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Fr. 775

April 24, 2017

Krohn (2010) traces the faultline between nomothetic and idiographic approaches. The Gibbons et al. and Rorty readings broach the same question albeit in different ways.

Nowotny et al. (2001) is the sequel to The New Production of Knowledge. The dynamics of research in contemporary society which distinguished between two modes of scientific inquiry and knowledge-production: Mode 1 and Mode 2. Whereas Mode 1 closely follows the traditional image of scientific inquiry and knowledge-production, namely, science pursued, in disciplines, for its own sake and without regard for applicability (“science for science’s sake”), Mode 2 posits knowledge-production as work in multidisciplinary teams on real world problems within a context of application. If The New Production of Knowledge laid the groundwork for this now current distinction, it also left itself open to a number of criticisms, which Nowotny et al. address in the following. Foremost among these is the charge that greater contextualization and socialization of science has been imagined or posited from the standpoint of science alone, neglecting that of society. In other words, this earlier work suggested how science goes about transforming or influencing society but failed to make clear how society goes about transforming or influencing science. Put still differently, the scientification of society predicates the socialization of science. Here, in a sequel work entitled Re-thinking Science. Knowledge and the Public in an Age of Uncertainty, the authors attempt to right that wrong by more evenly explicating the relationship between Mode 2 science and Mode 2 society. No longer in terms of one-sided externalities (influence, cause) but, ideally, in terms of structured internalities (affinity?).

In the first chapter, they propose to rectify their account in two ways. First, by examining the ways in which societal development belie linearity, in particular, widespread acceptance of chaos theory (or lay versions thereof) and historical events such as the 1973 oil shocks and the fall of the Communist bloc in 1989. These suggest that a “once robust epistemological link between determinism and predictability was … undermined”. “Cognitive security” was at an end. Such examination allows them to show in what ways society impinged on science and knowledge-production, particularly at the level of institutions with the move from the steadfast “military-scientific complex” to less stable arrangements, e.g. public-private partnerships, corporate R&D, etc.. Second, they consider two accounts of social transformation: Knowledge Society and Risk Society. These conceptions of society are themselves based upon two different analytical axes. The scientific-technical-economic (STE) begins with a new science which develops new technologies and markets which in turn structure a new society. (In rationally cool, linear fashion – the “grand chain of being” – Pope.) On the other hand, the socio-cultural (SC) sees new technologies and science, basic or applied, as contributing to the demise of meaningful social constructions, be they personal, spatial, social, political, or national. The challenge is in knowing how Mode 2 science fits either of these narratives. Certainly, Mode 2 and STE acknowledge the breakdown of divisions between traditional knowledge institutions and contexts of application, but STE is neither socially distributive nor diffusive at the level of knowledge production. Meanwhile, the open pluralism of SC is attractive but given over more to subversion than to reinstitutionalization and reconfiguration. All in all, tracing the links between Mode 2 society and Mode 2 will require models for society-science influence other than the existing STE and SC.

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