Recent books by SDN members

Below is a list of forthcoming and recent books by members of the Science and Democracy Network. (If you have a new books to announce here, please contact the site admin.)



"Can Science Fix Climate Change?" cover

Can science fix climate change? A case against climate engineering

Mike Hulme

Polity, 2014

Climate change seems to be an insurmountable problem. Political solutions have so far had little impact. Some scientists are now advocating the so-called "Plan B", a more direct way of reducing the rate of future warming by reflecting more sunlight back to space, creating a thermostat in the sky. In this book, Mike Hulme argues against this kind of hubristic techno-fix. Drawing upon a distinguished career studying the science, politics and ethics of climate change, he shows why using science to fix the global climate is undesirable, ungovernable and unattainable. Science and technology should instead serve the more pragmatic goals of increasing societal resilience to weather risks, improving regional air quality and driving forward an energy technology transition. Seeking to reset the planet's thermostat is not the answer.

More information is available here.


"Knowledge, Technology and Law" cover

Knowledge, Technology and Law (Law, Science and Society)

Emile Cloatre and Martyn Pickersgill (Eds.)

Routledge, 2015

The relationships between knowledge, technologies, and legal processes are central to the constitution of contemporary societies. As such, they have come to provide the focus for a range of academic projects, across interdisciplinary legal studies and the social sciences. The domains of medical law and ethics, intellectual property law, environmental law and criminal law are just some of those within which the pervasive place and impact of technoscience is immediately apparent. At the same time, social scientists investigating the making of technology and expertise - in particular, scholars working within the tradition of science and technology studies - frequently interrogate how regulation and legal processes, and the making of knowledge and technologies, are intermingled in complex ways that come to shape and define each other. This book charts the important interface between studies of law, science and society, as explored from the perspectives of socio-legal studies and the increasingly influential field of science and technology studies. It brings together scholars from both areas to interrogate the joint roles of law and science in the construction and stabilization of socio-technical networks, objects, and standards, as well as their place in the production of contemporary social realities and subjectivities.

More information is available here.


"Counting Civilian Casualties" cover

Counting Civilian Casualties: An Introduction to Recording and Estimating Nonmilitary Deaths in Conflict

Taylor B. Seybolt, Jay D. Aronson, and Baruch Fischhoff (Eds.)

Oxford University Press, 2013

A popular myth emerged in the late 1990s: in 1900, wars killed one civilian for every eight soldiers, while contemporary wars were killing eight civilians for every one soldier. The neat reversal of numbers was memorable, and academic publications and UN documents regularly cited it. The more it was cited, the more trusted it became. In fact, however, subsequent research found no empirical evidence for the idea that the ratio of civilians to soldiers killed in war has changed dramatically. But while the ratios may not have changed, the political significance of civilian casualties has risen tremendously. Over the past century, civilians in war have gone from having no particular rights to having legal protections and rights that begin to rival those accorded to states. The concern for civilians in conflict has become so strong that governments occasionally undertake humanitarian interventions, at great risk and substantial cost, to protect strangers in distant lands. I n the early 1990s, the UN Security Council authorized military interventions to help feed and protect civilians in the Kurdish area of Iraq, Somalia, and Bosnia. And in May 2011 , Barack Obama 's National Security Advisor explained the United States' decision to support NATO's military intervention in these terms "When the president made this decision, there was an immediate threat to 700,000 Libyan civilians in the town of Benghazi. We've had a success here in terms of being able to protect those civilians." Counting Civilian Casualties aims to promote open scientific dialogue by high lighting the strengths and weaknesses of the most commonly used casualty recording and estimation techniques in an understandable format. Its thirteen chapters, each authoritative but accessible to nonspecialists, explore a variety of approaches, from direct recording to statistical estimation and sampling, to collecting data on civilian deaths caused by conflict. The contributors also discuss their respective advantages and disadvantages, and analyze how figures are used (and misused) by governments, rebels, human rights advocates, war crimes tribunals, and others. In addition to providing analysts with a broad range of tools to produce accurate data, this will be an in valuable resource for policymakers, military officials, jou rnalists, human rights activists, courts, and ordinary people who want to be more informed--and skeptical--consumers of casualty counts.

More information is available here.


"Imagined Democracies" cover

Imagined Democracies: Necessary Political Fictions

Yaron Ezrahi

Cambridge University Press, 2012

This book proposes a revisionist approach to democratic politics. Yaron Ezrahi focuses on the creative unconscious collective imagination that generates ever-changing visions of legitimate power and authority, which compete for enactment and institutionalization in the political arena. If, in the past, political authority was grounded in fictions such as the divine right of kings, the laws of nature, historical determinism, and scientism, today the space of democratic politics is filled with multiple alternative social imaginaries of the desirable political order. Exposure to electronic mass media has made contemporary democratic publics more aware that credible popular fictions have greater impact on shaping our political realities than do rational social choices or moral arguments. The pressing political question in contemporary democracy is, therefore, how to select and enact political fictions that promote peace, not violence, and how to found the political order on checks and balances between alternative political imaginaries of freedom and justice.

More information is available here.


"Secrecy and Science" cover

Secrecy and Science: A Historical Sociology of Biological and Chemical Warfare

Brian Balmer

Ashgate Publishing, March 2012

It is no secret that twentieth-century Britain was governed through a culture of secrecy, and secrecy was particularly endemic in military research and defence policy surrounding biological and chemical warfare. More generally, it is hard to exaggerate the role of secrecy in all past biological and chemical warfare programmes and several recent historical surveys of biological and chemical warfare research have emphasised that all state sponsored programmes, together with sub-state organised activities, were cloaked in utmost secrecy. Of these research programmes, Britain carried out one of the most significant in scale and scope in the twentieth century. Yet, partly because of the secrecy surrounding the programme, there is still little academic literature on its historical development. Equally, and despite secrecy being a pervasive feature of past and contemporary societies, social scientists and historians have paid relatively little scholarly attention to the nature, mechanics and effects of secrecy, particularly with regard to secrecy in relation to the production and governance of science and technology. Drawing on classical sociological writing on secrecy by Simmel, Merton and Shils this groundbreaking book by Brian Balmer draws on recently declassified documents to investigate significant episodes in the history of biological and chemical warfare. At the same time, it draws on more contemporary perspectives in science and technology studies that understand knowledge and social order as co-produced within heterogeneous networks of 'things and people' in order to develop a theoretical set of arguments about how the relationship between secrecy and science might be understood. Contents: Preface; Secret science; Secrecy at work: scientists' defence of biological weapons research; Making secrets: accidents, experiments and the production of knowledge; Keeping, disclosing and breaching secrets: classification and security; Secrecy, doubt and uncertainty: power/ignorance?; Secrecy, transparency and public relations: opening up Porton Down in the 'year of the barricades'; Secret spaces of science: a secret formula, a rogue patent and public knowledge about nerve gas; Opaque science; References; Index.'

More information is available here.


"Instituting Nature" cover

Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise, and Power in Mexican Rainforests

Andrew S. Mathews

MIT Press, 2011

Greater knowledge and transparency are often promoted as the keys to solving a wide array of governance problems. In Instituting Nature, Andrew Mathews describes Mexico's efforts over the past hundred years to manage its forests through forestry science and biodiversity conservation. He shows that transparent knowledge was produced not by official declarations or scientists' expertise but by encounters between the relatively weak forestry bureaucracy and the indigenous people who manage and own the pine forests of Mexico. Mathews charts the performances, collusions, complicities, and evasions that characterize the forestry bureaucracy. He shows that the authority of forestry officials is undermined by the tension between local realities and national policy; officials must juggle sweeping knowledge claims and mundane concealments, ambitious regulations and routine rule breaking. Moving from government offices in Mexico City to forests in the state of Oaxaca, Mathews describes how the science of forestry and bureaucratic practices came to Oaxaca in the 1930s and how local environmental and political contexts set the stage for local resistance. He tells how the indigenous Zapotec people learned the theory and practice of industrial forestry as employees and then put these skills to use when they become the owners and managers of the area's pine forests--eventually incorporating forestry into their successful claims for autonomy from the state. Despite the apparently small scale and local contexts of this balancing act between the power of forestry regulations and the resistance of indigenous communities, Mathews shows that it has large implications--for how we understand the modern state, scientific knowledge, and power and for the global carbon markets for which Mexican forests might become valuable.

More information is available here.


"GM Food on Trial" cover

GM Food on Trial: Testing European Democracy

Les Levidrow and Susan Carr

Routledge, 2010

Europe was told that it had no choice but to accept agbiotech, yet this imperative was turned into a test of democratic accountability for societal choices. Since the late 1990s, European public controversy has kept the agri-biotech industry and its promoters on the defensive. As some opponents and regulators alike have declared, 'GM food/crops are on trial'. Suspicion of their guilt has been evoked by moral symbols — in disputes over whether genetically modified products are modest benign improvements on traditional plant breeding, or dangerous Frankenstein foods; and in disputes over whether they are global saviours, or control agents of multinational companies. This book examines European institutions being put 'on trial' for how their regulatory procedures evaluate and regulate GM products. The defendant on trial was expanded — from product safety, to biotech companies, their innovation trajectory, regulatory decision-making, expert advisors, government policy and its democratic legitimacy — in ways which opened up alternative futures. The book highlights how public controversy led to national policy changes and demands, in turn stimulating changes in EU agbiotech regulations as a means to regain legitimacy.

More information is available here.


"Das Klimaexperiment und der IPCC" cover

Das Klimaexperiment und der IPCC: Schnittstellen zwischen Wissenschaft und Politik in den internationalen Beziehungen

Silke Beck

Metropolis Verlag, 2009


More information is available here.


"Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers" cover

Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers: The Politics of Environmental Knowledge in Northern Thailand

Tim Forsyth and Andrew Walker

University of Washington Press, 2008

In this far-reaching examination of environmental problems and politics in northern Thailand, Tim Forsyth and Andrew Walker analyze deforestation, water supply, soil erosion, use of agrochemicals, and biodiversity in order to challenge popularly held notions of environmental crisis. They argue that such crises have been used to support political objectives of state expansion and control in the uplands. They have also been used to justify the alternative directions advocated by an array of NGOs. In official and alternative discourses of economic development, the peoples living in Thailand's hill country are typically cast as either guardians or destroyers of forest resources, often depending on their ethnicity. Political and historical factors have created a simplistic, misleading, and often scientifically inaccurate environmental narrative: Hmong farmers, for example, are thought to exhibit environmentally destructive practices, whereas the Karen are seen as linked to and protective of their ancestral home. Forsyth and Walker reveal a much more complex relationship of hill farmers to the land, to other ethnic groups, and to the state. They conclude that current explanations fail to address the real causes of environmental problems and unnecessarily restrict the livelihoods of local people.

More information is available here.


"Genetic Witness" cover

Genetic Witness: Science, Law, and Controversy in the Making of DNA Profiling

Jay D. Aronson

Rutgers University Press, 2007

When DNA profiling was first introduced into the American legal system in 1987, it was heralded as a technology that would revolutionize law enforcement. As an investigative tool, it has lived up to much of this hype—it is regularly used to track down unknown criminals, put murderers and rapists behind bars, and exonerate the innocent. Yet, this promise took ten turbulent years to be fulfilled. In Genetic Witness, Jay D. Aronson uncovers the dramatic early history of DNA profiling that has been obscured by the technique's recent success. He demonstrates that robust quality control and quality assurance measures were initially nonexistent, interpretation of test results was based more on assumption than empirical evidence, and the technique was susceptible to error at every stage. Most of these issues came to light only through defense challenges to what prosecutors claimed to be an infallible technology. Although this process was fraught with controversy, inefficiency, and personal antagonism, the quality of DNA evidence improved dramatically as a result. Aronson argues, however, that the dream of a perfect identification technology remains unrealized.

More information is available here.


"Building Genetic Medicine" cover

Building Genetic Medicine: Breast Cancer, Technology, and the Comparative Politics of Health Care

Shobita Parthasarathy

MIT Press, 2007

In Building Genetic Medicine, Shobita Parthasarathy shows how, even in an era of globalization, national context is playing an important role in the development and use of genetic technologies. Focusing on the development and deployment of genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer (known as BRCA testing) in the United States and Britain, Parthasarathy develops a comparative analysis framework in order to investigate how national "toolkits" shape both regulations and the architectures of technologies and uses this framework to assess the implications of new genetic technologies. BRCA testing was one of the most highly anticipated and publicized technologies of contemporary medicine. Parthasarathy argues that differences in the American and British approaches to health care and commercialization of research led to the establishment of different BRCA services in the two countries. In Britain, the technology was available through the National Health Service as an integrated program of counseling and laboratory analysis, and was viewed as a potentially cost-effective form of preventive care. In the United States, although BRCA testing was initially offered by a number of providers, one company eventually became the sole provider of a test available to consumers on demand. Parthasarathy also reports on an unsuccessful attempt by the American provider of BRCA testing to market its services in Britain. British scientists, health-care providers, and patients rejected the American technology, she argues, because it was part of a social, economic, and political system to which they were not accustomed. Parthasarathy draws lessons for the future of genetic medicine from these cross-national differences, and discusses the ways in which comparative case studies can inform policy-making efforts in science and technology.

More information is available here.


"Measure of Merit" cover

The Measure of Merit: Talents, Intelligence, and Inequality in the French and American Republics, 1750-1940

John Carson

Princeton University Press, 2006

How have modern democracies squared their commitment to equality with their fear that disparities in talent and intelligence might be natural, persistent, and consequential? In this wide-ranging account of American and French understandings of merit, talent, and intelligence over the past two centuries, John Carson tells the fascinating story of how two nations wrestled scientifically with human inequalities and their social and political implications. Surveying a broad array of political tracts, philosophical treatises, scientific works, and journalistic writings, Carson chronicles the gradual embrace of the IQ version of intelligence in the United States, while in France, the birthplace of the modern intelligence test, expert judgment was consistently prized above such quantitative measures. He also reveals the crucial role that determinations of, and contests over, merit have played in both societies—they have helped to organize educational systems, justify racial hierarchies, classify army recruits, and direct individuals onto particular educational and career paths.

More information is available here.


"Designs on Nature" cover

Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States

Sheila Jasanoff

Princeton University Press, 2005

Biology and politics have converged today across much of the industrialized world. Debates about genetically modified organisms, cloning, stem cells, animal patenting, and new reproductive technologies crowd media headlines and policy agendas. Less noticed, but no less important, are the rifts that have appeared among leading Western nations about the right way to govern innovation in genetics and biotechnology. These significant differences in law and policy, and in ethical analysis, may in a globalizing world act as obstacles to free trade, scientific inquiry, and shared understandings of human dignity.

More information is available here.


"Earthly Politics" cover

Earthly Politics: Local and Global in Environmental Governance

Sheila Jasanoff and Marybeth Long Martello, eds.

MIT Press, 2004

Globalization today is as much a problem for international harmony as it is a necessary condition of living together on our planet. Increasing interconnectedness in ecology, economy, technology, and politics has brought nations and societies into ever closer contact, creating acute demands for cooperation. Earthly Politics argues that in the coming decades global governance will have to accommodate differences, even as it obliterates distance, and will have to respect many aspects of the local while developing institutions that transcend localism.

More information is available here.


"States of Knowledge" cover

States of Knowledge: The Co-Production of Science and Social Order

Sheila Jasanoff, ed.

Routledge, 2004 (paperback 2006)

In the past twenty years, the field of science and technology studies (S&TS) has made considerable progress toward illuminating the relationship between scientific knowledge and political power. These insights have not yet been synthesized or presented in a form that systematically highlights the connections between S&TS and other social sciences. This timely collection of essays by some of the leading scholars in the field attempts to fill that gap. The book develops the theme of co-production, showing how scientific knowledge both embeds and is embedded in social identities, institutions, representations and discourses. Accordingly, the authors argue, ways of knowing the world are inseparably linked to the ways in which people seek to organize and control it. Through studies of emerging knowledges, research practices and political institutions, the authors demonstrate that the idiom of co-production importantly extends the vocabulary of the traditional social sciences, offering fresh analytic perspectives on the nexus of science, power and culture.

Contributors: Michel Callon, John Carson, Peter Dear, Michael Dennis, Yaron Ezrahi, Stephen Hilgartner, Sheila Jasanoff, Michael Lynch, Clark Miller, Vololona Rabeharisoa, William Storey, Charis Thompson, Claire Waterton, Brian Wynne.

More information is available here.


"Biocapital" cover

Biocapital: The Constitution of Postgenomic Life

Kaushik Sunder Rajan

Duke University Press, 2006

Biocapital is a major theoretical contribution to science studies and political economy. Grounding his analysis in a multi-sited ethnography of genomic research and drug development marketplaces in the United States and India, Kaushik Sunder Rajan argues that contemporary biotechnologies such as genomics can only be understood in relation to the economic markets within which they emerge. Sunder Rajan conducted fieldwork in biotechnology labs and in small start-up companies in the United States (mostly in the San Francisco Bay area) and India (mainly in New Delhi, Hyderabad, and Bombay) over a five-year period spanning 1999 to 2004. He draws on his research with scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and policymakers to compare drug development in the two countries, examining the practices and goals of research, the financing mechanisms, the relevant government regulations, and the hype and marketing surrounding promising new technologies. In the process, he illuminates the global flow of ideas, information, capital, and people connected to biotech initiatives. Sunder Rajan's ethnography informs his theoretically sophisticated inquiry into how the contemporary world is shaped by the marriage of biotechnology and market forces, by what he calls technoscientific capitalism. Bringing Marxian theories of value into conversation with Foucaultian notions of biopolitics, he traces how the life sciences came to be significant producers of both economic and epistemic value in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first.

More information is available here.


"Race to the Finish" cover

Race to the Finish: Identity and Governance in an Age of Genomics

Jenny Reardon

Princeton University Press, 2004

In the summer of 1991, population geneticists and evolutionary biologists proposed to archive human genetic diversity by collecting the genomes of "isolated indigenous populations." Their initiative, which became known as the Human Genome Diversity Project, generated early enthusiasm from those who believed it would enable huge advances in our understanding of human evolution. However, vocal criticism soon emerged. Physical anthropologists accused Project organizers of reimporting racist categories into science. Indigenous-rights leaders saw a "Vampire Project" that sought the blood of indigenous people but not their well-being. More than a decade later, the effort is barely off the ground. How did an initiative whose leaders included some of biology's most respected, socially conscious scientists become so stigmatized? How did these model citizen-scientists come to be viewed as potential racists, even vampires? This book argues that the long abeyance of the Diversity Project points to larger, fundamental questions about how to understand knowledge, democracy, and racism in an age when expert claims about genomes increasingly shape the possibilities for being human. Jenny Reardon demonstrates that far from being innocent tools for fighting racism, scientific ideas and practices embed consequential social and political decisions about who can define race, racism, and democracy, and for what ends. She calls for the adoption of novel conceptual tools that do not oppose science and power, truth and racist ideologies, but rather draw into focus their mutual constitution.

More information is available here.