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Daniel L. Kleinman, Science and Technology In Society: From Biotechnology to the Internet. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005,

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Daniel L. Kleinman, Science and Technology In Society: From Biotechnology to the Internet. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005,
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  Samuel Lézéreview in International Sociology (2007: 141) : Daniel L. Kleinman, Scienceand Technology In Society: FromBiotechnology to the Internet, Oxford: Blackwell, 2005 Written for undergraduatestudents and generalreaders, this attractive volume explores sixcontroversialtopics in science and technology in a dynamic and direct style. At first glance,itseemslike a basic study in the sociology of science. But, in fact, the book uses sociology as a powerfuldevice for lookingcriticallyat µtechno- science¶. As Daniel Lee Kleinmanexplains,the need for such a criticalassessment arises from the recurrentdifficulty incounteringtwoideas about the authority of science, namely  scientism and technologicalprogressivism . The former refers to both the dividebetweenfacts and values andthe cognitive superiority of one over the other. The latter claims thatprogressis µalways andeverywhere¶ good, withtech-nologybeing one of its main tools. Then, in a Durkheimianvein,the authorunder-linesthattechno-scienceis µabsolutely and thoroughly¶ (p. 6) social and political. By sodoing, heexpands the sociological concept of science as an ideathatdoes notrelysolelyuponscientific institutions (i.e. science as society: fields, institu-tions,scientificknowledge and practices).Instead, heemphasizes the dialectic of the  social shaping of techno-science (e.g. socialconditions and moral aspects of tech-nologicaldevelopment) versus itsoveralleffects on society(e.g. the social impact of science as technology and industry). Hence, far frombeingneutraland autonomous, science is a fieldthatimplies a balance of power  and a  symbolicstrug- gle within society. Consequently, thisapproach tries to distinguishitselffrom the µsocialconstructionism¶ currently in vogue in studies of science in order to analyse social forces thatare external to and constrain social actors. Giventhis goal, the title of the book, whilemakingitaccessible to the generalreader, is not sufficientlyreflective of the author¶sambitious goals.Indeed, Kleinman proposes nothinglessthan a  politicalsociology of scientificresearch and innovation . The focus of hisstudyis the question, whatisatstake in contemporarytechnologicalinnovation?   If teachingismerelyhelpingstudents break downcommonsenseprenotionsratherthanimparting a body of canonical or consensualknowledge,thenthisapproach of µkeythemes in sociology¶ isindubitablysuccessful. As the subtitle states, awide range of topical issues isdevelopedthroughout the text, frombiotechnology to theInternet. Focusing on the case studyapproach, this book is not dividedintodifferenttheoreticalsections, but centres instead on discussions of concrete and distinct contemporaryscientificdisputes withpolicy implications. Theseraiseinteresting and thorny questions for the beginningof the 21st century.   For eachexample, Kleinman shows how to use hiscriticalframework in practicewithoutgiving up on the social complexity of the case underconsideration. From a pedagogical point of view, beginningwithconcreteexamplesis a verysoundapproach, becauseitprovidesstudentswith a criticalawareness of currentkey questions. And whatislost ininnocence, isgained in politicalconsciousness. Kleinman argues explicitly in favour of ademocratic recapture of techno-science: µwith a deepunderstanding of how science andtechnology infuse our world, weshouldbebetterplaced to shapetheir future development¶ (p.127). Certainly, thisapproachis consistent withhispastsociologicalworkthat hasanalysedratherthanglorifiedwhatis µgood¶ in the techno-sciencefield. Such an approachis notalways in keepingwith the thinking of otherplayers (scientific experts, layactors, advocacygroups and social movements; governmentregulatoryagencies, busi-nesses) who havevariedvestedinterests in thissymbolic struggle. However, from a sociological point of view,taking a critical stance canlead to an aporia . As a scientific expert and a member of anacademicfield, the sociologiststraddles a fence. Usingsociology to debunk the hiddeninterestsof dominant groups and to show how techno-sciencemerelyreflects the social world and  itsinequality, not onlyundermines the impartialitynecessary to the sociologicalapproach andloses an important part of sociological scope, but alsobecomes an easytarget for the sci-entificexpert whoislikely to dispute thisform of   sociologism and  sociologicalpro-gressivism asscholar¶spre-notions. And after all, thisisanotherform of scientificauthority, isn¶tit? The key point is not, µwhoseside are we on?¶, but rather, do we have a sufficientnumber of frameworksfor understanding the complexity of the field? Indeed, debunkingis not an objective andcomesat the expense of a socio-logicalexplanation.   Despitethis aporia , readingKleinman¶scriticisms aretrulycaptivatingbecauseheisadeptatcreating a sociological fascination in hiskeytopic. So,itiseasy to imagine how usefulthisclever book mightbe in a classroom in order to provokedebate and to cast a sociologicaleye on scientifictopics. Every case studyisinform-ative and organizedintothree or four sections. Each one provides the background of the mainissue, the keysociologicalthemes and a discussion of whatisatstake and finisheswith a briefsummary. Some sections are based on previousworks by the author. The firststudyfocuses on biotechnology and its impact on American agriculture.Throughthreeexamples (e.g. herbicide-resistantcrops), Kleinman shows fairlywell how social processes (in the social organization of agriculture, agribusiness or public controversy)explain the particular and contingent trajectory of developmentwithin agricultural biotechnology in the US from the particularinterest of a major agrochemicalfirm. The secondsection challenges optimistic notions about information technology and cyber-optimism in thesphere of educa-tion and citizenship. Far fromaiding social progress, cyberspace reflects theinequality of the social world (the µdigital divide¶) in areas such as access or ability. The thirdsection stresses the paradoxicalconsequences of intellectualpropertylaws (µpatent law¶) withinthe new cyber-economy (the music industry and MP3 technology) and regulations about biologicalmaterials (DNA and Taq¶s enzyme). Initiallydesigned to spur innovation, in thecurrentenvironment, patent protection limitsaccess to vital resources and reinforces the power of major corporations. The fourth section, an especiallyinsightful one, considers the colonialappropriation ofgeneticresources, current µbio-prospecting¶ and ideologicalrhetoric about theµcommonheritage¶, whichis more profitable to countries in the Norththan to those in theSouth. The fifth section reviewsgendersocializationstudies in science and industry. Indeed,social stratification and the careerexperience of womenmerit a critique of themeritocracyfound in businesses and academic institutions. The last studydescribes and promotes the democratization of science by outlining the possible rolethatlay people canplayin the acquisition of expert knowledge.   In conclusion, then, thisinteresting volume keepsits promise to µthink about scienceand technologydifferently¶ (p. 1). Certainly, the pedagogicstrength and consistency of thisshort book come fromitssystematic, criticalframework. However, the pitfall of thisapproachmightbe to give in to the temptation of mak-ingcriticism an end in itself.Whenwe analyse a dominant institution of the social world (health, politics, justice, theeconomy, religion, art), our main difficultyis in describingit as asociologicalobjectwithoutshatteringit as a simple illusion con-structedfrom the interests of theruling class and reflective of social order and inequality. The strength of sociology lies initsability to explain the srcin and development of an objective autonomy as well. A  politicalsociology of scientificresearch and innovation as Kleinmandevelopsitmaycreatethistype of analysis, even if we do not sharehisoptimism or believe in some of thetheoreticalshort-cuts. Perhapsitwouldbe more accurate to saythathis volume is an invitation toreadhisown, srcinal sociologicalwork.  
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