices (Evans,
2010), the privatization of an existing science to enable a new market in ecosystem
services in the US (Lave et al., 2010), the commercialization and privatization of legal
science in Britain (Lawless and Williams, 2010), and the contextual specificity of the
embrace of neoliberal ideas by private sector science in the US and Britain (Randalls,
2010). Despite this diversity, there are notable patterns across the papers.
First, the breadth of the scientific fields covered in these cases clearly demon-
strates that neoliberalism’s effects are being felt beyond biomedicine. Environmental
sciences ranging from stream restoration (Lave et al., 2010), to plant biology (Evans,
2010), to meteorology (Randalls, 2010), and to the field of forensics (Lawless and
Williams, 2010), are covered in this issue. It is worth noting that in response to the
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call for papers for this issue we received dozens of abstracts dealing with neoliberal
impacts on everything from fisheries science, to materials science, and to sociology.
Second, while there is no singular storyline here, either on how neoliberal policies
have been implemented or the extent to which particular fields have acquiesced to (or
embraced) them, the papers in this issue demonstrate some common impacts. In each
case, science is increasingly produced in direct response to corporate requirements, as
scientists attempt to create forms of research that will enable new environmental and
legal markets to function. Unsurprisingly, this increasing commercialization creates a
tension featured in all the papers, but most especially in the case Lawless and Williams
examine: the need to meet market imperatives while still allowing the products of sci-
ence to be seen as value-free. The attempt to preserve the external sanctity of ‘Science’
whilst encouraging the internal proliferation of commercialization ties scientists and
administrators in rhetorical and practical knots.11
It is also noteworthy that in all the disciplines addressed in these papers, what is
accepted as good data has become highly contested, leading to shifts not only in the
applications, but also in the basic core of these scientific fields. In three of the case
studies in this issue (Lave et al., 2010; Lawless and Williams, 2010; Randalls, 2010)
these contests are adjudicated not through the traditional mechanisms of science, but
simply by what is taken up (or not) by the market. One notable consequence of this
appears to be a narrowing of focus. For example, in stream mitigation banking, which
Lave et al. (2010) discuss, broader concerns about stream ecology and water chemistry
are sidelined in restoration projects in favor of a more pointed focus on variables far
easier to both engineer and measure.
Third, there are some common actors promoting shifts in practice characteristic of
neoliberal science regimes. Most notably, the state has been the major protagonist in
promoting market-based solutions.12 Evans’ paper demonstrates some of the impacts
of long-standing state attempts to neoliberalize universities and research laboratories
by encouraging private funding for public researchers. Lave et al.’s paper highlights
the ways in which government regulation enables a market in stream restoration,
whilst both Lawless and Williams, and Randalls, show the UK government not sim-
ply enabling, but actively promoting the commercialization of forensic science and
the privatization of meteorological science and service provision. Clearly, commer-
cialization is not an independent trend to which government regulation merely reacts.
Instead, states are key players in the expansion of neoliberal policies into scientific
practice and management. Once commercialized, science becomes more easily priva-
tized through expanded property rights, corporate (and university) secrecy and own-
ership of ideas, and the development of a competitive rather than collaborative
enterprise of science.
Finally, as best demonstrated by Evans, the direct effects of commercial impera-
tives on scientific research are not necessarily obvious. It is only by looking beyond
what appear as rational, neutral claims about the proper role of science and its increas-
ingly commercialized organization that we can understand the influence of neoliberal
philosophies. STS scholarship is ideally suited for revealing the continuous, diverse,
and sometimes subtle ways in which neoliberal stances are being promulgated and
cultivated in diverse fields of study.
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Lave et al. 669
Based on existing studies of neoliberalism and its effects, and the cases in this special
issue, we have argued that the impacts of neoliberal policies on the conduct, products,
and organization of science have not been trivial. First, the character of the university
is changing as new privatized regimes of science management shift the sources and
quantities of funding, the organization of research and teaching, and the intellectual
and commercial status of knowledge claims.
Second, the strengthening of intellectual property protections and the linked insis-
tence on the commercialization of knowledge are transforming the production and dis-
semination of knowledge. Evans, in this issue, points to a drop in publications by
researchers engaged in public/private partnerships, and surveys cited above report that
research projects have been frustrated and even stopped entirely by disputes over
MTAs. The focus upon patents only serves to divert attention from where the real obsta-
cles have been erected. The cases also demonstrate that science is increasingly being
produced for particular markets, with a resulting contraction in the focus of research.
This narrowing is only compounded when market uptake becomes a tool for adjudicat-
ing scientific disputes, as is reported in three of the papers in this issue. Further, contes-
tations of what constitutes good evidence in power struggles over the creation of new
markets call into question the validity not just of the scientific applications under dis-
pute, but also of the basic core of fields. Thus it seems possible that instead of produc-
ing widely touted innovations for clients, neoliberal science regimes may leave us with
the production of ignorance.
Finally, the impacts of neoliberal science policies include disturbingly elitist patterns
that STS scholars are uniquely positioned to expose. For example, Leigh Johnson’s
work on the privatization of hurricane forecasting highlights the growing split in access
to the products of privatized science. Through a spin-off business, university-based
researchers have developed forecasts for a major energy company that predict the path
of hurricanes 7 days in advance, with an accuracy of 100 miles (160 km); by contrast,
the US National Hurricane Center’s forecasts can achieve the same track accuracy only
48 hours in advance (Johnson, 2009). Consider what the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of Louisiana might have been able to do
had they been able to access accurate forecasts of the path of Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita a week in advance; at present, the only entity with access to such knowledge is a
major energy company. Equally, consider the potential social justice issues that could
arise if geoengineering became dependable enough for major insurers and other corpo-
rations to deflect hurricanes into less economically damaging pathways (Block, 2006).
Jill Fisher’s (2009) work shows a similarly disturbing trend in access to medical treat-
ment, as clinical trials increasingly use the bodies of the poor and uninsured to test
drugs they will not have access to if approved.
Neoliberalism continues to have profound impacts on the organization, practice,
and social implications of science. We thus suggest that STS scholars undertake a
detailed exploration of exactly how neoliberal theories of society are transforming
technoscience. Such an exploration will require not just the more familiar elements of
the STS toolkit, but also analysis of external political–economic forces: to understand
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670 Social Studies of Science 40(5)
the neoliberal regime of science organization and management, we must understand
where it’s coming from.
This special issue started life as a session at the 2007 Society for Social Studies of Science meet-
ings in Montreal, and we would like to acknowledge our fellow participants in that session – Arthur
Daemmrich, Kerry Holden, and Arthur Mason – for their help in crystallizing our thoughts on this
topic. We would also like to thank Mike Lynch and the anonymous SSS reviewers who helped us
bring each of these papers, and the issue as a whole, into sharper focus.
1. For various approaches to this phenomenon, see Mirowski and Van Horn (2005), Ciafone
(2005), Davies et al. (2006), Robertson (2006), Canaan and Shumar (2008), Fisher (2009),
and Sismondo (2009).
2. The history of neoliberalism is a burgeoning topic in its own right, and would require a sepa-
rate survey. The interested reader might consult Hartwell (1995), Foucault (2008), Mirowski
& Plehwe (2009), Harvey (2005), and Plehwe and Walpen (2005).
3. This doctrine is itself relatively recent, dating at its earliest from the 1930s. It is eminently a
political and not simply a cultural phenomenon, because it was developed as part of a
concerted effort to counteract the rise of planning and other market-skeptical movements that
grew out of the Great Depression and the experience of World War II.
4. This section draws heavily from Mirowski (2010).
5. Although Foucault’s lectures date from the late 1970s, they have only recently been translated
into English, which has magnified their impact on the literature on neoliberalism
6. We draw the concept of ‘regimes’ of science organization, funding, and thought styles litera-
ture from authors including Coriat and Orsi (2002), Coriat and Dosi (1998), Coriat (2002),
Coriat et al., (2003), Asner (2006), Tyfield (2006), Nedeva and Boden (2006), Johnson
(2004), and Pestre (2003, 2004, 2005, 2007).
7. Some of the best studies have been Slaughter and Rhoades (2004), Apple (2005), Kirp (2003),
Marginson (2007), Frank and Gabler (2006), and Douglass (2008).
8. A number of STS scholars have explored the history of the patent system (Biagioli, 2006b;
Biagioli and Galison, 2002; Cooper, 2008; McSherry, 2001; Metlay, 2006; Sherman, 1996).
9. In June 2006 the Supreme Court rendered a decision in the case Laboratory Corporation of
America Holdings v. Metabolite Laboratories, Inc. (126 S. Ct. 2921, 2926 (2006) (Breyer, J.,
dissenting)) ‘which allowed this patent on a biological fact to remain in effect’ (Andrews et al.,
2006: 1395). In this case, researchers at Columbia University had found that a high level of
homocysteine (an amino acid) is correlated with a vitamin deficiency. The investigators
formed a startup firm, Metabolite Labs, and filed for a patent to capitalize on their discovery
and a test for homocysteine. With startling hubris, the patent application asserted that the
petitioners should be allowed to patent the basic physiological fact, so that they could claim a
royalty whenever any test for homocysteine was sold (despite the fact that tests for homocys-
teine were already available, and used to diagnose several medical disorders). When a private
corporation, the Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp), which had licensed the right
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Lave et al. 671
to the test from Metabolite, published a scientific paper suggesting that high homocysteine
levels might indicate a deficiency to be treated by a vitamin regimen, Metabolite sued for
breach of contract and patent infringement. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
astoundingly ruled that publishing the fact infringed the patent, and further ruled that doctors
would infringe the patent merely by contemplating the physiological relationship. The
Supreme Court originally allowed a review of the case, but then dismissed it on essentially
technical grounds, so the lower court ruling still stands.
10. See for example mainstream science articles such as Cohen (1995), Abbott (2000), Marshall
(1997), and Cyranoski (2002), and discipline-specific papers such as Cuiker (2006), Rounsley
(2003), Streitz and Bennett (2003), Campbell et al. (2002), and Vogeli et al. (2007).
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Biographical notes
Rebecca Lave is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Indiana University. Her research
focuses on the construction of scientific expertise, the privatization of science, and mar-
ket-based environmental management. She has published in journals including the
Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Science, and Ecological
Restoration, and has recently completed a book on the political economy of scientific
expertise in the US stream restoration field.
Philip Mirowski is Carl Koch Professor of Economics and the History and Philosophy of
Science at the University of Notre Dame. His most recent books are The Road from Mont
Pelerin (Harvard, 2009) and ScienceMart™ (Harvard, 2010). His thoughts have turned
of late to the unenviable track record of economists in the world economic crisis, and
how the way was paved through neoliberal theories.
Samuel Randalls is a Lecturer in Geography at University College London. His research
examines the commercialization of science and nature predominantly in relation to mete-
orology and climate change. He has recently published papers in journals including
Environment and Planning: D, Global Environmental Change and The Geographical
Journal and he guest-edited the 2009 volume of History of Meteorology.
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... Positing state-stimulated biomedical innovation as the cure for the alleged problems in health-and boosting state funding to promote the commercialisation of biomedical research even as funds are withdrawn from health care itself )-is consonant with the project of "reorienting the state away from welfare provision and towards supporting industry" (Hogarth 2015: 257). Similarly, the recasting of health and medical research as innovation science is consistent with the commercialisation and privatisation of technoscientific knowledge making that is a key feature of neoliberalism (Lave et al. 2010;Mirowski 2011;Tyfield 2012). But whereas there is a considerable literature on the implications of neoliberalism for medicine and for health care (Davis and Abraham 2013;Hogarth 2015;Schrecker and Bambra 2015), and for the conduct of biomedical research (Cooper 2008;Mirowski 2011), the articulation of neoliberal logics and the reconfiguring of notions of scientific and social value in states' health and medical research policies remains comparatively unexamined (but see Shaw and Greenhalgh 2008). ...
... In so doing, this vision performed effective coordination work (Pollock and Williams 2010), helping to enrol support for the MRFF and subdue criticism of its regressive features among progressive political actors. Its efficacy in this role illuminates the situated reconstitution of notions of public good in research policy and the multi-faceted nature of the political-economic forces transforming technoscience (Lave et al. 2010), but also how the visions that animate (or at least justify) research policy can themselves prompt political-economic realignments. ...
... Compared with earlier work-which has observed "the 'marketplace of ideas' transform[ing] the scientific enterprise" (Tyfield 2012: 156) and reconfiguring the production of technoscientific knowledge, and foregrounding commercial considerations in appraisal of science's value (Mirowski 2011)-the creation of intitiatives such as the MRFF suggest that a central site and mechanism for this transformation is state research policy. Our case study does not illustrate a straightforward process of commercialisation, where the judgment of scientific value is shaped by and responsive to corporate requirements and private capital (see Lave et al. 2010). Instead, in a design feature whose significance is difficult to overstate, MRFF grant making is directed by the Australian Federal Health Minister and Cabinet. ...
Full-text available
As health care systems have been recast as innovation assets, commercial aims are increasingly prominent within states’ health and medical research policies. Despite this, the reformulation of notions of social and of scientific value and of long-standing relations between science and the state that is occurring in research policies remains comparatively unexamined. Addressing this lacuna, this article investigates the articulation of ‘actually existing neoliberalism' in research policy by examining a major Australian research policy and funding instrument, the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). We identify the MRFF and allied initiatives as a site of state activism: reallocating resources from primary and preventive health care to commercially-oriented biomedical research; privileging commercial objectives in research and casting health as a “flow on effect”; reorganising the publicly funded production of health and medical knowledge; and arrogating for political actors a newly prominent role in research grant assessment and funding allocation. We conclude that rather than the state’s assumption of a more activist role in medical research and innovation straightforwardly serving a ‘public good’, it is a driver of neoliberalisation that erodes commitments to redistributive justice in health care and significantly reconfigures science-state relations in research policy.
... He thinks that there has been an 'exaggeration' over the implications of data-intensive research for astronomy that responds to the infiltration of financial and occupational interests. Like Galaz, some researchers have drawn on the term neoliberalism in order to denounce the increasing influence of private profit in scientific research over the last forty years in Chile (Gibert, 2016) and elsewhere (Lave et al., 2010). But Galaz's observation also echoes that of Vincent Mosco (2014), who has explained that the transnational cloud industry as well as influential global and domestic players have become influential promoters of big data methods, a positivist type of research that also turns out to be a profitable business for cloud companies. ...
... However, they also portray the problem in the form of a lack of 'interest' in overcoming this situation, an argument that constructs extractivism as the product of a lack of will on the side of the economic elite. Relying on a romanticised notion of the sciences that has become difficult to sustain in times of neoliberalism (Lave et al., 2010), a clear contrast is made between the drivers behind extractivist companies-profit and comfort-and those behind the sciences-entrepreneurship and sheer curiosity. Pointing to one of the core assumptions underpinning the DO public-private partnership, Ibsen also explained to me that bringing together the sciences and the private sector would make it possible to infuse the latter with a more dynamic mentality. ...
In recent years, different actors in Chile have portrayed the vast volumes of astronomy data produced by international observatories in the Atacama Desert as a unique opportunity for scientific and economic development. Research, policy and corporate initiatives have been put into place to leverage this situation. In this thesis I examine the governance of this data by developing a framework based on collective autonomy. Unlike the paradigms of openness and sovereignty, collective autonomy speaks to long-standing concerns related to social justice in Latin America that took shape in parallel with European colonialism. This framework builds upon decolonial thinking and mobilised groups in the region, situating the analysis in the context of a capitalist modern/colonial world system. Collective autonomy also draws on post-Marxism, foregrounding dissenting voices and examining the changing positionalities of the parties involved. In analytical terms, I approach interviews, field notes and policy documents from a discursive-material perspective sensitive to the role of both meaning and matter. The empirical chapters explore three different spheres. First, I look at the implementation of dataintensive research and examine how the articulation of a new positionality by local actors favours an obedient stance in knowledge generation. After that, I turn to the economy and trace emerging meanings of development, extractivism and the state as actors make sense of what is going on with astronomy data. Finally, I connect the expansion of data infrastructure in Chile with the long-standing threat to Indigenous worlds cultivating balanced modes of existence in the territory. As this thesis shows, collective autonomy introduces previously ignored concerns and changes the actors, scales and aims at stake in the governance of data. Furthermore, this framework aims to depart from the precepts of capitalist modernity and, instead, supports decoloniality and the flourishing of multiple worlds.
... Since Cold War discussions of scientific responsibility, however, the political economy of science has changed markedly. The emergence of what some have called 'neoliberal science' (Lave et al 2010), with closer interweaving of public and private agendas, has made it even harder for scientists to defend (if it was ever defensible) an independent 'republic of science' (Polanyi 1962) with an unfettered 'right to research' (Brown and Guston 2009). A continued increase in the scale and scope of technoscience, coupled with the potential, captured by Latour in the quote above, to intervene in increasingly profound ways, changes the stakes of the debate on responsibility. ...
... A growing body of scholarship is concentrating on the political economy of universities and science (e.g. Lave et al 2010;Berman 2011;Tyfield 2012). 'Doing' responsible innovation therefore demands a degree of engagement with dynamics beyond the practices of scientists and innovators. ...
... Women and those from minority groups have been shown to struggle to identify with the academic profession in an environment dominated by masculine discourses (Nielsen, 2017), which makes identification more difficult than in the case of white men (Pifer & Baker, 2016;Pinel et al., 2005). 1 A related issue is the discrepancy between one's expectations and ideals related to the academic profession and the perceived reality of academic work (Lund, 2015). Such discrepancy may lead to disillusionment connected especially to the excessive pressure regarding the quantity of research production and publications-the key feature of neoliberal academia (Berg et al., 2016)and the marginalization of the social relevance of academic work (Lave et al., 2010). Such studies link academics' attrition intention with their disappointment in the perceived reality of the academic environment and present coping strategies, including the reorientation of their approach to academic work and their academic identity toward a less idealistic and more pragmatic identity (McLeod & Badenhorst, 2014;Petersen, 2011;Reybold, 2005). ...
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The study focuses on academic career attrition in the context of neoliberal academia and science policies emphasizing the need for excellence and social responsibility in academic production. The goal is to understand the relation between the development of academic identity and attrition among those who have left the academic path up to five years after PhD completion, with acknowledgement of the effect that academic identity has on academic career ambitions. Based on 28 narrative interviews with former academics from various research fields, we identified four trajectories of academic identity development (one of stable academic identity and three of lost academic identity), four narratives of attrition (disillusionment, a search for new purpose, refusal to sacrifice personal life and academic inadequacy) that explain these trajectories, and three ideals of “proper academic” (humanist, leader, absolute academic) that are reflected in these narratives. We conclude that the academic environment creates an academic identity paradox in which not only the loss of or obstacles to developing an academic identity but also its strength and stability can weaken academic career ambitions and contribute to attrition because of the need to perform only excellent academic work. The paradox seems to relate to the high-performance culture of neoliberal academia and to the specific gender aspects of the STEM field because it appeared to function differently in regard to discipline and gender. We show that neoliberal academia, despite the ideals of current science policies, loses academics caring for these ideals in STEM fields, especially women.
... At the same time, public funding for research steadily diminished, while private-sector funding has become increasingly important. 47 Disparities in access to resources for scientific research between wealthy, and lower-and middle-income countries have consequently increased. ...
On 17 August 1945, two days after Japan capitulated, Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta declared Indonesia's independence. A small number of Indonesian scientists and politicians already had started formulating plans for higher education and scientific research in the newly independent nation. They faced the challenge of rebuilding and transforming the remaining colonial academic institutions in a new social and political environment. By having Indonesians occupy most positions in universities and research institutions, by designing an Indonesian scientific and medical vocabulary, and by aligning teaching and research to the needs of the developing nation, they sought to decolonise science and higher education. After independence, there was a continuing need to negotiate the competing demands of furthering free scientific inquiry and assisting the nation's development. Recently, the Indonesian scientific community has encountered difficulties in producing internationally recognised research because of limited access to funds and resources. To protect the Indonesian scientific community, controversial new conditions have been legislated for international scientists conducting research in Indonesia. Nonetheless, unequal access to resources necessary for conducting high-quality scientific research forces Indonesian scientists and physicians to conduct research under neoco-lonial conditions. Proposals for decolonising science and medicine had already been articulated by Indonesian physicians in the Dutch East Indies. In this chapter, I analyse their efforts to counter the colonial nature of science and medicine, which had relegated them to secondary positions. Their desire for emancipation focused on gaining equality with their European colleagues with respect to education, income, and placement within the colonial public health service. Outside of medicine, the number of Indonesians with advanced scientific qualifications remained negligible. I continue by reviewing plans for higher education and research formulated by the Ministry of Higher Education and Culture after independence, which aimed to fulfil the ideals articulated during the colonial era. Because there were sufficient university-educated physicians to staff medical schools, it was possible to fully Indonesianise medical education and research. Unfortunately, this was not the case in other scientific disciplines. I conclude by discussing the current aims of the Indonesian government to address the unequal access to resources for scientific research by regulating the activities of international scientists in the country-attempting to ensure that research activities include Indonesian scientists and benefit the nation.
In the EU sphere, the emergence in the political discourse of a potential innovation principle (‘IP’) has given rise to debates amongst scholars and stakeholders. The debate has mainly focused on the risk that an IP could pose to already-existing principles in EU law, such as the precautionary principle, and on the deemed deregulatory agenda of this industry-led initiative. As the IP is now making its way towards EU institutions and EU law, this article investigates the intuition that an IP could also encroach on democracy, namely the possibility for the sovereign people to make their own rules. Giving society a direction with respect to something as broad and ill-defined as ‘innovation’ indeed seems to fall within the core of politics. Based on a regulatory characterisation of the IP as a continuation of already-existing patterns, the article warns against possible further erosion of democracy.
Ecologists, social scientists, and policymakers alike define “resilience” as the properties that allow complex systems to function in the wake of sudden shocks. While proponents treat these properties as empirical qualities that can be engineered into existence, critics have largely treated government‐organized attempts to do so as consistent with the dismantling of the welfare state. This article offers an ethnographic account of a conservation policy initiative in northwest British Columbia designed to generate consensus‐based quantitative indicators on salmon health. I examine how workshop organizers, emboldened by provocative metaphors of survival and systematicity, mobilize resilience discourse as a platform for social analysis, and urge other researchers to envision how their own work might allow them to transcend institutional attachments altogether. Resilience‐based initiatives have wrought profound changes in experts’ everyday lives, in part by encouraging precariously employed researchers to reimagine their relationships to shrinking government institutions. In addition to naming an emergent political logic for legitimating downsizing and other organizational responses to disasters, I argue that resilience discourse provides the experts entrusted with designing these responses with new grammars for imagining the future viability of their own expertise. Ecólogos, científicos sociales y diseñadores de políticas similarmente definen “resiliencia” como las propiedades que permiten a sistemas complejos funcionar tras impactos repentinos. Mientras proponentes tratan estas propiedades como cualidades empíricas que pueden ser diseñadas para que existan, los críticos han tratado principalmente los intentos organizados por el gobierno para hacerlo como consistentes con el desmantelamiento del Estado de bienestar. Este artículo ofrece un relato etnográfico de una iniciativa de políticas de conservación en el noreste de Columbia Británica diseñado para generar indicadores cuantitativos basados en consenso sobre la salud del salmón. Examino cómo los organizadores de talleres, animados por metáforas provocativas de sobrevivencia y sistematicidad, movilizan el discurso de resiliencia como una plataforma para el análisis social, y urgen a otros investigadores a visualizar cómo su propio trabajo puede permitir trascender enteramente los vínculos institucionales. Las iniciativas basadas en resiliencia han forjado cambios profundos en las vidas cotidianas de los expertos, en parte al estimular los investigadores empleados precariamente a reimaginar sus relaciones con las instituciones gubernamentales cada vez más reducidas. En adición a nombrar una lógica política emergente para legitimar la reducción del personal y otras respuestas organizacionales a los desastres, argumento que el discurso de la resiliencia provee a los expertos encargados del diseño de estas respuestas con nuevas gramáticas para imaginar la viabilidad futura de su propia experticia. 无论是环境学家、社会学家、还是决策者, 都将“恢复力(resilience)”定义为一种能使复杂系统面对突发事件的冲击时仍能正常运作的特性。支持者认为人们可以在真实的社会实践中培育这种特性, 而反对者则普遍认为若由政府组织进行这种尝试, 现有的福利制度将会被瓦解。本论文从民族志的视角记述了英属哥伦比亚西北的一个小镇为生成一个基于共识的可衡量三文鱼健康的量化指标而设计的保育措施。本论文研究了在“生存与系统性”的讽喻的启发下, 研讨会的组织者们如何将有关恢复力的话语建设成为一个支持社会分析的平台, 并进而启发其他研究者大胆设想他们自身的工作可以使其共同超越体制性依附。基于恢复力的措施已经对专业人员的日常生活产生了深刻影响, 其中一部分是因为这些措施促使了没有稳定雇佣关系的研究者们去重新审视正在逐步衰退的政府机关之间与他们自身的关系。除了命名一种被用于论证缩减政策干预的决定和其他由机关采取的应对灾难的措施的合理性的新生政治逻辑, 本文也同时提出:有关恢复力的话语为那些被委以重任的人类学专家们提供了一个全新的视角去构想他们自身的专长在未来的生存潜力。
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1. This work was made possible by a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. I would like to thank the participants in Jonathan Israel’s seminar for their thoughtful criticism on an early draft of this essay, and Mark Rose and Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli for commenting on later versions. I am particularly indebted to patent aficionados Rochelle Dreyfuss, Alain Pottage, and Brad Sherman for providing food for thought, correcting mistakes, and pushing me along—and doing all this on a very short notice. 2. For instance, a great supporter of the patent system, Thomas Fessenden, wrote in 1810 that “patents for new inventions are a species of monopoly held to be illegal at common law, and, both in Great Britain and America, are founded on statute” (Fessenden, 1810: 186). 3. On the context of the Statute of Monopoly, see MacLeod (1988: 14–19). The ongoing requirement that an invention must be novel and nonobvious to deserve a patent is rooted in the same need to differentiate patents from monopolies. See Burchfiel (1989: 162). 4. The earliest appearance of the image of the patent bargain in the United States is probably in Barnes (1792): “The property or right in a discovery being exclusively the inventor’s, having had its origin, and existing but in his mind; it follows, that a system for securing property in the products of genius, is a mutual contract between the inventor and the public, in which the inventor agrees, on proviso that the public will secure to him his property in, and the exclusive use of his discovery for a limited time, he will, at the expiration of such time, cede his right in the same to the public: thenceforth the discovery is common right, being the compensation required by the public, stipulated in the contract, for having thus secured the same” (Barnes, 1792: 25). Other early references to the patent bargain in US courts are in Burchfiel (1989: 180, n 152). See Dutton (1984: 22) for invocations of the patent bargain in English early nineteenth-century debates. 5. “The specification is the price which the patentee is to pay for his monopoly” (Fessenden, 1810: 49). 6. The public would break the contract by not living up to the commitment to protect what the inventor has disclosed, while the inventor would break it by giving a deceiving disclosure. (In principle, an incomplete disclosure would not set the patent bargain off balance but would simply put the inventor at risk of not receiving the full protection the law would have granted him/her). Early nineteenth-century English patent law, however, voided patents with either incomplete or deceptive specifications, without the possibility of appeal. French and US law allowed for amendments of the patent application only when it could be proven that the incompleteness was not meant to be deceptive. 7. It is also self-regulating in the sense that even though the patentee may want to make the claims as wide as possible, s/he would increase the risk of the patent being declared invalid from claiming novelty for something that was not. But like other elegant balance-based Enlightenment constructions, the “patent bargain” fails to account for the changes brought about by time and by the emergent nature of the invention. For instance, if the invention is found to have other applications after the patent has issued—applications that were not disclosed in the application—the claim is effectively expanded, but not the specifications. The imbalance thus introduced between claim and specification violates the patent bargain, and yet it does not void the patent. 8. The literature on early patent specification is sparse and limited to English law. See Davies (1934: 86–109, 260–274); Adams and Averley (1986: 156–77); Hulme (1897: 313–8; 1902:280–8); Gomme (1946: 25–39). While in France and the United States we find an abrupt shift in specification requirements around 1790, Davies, Hulme, and Adams and Averley present a much less drastic pattern for England. While showing the same long durée transition from virtual absence of specifications around 1600 to “modern” enabling specifications around 1780, the English trajectory is more complicated, perhaps because the...
Multiversities are sprawling conglomerates that provide liberal undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. As well-springs of innovation and ideas, these universities represent the core of society's research enterprise. Multiversities, Ideas, and Democracy forcibly argues that, in the contemporary world, multiversities need to be conceptualized in a new way, that is, not just as places of teaching and research, but also as fundamental institutions of democracy. Building upon the history of universities, George Fallis discusses how the multiversity is a distinctive product of the later twentieth century and has become an institution of centrality and power. He examines five characteristics of our age - the constrained welfare state, the information technology revolution, postmodern thought, commercialization, and globalization - and in each case explains how the dynamic of multiversity research alters societal circumstances, leading to the alteration of the institution itself and creating challenges to its own survival. The character of our age demands reappraisal of the multiversity, Fallis argues, in order to safeguard them from so-called 'mission drift.' Writing from a multi-national perspective, this study establishes how similar ideas are shaping multiversities across the Anglo-American world. Ultimately, Multiversities, Ideas, and Democracy seeks to uncover the ethos of the multiversity and to hold such institutions accountable for their contribution to democratic life. It will appeal to anyone interested in the role of education in society.
I have a central aim in this paper - to consider the recent and profound restructuring of science and of society which took shape over the last three decades. This epoch-making transformation has to do with the rules of social life, the dominant norms of justice and of good government, but also, and centrally, with the place, function and usages of the sciences and techno-sciences.1 As a way of introduction, I intend to show that the sciences (at least in their 'modern' form, from the 16th Century on) have always been of interest to political and economic powers. As social institutions, they have always been in close relations to various interests and have been produced in a large variety of social spaces - courts, universities, academies, military and engineering institutions, business and popular contexts, etc. In the second section of this article, I intend to turn my attention to what I take as the first decisive aspect of the new regime of science production and regulation that has been established over the last three decades (Pestre 2003). I claim we moved from a system of science in society dominated by an equilibrium between science as public good and science as industrial good to a system in which a financial and market-oriented appropriation of scientific knowledge is now in the ascendant, to science as mainly a financial good. This mode of appropriation is both larger in what it includes and rooted in an aggressive extension of property rights. In fact, radically new definitions of patenting, as well as attitudes aiming at invalidating 'commons', were the main tool of this first transformation. In the third and fourth sections, I turn my attention to two other dimensions of that change. First, to the emergence of new kinds of techno-scientific practices and products, notably in the life sciences and information technologies, but also through techniques of modeling, and of mapping at Earth level. I will here insist, however, on the fact that what is usually called our new 'knowledge-based economy' is driven by a socially-shaped, an economically-embedded arrangement of science and technology - and not by science-and-technology per se. In the following section, I look at the emergence of a new 'civil society' - to employ contemporary parlance - with new relations to industrial techno-science, to moral and social values, and to political regulations. Because the techno-industrial world to which scientific knowledge is now organically linked has the power to dramatically and often irreversibly alter our lives, and because of major transformations in the social body itself, a greater attention and a growing demand for social accountability has surfaced in many segments of the population. In the last two sections, I consider how such an understanding might help us in devising tools for the future. If we agree on the diagnosis I propose, and if we consider that a lively democracy cannot but rely on different 'cités de justice' (a notion borrowed from Boltanski and Thévenot 1991), certain proposals could be made to help us face the situation which emerged in the 1970s and 80s.
Who are scientists? What kind of people are they? What capacities and virtues are thought to stand behind their considerable authority? They are experts—indeed, highly respected experts—authorized to describe and interpret the natural world and widely trusted to help transform knowledge into power and profit. But are they morally different from other people? The Scientific Life is historian Steven Shapin’s story about who scientists are, who we think they are, and why our sensibilities about such things matter. Conventional wisdom has long held that scientists are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that personal virtue does not necessarily accompany technical expertise, and that scientific practice is profoundly impersonal. Shapin, however, here shows how the uncertainties attending scientific research make the virtues of individual researchers intrinsic to scientific work. From the early twentieth-century origins of corporate research laboratories to the high-flying scientific entrepreneurship of the present, Shapin argues that the radical uncertainties of much contemporary science have made personal virtues more central to its practice than ever before, and he also reveals how radically novel aspects of late modern science have unexpectedly deep historical roots. His elegantly conceived history of the scientific career and character ultimately encourages us to reconsider the very nature of the technical and moral worlds in which we now live. Building on the insights of Shapin’s last three influential books, featuring an utterly fascinating cast of characters, and brimming with bold and original claims, The Scientific Life is essential reading for anyone wanting to reflect on late modern American culture and how it has been shaped.