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Science in Action [Hardcover]

Bruno Latour
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Oct 1986 0335153577 978-0335153572
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.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Open University Press (Oct 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0335153577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0335153572
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,584,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Bruno Latour is Professor and Vice-President for Research at the Sciences Po, Paris. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book! 9 Jan 2002
By A Customer
You will like this book if you are interested in organizations and organizing. My favorit part is the last chapter about "Centres of Calculation", but I am sure you will find your own. Latour also argues about research method and gives us (reseachers) one view on how to follow scientits and engineers around.
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
69 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant view on scientific truth as a network of strength 4 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars extremely though-provoking 6 Feb 2009
By ingonyama - Published on Amazon.com
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.
18 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Engineer's Opinion... 10 Oct 2000
By "b_arkis" - Published on Amazon.com
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...
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Deeply Engaging Read 19 Oct 2013
By Nick Hirsch - Published on Amazon.com
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.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A keen but "disinterested" observer more affordable by France than the U.S.? 15 Oct 2009
By Frank T. Manheim - Published on Amazon.com
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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