Technoscience and the dereification of nature

Andrew Feenberg


The many definitions of technoscience are offered as correctives to an ideal of pure science, completely separate from society. The critique of purity in Science and Technology Studies was preceded by phenomenological critiques in Heidegger and Marcuse. The idea of purity is no longer credible. Yet the concept of pure science has played a role historically in defending science against political interference. The concept of technoscience risks opening science to such interference and has provoked a renewed and rather futile defense of its purity. The consensus in STS that science is fundamentally social seems to obviate the need for a term such as technoscience. This paper suggests a restrictive definition of technoscience based on the multiplication of independent tests of validity. This is an extreme case of the sociality of science because here science and technology emerge together rather than theory preceding application. Technoscience under this definition would describe scientific work, validated scientifically, that serves simultaneously in commercial and public processes which have their own independent logic and tests of validity. Under this definition, the existence of complex interactions between science and society does not blur the boundaries between these tests. Technoscience is embedded in society like all science, but is unique in standing at a “fork” between distinct languages and criteria of success.

Keywords: Technoscience, STS, Heidegger, Marcuse, science/society.

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