Social movements and the making of technoscience

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In recent decades social movements have also served to reorient science and technology, as well as politics and business, into alternative directions. Out of the anti-imperialist and student movements of the 1960s and the feminist and environmentalist movements of the 1970s and 1980s have emerged a range of alternative ideas about knowledge, in form, content, and meaning, that has given rise to new sciences and technological programs (Eyerman and Jamison 1991; Rose 1994). Out of critique have grown the shoots ofnew, and often more participatory, ways ofsciencing -from environmental impact assessment to women's studies, from postcolonial discourses to renewable energy technology. What were in the 1960s and 1970s protest movements of radical opposition have largely been emptied of their political content, but they have simultaneously given rise to new branches of, and approaches to, knowledge-making. While the more radical, or oppositional, voices have lost much of their influence, the more pragmatic voices have been given a range of new opportunities. This is not to say that there is no longer a radical environmental opposition or a radical women's liberation movement, but radicals and reformists have increasingly drifted apart from one another, and in most countries these groups now work in different organizations, with little sense of a common oppositional movement identity. There has been a fragmentation of what was a coherent movement into a number of disparate bits and pieces (Cramer et al. 1987).

This fragmentation, or differentiation, of the new social movements has accompanied a broader change in knowledge-making, namely the emergence of what has been termed a new "mode" of knowledge production, in which science and engineering have converged into technoscience (Gibbons et al. 1994). From an economic perspective, technoscience represents the merging of academic and industrial research into new hybrid forms, as well as the systematic integration of knowledge-making into the productive sphere: what has been termed a learning, or knowledge economy (e.g. Lundvall and Borras 1998; Archibugi and Lundvall 2001). From a sociological perspective, technoscience involves new forms of transdisciplinary organization and new kinds of hybrid identities and "boundary conditions" that are imposed on the producers of knowledge (e.g. Gieryn 1999). No longer merely industrialized or externally driven, "laboratory life" has become ever more heterogeneous and pluralistic, with research increasingly organized in ad hoc, temporary, networks, determined by the contingencies of particular projects (Latour 1987).

The new social movements rose to prominence in the downturn of a period of scientific and technical expansion and economic growth. They emerged in opposition to the dominant social order and to its hegemonic scientific and technological regime, which had largely been established during and immediately after the Second World War ( Jamison and Eyerman 1994: 4ff). That war led to a fundamental transformation in the world of science and technology and to the emergence of a new relation, or contract, between science and politics. Unlike previous phases of industrialization, in which science and engineering had lived related but separate identities, the Second World War ushered in the era of industrialized science (Ravetz 1973). The war effort had been based on an unprecedented mobilization of scientists to create new weapons, from radar to the atomic bomb, and to gather and conduct intelligence. After the war, science and scientists formed a new elite; and there was a massive expansion of funding and manpower. In the process, "little" science was transformed into big science (de Solla Price 1963).

Especially important for the social movements that were to develop in the 1960s and beyond was the fact that scientific research was placed at the center of postwar economic development. Many of the economically significant new products - nylon and other synthetic textiles, plastics, home chemicals and appliances, television - were directly based on scientific research, and the new techniques of production were also of a different type: it was the era of chemical fertilizers and insecticides, of artificial petrochemical-based process industries and food additives (Bookchin 1963; Commoner 1971).

The form of big science also differed from the ways that science had been organized in the past. The big science laboratories - both in the public and private sectors - were like industrial factories, and the "technostructure," as it was labeled by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, was seen as an important concern for managers and industrial organizers (Galbraith 1967). The use of science in society had become systematized and, as the consequences of the new order became more visible, new forms of mistrust and criticism developed in the public, particularly among the student generation of the 1960s.

Some of the most influential criticisms of the new order were formulated by the emigre European intellectuals who had come to America to escape Nazism. Hannah Arendt, Erich Fromm, Erik Erikson, Herbert Marcuse, and a host of others formulated a wide-ranging critique of mass society, and its "one-dimensional" science and technology. As Marcuse put it:

Technology has become the great vehicle of reification - reification in its most mature and effective form. The social position of the individual and his relation to others appear not only to be determined by objective qualities and laws, but these qualities and laws seem to lose their mysterious and uncontrollable character; they appear as calculable manifestations of (scientific) rationality. The world tends to become the stuff of total administration, which absorbs even the administrators. The web of domination has become the web of Reason itself... (Marcuse 1964: 168-169)

Together with Lewis Mumford, C. Wright Mills, Margaret Mead, Paul Goodman and other home-grown products, the emigre, partisan intellectuals mounted a fundamental critique of the scientific-technological state (Jamison and Eyerman 1994). It was the subservience ofknowledge-making to the dictates of the "military-industrial complex," the colonization of technological rationality by commercial interests, that was opposed most forcefully (Mendelsohn 1994). In a characteristic statement from the early 1960s, Lewis Mumford put it this way:

A good technology, firmly related to human needs, cannot be one that has a maximum productivity as its supreme goal: it must rather, as in an organic system, seek to provide the right quantity of the right quality at the right time and the right place for the right purpose. To this end deliberate regulation and self direction, in order to ensure continued growth and creativity, must govern our plans in the future, as indefinite expansion and multiplication have done during the past few centuries. The center of gravity is not the corporate organization, but the human personality, utilizing knowledge, not for the increase of power and riches, or even for the further increase of knowledge, but using it, like power and riches, for the enhancement of life. (Mumford 1961/1979: 167)

In his writings from the 1960s, Mumford challenged the domination of the big corporations, with their commercial ethos and their hierarchical logic, over science and technology. Knowledge-making had become authoritarian in its mode of operation, he argued, and the other, more democratic, forms of technics that had existed throughout history were threatened by extinction. Science and technology had become intimately linked to what he termed, in the title of his most controversial book, the "pentagon of power" (Mumford 1970; see Mendelsohn 1990). Together with voices of dissent from other parts of the world, the criticisms of Marcuse and Mumford helped shape what soon became a global student movement. Having grown up in a world of wealth and progress, the students of the 1960s rose up to try to stop the misuse of science and technology, particularly in the war in Vietnam. The student movement was, of course, many things at once, but one of its central components was a mobilization, or re-invention, of the romantic "revolt of the senses," the defense of life against mechanization. As Mario Savio put it in one of the formative moments of the student movement, during the struggle for "free speech" at Berkeley in 1964:

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even tacitly take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machines will be prevented from working at all. (Savio, quoted in Marx 1988: 198)

Meanwhile, another wing of the public - particularly in the United States - reacted more specifically to the destruction of the natural environment. In the 1940s and 1950s it began to be recognized that the new kinds of scientific expansion were more dangerous for the natural environment than those that had come before, because they were artificial and thus difficult for natural processes to break down: they were "waste making" (Packard 1960). But it would not be before Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, published in 1962, that an environmental movement began to find its voice and its characteristic style of expressing or articulating its message. It was to be by critically evaluating specific instances of industrialized science that the environmentalist critique would be able to reach a broader public. Carson's achievement was to direct the methods of science against science itself, but also to point to another way of doing things: the biological or ecological way (Carson 1962).

In the 1970s a range of "new social movements" emerged throughout the world. Among other things, the new movements of feminism and environmentalism articulated an alternative approach to science and technology, combining the political critique of Marcuse and Mumford with the ecological critique of Carson and Commoner (Dickson 1974). The new movements involved both a rejection of modern science's exploitative attitude to nature, as well as an alternative organizational ideal -a democratic, or participatory ideal - for the development of knowledge (Eyerman and Jamison 1991). There were also distinct forms of collective learning in the new social movements of environmentalism and feminism, as well as grass-roots engineering activities that went under the name of appropriate or alternative technology. In Denmark, experimentation with renewable energy, and in particular wind energy, was a central component of the environmental and anti-nuclear movements. A separate organization for renewable energy was created, which distributed instruction books and manuals and other information, as well as establishing courses and developing workshops and local centers for energy research and development (Jamison et al. 1990). Many of these energy offices are still going strong in Denmark, even though wind energy has since become a highly profitable commercial endeavor, and most of the "grass-roots" engineering activity of the 1970s has come to be transformed into professional industrial practice (J0rgensen and Karnoe 1995).

The social movements of the 1970s can be seen to have created an alternative form of knowledge-making that, in many ways, has inspired new sciences - women's studies, environmental studies, cultural studies -as well as the network-based, project-driven, transdisciplinary mode of knowledge production that has become economically significant in recent years, the so-called "mode two" (Gibbons et al. 1994). What is striking about the so-called learning economy or knowledge society, from this perspective, is its flexibility and its pluralism, as well as its openness to "tacit" forms of knowledge. But some fundamental transformations have taken place, as the alternative knowledge interests of the new social movements have become institutionalized and professionalized. In the 1970s the environmental knowledge interests, for example, were combined into a central core identity, a cognitive praxis which included three dimensions -cosmological, technical, and organizational - which for a time provided a source of collective identity for those who considered themselves a part of the movement. Today, that praxis has largely been transformed and broken down into institutional routines in industry, administration, and everyday life.

The cosmology was primarily the translation of a scientific paradigm into a socio-economic program; in the 1970s, the holistic concepts of systems ecology were transformed into political programs of social ecology -an ecological world view was to govern social and political interactions (Ecologist 1972; Commoner 1971). Technology was to be developed under the general perspective that "small is beautiful," as E. F. Schumacher put it, according to the assumption that large-scale, environmentally destructive projects were to be opposed and stopped (Schumacher 1973; Illich 1973). At the same time, new contexts for education and experimentation and for the diffusion of research were created in the form of movement workshops and laboratories and, in the Netherlands, for example, in the form of "science shops," allowing activist groups to gain access to the scientific expertise at the universities (Irwin 1995).

In the 1980s this cognitive praxis came to be decomposed into a disparate cluster of organizations and individuals, networks and companies, academic fields and consulting firms, at both local and national levels, as well as on a "global" level of intergovernmental bodies and committees, non-governmental organizations and transnational corporations. The knowledge interests of the environmental movement came to be transformed into various kinds of professional expertise, which made it possible to incorporate parts of the movement into the established and dominant culture, and shift at least some of the members of the movement from outsider to insider status. Some of the alternative technical projects proved commercially viable - biological agriculture, wind energy plants, waste recycling - and gave rise to a more institutionalized form of environmental politics, science, and technology.

As a result, the confrontational strategies of the past have tended to be supplemented by more conventional, and consensual, forms of activity on the part of many environmental organizations. In several European countries, representatives of major environmental groups are granted access to formal policy bodies and procedures, such as hearings or ministerial committees. Provision of expertise and advice to state agencies and private companies, either through formal or informal channels, has also become increasingly important. In programs of eco-labeling and sustainable transport, for example, environmental organizations often play an important advisory role, as they do in many local Agenda 21

projects. In order to be successfully conducted, these activities require respectability on the part of environmental groups, and a more professional mode of operation (Jamison, ed. 1998).

In the transformations of movements into institutions, a significant channel of cognitive and cultural change can be identified. In the following chapters, we will look more closely into how these processes have affected contemporary environmental movements.


This chapter expands on material first published in Jamison 1982; Baark and Jamison 1986; Jamison 1988; Eyerman and Jamison 1991; and Jamison 1998; an earlier version of the chapter has been published in the International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioural Sciences (Elsevier 2001).

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