Acting in an uncertain world : an essay on technical democracy / Michel Callon, Pierre Lascoumes, Yannick Barthe ; translated by Graham Burchell.

by Callon, Michel [author.]Looking glass; Lascoumes, Pierre, 1948- [author.]Looking glass; Barthe, Yannick [author.]Looking glass; Burchell, Graham [translator.]Looking glass.

Series: Inside technology: Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press, 2011.Description: 287 pages ; 23 cm.ISBN: 9780262515962.Other title: Original French title: Agir dans un monde incertain.Subject(s): DemocracyLooking glass | Political leadershipages | Technology -- Political aspectsLooking glass | Science -- Political aspectsNote: This translation originally published: 2009.Note: Includes bibliographical references and index. Language: Translated from the French.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

A call for a new form of democracy in which "hybrid forums" composed of experts and laypeople address such sociotechnical controversies as hazardous waste, genetically modified organisms, and nanotechnology. Controversies over such issues as nuclear waste, genetically modified organisms, asbestos, tobacco, gene therapy, avian flu, and cell phone towers arise almost daily as rapid scientific and technological advances create uncertainty and bring about unforeseen concerns. The authors of Acting in an Uncertain World argue that political institutions must be expanded and improved to manage these controversies, to transform them into productive conversations, and to bring about "technical democracy." They show how "hybrid forums"-in which experts, non-experts, ordinary citizens, and politicians come together-reveal the limits of traditional delegative democracies, in which decisions are made by quasi-professional politicians and techno-scientific information is the domain of specialists in laboratories. The division between professionals and laypeople, the authors claim, is simply outmoded. The authors argue that laboratory research should be complemented by everyday experimentation pursued in the real world, and they describe various modes of cooperation between the two. They explore a range of concrete examples of hybrid forums that have dealt with sociotechnical controversies including nuclear waste disposal in France, industrial waste and birth defects in Japan, a childhood leukemia cluster in Woburn, Massachusetts, and mad cow disease in the United Kingdom. The authors discuss the implications for political decision making in general and describe a "dialogic" democracy that enriches traditional representative democracy. To invent new procedures for consultation and representation, they suggest, is to contribute to an endless process that is necessary for the ongoing democratization of democracy.

This translation originally published: 2009.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Translated from the French.

Reviews provided by Syndetics


Callon (Ecole des mines de Paris) and Lascoumes and Barthe (both, Centre national de la recherche scientifique) argue that science and technology cannot be adequately managed by the types of political institutions currently available. Rather, the authors believe that a dialogic democracy, or what they call a "technical democracy," would be better suited to promote interaction between scientific experts and laypeople. This book was originally published in France in 2001. The current edition is an English translation of that book. As such, several of the scientific controversies the authors reference appear somewhat dated and Francocentric. However, this does not overly detract from their underlying point that scientific and technological controversies should not be left to experts in a secluded laboratory. Rather, public involvement in these controversies would serve to enrich democracy by fostering open debate and the public exchange of ideas. While the prose does at times alternate between the anecdotal and the melodramatic, the overall point the authors make is most relevant. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers and upper-division undergraduate students. D. M. Judd William Paterson University

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Michel Callon, developer (with Bruno Latour and others) of Actor Network Theory, is Professor at the cole des mines de Paris and a Researcher at the Centre de Sociologie de l'innovation there.

Pierre Lascoumes is Director of Research at CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientfique).

Yannick Barthe is a Researcher at CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) and a member of the Centre de sociologie de l'innovation.