1. About Book
Book titleA Genealogical History of STS and Its Multiple Constructions: To Weave an Extensive Network for Gazing upon the Modern Sciences
AuthorDaiwie Fu
PublisherNational Taiwan University Press
Date of Publication03/01/2021
Total pages624
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Book Types(Genres & Topics)-
Humanities/Society/Science(Economy, History, Religion, Politics, Woman’s studies, Media, Philosophy)
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Sample Manuscript sizeLess than 10MB
Sample Manuscript fileISSU_978-986-350-442-9.pdf
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A Synopsis of the book

A Genealogical History of STS and its Multiple Constructions: building an extensive network for gazing upon the modern sciences

By Daiwie Fu, National Yang-Ming University

This book is intended to be a genealogical history, close to the Foucauldian sense, of STS and its emergences, its struggles in historical and social contexts, and its alliances and multiple constructions. It does not search for the sacred origin, the essence, or the founding father of STS; rather, it looks into the variable emergences, the unsettled social and academic struggles in contexts, and the unstable multiple constructions in various historical moments. Although the subject of this book is primarily STS in the English-speaking world, it was written from a particular perspective: East Asia and, especially, Taiwan. It was written outside the debates, passions, and contexts of an early STS in formation. But as newly established technoscientistic societies, East Asian countries and their emerging STS communities often encounter problems for which a genealogical history of STS in earlier Euro-American contexts might provide very useful heuristics and important lessons.

Contrary to some commonsensical assumptions, and despite my enormous respect to him, Thomas Kuhn and his works are not taken as the foundation of STS in this book. Rather, I look into the well-known tensions between Kuhn and STS’ early and perhaps still most important branch, Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK), exploring the historical situations underlying this somewhat emotional tension and Kuhn’s own continuous reservations regarding STS. The SSK community in its first two decades (1970-1990) was primarily a British community, including the Edinburgh school, Bath school and other groups of scholars. This community and its first two generations of British scholars (especially David Bloor, Barry Barnes, Steven Shapin, Harry Collins, and their associates and students) are examined in some detail to understand their emergence and their textual relations with Kuhn. Once SSK’s relationship with Kuhn is properly dis/located, and once Kuhn is dethroned from the so-called “founding father” label of STS (with which he was very unhappy), this book is then free to explore, with wide-ranging horizons, STS’ various emergences and multiple constructions.

In exploring and studying SSK/STS’ emergences and constructions, this book pursues three different, mostly British roads in STS’ historical constructions: philosophy, social anthropology, and history of science. For the area of philosophy, instead of the stereotyped debates between SSK people and philosophers of science, this book pays much more attention to SSK’s inspirations and alliances with important philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Imre Lakatos, and Mary Hesse. For the epistemological foundation of SSK, the philosophies of later Wittgenstein (especially his skepticism on rule-following) and of Hesse (her network model of knowledge) are much more important than Kuhn’s Structure, which was of course also indebted to Wittgenstein. Moreover, the biographical legends of Wittgenstein from his Vienna elementary school teacher’s days to his Cambridge philosophical complications are traced to show some special connections between them which resonate quite well with some major themes of SSK. Furthermore, Lakatos’ novel historical studies of the proofs for Euler’s law for polyhedra, which was superbly linked by David Bloor to Mary Douglas’ “grid-group” theory of cultural groups, are analyzed and their applications to history of science elucidated. This constitutes the first dimension of “historical constructions” of STS.

For the area of British social anthropology, this is an unexplored area concerning the genealogical history of STS—often forgotten or even ignored by later STSers—, but a very important area for the early construction of STS. This book explores the extent to which Evans-Pritchard (on Azande witchcraft), Robin Horton (the analogy between medical “theory” in African tribes and European science), and especially Mary Douglas (a renewed Durkheimian classification and the “grid-group” theory) had impacts on the formation of SSK. Meanwhile, SSK made reverse impacts on the anthropological thinking of Horton and Douglas, especially concerning the symmetrical comparisons between African tribal and European rationality. This is an important case of co-construction between SSK and social anthropology. Mary Douglas also had close ties or alliances with SSK’s Edinburgh school. I then examine the reasons for the gradual decline in influence of British social anthropology on STS around the mid-1990s. It is on this occasion that this book begins studying the difficult relations between SSK and the newly emerged ANT, especially Bruno Latour’s, which brought with it an important internal warfare in the world of STS. As the enthusiastic warrior of a new anthropology of science, Latour challenged Durkheim, Douglas and her contemporary anthropologists, and also her allies in SSK. Thus, we see the emergence of serious criticisms, exchanged between Latour’s Science in Action, his Pasteur piece and his SSK essay reviewers like Shapin and Schaffer, which eventually culminated in the attacks and counter-attacks of the famous epistemological chicken debate in 1992.

The third road for the construction of STS is of course the more familiar history of science. As history of science gradually freed itself from the cold war-styled debate of internal vs. external history in the 1970s, a close alliance developed between history of science and STS. SSK historians of science like Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer led the way. Shapin published his ambitious “history of science and its sociological reconstruction” to defy later Lakatos’ “history of science and its rational reconstruction.” Thus, in the mid-1980s, the most important achievements of STS were mostly in the area of history of science: e.g., The Leviathan and the Air-Pump, The Great Devonian Controversy, and Constructing Quarks. Backed by SSK’s strong programme arguments, historians of science were encouraged to study new subjects that out-sparkled the traditional history of discovering the truth of nature. Conversely, backed by many excellent history of science case studies, SSK gained confidence in developing further sociological insights on science and society. This was a very successful co-construction. Although the congenial relations between STS and history of science might be changing in the 21st century academic world, we know from the three roads studied in this book that STS has held enormous potential in its co-constructions with certain neighboring disciplines. Perhaps this was a very special and successful case of interdisciplinary constructions that deserves even further study.

Having introduced the three roads taken by SSK/STS in its multiple constructions, I then raise the question of what forces have tied STS together despite the various directions of its constructions. This book proposes a strategy for analyzing the unusually large amount of STS book reviews by STSers, which have mostly addressed their own STS colleagues. I draw a few networks of book reviews in different time periods to illustrate the evolving community efforts. It is precisely the activities of gift-giving book reviews, in Marcel Mauss’ sense of “gift,” that constitute the reciprocal obligations of conversation that strengthen STS ties in a field that was and still is full of debates, challenges, passions, and wars. A number of famous book review essays, including Bloor’s review of Lakatos’ Proof and Refutations, Gould’s review of Rudwick’s The Great Devonian Controversy, Shapin’s review of Latour’s Science in Action, Schaffer’s review of Latour’s Pasteurization of France, Latour’s review of Leviathan and the Air-Pump, Traweek’s Beamtimes and Lifetimes, Edgerton’s review of MacKenzie’s Inventing Accuracy, plus a lot more, are discussed in detail and their implications for the field assessed.

After analyzing networks of book reviews as gift exchanges, this book also considers a general model of interests (elaborated by Barnes and Shapin) that is still shared by the SSK people working along the three roads introduced above. Although criticized by later ANT and other STS people, the interests model deserves a fair hearing alongside other STS criticisms, which I pursue in a discussion of Barnes’ theory of interest and ideology (Interests and the Growth of Knowledge) and his debates with the ethnomethodologists. Thus, I argue that it is the sharing of an interest theory by SSK people that creates an additional tie or force that integrates the multiple constructions of SSK.

Last but not least, this book describes in detail the evolving social and political contexts of the 1970s to early 1990s in the UK and in US. The intent is to show the genealogical characters of “STS history” in the book. It is not an ordinary intellectual history, nor is it a straightforward social history of STS. This book traces primarily the social contexts of university campuses and academic worlds: Cold War and Vietnam war, student revolt and academic criticisms of the American military-academic complex, and later, of course, Reagan’s Star Wars. In a horizon slightly broader than STS, first I trace Thomas Kuhn’s critical engagements in investigating the military-academic activities in his Princeton years of the early 1970s. Then I estimate the impact of the influential American historian of science Paul Forman and of another Edinburgh scholar, SSK sociologist Donald MacKenzie, who together formed a “contemporary critical consciousness” in history of science and STS in the late 1980s. It was the moment when Reagan’s Star Wars project had aroused national outrages and criticisms, which included the voices of many STSers and historians of science. This critical consciousness, I argue, is constitutive of the further developments of STS and history of science in the 1990s, and it is also a good representation of how academic STSers and historians of science have addressed the problems of their contemporary societies.

Finally, this book contains two more things. A Postcript, which is a conclusion of sorts, and an Appendix. In the Postcript, I wrote about myself, my personal experience from reading Kuhn and Lakatos to his later engagement with Taiwan’s STS. I also wrote about the strength and peculiar weakness of Taiwan’s STS community and how it concerns and worries me. From there, the reader will understand better why I wrote such a not-small-book about Euro-American STS, a book in Chinese. Taiwan began to construct its STS community, under specific circumstances, only since 2000 (basically HPS and Kuhn before that), knowing quite a bit about ANT and Latour, but knowing relatively little about SSK and the historical constructions of STS itself. The book’s focus instead on the multiple constructions of the early SSK, its strengths and its genealogical characters, is meant to draw out relevant and needed lessons, as a heuristic for STS in Taiwan and East Asia. ,

The second thing is the Appendix. It is about a wider context: the development and prospect of East Asian STS. One interesting feature of Taiwan’s STS is that it was constructed in a historical moment when it actually shared many social concerns with other STS communities in East Asia, like rampant technology controversies, protests against nuclear power and toxic waste, and social support for renewable energies. As in the Postscript, the primary subject of the Appendix is my personal experience, as one of the founders and the founding editor-in-chief of the journal East Asian Science, Technology, and Society (EASTS) since 2007. I outline my involvement in an East Asian STS international journal, which became a valuable means for connecting with STS people in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China, and with non-East Asian STSers who have specialties in East Asian STS. In addition, I discuss the major themes that have animated debates on STS in/about East Asia. What is “East Asian”? Is it even necessary to work within such a category? How can EASTS grow further into an East Asian STS community with distinction, distinct from but also in connection with, Europe-American counterparts? As both Taiwan’s STS and East Asian STS are emerging and are constructed in complicated processes, this book argues that the early emergence and multiple constructions of SSK in the UK can be instructive to us in many ways: (in the UK) the interests of STS emerged from unconventional sources and wide-ranging, eye-opening paths in the constructions of STS, resulting in great potentials for STS in generating contemporary social actions and practices.

Translated Chapter Titles of the book


Ch.1, Kuhn vs. the Emergence of STS: Puzzles and a New Perspective after 50 Years of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Ch.2, Changing Perspectives, from Folk History to Genealogy

Ch.3, The Philosophy Agenda of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK)

Ch.4, How to Think about Tribal Societies: An Early Anthropological Period of SSK

Ch.5, SSK and History of Science: Growing together like like brother and sister

Ch.6, Multiple Constructions Integrated: Social Interest, Gift, and Politics

Ch.7, Contemporary Political and Social Actions: from Kuhn to SSK

Postscript: From my Personal Experience to Taiwan’s STS

Appendix: The Prospect and Development of East Asian STS

Glossary, Bibliography, and Index