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HOW SOCIETIES CONSTITUTE THEIR KNOWLEDGE:

PROLEGOMENA TO A LABOUR PROCESS PERSPECTIVE

by Robert M. Young

Everywhere I turn there are programmes, books, articles, announcements - even jobs - concerned with the problems of 'science and society'. They take all sorts of forms but have a common feature: they treat the issues dichotomously. On one side there lie science, technology and/or medicine and on the other ethics, values, culture. Medical schools are hiring 'ethicists'; engineering departments are setting up research and teaching on values. There is even an American think tank called The Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences, and Washington has a Kennedy Institute of Bioethics. The British Government Central Policy Review Staff (1978) has assessed the impact of new technologies on employment and 'the quality of life' and has established a Technical Change Centre, while the US Government granting agency called Ethics and Values in Science and Technology (EVIST) was said to be the fastest-growing one before the advent of Reagan's deregulation (AAAS, 1978). Indeed, the Thatcher/ Reagan era threatens to wind down many such watch-dog initiatives just as they were getting going. There are works celebrating The Republic of Technology, while The Coming of Post-Industrial Society prepares us to be governed by experts whose social contract with the rest of us will make it tolerable that certain scientists will be Playing God with genetic engineering. What is common to all such concerns is that they attempt to relate the existence, development and consequences of the scientific, the technological and the medical to society, culture, values. The problems are seen as ones of influence, interaction and control. My quarrel with all this is that we'll continue to mystify the deeper issues until we change the question and take a new path to answering it.

Some say that these concerns are a post-Vietnam/Watergate/CIA/Lockheed scandals fig leaf over capital's private parts, or a band-aid to cover a gaping wound, the sides of which are a long way apart: power and profit on one side, democracy and public interest on the other. I am arguing that as long as we are trying to relate the scientific and the evaluative, we'll remain entrapped within a framework which, in my view, perpetuates the problem. The question isn't, 'How are science and society related, and how should they be?' but 'How do societies constitute their knowledge and how should we reconstitute them?'

I'll start with a powerful current example. Micro-processors are already bringing about fundamental changes in the labour processes of all sorts of industries. Factory production, the printing industry and office work are never to be the same again. The changes in the jobs and in patterns of employment are likely to be as sweeping as those brought about by the creation of the modern factory system itself. Yet societal and cultural controversies over the consequences of a very esoteric technology are occurring at the point when jobs of whole workforces are already being threatened. I mean this literally in, for example, the cases of typesetting and clerical work (APEX, 1979; Glenn & Feldberg, 1979; Barker and Downing, 1980). The workers whose livelihoods are under a cloud only hear of the existence of silicon chip technology once the word processing equipment comes on to the market, and employers are attempting to install it. The logic of the position is utterly simple. In principle, all sorts of processes could have been automated by vacuum tube computers — or even by the original mechanical calculating engine designed by Charles Babbage in the nineteenth century. But it was too complicated and expensive and, until recently, slow. Generations of automating technologies have made all this less and less expensive, with more

and more information and procedures stored increasingly compactly and processed unbelievably quickly. The microprocessor has a silicon chip a few millimetres square with the electronics of a small computer etched on it. It is so small and so cheap that it is suddenly worthwhile to use it for any process which can be reduced to a set of instructions, however complex. This is a quantitative advance of such a magnitude that it is qualitatively changing production, services and consumption. For example, you can soon do all your shopping, all economic transactions, all getting of information and all reading, as well as book your holidays, on your own home computer terminal and visual display. This technology is not merely imagined or planned; it exists and is being installed, using telephone terminals and conversion of current television sets.

A great deal is being written about microprocessors, but nothing I have read touches on what I want to say. The public process of the evaluation and potential alteration of its consequences has only become possible at the point of application of the constituent technologies. We have science, technology and industry developing things, and then we have something else called 'social impact'. Unless and until these matters are amenable to public controversy during the process of origination — not just during the process of application — there is literally no hope of science technology and medicine serving the needs of society rather than the needs of the circulation and expansion of capital. It is of the essence of the structure of the capitalist mode of production that this change should not be possible in a private enterprise economy. The most active movements calling for the control of science and its fruits are environmentalists and consumerists. They play an important role, but they have no access to the process of origination of new knowledge and technologies. That process is controlled by investment, entrepreneurial and research grant awarding bodies which are at many removes from forums in which most people have any say.

The problem of reconstituting technology is complex and daunting, and I have considered it at length elsewhere (Young, 1979b). What I want to do here is consider the available approaches of conceiving of the relations and to argue for a very different conception. Lest it be thought that this is a problem confined to computers, earlier examples should be recalled: steam power, railroads, electric power, the internal combustion engine, the automobile, the airplane. All boons. Perhaps, but then what of gunpowder, thermonuclear weapons and missiles? Our current societies are faced with nuclear power (in both senses), artificial fertilization and implantation of human ova, genetic engineering and other forms of biotechnology. I cannot think of a time when science and technology were facing humankind with more dramatic new discoveries, affecting aspects of birth, life, work, energy, health, disease and the nature of the species itself. Hyperbole? Read on.

Artificial fertilization and implantation and genetic engineering were new matters at the threshold of scientific concern at the 1970 conference on The Social Impact of Modern Biology where questions of social responsibility of science were first presented to a wider British public (Fuller, 1971). A decade later, they are well-developed, applied and are being commercially exploited. Standard Oil of Indiana has invested $10.5 million and National Distillers Corporation $8 million of the $45 million of capital in Genentech, a firm which has secure areas for developing biotechnologies and does not intend to patent its commercial secrets or notify the government agency (whose guidelines are voluntary and are being softened) about experiments which are commercially sensitive. When this and other commercial genetic engineering companies went public their stocks were eagerly taken up, making their founders millionaires overnight. Grandiose new commercial ventures are involving academic scientists both inside and outside the universities and have attracted large amounts of venture capital as well as diminishing the mediations between industrial and academic priorities (Noble, 1982). These developments have occurred at such breakneck speed that it is thought that many of the new commercial firms will not survive. The gap between science fantasy and sound commercial prospects is closing rapidly in this and other spheres. A number of fictional works are showing exaggerated versions, e.g., The People Shapers, Spare Parts, In His Image (the last of these published as fact but acknowledged as fiction four years later) and Coma are concerned with spare part surgery and cloning as commercial activities, while The Terminal Man (the fictionalization of an actual case which was later the subject of a lawsuit) touches an the commercial possibilities of implanting electrodes for self-stimulation of pleasure centres in the brain. This is one example of a wide ranging set of issues around behavioural control through cerebral implants (Chorover, 1974, 1979, 1980). Can we really believe that these potentially very lucrative practices will be developed in the people's interest? If recent Italian and Latin American ransoms are any guide what will the rich not pay for spare parts? Indeed, the authors of both The Terminal Man and Coma were doctors at Harvard Medical School and added dire warnings to their fictional stories, stressing that there are no publicly accountable institutions for dealing with these highly-developed technologies. Blood is already routinely bought and sold, as are other organs — kidneys, corneas (Brooke, 1981). Implantation of electrodes in human brains is fairly commonplace in research and has been advocated as a way of dealing with rioters (Mark & Ervin, 1970; Chorover, 1976; Delgado, 1980). In the case of genetic engineering, there are already powerful and successful moves from industry and from eminent scientists to dismantle the existing statutory and consultative guidelines. It is feared that they could interfere with commercial developments, while it is claimed that the potential dangers have been exaggerated. Who can be sure that these two arguments are not connected? The stakes are very high. It has been pointed out that a country with strict controls on new biotechnologies will lose out and that investors and researchers will go elsewhere. Since we are on the threshold of transforming the food, energy, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, the commercial pressures are very great, indeed.

Jacques Monod was only warning us about these possibilities at the conference on The Social Impact of Modern Biology in 1970 (Fuller, 1971). At the same meeting Jacob Bronowski mocked the suggestion that a South African black woman might be prevailed upon to carry to delivery the foetus of a white woman who didn't want to be bothered with the discomforts of pregnancy. Surely, it was suggested, this form of exploitation would be relatively attractive to some South African black women. Once the white woman's fertilised embryo was implanted in the host's womb, the black woman would be treated to nine months of excellent food and housing and the possibility of a good job to follow as wet nurse and maid. Nothing but the best for our bun's oven. Why not? In the period since Monod and Bronowski expressed their concern, both have died. Genetic engineering research is proceeding apace in Monod's laboratory; several artificially fertilised and implanted babies have been born; there have been several cases of women bearing babies 'for' other women and men. The public has only been made aware of these issues as the technologies have came very near to being on-stream.

I sketch these developments and very real prospects to drive home the point that the public has access to science, technology and medicine at the wrong point in the process of conception, development, production and implementation of new discoveries. What is needed is access to the origination as the first step toward their control and reconstitution. Make no mistake: science and technology are now at the heart of the forces of production and reproduction of the existing socio-economic order, while debate about them takes place when it's too late in the process of constituting new facts, artefacts and procedures. It is certainly an improvement that the issues are being raised in the forums I mentioned at the beginning but they have as yet focused on the results — the products — and have not addressed the problem at source.

In the remainder of this essay I want to examine the approaches to the inter-relations between science and society which are currently available and to trace an odyssey from the 'science and society' model to a more promising one rooted in the analysis of the labour process. I should stress at the outset that I am not saying that at present knowledge is not socially constituted; I shall try to show that it is. I am saying that the present setting of goals and asking of questions is sequestered from democratic social processes by the institutional and economic structures of capitalism (as well as by the decision-making processes of mixed economies and of nominally 'socialist' societies). Our first task is to learn to see the current social constitutions of knowledge through socialist eyes and how that process is systematically obscured by the prevailing models which artificially separate knowledge from its context. Then we can see what we're up against in trying to gain control of that social process and change it. As I have tried to show in my other writings, part of the problem is the comprehensiveness of the con. As with 'The Sting' and Watergate, anyone trying to figure out what's going is very likely to suffer from a failure of audacity of imagination and simply cannot get his or her mind around the sheer scope of the version of reality which the confidence trickster is foisting upon us. It involves the framing of whole disciplines, e.g., ethology, sociobiology; whole families of disciplines, e.g., the functionalist human sciences; a whole world view: the metaphysical foundations of modern science. I do not mean, of course, that these approaches are false but that they are constituted historically within the mode of production, which structures basic assumptions and whole approaches to concepts and areas of investigation. Nor do I mean that they could or should be replaced by some set of value-neutral, non-ideological perspectives; I am arguing for a socialist world-view.

This essay is an attempt to provide a bridge between the critique of some existing perspectives in the history, philosophy and social studies of science and a different approach which has been developed, on the whole, in non-academic contexts and publications. It is, as much of my recent individual and collective work has been, a mixture of exploratory, polemical and didactic writing — conducting an argument, developing a position, attempting to work out bases for strategy and practical struggles. Matters relevant to this process extend from the intimately personal to recent institutional experiences and current history and to the broadest and deepest issues in formal metaphysics. This essay consists largely of prolegomena or path-clearing, attempting to show a way from existing approaches to one which is only adumbrated here. The path leads us to the divide between ways of interpreting the world, to a perspective which, if adopted, is inseparable from attempts to change it.

 

FACTS: POSITIVISM AND SCIENTISM

 

One of the fundamental features of the world-view expressed by science is at issue in the very definition of a fact. The prevailing positivist conception is that facts can be treated in isolation, separated from their contexts of meanings and relations. As I argued in 'The Anthropology of Science' (Young, 1972a), the orthodox view is that facts are one thing, values another. Recent work in psychology and the philosophy of science is presenting an alternative version which, when coupled with the political views being argued here, add up to: facts are theory-laden, theories are value-laden, and values are constituted by ideologies as constituents of world-views. World views have ways of knowing, epistemologies, and within the epistemology of modern science we are precluded from treating values as constitutive of facts.

Another way of putting this is to say that there is a very insidious now-you-see-it-now-you-don't in the positivist definition of fact. It isn't that facts are one thing and values are another but that the values are intrinsic to what counts as science. It's a sort of double shuffle. If you don't see the evaluative foundations, you're OK. Just when you do see them, you're sent out of the room for 'dragging politics into science'. So by the time you know how to see through the con, you've been shuffled out the door, conveniently labelled an anti-scientist, polluter, irrationalist, hippie, outlaw. It is daunting to be branded in this way. I find it easy to recall the whiff of tar and feathers I got when I was labelled not merely a traitor to science but a 'straight-forward enemy' by a Nobel Laureate under the heading 'Fact and Value Must Not be Confused' (Huxley, 1977b). Values intrinsic but debate extrinsic — a clever conundrum.

Something analogous happens the other way round with eminent scientists who pronounce on social and political issues. They claim that they are only presenting facts — objective and free from bias or ideological contamination. What people make of the facts is said to be a matter for management/ legislatures/social debate. That positivism masks the 'values intrinsic' side as those self-same scientists pontificate on social and cultural issues from very public platforms, displaying their scientific credentials for legitimacy. They wear the cloak of science's value-neutrality while propagating social and political views. At the same time positivism itself presents science as the basis, guide and model for society, reconciling conflicts and producing 'optimal' solutions. East and West appear to be converging in this scientism. In America, Daniel Bell, Professor of Sociology at Harvard and Chairman of the US President's Commission on the year 2000 characterises post-industrial society as guided by new technical elites, producing a new socio-political stratification (Bell, 1974:487), while Edward Goldsmith offers a vision of The Stable Society: It's Structure and Control; Towards a Social Cybernetics, a complex 'yet intensely logical' scientistic model. Soviet ideologues also extol such extensions of science into the social sphere in articles on 'The Scientific and Technological Revolution and Social Progress' (Arab-Ogly, 1971) and 'The CPSU and the Theory and Practice of Scientific Management of Society', where we are told, 'Scientific administration implies bringing the subjective activity of people into line with objective laws and objective conditions, and skilfully using these conditions to produce a maximum effect' (Afanasyev, 1971:243). Soviet dissidents and the inhabitants of the Gulag Archipelago will be relieved to learn that 'the consolidation of socialism and communism is a natural historical process governed by objective laws' (Afanasyev, 1971:242, cf. Boys, 1979). In Britain, 'scientific administration theory' promises to 'revolutionise human arrangements for collaboration of all kinds for war, for peace, for government, for domestic life — for every aspect of our efforts to live together' (Child 1969:91) and to obviate the need for trade unions (Child 1969:120).

Thus, on the one hand, scientists make falsely conscious claims to value-neutrality, claims which they contradict in their own public roles and pronouncements. On the other hand, the exponents of the scientific world view — in the guise of the take-over bids of scientism — seek to pre-empt the very social and political debates which were said to be extrinsic to science itself. They are therefore falsely conscious in both their scientific and their public roles.

I had hoped to show this more clearly by reprinting and expanding a debate I had in the columns of the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) with the President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science over his Presidential Address, 'Evidence, Clues and Motives in Science' by Sir Andrew Huxley, F.R.S., Royal Society Professor and Nobel Laureate in Biology and Medicine (Huxley 1977a, 1977b; Young, 1977a, 1977b). In the address Sir Andrew displays his scientific credentials, defends notorious ideologues, e.g., Burt, Schockley, Eysenck, makes a lot of snide remarks about leftists (assimilating them to Soviet Lysenkoists) and shores all this up by representing the debate in which his grandfather and Darwin won the day, as uncontaminated by ideology. All of this was in defence of the fact/value distinction in science. I had particularly hoped to extend the debate here, since the editor of the THES severely cut and censored my arguments without consultation. However, having raised the issues and promised to reply at length, Professor Huxley let the matter drift. When reminded he took offence and declined to take part in a considered debate, pleading that he was too busy with his research and his work for the Council of the Royal Society. Q.E.D. He has since become President of the Royal Society.

His predecessor as President of the Royal Society provides another example of this having-it-both-ways stance. In his 1978 Presidential Address, Lord Todd stressed again and again that science must be kept free from ideological contamination and control. Yet he placed the authority of the Royal Society fully behind the Conservative position in a debate in the centre of public controversy, elitism in education:

 

The Society has long been interested in the field of scientific education and our committees dealing with education have made many contributions to the teaching of mathematics, science and technology especially at school level. Their importance and the urgency of the problems they face has been greatly increased by the tightening grip of the state on secondary education which has been a controversial feature of recent years. Beginning with a laudable intention of ensuring that every child should have an equal opportunity, some of our political masters now seem bent on imposing uniformity and pushing egalitarianism to the point of ignoring differences in ability, and opposing any ideal of selection or segregation on merit grounds. In practice this means that education is to be organised and run in accord with one political ideology. Whether one agrees with that political ideology or not, it is surely wrong to make it the driving force behind an educational system... Insofar as science and technology are concerned these are matters of great importance, not merely to the Society, but to the country at large. Ideological considerations cannot be allowed to dictate the pattern of scientific education any more than they can the direction of research; what is needed is unbiased advice and this, I believe, the Society through its committees and its contracts can provide (Todd, 1979:xi).

I make no comment on his representation of Labour education policy, and I certainly am not surprised that the Royal Society acts as a pressure group on behalf of meritocratic elitism or that Lord Todd, a member of the Order of Merit, should do so. What is remarkable is his presumption in believing that the science/ideology distinction falls just on the right side of the point his own political position requires, in a matter which is, by his own account, a 'controversial feature' in the public political arena. What could be more ideological than an elite's efforts to perpetuate the system which generates its acolytes and to represent such efforts as 'unbiased advice'?

 

IN SEARCH OF A FORUM

 

But where are such matters to be thrashed out? For years I have been trying to get across the ideological role of the fact/value and the science/ideology distinctions, beginning with arguments in non-specialist publications and backed up with more orthodox scholarly work. Working natural and social scientists and historians and philosophers of science, thinking within what I consider to be a scientistic framework, are very reluctant indeed to concede much, while activists in the radical science movement have either seen it and been declared (or declared themselves) outlaws or covertly reintroduce the distinction by keeping a sharp barrier between their political activities (which may include unionisation and health and safety agitation at work) and the substance of their scientific work.

Where is there a venue for a searching re-examination of the coming-to-be of science, technology and medicine? What forum is available in intellectual and academic circles? Academic work plays a central role in conducting the research in these domains, and there are disciplines concerned with reflecting on the history, philosophy and social studies of science, technology and medicine which play an important role in setting out the framework of available options for conceiving of these matters. Yet functionalism and related forms of scientism in the analytical study of science systematically preclude critiques of the constituting values in the biomedical, human and management sciences (Young, 1971c, 1981). Those same approaches loom large in historical, philosophical and sociological work which is ostensibly reflecting on those disciplines. They are, to the extent that they rely on such forms of scientism, merely repeating the problem at another level. The problem of breaking out of this self-justifying and self-congratulatory literature is a serious one. The need is to create and sustain a genuinely critical perspective and to bring it to bear on the practices and institutions of science-based knowledge. Working scientists have their careers to consider and do themselves no good by diverting energy to such pursuits unless and until they have made their names in laboratory or theoretical research, by which time they have usually forgotten their formerly radical questions. Eminent senior scientists who pronounce on such topics take little or no notice of the critical literatures on the subject (Hammerton, 1977; Young, 1979a) and see their task as one of policing the very boundaries which are at issue. For example, John Ziman is a Fellow of the Royal Society, (until recently) a Professor of Physics at Bristol University and Editor of Physical Reviews. His Public Knowledge is most reassuring about science and is a big seller to schoolchildren and university students. His even more reassuring Reliable Knowledge, we are told in Lord Ashby's review, shows that there is no need for a 'science court' to adjudicate issues in science which affect public policy. The existing arrangements are adequate — peer review, research councils and accountability via publication and Parliament. These are the same arguments mounted by the police, doctors and lawyers for being allowed to look after their own houses. This is one way to 'keep politics out of science'. Another is to depoliticise the issues and write existential or decontextualised personal and career considerations as occurs, respectively, in Jacques Monod's Chance and Necessity and James Watson’s The Double Helix.

Eminent philosophers of science are also policing the fact/value boundary and often do so using models of knowledge which are themselves scientistic, as in the evolutionary epistemologies of Sir Karl Popper — Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach — and Stephen Toulmin — Human Understanding. The wider debate on the epistemology of science which has been concerned with the work of Popper, T. S&127;&127;. Kuhn, Imré Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend, has been strictly epistemological and has not engaged at all with the philosophy of how knowledge changes, seen as an internal dynamic. Finally, when an eminent philosopher does turn to Science and Its Critics, he fails to make contact with much of the critical literature, and when challenged about this replies laconically that he took account of what was easily to hand (personal communication). The same can be said of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, whose special issue of Daedalus, whose editor featured in an exposition of the neo-conservative establishment in the US, (Steinfels 1979a, 1979b) on 'Limits of Scientific Enquiry' (Holton & Morrison, 1980). All of these works operate well within the boundaries of the self-conception of science and, in particular, make no attempt to engage with radical positions such as critical theory and marxism. The issues they choose to address are concerned with the use, abuse and control of science and with anti-science, especially the increasingly romantic writings of Theodore Roszak, which is not to dismiss his work but to notice that the perspective which they take in is far from panoramic.

The more one looks at the existing literatures the more discouraged one becomes about finding a forum. Let me dwell on the prevailing climate in Anglo-American academic writings. Science, technology and medicine are becoming more and more determinate of the labour process at work and in the sphere of reproduction of the social relations of advanced capitalist societies, using more resources and playing a major role in education, leisure and culture. Yet the critique of their role seems a homeless waif with no secure place in intellectual and cultural debate. I have recently toured a number of institutions in Britain and North America and have come away with a very sad impression. It appears that in the current debate, the disciplines which one would expect to be at the centre of such debates are becoming increasingly parochial, shrinking and narrowing their perspectives, refusing to engage with the analysis of the relationship between their intellectual traditions and large-scale political, economic and social forces. Academic studies in the history, philosophy and sociology of science seem to me to be suffering more than their share of cuts in recent economic squeezes and are becoming more and more blinkered. The Department of History of Science at Yale has been closed. At Princeton no new graduate students accepted the places offered to them in 1978, and T. S&127;&127;. Kuhn has decamped to one of the new science, technology and society programmes discussed below, one which has itself, in turn, suffered cuts. The study of the history of science at Cambridge and Oxford, University College London, and Sussex has shrunk dramatically. In some institutions in Britain programmes in these areas are being absorbed into more technocratic departments such as 'science policy' or 'management studies'. Students, institutions and granting agencies are investing their energies and resources in more traditional areas. At the same time there has been occurring the very rapid development of rather ad hoc programmes mentioned above, addressing the issues which the history, philosophy and social studies of science had a golden opportunity in the 1960s to put at the top of their own agendas, thereby placing their strong intellectual traditions and disciplines at the centre of public discussion and service. These new programmes, e.g., on technology assessment, science policy, science and values, medical ethics, are all very welcome but are based on no particular intellectual traditions and seem to me to be in grave danger of being prey to opportunists who generate realms of plausible 'concerned' bullshit and ersatz procedures.

In the area between the narrowly conceived disciplines of history, philosophy and social studies of science, on the one hand, and this new trend, on the other, lies a whole set of critical issues and writings an the roles of science, technology and medicine, scientific, technological and medical rationality and the growing power of experts. Writings by a number of figures — again with no particular disciplinary home — have posed the issues in ways which seldom connect as part of a coherent debate: Commoner, Ellul, Schumacher, Foucault, Nieburg, Ravetz, Rose and Rose, Dickson, Jungk, and the writers of the Frankfurt School, especially Marcuse and Habermas. At a more popular level, Vance Packard has rightly moved in his studies of how capital controls from The Hidden Persuaders and The Status Seekers to The People Shapers: 'Is science manipulating man?' 'A chilling warning'. Yet these are received by the Press as one-off Cassandras, with no permanent venue for their dire pronouncements to be tested against conflicting visions of society. The obvious venues were not hospitable to them. Historians of science have clung to their narrow models: internalist history of discovery, internal history of ideas, even internal history of power and social constructivism. The additions of studies of institutions has brought a new topic but not an integration, much less a serious attempt to take social, economic and political history into account in relation to science. Where these writers ventured forth they did so according to models which precluded study of deeper connections between science and its context and which challenged the ultimate utility of that distinction.

For example, the leading tendency in the sociology of science, inspired by the work of Robert K. Merton, is functionalist and rigidly guards the distinction between the substance and the context of science. His followers concern themselves with factors which impinge on science, e.g., choice of topic, funding, pace of research, building up collections of biographies ('prosopography'). The current generation of Mertonians seems to be moving even more toward modelling sociology of science on the methods and assumptions of science itself — hardly a promising basis for a searching critique. One recent collection is called Toward a Metric of Science: The Advent of Science Indicators (Elkana et al., 1978). Its first chapter reviews and extols approaches to 'Measurement in the Historiography of Science'. Topics include 'genius studies', 'statistical biography', 'the sociology of progress', and, finally, 'policy-oriented planning and lobbying for science' (Thackray, 1978:14). The 'sociology of progress' teaches us that 'The production of PhDs in the natural sciences increased by over 375% between 1950 and 1970 to almost 9000 in the latter year alone. The budget of the National Science Foundation went from nothing to $400,000,000 in the same period', while its grantees grew from 32 to 9000 (Thackray, 1978:20). All factual, I suppose, but considered in no context, with no evaluation. (’Just the facts, ma’am’, as Sgt. Friday used to say.) I find this trend about as promising as the hiring of 'quantitative ethicists' by medical schools. With the quantos on the job, the equitable solution of the problems of high-technology medicine, doctors who won't make house calls, and euthanasia can't be far away. The founder of the sociology of knowledge, Karl Mannheim, had this to say about this trend:

 

For it is not to be denied that the carrying over of the methods of natural science to the social sciences gradually leads to a situation where one no longer asks what one would like to know and what will be of decisive significance for the next step in social development, but attempts only to deal with those complexes of facts which are measurable according to a certain already existent method. Instead of attempting to discover what is most significant with the highest degree of precision possible under existing circumstances, one tends to be content to attribute importance to what is measurable merely because it happens to be measurable (Mannheim, 1936:46).

I am reminded of the man who'd lost his wallet and was searching for it under a street light. When asked just where he thought it had fallen, he said he thought it was two blocks away. 'Then why look here?' 'Because there's no street light down there.'

When the author (who is also the editor of Isis, the main learned journal in the history of science) grants that 'this sustained attention to the "internal sociology" of science has not passed without comment' (Thackray, 1978:21), none of the works cited are in any way radical, much less marxist. Recent conferences and volumes on science and society have also scrupulously avoided any political engagement with such critiques and have relentlessly bland contents, e.g., Science and Values: Patterns of Tradition and Change and Science, Technology and Society: A Cross-Disciplinary Perspective, as well as Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook.

At the interface between the history and the sociology of science, a new topic — 'social control' — gives the appearance of providing a real common context for scientific and social forces. But that Foucauldian concept is treated at one remove from the dynamic of classes and the contradictions between the forces and relations of production and reproduction. A given study could be moved forward or backward fifty or so years without troubling anyone. It is an abstract sense of control, not an historically specific one, and the basic model of analysis is a functionalist one, concerned with 'the interaction between individuals and a social organism' (Jones, 1977:167). The study of social control and related work on power are ostensibly making the study of science social but end up doing so in a superficially contextualised but ultimately decontextualised way. Once again, our old friend functionalism roots explanations in a scientistic (therefore eternalised) way, with the laws of nature as the reified basis.

Something analogous can be said of the single most influential theory in the history, philosophy and social studies of science in the past two decades: Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Kuhn has undoubtedly shed important light on the social processes of conceptual change, but there is a subtle pun at the heart of his work. The dynamic, the motor, of the process is not social forces at all, but the accumulated weight of the heaping up of anomalous ’findings’ within a given shared paradigm or research tradition. There is no reference at all to a wider set of forces outside the social processes of struggle against one's elders, patronage, the circulation of elites, new coteries. The pun on the term 'society' leads one to think social change is being investigated, but his account is really about ideas and their champions, not society, much less the mode of production. Those who thought that Kuhn would lead them across the barrier between the internalist world and the treatment of science as society must have overlooked the disclaimer in the preface to his brilliant sketch: 'except for occasional brief asides, I have said nothing about the role of technological advance or of external social, economic, and intellectual conditions in the development of the sciences’. He says that to include them would not modify his main theses but would add an 'analytic dimension of first-rate importance for the understanding of scientific advance' (Kuhn, 1962:xi-xii). One wonders just what he is doing at the MIT Programme in Science, Technology and Society. He is, after the rhetoric is stripped away, a conceptual determinist.

Moving on, there has been a growing number of studies addressed to the relations between the deep assumptions and research in science on the one hand and wider social dynamics on the other, most notably Paul Forman's pioneering work on Weimar culture and quantum mechanics (Forman, 1971). He provides a very rich case study of the sociological origins of some of the concepts of modern physics. Yet, in the end, like Kuhn, he firmly draws back from any radical conclusions and makes it clear that his sympathies lie with 'a conservative approach to reason' (Forman, 1971:113) and promises to take his enquiries further into individual psychology and intellectual biography rather than into political and historical forces in the wider society (Forman, 1971:114). He has kept this promise in his subsequent work.

I am still sketching the prevailing situation in Anglo-American work. There are some established centres of teaching and research at which neither old-style history, philosophy and sociology of science prevails nor the new, fledgling 'science and values' programmes. In these places one finds either an unstable eclecticism, with technocrats, liberals, radicals and marxists co-existing uncertainly and cowering in the face of falling enrolments and economic cuts from above; or there are places where people try to deal with the social without facing the economic issues. The University of Manchester Liberal Studies of Science Department is carrying on with the former strategy, while the Science Studies Unit at Edinburgh approaches from the philosophy of science and the anthropology of knowledge are combined with the apolitical — therefore, ultimately, conservative — study of 'social control'. Worthwhile work is being done in such places, but it is fundamentally ahistorical as long as the histories of ideas — even the social histories of ideas — are not rooted in the histories of political, economic and social forces. The work hovers above the ground in a domain of power, social control and symbolic systems. It is rather like a bestiary by Borges: a classification which is imaginatively rich and certainly mediates something important, but the causes are unexplored, and we are led to no handles of the levers of social change.

That is the common feature of all these disciplines. They declare that the critique of values is inappropriate to the academic setting, a world which is putatively disinterested, objective, contemplative, separated from politics in the sense of contending values, action and change. This is, of course, a further mystification since no-one can spend much time at a 'centre of academic excellence' without developing an acute sense of its role as a custodian and reproducer of a prevailing social, cultural and political consensus for the next generation. Further down the peck order, as Bowles and Gintis have shown, lower castes are receiving their socialization as middle managers, technologists and foremen in the areas of production, education, services and the culture industry.

Once again, the values are implicit unless you stray across the boundary of the consensus, which is more carefully policed on the far left than the far right. I know, for example, a scholar of no

especial achievements who has gained greatly in stature for defending an avowedly fascist (sensu strictu) colleague against 'the activists' in the name of academic freedom. The further left your view of the subject — especially if you pursue your politics in your teaching and your place of work — the more likely you are to have a job down-market in the academic pecking order. The evaluative debate is supposed to be pursued elsewhere than in academia. But where? I've still found no academic forum for these crucial controversies, and it's becomang clear that there is to be no place for them within the major institutions of capital's knowledge.

In recent years I have been moving reluctantly toward the conclusion that working scientists and working scholars in history, philosophy and the social studies of science — especially ones having successful careers in major academic and research institutions — will be the last to get the message that the ruling ideas of an epoch are the ideas of its ruling class. Their socialization and their place in the hierarchy gives them too great a stake in the existing arrangements, while their niches in the division of labour systematically filter out any genuinely open political critique. To mount one would be apostasy, while to prevent one occurring is seen as protecting the academy from pollution. Scientism is the result of a very deep socialization in the training of scientists; it becomes second nature, so deeply embedded that one is tempted to ask: 'Is scientism second nature or perhaps genetic?' It seems more likely that debates will reach these experts from the general culture rather than there being much hope of them being generated from within the community of scientists and scholars about science (Young, 1979c).

 

FROM THE LIMBIC SYSTEM TO THE SOCIAL SYSTEM

 

At the beginning of this essay I said I would argue that we should change the question from a dichotomous one of how to relate science and society (or fact and value or science and ideology), to a different formulation: how societies constitute their knowledge or how values constitute the problems and parameters of a knowledge area. I gave the examples of microprocessors, biotechnology and spare part surgery in order to illustrate the urgency of finding a formulation which gives access to the political and evaluative issues in the process of origination of particular investigations in science, technology and medicine rather than in the process of application where it is usually too late. (Think of Mickey Mouse in 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' sequence in ’Fantasia’ but without the return of the sorcerer to calm the raging waters.) I also argued that we should alter our approach from the substance of an intellectual problem — the relation of A to B — to a strategy for a problem of practice: how to transform the constitution of knowledge (eliminating the need for a sorcerer).

I know very well the path from problems in science and ethics to that of how to change, having trod it in my own research and life. If we look at E. O. Wilson's claims for sociobiology, he begins his book by defining the discipline as 'the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behaviour' (Wilson, 1975:4) and ends it by saying that 'fundamental theory in sociology must await a full, neuronal explanation of the human brain' (Wilson, 1975:575). These statements set up a research programme, searching for the biological basis for all social behaviour which is predicated on the assumption that the ultimate explanations for human social relations will be found in the study of the nervous system. Ethics are to be seen in that context: 'Scientists and humanists should consider the possibility that the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of the philosophers and biologicized' (Wilson, 1975:562).

I recognise these statements very well; they reflect the assumptions of my own project of work and study beginning nearly three decades ago. I shall now sketch the course of that research. My reasons for doing so are part of my argument, since it calls for the breaking down of the barriers between academic theory and political practice, and in writing style between the detached scholarly mode and first person advocacy. These changes also mean that we should learn to see our own experiences, including our experiences of theories, as products of larger forces and to theorise our own experiences in terms of those forces, always stressing the transformative aspect: experience our own theories; theorise our own experience.

Coming from a strict religious and Protestant Ethic upbringing in the capital-intensive tip of the American Southwestern Bible Belt, I was very struck as a student (now transplanted from Dallas via a meritocratic scholarship to New England and Yale) by the gap between abstract religious and ethical principles, on the one hand, and people's actual frailties, on the other. What was the point of setting high standards unless we knew what people were capable of? The field which seemed most promising for such work was psychiatry, where the best intentions met up with severe limitations which science could hope to understand and ameliorate (I had aspired to be a doctor until I got to university, and I had a suicidally depressed mother). In particular, the subtlest available theories of character and personality seemed then to be testable according to new findings about the 'emotional centres' of the brain — the so-called rhinencephalon or limbic system (Papez, 1937; Maclean, 1949). Influenced by this and other promises of a scientific basis for the study of emotions and human limitations, I left undergraduate work in philosophy, where I had a particular interest in the relationship between ethics, the problem of insight, and the mind-body problem. Instead of doing graduate work in philosophy, I began training in medicine with a view toward becoming a psychiatrist and then a psychoanalyst. The path to a scientific answer to the limits of human nature seemed to lie in the unification of psychoanalytic personality theory and the study of brain and behaviour, i.e., how the neuro-endocrine system is organised and functions. That organisation and functioning would show the parameters, the strengths and weaknesses of human potential.

The reigning theory, of which the study of the limbic system was a rapidly-developing example, was that particular functions are localised in particular parts of the brain with more or less well developed connections with other areas. Any ethical, psychological or psychopathological theory could be tested by proper physiological experiments. Here was a way of doing science about emotions, values, the subjective realm. (This was the gist of the research programme of such work. In practice, there were, and remain, tremendous conceptual, technical and methodological problems.) Experiments relevant to these issues were being done on people as well as cats, monkeys and other animals, and the technology of cerebral localization was developing with great precision by means of stereotaxic instruments and increasingly well-mapped atlases for locating very tiny areas in the brains of various species. A set of ethical and personal questions was brought into contact with a highly-developed scientific way of answering them. The study of the limits of human nature thereby becomes the study of cerebral localization, and the form of the question becomes: How are the functions of the brain localised? A sufficiently subtle and complex diagram of the interconnections of the parts of the brain could tell us the likely paths and connections between our strengths, weaknesses and the balance between primitive and civilised.

It is at this point that we come upon a problem which can serve as a model for all questions we put to nature and for the transition from one sort of forumulation — brain and mind, science and values, science and ideology— to another: How do societies constitute their knowledge? The problem is that as soon as we ask how the functions are localised, we realise that the answers depend rather a lot on which functions you're asking about. We can bring any number of classifications to the brain, and many have been brought: perception, memory, reason, imagination; sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, proprioception; arousal, colour, tune, reverie, fight, flight, appetite, sexuality, mathematical reasoning, language, learning, general ability (IQ), competitiveness, aggression, shyness, dependency, territoriality, maternal nurturing, etc.

The problem of how to go about thinking about the functions of the brain loomed very large in my studies in physiology and psychiatry at the expense, increasingly, of the relatively easier one of how the functions are localised. I finally decided that this was a problem about the assumptions in the primary scientific disciplines and that I should turn for guidance to the relevant meta-discipline, the history and philosophy of science. I can recall sitting down one day and sketching the academic discipline I needed in order to pursue such researches, only to discover that it existed in certain universities, including Cambridge, to which I migrated. I spent the next four years thinking and doing research about the historical and conceptual aspects of theories of mind and brain. The preface of the resulting monograph shows that the search for a solution had only widened and deepened the problem:

 

Since the nervous system, in conjunction with the musculo-skeletal and endocrine systems, mediates all aspects of experience and behaviour, it must, in principle, serve multiple functions. A number of these functions are discreetly, and more or less uniquely, localised in such centres as the somato-motor cortex and primary sensory projection areas. However, these same structures can be subjected to functional analyses beyond that of simple sensation and movement. For example, they are involved in the functions of contraction of the triceps, extension of the arm, striking an object, boxing, aggressiveness, self-preservation, and seeking acclaim — all at the same time. The problem for brain and behaviour research is whether or not there is anything to choose among these alternative analyses. If not, then there can be no straightforward "natural classification" of function and thus no unique basis for a system of analytic units in psychology. Psychology will thereby have nothing analogous to the chemists' periodic table of elements. Rather, there will be a number of alternative tables, and the one that is used in a given situation will depend on the nature and the level of the functional analysis being conducted (Young, 1970:viii).

It probably seems far-fetched to suggest this as a model for all the questions we put to nature. The reason is that it suggests that the problem of 'natural classifications' (I'd now also include the periodic table of elements, but that's a longer story) is a problem of how one approaches nature and for what purposes. It points to the social construction of the frame of reference and the sorts of questions one asks. In the course of my own research the question changed from 'How are the functions of the brain localised?' to 'What are the functions of the brain?' to 'On what bases have various periods in the history of the study of humans asked their questions of the brain, human nature, and the biomedical and human sciences?' (The analogous investigation in general medicine is being explored by Karl Figlio under the epigram: 'Societies have the diseases for which they have niches' (Figlio 1978, 1979)). I was led in a series of expanding and mutually interpenetrating contexts from the internal history of neurology and neurophysiology to the recontextualization of nineteenth-century psychology in biological — and then evolutionary — terms, to the nineteenth-century debate on 'man's place in nature' to natural theology and late eighteenth and nineteenth-century political economy, always further back, always wider, to the Great Chain of Being and to the sixteenth and seventeenth-century scientific, Protestant and capitalist revolutions. (This path can be followed in a series of published and unpublished essays.) That is, I was led to the question of what aspects of how people and other animals are, have been rooted in nature by different students of the biomedical and human sciences. The problem becomes one of the origins of questions and classifications. This is not to say that the answers cease to matter but that what count as meaningful questions and satisfactory answers are historically contingent matters. Thus, for example, phrenology tells us about the nineteenth-century division of labour and about the principles of cerebral localization. Sociobiology and any other science should be seen in that light as an approach to the critique of a given body of knowledge.

The series of expanding contexts, as I have written about it, appears to have occurred entirely in the realm of the history of ideas. It is true that in the course of two decades of research an important dimension has been how (now and in the past) disciplinary and topic boundaries get constructed, negotiated and permeated, until one comes up against the boundary between knowledge and its construction, i.e., its constitution, and finally to the boundary between intellectual work and socio-economic and cultural transformation.

My example of expanding contexts illustrates its own thesis, in that my own enquiries began in the mid-1950s in the wake of McCarthyism (bankrolled, incidentally, by rich and aristocratic mentors of mine when I was a boy in Dallas), trials and dismissal of communists in academic life and blacklisting of radicals throughout culture such as the folk singer Pete Seeger, the broadcaster John Henry Falk and many people in Hollywood. This was a period in which 'politics' was to us a word indicating a career in public office. Then came 1956 and the first stirrings of the New Left in which I was an uncomprehending member of the Student League for Industrial Democracy and the John Dewey Society at Yale (Schiffrin, 1968). The cerebral localization research was done in the period between 1960 and 1964, with civil rights and Ban the Bomb activities going on. The subsequent work occurred in the period of the US Congress’ Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (used as a blanket sanction for the American action in Viet Nam), Flower Power, anti-Vietnam War protest and the women's movement. In their interrelated ways these struggles shed all sorts of light on students, on academic life and on the ways that power constitutes knowledge and practice. Finally, the period from 1968 to the present has involved a reassertion of a sharpened boundary between knowledge and political activism while defusing other aspects of protest, converting rebellion into revolt and revolt into style. At the same time the post-1968 period saw the widening of the critique of traditional roles and institutions, to embrace the sexual division of labour and the family.

My own concerns have moved from treating ethics in a psychological, then a physiological and then a biological context, to a widening framework about science and philosophies of nature, until the problem of values becomes not one of science, but, contrariwise, values are treated as derivative of ideologies, and concepts of nature and human nature (including the theory and practice of science) are seen as part of the framework of a given socio-economic order. As my own approach to knowledge became increasingly social and then socio-economic, so did the process of research. Since 1971 the work has been a collective project in the context of the work of the Radical Science Journal, at first while trying to run a small university sub-department at Cambridge concerned with historical, conceptual and ideological aspects of the biomedical and human sciences. However, it soon became intolerable for reasons to do with the relations between my changing way of life, the analysis being developed here, the funding of the unit by a trust (Wellcome) financed by a capitalist drug firm whose Secretary set as the goal of the work 'to make the history of medicine into a science', and the cynical and mendacious manipulations of reactionary colleagues who used every political trick in the book 'to keep [left] politics out of the history and philosophy of science', thereby reasserting the power of (a relatively flexible) conservative scientism. So I resigned to devote full time to overtly radical political work and writing. My path has been from ethics via the biomedical and human sciences to the study of the historical and conceptual aspects of the common context of theories about nature and society, then right out of the academic world to work collectively in a counter-hegemonic culture of groups and periodicals generating new theory and practices. There are ways in which this has turned out to be another ghetto, albeit in a higher cause, and I have more recently been involved in trying to reach a wider public with a television, video and book series about the politics of science, technology, medicine and other forms of expertise. This choice of venue reflects a growing belief that the general public will bring progressive social and political values forcibly to the attention of the experts, not the other way round.

I have told this story autobiographically, but my aim has been to exemplify a process which has been (with wide variations in detail) common to many people who were affected by the events of the 1960s — a view of knowledge and power which made them adopt a reflexive, critical view of their own work, academic discipline, and way of life. The more they looked at their academic work, the more they found themselves investigating the context of their research until the distinction between knowledge and its context ceased to be important, first in theory and then increasingly in practice. In the case of radical anthropologists a new, politicised perspective led to a reintegration of the study of customs and classifications (e.g., of kinship) with economic anthropology and with imperialism (Stauder, 1974). It also involved asking the same sorts of searching questions about social structures and forces in our own society as are asked about 'primitive' peoples (Review of African Political Economy, Critique of Anthropology). In philosophy, the fact/value distinction came under close scrutiny, as did the recent history of linguistic and analytic philosophy (Radical Philosophy). The influence of marxism led to the reintroduction of the category of 'labour' between subject and object: Labour is neither history nor nature but their matrix. In economics, the growing role of mathematics and complex models was resisted in the name of the reintegration of economic and political questions, in order to reconstitute the critique of political economy for our own period (Capital & Class). In sociology, the bland, homogenising role of functionalism was combated, with theories concerned with conflict and contradiction challenging those stressing systems and organic analogies (Gouldner, 1971; Insurgent Sociologist). Historians turned increasingly from kings and parliaments to social and labour history, and those perspectives are now undergoing critiques by marxists who want to put socialist historiography in the place of social history done in more traditional ways (Judt, 1979; History Workshop Journal; Radical History Review, whose editors advertise the journal with marchbooks, saying, ‘Earn Big Money: become a historian). Cultural studies became more established as a discipline and moved on from a widened version of literary or drama criticism to problems of cultural values and hegemony, while topics worth pursuing expanded to include popular culture — film (Ciné-Tracts), science fiction (Science Fiction Studies), rock music (Frith 1978), television (Gardner & Young, 1981; Social Text; Working Papers in Cultural Studies, Media, Culture and Society). There were similarly changing perspectives in the history of art (T. J. Clark, 1973a, 1973b), psychiatry (Pearson, 1975; Ingleby, 1981), psychotheraphy (Jacoby, 1971; Kovel, 1981), modern languages (New German Critique), as well as the rise of whole new areas of work, such as feminist studies (Feminist Review), the histories and political struggles of cultures and minorities (Race & Class), and general critical periodicals covering a wide range of issues and topics (Socialist Review).

In my own research in the history of science, I came to see theories of the brain as mediators of different conceptions of human nature. Same brain, different categories. Nature becomes an unmapped terrain over which we put different overlays, because we want to get to different places. A useful analogy is a blank map of a given terrain over which one can put different transparencies with, e.g., roads and other means of transport or political geography markings or property boundaries of communications networks or mineral deposits or temperature variations or locations of accidents or concentrations of industry or (un-)employment concentrations or whatever you like, say, distribution of wealth or of radical agitators (Kidron and Segal, 1981).

The course of this essay has moved from some key examples to a commentary on how the relevant academic disciplines declined to look deeply into the issues and provide a forum for urgent debates on the social relations of science, technology and medicine. The argument then went on to an exposition of how one topic — my own — led from science and ethics to philosophies of nature and political economy. I have passed from a critique of academic disciplines to a case study: the critique of a topic and offered it as a model. I now want to turn to a critique of available approaches to the issues. I shall be outlining a series of them and others I have worked through in my own thinking over the past decade, a period during which the work became recontextualised into the project which now preoccupies the Radical Science Journal Collective: to develop a single framework for conceptualising the relations among science, technology and medicine, on the one hand, and the history and fundamental structure of the political, economic and social order — the capitalist mode of production, on the other, which is theoretically persuasive and agitationally fruitful. The second criterion — of practice — soon meant that the historiographic and critical model would have to work in three key spheres: knowledge, e.g., science, work, e.g., production; domestic, i.e., reproduction in a wide sense. That is, we require a way of thinking about these matters which applies to science, the labour process and everyday life. We call the model we are in the course of developing a 'labour process perspective'. It can be summarised as follows: knowledge, like other activities in the spheres of production and reproduction, is a transformation of nature for certain purposes, i.e., it is a labour process, consisting of purposive activity, raw materials and means of production employed for the creation of use values. This way of thinking about knowledge allows research and development to be considered in much the same way one thinks about, say, manufacturing in industry or housework or putting on a play or television programme. It also greatly enhances the understanding of the connections or articulations among different activities in the society and economy and emphasises what is common among them at the expense of the (hitherto over-emphasised) special features of different practices especially those which make claims to being above the battle. Far example, treating scientific research as a labour process helps one to see that the social relations of production are much more like those in an office or factory, with hierarchical and authoritarian structures more in evidence and amenable to critical transformation than they are while our eyes are focused on the great scientist pushing back the frontiers of ignorance with the advancing edge of objectivity.

I shall have a little more to say about the labour process perspective after I have outlined the other available ones and mentioned why we have found them unsatisfactory. However, there is not space to develop it beyond critical prolegomena. For the moment I only want to make one point on a matter which worries most scientists and their acolytes. Treating science as a labour process does not lead to moral, political and epistemological relativism but to a conflict model of all of those. It also rules out the double shuffle 'values implicit but discussion of them extrinsic to science'. It does this by placing the purposes or final causes on the surface and points to them at the beginning of enquiries and activities, constitutive of the processes rather than merely potential uses and abuses which are relegated to the context of science, a topic to be considered when it is too late to do much about it. For example, I would have preferred to be involved in a process of genuinely democratic consideration of the aims of microelectronic research as soon as it occurred to someone to set out to develop word processors. As it happened, the first I heard was after they were for sale, and figures of millions of unemployed were being mentioned. I feel the same about the development of a bomb which destroys people while leaving property relatively intact; ditto spare part surgery, cloning and artificial fertilisation and implantation in a host uterus; and nuclear power and energy Of course, as things now stand, the originators of those products and processes would be very unlikely to tell the general public what they are thinking of getting up to. Some will not do so for reasons of economic or military security, while others will keep their cards close to their chests out of career ambitions, grant and prize-getting, as was the case in the race to decipher the double helix structure of DNA and even more so in current genetic engineering and other biotechnologies with great economic potential.

With that taste of the potential merits of a labour process perspective I shall now turn to the other available positions which are current in discussions of the relations between science, medicine and technology, on the one hand, and society, on the other. If these critiques are found attractive, perhaps they will entice the reader to the literature on the labour process perspective. I should begin with two caveats for connoisseurs of marxist sectarianism and for those who consider marxist views to be an easy target 'because they reduce everything to the economic'. ‘Marx included within "the economic structure of society" all social relations entailed in a given mode of production; he sees the "superstructure" as the forms (including the mental concepts and images) in which these relations are presented' (Corrigan & Sayer, 1978:203). When we say that the mode of production is determinate in the last instance, the last instance is not — as it is in vulgar marxism — merely a narrow sense of the economy or the point of industrial production in a technicist sense. It is far richer: the production and reproduction of social relations. The factory is subordinate; it is a form of frozen social relations in machines, arrangements and procedures. But the same is true of architecture, education, culture, the family. What is fixed in buildings, furniture, schedules, and norms is frozen social relations. All are aspects of hegemony, defined as the organisation of consent without the use of physical coercion and without the relations of subordination being any more apparent than is necessary in a particular situation at a particular time.

The second caveat is that we offer the 'labour process' as an enriching interpretive framework, not as a reduction of knowledge to economic forms or the industrial sphere. It is a model drawn from the analysis of that sphere, a way of breaking free from a substance/context model or any other interaction model and is an attempt to get at the sources of the construction of knowledge and power. It is an attempt to help us to look carefully enough at the texture of the coming to be of knowledge so that we never forget that whatever else it is, it is always the embodiment of values, whether in 'findings', theories, things, procedures, blueprints of any kind, organisations. The getting of knowledge is a labour process; to labour is to transform; human transformations are purposive. For humanity nothing is independent of purposiveness. Plato and Aristotle knew this; perhaps the Sophists knew it best. The scientific revolution sequestered it. As I have tried to show, the positivists work both sides of the street. Much recent work in the history, philosophy and social studies of science has invoked but not integrated human purposiveness. If analyses can be grounded in the labour process, it is hoped that this can provide a matrix which prevents the separation of nature and culture. At the deepest level they have never been separated, but false consciousness has made it seem so.

The currently available positions which I shall review are alternative ways of treating the social with respect to knowledge. Only the last of them — the labour process perspective — applies to the spheres of both production and reproduction. Four are traditions in bourgeois scholarship, three in marxism: (1) science and society; (2) sociology of science; (3) sociology of knowledge; (4) anthropology of knowledge; (5) marxist base-superstructure theory; (6) mediation theory; (7) labour process perspective.

 

SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

 

This is the best-known approach. It treats the origins and conduct of science as unproblematic. Its concern is really with the 'impact of science on society' (that phrase is the title of the United Nations journal on the subject). Its adherents argue for 'social responsibility in science', and when the members of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science became explicity radical and transformative in their policies, almost all of the scientists with established careers resigned and formed a new Council for Science and Society. They see their role as an élite whose job is to oversee science lest it be abused. The problems of science, like those of the police and of the legal and medical professions, are 'best dealt with' by self-policing professional bodies. If such bodies do their jobs well, the public will be ’in good hands’. Advocates of this position are caught between the deep conservatism of orthodox scientific colleagues and radical critiques of science and expertise.

Science is one thing and its context of use and abuse another. The boundary between science and ideology is sharply maintained. To consider their relations close, much less a matter of interpenetrating layers and mutual constitution, is to sell science short. In his reply to the argument of 'The Anthropology of Science' (Young, 1972a) John Ziman (one of those who resigned from BSSRS and was a founder member of the Council for Science and Society) reduced the concept of ideology to that of bias:

 

To damn science for being tied to the wrong political ideology does not seem to make much more sense than corresponding generalizations which condemn it for being limited by the finite powers of the human mind, for being just a game played by scientists for their own amusement, for being a soulless product of dark satanic mills or for failing to fit into a tiny cabinet at the Ministry of Technology. It is too deeply embedded in our thinking and culture to be dragged out like that by the roots (Ziman, 1972:150).

According to Ziman, ideology only constrains and limits science. If the scientists' 'choice of models is limited by his ideological preconceptions, that's too bad; it may rob him of a famous discovery' (Ziman, 1972:151). Finally, to mix science with ideology or values is, he argues, simply a logical error:

 

The fundamental fallacy is to believe that a theorem, a hypothesis or a readily verifiable observation can have an unpleasant odour because it happened to be born in the mind of same cruel, foolish, selfish or otherwise undesirable person. The first principle of natural philosophy is brief enough to be phrased in Latin: Hypotheses non Olent. "Theories don't smell". Scientific concepts are not guilty by association, nor do they come to us "trailing clouds of glory". Entering the scientific domain, they shed their load of "values", and are free to be just themselves (Ziman, 1972:152).

There are more or less sophisticated versions of this position. For example, both Ziman and the sometime Secretary of the Council for Science and Society, Jerome Ravetz, are quite subtle about the tentativeness of science and the process of testing theories and about science as a craft and scientific training as apprenticeship. But the core of the position is the separation of the three contexts — of discovery, of testing and of application. Explanations of the course of science are sought in the internal processes of the scientific community, and the investigator of scientific change seldom looks beyond that framework except to specify certain interactions between the two separate realms. The 'science and society' perspective is the one most commonly held by working scientists and by lay persons and involves little or no critique of the self-perception of the professionals. It also has a very widespread influence in education and constitutes the 'commonsense' of science teachers as well as the basis for the disdain with which most working scientists and science educators treat historical, philosophical and social — not to mention political — studies of science, technology and medicine. [Afterthought (1996): The Public Understanding of Science movement is the lineal descendent of this position, with the addition of a proselytising mission on behalf of the false self-consciousness of science, and it has bred true.]

 

SOCIOLOGY OF SCIENCE

 

This is an approach adopted by many scholars whose profession it is to study the social relations of science. The sociologist of science investigates the social forces at work on and within the general scientific community, as well as particular scientific disciplines: growths of fields, funding, institutionalization, professionalization, career structure, élites, quality control. The social system and the social relations of science are studied and interpreted according to the currently reigning approach in sociology in general — functionalism, which concentrates on the social and institutional ’structures’ and ’functions’ which go to make up stability and change in the 'social organism' (NB the scientistic, pseudo-physiological analogies). The social level in science and its institutions is not systematically connected with large-scale socio-economic and political forces. Fieldwork, quantitative methods and studies of the literature (e.g. counting the citations of an author in others' writings) and the special normative features of science (e.g., objectivity as a value and 'peer review' in assessing journal submissions and in awarding grants) are given particular attention. Like the 'science and society' approach, the sociology of science operates within the self-conception of science as a value-neutral, progressive activity. Scholars who adhere to this approach have argued that the triumphs of science and technology in the social as well as the natural worlds has brought about the 'end of ideology' and some eminent people who have taken up this position have — I'm glad to say — been found to be witting or unwitting agents of the American CIA in recent years, just as the foundations of American functionalist social science were laid by avowed conservatives (Young, 1981:92n; Norman, 1979:39; Heyl, 1980). The sociology of science appears to me to be moving in two directions: towards increasingly quantitative and narrow methods and towards increasingly anthropological and interpretive approaches, the latter of which merges with what I describe below as the 'anthropology of knowledge'. [Note, 1996: Sociology of science later broadened its brief to Science and Technology Studies - STS — but its approach has not become notably more sophisticated or open to political and evaluative dimensions.]

 

SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE

 

The social origins of ideas and the social interests served by them is the domain of the sociology of knowledge, which some consider to be a branch of sociology (differing only in its object of study) and others treat as the furthest extension of epistemology into social studies. Sociologists of knowledge (sometimes called sociologists of scientific knowledge - SSK) are equivocal about whether or not it is their task to adjudicate the epistemological status of scientific findings once they are systematically connected with social (therefore historical) contingencies. The recent debate on the problem of making any demarcation between science and ideology arose within a set of issues which developed from the work of Karl Mannheim, whose Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge (1936) is the classic treatise. This approach loosens the substance/context distinction in accounting for the origins of scientific problems, but it stops at the substance of knowledge itself. The issues raised by the sociology of knowledge are always in danger of undermining the foundations of the claims of science to value-free objective knowledge, and there is a large and fraught literature concerned with shoring up those foundations, something it is much easier to do in the physical than in the biological and social sciences.

Mannheim believed that a general concept of ideology created a new discipline:

 

With the emergence of the general formulation of the total conception of ideology, the simple theory of ideology develops into the sociology of knowledge. What was once the intellectual armament of a [marxist] party is transformed into a method of research in social and intellectual history generally. To begin with, a given social group discovers the "situational determination" of its opponents' ideas. Subsequently the recognition of this fact is elaborated into an all inclusive principle according to which the thought of every group is seen as arising out of its life conditions. Thus it becomes the task of the sociological history of thought to analyse without regard for party biases all the factors in the actually existing social situation which may influence thought. This sociologically oriented history of ideas is destined to provide modern men with a revised view of the whole historical process (Mannheim, 1936:69).

But this ambitious formulation left Mannheim with the problem of relativism. If one devotes oneself to 'showing everywhere the interrelationships between the intellectual point of view held and the social position occupied', one ends up with no position from which to criticise others', since the same critique would apply (Mannheim, 1936:69-70). 'Relativism is the product of the modern historical sociological procedure which is based on the recognition that all historical thinking is bound up with the concrete position in life of the thinker' (Mannheim, 1936:70). Mannheim argued that the sociologist of knowledge could rise above the contending interest-based positions and be a disinterested intellectual — judicious, 'non-evaluative', viewing the battle from a vantage-point of scholarship. He called this position 'relationism' and was equivocal about whether it or relativism would prevail:

 

Only in the process of trial and error will it become clear which of these bases of interpretation is the more sound and whether we get farther if, as has been done hitherto, we take the situationally detached type of knowledge as our point of departure and treat the situationally conditioned as secondary and unimportant or, contrariwise, whether we regard the situationally detached type of knowledge as a marginal and special case of the situationally conditioned (Mannheim 1936:269) .

Subsequent debates about the sociology of knowledge have turned on this issue.

The most difficult case, of course, was that knowledge which makes the strongest claim to be 'situationally detached': objective, scientific knowledge. The writ of the sociology of knowledge ran only to the borders of mathematics and natural science, but it began to be pushed farther in the wake of a broader approach stimulated by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman's The Social Construction of Reality. Their argument was largely confined to the social construction of social reality, but it emboldened some to ask if conceptions of natural reality might not be constructed in ways analogous to how societies and individuals come to experience the social world. These developments had two worrying aspects for the defenders of sociology as an objective science in its own right. First, it took up the most general form of Mannheim's project: 'the sociology of knowledge seeks to obtain systematic comprehension of the relationship between social existence and thought' (Mannheim, 1936:278). If that comprehension was to include science, its reflexivity would have to apply to the sociologist of knowledge as well. And if that critique applied to the supposedly disinterested referee, then even the problem of whether or not anyone could be above the battle became part of the battle. As I said, there were real ironies in the situation when it emerged during the Vietnam war that some of the most ardent promoters of a position which was represented as above or beyond ideology, were themselves active and in many cases witting promoters of the cultural line of the American Central Intelligence Agency and are now part of a new neo-conservative network in America with affiliates in Europe (Young, 1971b:198-201; Esquire Editors, 1979; Steinfels, 1979a, 1979b).

The sociologists of knowledge did not want to eliminate the substance/context distinction: they wanted to be in control of it. If one wanted to move to a deeper level of the social basis for enquiry, one would have to break away from the sociological way of approaching the issues and adopt an anthropological one.

 

ANTHROPOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE

 

The most thoroughgoing work rooting world views in a social system is the approach of anthropology, in which symbolic systems and the social order are treated as a single topic with mutually constitutive aspects. Returning to our example of the functions of the brain, that question could be reformulated in terms laid down by Émile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss' Primitive Classification: all classification — especially of natural phenomena — is a process reflecting the social order and the social priorities of a tribe. One can thus apply the approaches which have proved so fruitful in the study of 'primitive' societies to our own. Instead of having a privileged sphere called science and a scientific world view which we set out to relate (as a model or as application) to a society, we move from science/society to cosmology/tribe. Thus, for example, we might examine medical knowledge as a belief system, medical education as a socialization into that belief system and medical institutions as the social system by which the structures of the belief system are maintained and in which its tenets are practised. The special claims of western medicine are bracketed, held in abeyance, while we look at the social construction of definitions of reality in this sphere.

This position has been most articulately developed in Robin Horton's study of 'African Traditional Thought and Western Science' (1967) and in the writings of Mary Douglas: Purity and Danger, Natural Symbols, Implicit Meanings. In Rules and Meanings, she presents the point in its boldest form:

 

The time is come for the renewal of the original community and the free-ranging conversation about the social basis of knowledge that it once enjoyed... The alleged gap between what we know about the construction of everyday knowledge and the construction of scientific knowledge is not so big as is supposed...

The time has come to treat everyday knowledge and scientific knowledge as a single field in sociology (Douglas, 1973b:10-11).

The aspect of this argument which applies to everyday knowledge has additional (though less bold) support from the growing literatures in 'deviance theory', 'microsociology', 'symbolic interactionism' and 'ethnomethodology'. A lot has been written about the structures and textures of the day, the week, the weekend, the separation of public and private, the sexual and generational division of labour, the separation of mental and manual labour, the structures of intimacy and the presentation of self in everyday life. The most apparently trivial and contingent matters have been shown to be integrated into the symbolic order, e.g., meals, household arrangements, sports, town planning, the economics of consumption, domesticated animals.

All of these approaches and the research which has grown out of them share the assumption that definition of any reality — social or natural — is an interactive process in which meanings are not merely given but negotiated. Reality is 'socially constructed, socially sustained and socially changed' (D. Silverman quoted in Rose, 1978:244). Mary Douglas began with analyses of the anthropology of ideas of clean and dirty and pollution and taboo but soon moved on to more general features of cosmology in 'The Nature of Things' (Douglas, 1975:210-229). She then challenged the citadel of science:

 

Ethnomethodologists bring great delicacy to analysing how the process of social interaction constructs the typification and recipes which make social reality. They are aware of how the dimensions of time and space are socially constructed. But to take aboard the implication that the whole of physical nature must be endowed with its reality in the same way demands an imaginative effort which has been left to artists, novelists and poets. If only it were fully realised, urgent questions would be posed for the philosophy of science (Douglas, 1973b:10; cf. 113, 249).

A number of people have taken up this challenge and have gone on to consider the anthropology of the relations between the symbolic and social orders with respect to geology, medicine, environmental debates and general conceptions in sociology and biology, e.g., the historical and conceptual relations among concepts of health and disease, adaptation and maladaptation, adjusted and deviant. Finally, in the most imaginative and detailed application of her views, David Bloor has applied Mary Douglas' interpretation of Old Testament dietary prohibitions — in which it was forbidden to eat animals which did not fit the categories of the classification (shellfish, pork) — to the problems of classification of shapes in the history of geometry. His paper, 'Polyhedra and the Abominations of Leviticus' (1978) takes the anthropology of knowledge to the 'queen of the sciences', mathematics. The theme of this and of all the other studies mentioned here as 'anthropology of knowledge' is that nothing, no matter how mundane or how general, escapes the structuring of the social world (Douglas, 1973b:207). All is mediation.

But mediation of what? This question is hardly addressed. The social constructionists are criticised for social and epistemological relativism. It has always struck me that the problem is not so much one of relativism but roots. They have, however, made two fundamental points which help us to address the question of roots. First, symbolic and intellectual systems are rooted in, and sustained by, value systems (as opposed to merely interacting with them) and second, the symbolic/intellectual/ value systems are part and parcel of a socio-economic order, expressing its structures, congruent with its ordering of the world. So the accusation of relativism is not anarchic, not 'anything goes', but rooted in a given, highly structured social order: 'every distinctive province of meaning is press-ganged somehow to join the work of building shared assumptions' — 'at one extreme the most remote mathematical games, at the other the heavy judgements of law or religion' (Douglas, 1973b:249). We have finally moved decisively away from a substance/context model to one in which intellectual systems are constituted by a culture. Modern science can thus be seen as the naturalization of the value system of our socio economic order.

 

BASE-SUPERSTRUCTURE MARXISM

 

Our socio-economic order is the one in which the process of production is social and increasingly highly organised and produces its products as commodities. The appropriation of the product and the surplus over costs is private, and the creation of surplus value is the distinct aim and determining motive of production (Judt, 1979:108-110). Those relationships define the mode of production as capitalist. If we are to answer the questlon, 'Mediation of what?' in our own system, the reply must be the history of the contradiction between the material and human forces of production, on the one hand, and the social relations of production and reproduction, on the other, in the capitalist mode of production.

At this point we encounter a hitch which is not unfamiliar. Marxism began as a critique of idealism and of abstract humanism and abstract materialism. It moved on to provide a fundamental critique of political economy, with many studies of history and ideology along the way. But in the late nineteenth century marxism itself fell prey to the very positivism which its critique had been at pains to undermine. In particular, a metaphor of relations between the economic 'base' and the intellectual and cultural 'superstructure' became a formula for the fundamental interactions in society. I shall dwell on this position and the critique of it within marxism at same length, since it is the most widespread view of what marxism is. 'Marxism reduced everything to the economic' or 'Marx's technological determinism' (Shaw, 1978, ch. 2; Rosenberg, 1981) are common expressions. This representation of marxism is wrong and must be got out of the way.

Marx's classic formulation was written in the same year as Darwin's On the Origin of Species:

 

The general result at which I arrived and which, once won, served as a guiding thread for my studies, can be briefly formulated as follows: In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determine their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or — what is but a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. men begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations, a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic — in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, its consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production (Marx & Engels, 1968:181-2).

As Stuart Hall explains this formulation has haunted Marxism ever since:

 

Marx had established that the economy is determinant in the last instance, but that the superstructures had their own "effectivity" which could not be simply reduced to their base. But "the precise structural mechanism connecting the two is always left unclear by Marx" (quoting Jones, 1973:31). The clarification of this problem was one of Engels’ most urgent and important tasks: the more so since Marxism was fast becoming absorbed into the dominant field of "positive science", which reduced it to a simple economic determinism in which the superstructures were a pale and automatic reflex of the base — a tendency which was destined to be disastrously installed as the official version in the Second International. Engels struggled vainly to combat this reductionism. But he struggled to do so on the ground, essentially, of his and Marx's formulations of the German Ideology period: and the development and clarification he undertook were sustained by precisely those conceptual tools and instruments which had produced the formulation in this form in the first place (Hall, 1977:53; cf. Lichtheim, 1961; Arato, 1973-74; Jacoby, 1971, 1981).

The classic formulation of the marxist view of culture in this period was that the ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas of the epoch.

 

For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones (Marx and Engels, 1965:62).

This formulation leaves little roan for modifications, subtleties, spaces or porosity in the relations between the interests of the ruling class and intellectual life. Indeed, during the period of the Second International (1889-1914), a direct, one-to-one relationship was postulated between the base (defined in narrowly economic terms) and the intellectual and cultural superstructure. This putative relationship was increasingly commonly expressed in the rhetoric of objective scientific laws and became an orthodoxy in the 1920s and '30s. Economism and scientism took over the theory which had been formulated as a searching critique of the economistic and scientistic consciousness of the capitalist mode of production in Marx's work. The irony could not be heavier.

Among 'marxist' theorists of the period this reduction took two complementary forms. In the economistic version, for example, in the work of G. V. Plekhanov, the theoretician who was most influential in Russia and in the Soviet regime (Wetter, 1958:100-l09), production becomes merely productive technique, i.e., technology, 'and to this everything else is reduced' (Arato, 1973-74:33). The technology determines the socio-political regime which, in turn, produces the consciousness expressed in the ideological realm. Everything reduces, ultimately, to technology. The work of the leading theoretician of the Second International, Karl Kautsky, reduced both the social and the economic realms to a third one, biological evolutionism.

 

The social dimension is reduced to a supposed social instinct or drive, that emerges during the struggle for survival. Human technology, on the other hand, is simply another factor that is traced to this struggle, as an aspect of the increasingly better adaptation to nature of the human species (Arato, 1973-74:33; cf. Geary, 1981).

Plekhanov bases the social on the technological, while Kautsky bases it on the biological. Both of these Second International theorists make social relations and relations of production secondary to — and not in fully dialectical relations with — the scientifically determinate, whether machines or biological inheritance. Technological economism and biologism have a common denominator in scientism. No contradiction, no dynamic, no motor for class struggle. The result is a complete 'divorce between science and revolution, between knowledge and transformation of the world' (Colletti, 1972:74).

It is of the essence of marxism that the base be defined as a contradictory unity of two antagonistic sets of relations — between people (social relations of production) and between people and nature (forces of production). Neither element can be neglected or reduced to the other, and they provide the basis for relations of struggle between consciousness and the given-ness of the existing actualities of nature and society (Arato, 1973-74:33). Reduce consciousness to a mere epiphenomenon, and you have a technological determinism, the one thing marxism is not. The technicist view of production which characterised Second International marxism was taken up by Stalin. On this basis he constructed a theory of modes of production 'in which the technical structure of production is the "material foundation" on which different modes of production arise. History is seen as a succession of modes of production' (Clarke, 1977:7), a view which Stalin developed in his essay on 'Dialectical and Historical Materialism' (1938), which became the bible of vulgar marxism and was reprinted in millions of copies read throughout the world, wherever marxism in its Stalinist form was propagated (Stalin, 1953). It was wrong-headed:

 

The mode of production is seen as the combination of a technical structure of production and what are in fact social relations of distribution. Developments in the forces of production produce a dislocation between forces of production and relations of distribution, precipitating a change in relations of distribution so that they correspond with the more developed forces of production (Clarke, 1977:7).

Forces and relations of production are reduced to non-contradictory factors, the first to technical relations of production and the second to social relations of distribution (Clarke 1977:8).

Remove the contradiction at the heart of capitalism and you can easily dissolve marxism into a functionalism. Technicism, economism, biologism and functionalism have in common the elimination of the basic contradictory unity of the forces and relations of production. They are merely different forms of scientism, and it is therefore not surprising that there has recently been a convergence between Soviet social science and American functionalism, just as the two sets of ideologies are united in their belief that science is the key to the future of humankind (Boys, 1979).

These debates connect directly with the history of science as an academic discipline, since economistic marxist ideas became the alternative to orthodox history of philosophy and science from the 1930s to the revival of western marxism in the 1960s. In the period when bourgeois sociology was conducting a dialogue with marxism while seldom naming it as the position which was being answered, something very similar was happening in the history and philosophy of science. The development of the base-superstructure analysis with respect to science has its roots in certain exploratory speculations of Engels in notebooks on The Dialectics of Nature and in Anti-Dühring, a polemic against a conception of 'revolution in science' by Eugen Dühring which Engels found unmaterialist. Engels was conducting thought experiments on the extension of dialectical conceptions into the most fundamental laws of nature. But when Second International marxists combined these conceptions with the economistic views mentioned above, they produced a bizarre orthodoxy which treated scientific developments as direct and unmediated reflections of changes in the economic sphere of production.

The most influential expression of this position with respect to science was made during the dramatic appearance of the Soviet delegation at the 1931 International Congress of the History of Science and Technology in London, published as Science at the Cross Roads (Bukharin et al., 1971). The paper which caused the greatest stir and which remains the locus classicus of the base-superstructure view of science (though those of Bukharin and Colman deserve study) is Boris Hessen's 'Some Social and Economic Roots of Newton's "Principia"', which links the main areas of Newton's physics with technical problems of the contemporary economy in a one-to-one fashion: 'If we compare this basic series of themes with the physical problems which we found when analysing the technical demands of transport, means of communication, industry and war, it becomes quite clear that these problems of physics were fundamentally determined by these demands' (Hessen, 1971:166). This approach had a profound influence on the treatment of science and its history by the Western group which was influential in propagating marxist historiography, especially J. D. Bernal, Joseph Needham and J. G. Crowther. These men were among those whose backgrounds and lives have been studied in Gary Werskey's The Visible College (1978), an investigation of the relations between science and socialism in the 1930s in Britain (Young, 1980a).

Imagine my consternation when, having fought my way out of the internal history of scientific discoveries and the internal history of ideas and having moved through the sociology of knowledge (in many ways a watered-down marxism: Mannheim has been called ‘the bourgeois Lukács, just as Weber had been called ‘the bourgeois Marx’) and the anthropology of knowledge, I emerged into what I anticipated to be the pure sunshine of marxist analysis, only to find a crude theory which was as scientistic as old-style positivist internal history of discovery. The situation became worse in more recent years when I learned that the reaction against vulgar marxism in some French Communist Party circles again paralleled, and was greatly influenced by, developments in the internal history of scientific ideas, especially the work of Alexandre Koyré and historical epistemology, especially Gaston Bachelard. This reaction has led Louis Althusser and the wide circle of intellectuals influenced by him in France, Britain and elsewhere to go to the other extreme and to stress the relative autonomy of theory. A curious pun has come out of all this. Having reached the conclusion that the relative autonomy of theory means 'that the lonely moment of the last instance never comes', people who have been influenced by Althusser can write about power, social control, class, surveillance and other topics which one associates with marxism but do so in an ahistorical and detached way, removed from the dynamic of historical change and freed from the careful investigation of historical particularity. They can also consider systems of values and the interrelations of social structures in ways which make their writings indistinguishable from those of the functionalists, as Simon Clarke has been at pains to show in his critique of Althusser and his follower Poulantzas (Clarke, 1977, 1980) and as E. P. Thompson has emphasized as well (Thompson, 1978). Both of these critics stress how treating human individuals or subjects as mere bearers of social structures has the effect of scientising real class struggle right out of the window. This theoreticist marxism resolves itself into structural functionalist social theory.

The other available scientism is that of vulgar marxism itself. The original vulgar marxists argued that science is an unequivocally progressive force, that we need more and more of it and that it provides the correct model for society. Sounds like nineteenth-century positivism, doesn't it? As I tried to show in tracing the roots of vulgar marxism in the writings of Plekhanov and Kautsky, the position grew in that soil and was transplanted by Hessen's appearance in London in 1931. J. D. Bernal was probably its most influential exponent in Britain, and his voluminous writings pushed the scientistic version of marxism, especially in The Social Function of Science (1939) and Science in History (1954), both of which have gone through several editions and are still in print decades after they first appeared. But the marxists who were influenced by this point of view were not only active as historians. They carried their view of society to the heart of their scientific work. Bernal is one of the seminal figures in the philosophy of life and humanity of molecular biology, one which treats humanity as a problem in information theory. He and another eminent leftist, P. M. S. Blackett, were also very important in the creation of one of the most potent tools for 'the scientist management of society', the pseudo-science of operational research. This discipline was originally developed to meet supply problems in wartime but has come to play a major role in industry and, like ’scientific management’ of Taylorism itself, has been extended to other spheres of social planning (Hales, 1978; Young, 1972b, 1976).

Recent expressions of base-superstructure theory are much more critical about science under capitalism, but they retain a strong distinction between science, on the one hand, and ideology and the abuse of science, on the other. The science vs. use/abuse and science vs. ideology distinctions remain firm, for example in the work of the most prolific marxists radical scientists writing in English, Hilary Rose and Steven Rose, whose Science and Society, The Political Economy of Science and The Radicalization of Science have been very widely read and are taken by many to canvass marxist views on science. Their position shares with Althusserian theoreticism the belief that objective knowledge can be separated off from ideology, even though they are less blinkered than Bernal's generation and than anti-marxists about the disciplines and the circumstances in which science and ideology are co-mingled.

The debates in marxist circles are complex and difficult to follow. It will help the reader to understand why I have placed remarks about Althusserian theoreticism alongside ones about base-superstructure theory if I point out that most recent criticisms of both vulgar marxism and of theoreticism have stressed their common roots in Stalinism and in the efforts of communist parties which have not succeeded in freeing themselves from Stalinism, to modify their policies about culture without engaging in open criticism and self-criticism about party organisation and discipline on Bolshevik lines. The persistence of this dogmatism is closely linked to the idea of a 'correct line' in politics based on 'marxism as science' and science as unequivocally objective knowledge. These leftists, like so many bourgeois theorists, are attempting to root their historically contingent social and political beliefs in the laws of nature . This is yet another example of the naturalization of belief systems which we find left, right and centre (RSJ Collective, 1981; Young, 1977c).

 

MARXIST MEDIATION THEORY

 

There is another way, one which retains the richness and complexity of culture without detaching ideas from the base or reducing them to a mere reflection of the needs of the economy. The marxist theorists who directed greater and greater attention to the intervening processes and institutions, the variations and mutual interpenetrations, in short, the mediations between base and superstructure, did so in direct opposition to the excesses of the scientism of vulgar marxism in the Second International and in the early Soviet debates. Their critique of scientism led them to look more closely at the philosophies of nature and the conceptions of science on which they were based. The decades around the turn of the twentieth century were ones in which capital's means of direct and indirect control over the labour process and culture came to depend much less on force and more on structures and institutions, qualifications and careers, i.e., managerial capitalism. There arose more and more articulated institutions in education, culture, government, services, consumption. This greater and greater interdependence is bound to make the social structures, forces and processes by which the fundamental social relations of capitalism are produced and reproduced, more subtle and more based on eliciting consent. The relationship between base and superstructure continues to have a general shape, but its implementation is not crude and immediate but mediated, indirect (Walker, 1979; Gedicks, 1975; Noble, 1977).

Toward the end of his life Engels had realised that the dangers of economic reductionism were considerable and argued for paying much more attention to the ways in which the base, now defined more broadly as 'the production and reproduction of real life', gave rise to and interacted with intellectual and cultural forces in complex ways:

 

According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure... also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form. There is an interaction of all these elements in which, amid all the endless hosts of accidents (that is, of things and events whose inner connection is so remote or so impossible of proof that we can regard it as non-existent, as negligible) the economic movement finally asserts itself as necessary. Otherwise the application of the theory to any period of history would be easier than the solution of a simple equation of the first degree (Marx & Engels, 1965b:417).

The further the particular sphere which we are investigating is removed from the economic sphere and approaches that of pure abstract ideology, the more shall we find it exhibiting accidents in its development, the more will its curve run zigzag. But if you plot the average axis of the curve, you will find that this axis will run more and more nearly parallel to the axis of economic development the longer the period considered and the wider the field dealt with (Marx & Engels, 1965b:468).

The base was determinate in the last instance, to be sure, but there were all the other instances — political, cultural, philosophical — providing less explicit versions, buffers, liberal interpretations, more or less enlightened patronage , safety valves, cultural lags, unintended by-products, rationalizations, temporary and circumscribed spaces and havens. These mediations and areas of incomplete control modify and in some areas contradict the ruling ideas of the owners of the means of production. Determination does not, in this rendering, mean narrow determinism:

 

It is not, as people try here and there conveniently to imagine, that the economic situation produces an automatic effect. No. Men make their history themselves, only they do so in a given environment, which conditions it, and on the basis of actual relations already existing, among which the economic relations, however much they may be influenced by the other — the political and ideological relations, are still ultimately the decisive ones, forming the keynote which runs through them and alone leads to understanding (Marx & Engels, 1965b:467).

E. P. Thompson has offered a very helpful gloss on this sense of determination as 'setting limits' and 'exerting pressures' (Thompson, 1978:351). Instead of reading off the likely reflections of economic forces in the super-structure, it is necessary to approach the issues more circumspectly and consider matters from the point of view of the totality of relations (Williams, 1976:170 -173). But, as we have seen, vulgar economistic and scientistic marxism grew up in spite of these warnings. Engels had explicitly opposed a simple reflection model based on scientific causality:

 

Hanging together with this is the fatuous notion of the ideologists that because we deny an independent historical development to the various ideological spheres which play a part in history we also deny them any effect upon history. The basis of this is the common undialectical conception of cause and effect as rigidly opposite poles, the total disregarding of interaction. These gentlemen often almost deliberately forget that once an historic element has been brought into the world by another, ultimately economic causes, it reacts, can react on its environment and even on the causes that have given rise to it (Marx & Engels, 1965b:460).

 

I have quoted Engels at some length to convey just how much he protested against vulgar reflection theory and one-to-one correspondences and how much scope he provided for mediations between base and superstructure. But it was all in vain, since in the intervening decades, a narrow version of causality did grow up. It was against this climate that the major marxist theoreticians of the twentieth century began protesting in the 1920s and 1930s. Whole areas of study of mediations grew up, especially in philosophy, literature and other aspects of culture. Leading theoreticians extended the approach to the very foundations of scientism and economism — to conceptions of nature, science and technology. Georg Lukács' History and Class Consciousness, Karl Korsch's Marxism and Philosophy, Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks, and Wilhelm Reich's writings on 'Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis' and his critiques of both the Soviet Union and The Mass Psychology of Fascism — these were all attempts to break out of the narrow confines of official marxism as then defined. The effect of these writings when refracted through the situation in the West in the 1960s was to create a space for a more subtle sense of the interactions and mutual determinations among philosophical, cultural, politico-economic, sexual, familial and natural categories (Howard & Klare, 1972). For example Lukács reflected at length on the ways nature operates as a societal category; Gramsci treated the concepts of matter, of atomic theory and of objectivity as relative to the history of the mode of production; Reich considered the social and psychological processes by which ideology became a material force at work, in industry and institutions and in one's most intimate relationships (Young, 1982, 1973b).

In a related series of studies extending from the 1930s to the present, writers associated with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory concentrated in historically specific ways on various aspects of cultural control. They placed special emphasis on science and technology, scientific and technological rationality and the role of scientific and technological experts in establishing and maintaining exploitative and repressive socio-economic structures. The Frankfurt School writers developed their critique in a period when the working class in Germany, the Soviet Union and the United States (where their Institute went into exile during World War Two) offered little evidence of actively contesting the control of authoritarian regimes, whether fascist, nominally liberal or nominally socialist (Jay; 1973; cf. Kellner, 1975). They therefore wrote in ways which made little attempt to connect their devastating analyses of capital's control through definitions of rationality, with the existence of and opportunities for active contestation of that control on the part of workers. This means that their understanding of the resolution of class forces leads to a conception which appears to grant that capital has it all its own way, creating what Herbert Marcuse called One Dimensional Man. Other key writings of the school are nearly as pessimistic: Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment, Jürgen Habermas' 'Technology and Society as "Ideology"' (Habermas, 1971:81-122), Alfred Schmidt's The Concept of Nature in Marx and - closely allied - Alfred Sohn-Rethel's Intellectual and Manual Labour: A Critique of Epistemology.

The works of these students of mediation have stretched the base-superstructures formulation to the breaking point. Even so, Stuart Hall's reservations (see above) are borne out by the above quotations from Engels whose efforts to make the conception more flexible were indeed caught up in the terms of reference of it. There is something ultimately restraining about the metaphor itself, and if one enriches the base to 'the production and reproduction of social relations', instead of merely the economic, then those social relations will be made up of elements, styles and assumptions which can only come from the realm which had been seen as superstructural. The net result is progressive dilution of the polarity which made the metaphor attractive in the first place. Its limits have worried some of the most subtle and sophisticated marxist writers, Raymond Williams, in ’Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory' (Williams, 1980:31-49;1977), Stuart Hall

in his ruminative essay, 'Re-thinking the "Base and superstructure" Metaphor' (Hall, 1977) and E. P. Thompson, who rejected the metaphor, because it impoverished — even precluded — the consideration of the subtleties and complexities of value systems, culture and law. Thompson points out that its scientism also led to appalling silences about moral issues and even atrocities, as in the case of Stalinism:

 

It was the total absence of even a language to discuss morality and values which was the distinguishing characteristic of Stalinism. So that when it was finally admitted that the entire flower of the Revolution, as well as about everyone else, had been butchered, orthodox Communists had no word for it except "mistake" (Thompson, 1976:23).

 

My own problem about the concept of mediation parallels my critique of the anthropology of knowledge. One wants to convey the full complexity of the network of relations of social structures and processes and to be able to show the internal relations among all aspects of the world (Ollman, 1977). At the same time, one wants to retain a basic sense of the directionality of the processes in a socio-economic order. No matter how complex and subtle the interactions and mutual determinations, in the last instance the production and reproduction of social relations characteristic of the mode of production are determinate. How can the point of view of totality and determination in the last instance be kept simultaneously in view without one pulling toward vulgar reflection theory and the other toward a monadology in which everything reflects everything else, with no determinate hierarchy of structured relations?

The strengths and weaknesses of these two perspectives are summed up for me in two key passages, one from Marx, the other from Lukács. The following quotation from volume one ofCapital seems to me to provide an excellent model of the history of the production process in the present, just as in the Industrial Revolution:

 

It would be possible to write a whole history of the inventions made since 1830 for the sole purpose of providing capital with weapons against working-class revolt. We would mention, above all, the self-acting mule, because it opened up a new epoch in the automatic system.

Nasmyth, the inventor of the steam hammer, gave the following evidence before the Commission on Trades Unions with regard to the improvements in machinery he himself introduced as a result of the wide-spread and long-lasting strikes of the engineers in 1851. "The characteristic feature of our modern mechanical improvements, is the introduction of self-acting tool machinery. What every mechanical workman has now to do, and what every boy can do, is not to work himself but to superintend the beautiful labour of the machine. The whole class of workmen that depended exclusively on their skill, is now done away with. Formerly, I employed four boys to every mechanic. Thanks to these new mechanical combinations, I have reduced the number of grown-up men from 1500 to 750. The result was a considerable increase in my profits."

Ure says this of the colouring machines used in calico printing. "At length capitalists sought deliverance from this intolerable bondage" (namely the terms of their contracts with the workers, which they saw as burdensome) "in the resources of science, and were speedily re-instated in their legitimate rule, that of the head over the inferior members." Then, speaking of an invention for dressing warps, whose immediate occasion was a strike, he says: "The combined malcontents who fancied themselves impregnably entrenched behind the old lines of division of labour, found their flanks turned and their defences rendered useless by the new mechanical tactics, and were obliged to surrender at discretion." Of the invention of the self-acting mule, he says: "A creation destined to restore order among the industrious classes'... This invention confirms the great doctrine already propounded, that when capital enlists science into their service, the refractory hand of labour will always be taught docility" (Marx, 1976: 563-4).

On this model, the history of technology becomes the history of the state of the resolution of class forces, with particular technologies as the interface between capital's initiatives and needs on the one hand and worker resistance and autonomy on the other. Using the model more broadly, it can apply to tachygraph ('spy in the cab') monitoring of lorry drivers and to rate and task setting for word processor operatives, just as it can to the IBM 3750 system which monitors all performance, phone calls (barring specific numbers, if required), location of employees and vehicles, entry and exit from any spaces, doors and buildings designated by management (there are more than 150 of these systems already installed in Britain). These very recent technologies control more aspects of work than ever before. In the period between the Victorian cotton trade about which Marx wrote and the present, technology-as-control was applied to the moving assembly line, scientific management of movements, and the supply and storage of material according to the flow programmes of operational researchers.

Increasing control with ever-more ramifying mediations seems to me to explain capital's initiatives in a broader sense than the examples I have given of the labour process at the point of industrial production. It applies to the restructuring of capital in contemporary Britain which, in turn led to the 'Great Debate' which the Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan, called for in education in order to meet the needs of industrial change. The same forces account for the restructuring of the examination system of secondary education. Similarly, variations in the needs of industry for relatively cheap women workers explains the periods of expansion and contraction of provision of full and part time nursery facilities by the state — and so on, including the role of the most popular quiz and prize programmes on television, shaping human needs and patterns of consumption. The requirements of capitalists for the efficient circulation and expansion of capital produce technologies, structures for the socialization and reproduction of suitable labour power and patterns of aspiration and consumption. Marx's model of the basis for invention as a means of 'teaching docility' leads from the labour process in its narrowest sense to the most general features of hegemony, eliciting relatively willing consent without the use of force.

At the other extreme from this rather tight model of determination lies the point of view of totality. Lukács writes in the second of the quotations I want to feature:

 

It is not the primacy of economic motives in historical explanation that constitutes the decisive difference between Marxism and bourgeois thought, but the point of view of totality. The category of totality, the all-pervasive supremacy of the whole over the parts is the essence of the method which Marx took over from Hegel and brilliantly transformed into the foundations of a whole new science. The capitalist separation of the producer from the total process of production, the division of the process of labour into parts at the cost of individual humanity of the worker, the atomization of society into individuals who simply go on producing without rhyme or reason, must all have a profound influence on the thought, the science and the philosophy of capitalism. Proletarian science is revolutionary not just by virtue of its revolutionary ideas which it opposed to bourgeois society, but above all because of its method. The primacy of the category of totality is the bearer of the principle of revolution in science (Lukács, 1971:27; emphasis in original.

It should be added here that Lukács' use of the term 'science' in connection with marxism does not mean anything akin to natural science but rather conveys 'analysis' or 'theory-and-practice'. On the other hand, as Vajda points out, 'When he criticises science, he usually means economics, law, etc.: the natural sciences play no specific role in his analysis, although his critique applies to them, too' (Vajda, 1978-79:111). 'In his last analysis Marxism does not acknowledge the existence of independent sciences of law, economics or history, etc: there is nothing but a single, unified dialectical and historical — science of the evolution of society as a totality' (Lukács, 1971:28). The point of view of totality gives so rich and interconnected a web of relationships, entangling all, that one is left in danger of being unable to make distinctions and classify anything.

As one moves about in the space between reflection and totality trying to understand both directionality and relatedness, one longs for a better framework — one which is also agitationally fruitful and gives more impetus to a transformative approach. The study of mediations is ultimately a study of roles in a system, and demystification is not enough. What is wanted is an analytic framework which shows how the base and its relations came to be. What contradictions called up atomic energy, microprocessors, tissue typing? Not just 'What are the roles of science, technology and medicine?' but 'How are they constituted?' 'How can we struggle against capital's hegemony in order to reconstitute them according to different purposes?' Not to use them better or prevent their abuse but to embody different social relations. How can we get it into the texture of the conception and development of human technics in hierarchical and authoritarian societies?

One of the great advantages of moving away from a base-mediation-superstructure model is that one can begin to get away from the science/ideology distinction and the idea of ideology as bias or false consciousness. Vulgar marxism caught itself in the trap of seeing the realm of ideology as the one of deceit and rationalization. When sociologists of knowledge and opponents of vulgar marxism came along and argued that ideology is integral to science, they had the wearisome task of repeating again and again that to say that something is ideological is not to say that it is merely subjective, biased, even false. Traditional dichotomies die hard: objective/subjective, science/ideology, science/values, science/society. Hybrid concepts, which were themselves most difficult to explain, were coined to try to get round these problems, e.g., 'necessary false consciousness' from Alfred Sohn-Rethel: falsely conscious but real, efficacious (then true?); reification — representing social relations as relations between things (e.g., scientific management); objectification — the embodiment of social relations in the forces of production, e.g., the moving assembly line, automation, microprocessors. All of these have proved difficult, since ideological mystifications could be seen to be utterly real and to make up the actuality of one's work. Ideology as the 'lived relation' (Althusser) became difficult to distinguish from some other reality: 'science'. It all got very unsatisfactory and confusing.

To those of us who had never been members of the orthodox marxist church, a different conception of ideology never felt like apostasy. Knowledge is a social product, and science is based on metaphysical assumptions. Metaphysics is a society's deepest set of beliefs and definitions of what is real and how we can know it. Science, like all knowledge, is therefore part of the world view of a social order, a social product, historical. Ideologies seek to eternalize values which are historically specific. They are the product of an era's ordering of social relations. How can it then be bizarre to speak of scientific knowledge as ideological? It is no less real for all that. Value is not an extrinsic category but a constituting one: knowledge is purposive, teleological. The area which should be opened up is the study of the purposes given bodies of knowledge serve. If we don't like the answer — as with sociobiology or word processors or palliative psychotherapies or nuclear bombs — then we have to set out deconstructing and reconstituting them according to different purposes. What this requires is a reconstitution of the way of talking about these matters in which the subjective and objective are not all over each other in ways which produce confusion rather than clarification.

 

LABOUR PROCESS PERSPECTIVE

 

It is characteristic of marxism that the stark boundary between subject and object disappears when one roots them in the deeper concept of labour or industry. Marx wrote in his earliest explorations that:

 

Industry is the actual, historical relation of nature, and therefore of natural science, to man. If, therefore, industry is conceived as the exoteric revelation of man's essential powers, we also gain an understanding of the human essence of nature or the natural essence of man. In consequence, natural science will lose its abstractly material — or rather, its idealistic — tendency, and will became the basis of human science, as it has already become the basis of actual human life, albeit in an estranged form. One basis far life and another basis far science is a priori a lie. The nature which comes to be in human history — the genesis of human society — is man's real nature; hence nature as it comes to be through industry, even though in an estranged form, is true anthropological nature (Marx, 1961:110-111).

We do not, therefore, begin with nature as object and people as subjects (or other people as objects, as in the human and social sciences). Rather, we begin with a relational concept which draws attention to the transformative process far both:

 

Labour, is, first of all, a process between man and nature, a process by which man, through his own actions, mediates, regulates and controls the metabolism between himself and nature. He confronts the materials of nature as a force of nature. He sets in motion the natural forces which belong to his own body, his arms, legs, head and hands, in order to appropriate the materials of nature in a form adapted to his own needs. Through this movement he acts upon external nature and changes it, and in this way he simultaneously changes his own nature. He develops the potentialities slumbering within nature, and subjects the play of its forces to his own sovereign power. We are not dealing here with those first instinctive forms of labour which remain on the animal level... We presuppose labour in a form in which it is an exclusively human characteristic. A spider conducts operations which resemble those of the weaver, and a bee would put many a human architect to shame by the construction of its honeycomb cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the architect builds the cell in his mind before he constructs it in wax. At the end of every labour process, a result emerges which had already been conceived by the worker at the beginning, hence already existed ideally. Man not only effects a change of form in the materials of nature; he also realizes his own purpose in those materials (Marx 1976:283-4).

That passage, which appears at the beginning of Marx's analysis of the labour process in volume one of Capital, provides the basis far treating science as a labour process like any other. The analysis is as applicable to the labour of researchers and inventors as it is of farmers, miners and assembly line workers. Turning now from the concept of labour as uniting subject, object and purposes, we come to the definition of the labour process. It is people's ’practical relationship to nature as determined by the specific stage of development of the productive forces' (Sohn-Rethel, 1976:27). This definition brings labour into history and indicates the determination in the last instance by the mode of production. A more textured definition of the labour process is that series of changes by which relatively unmediated 'raw' materials or other inputs (e.g., bits of information, ores, amino acids) are transformed into products having a use value (e.g., formulas, pure metals or alloys, synthetic polypeptides). This process is a combination of three elements:

1) purposeful human activity, or labour, which is set to work as labour power - roughly work itself;

2) the objects or raw materials (unfinished products, specimens, concepts, etc) upon which labour acts;

3) the means or instruments (from simple tools to complex and automated machinery, not neglecting fractionation columns, ultracentrifuge, radio telescopes, linear accelerators and sky labs) by which the labour is applied to the objects (all this modified from Marx, 1976:284 and Palloix, 1976:47).

The outcome is a product or use value. If any of the three elements is missing, no labour occurs and there is no labour process.

The labour process perspective makes it more congenial to deal with all sorts of work as social practice, not excluding mental work in science, technology and medicine. It also makes it easier to apply the perceptions we gain from more mundane work, to supposedly disinterested, putatively objective, inquiries. In looking for the values and purposed embedded in a given labour process, we see its institution, its practice and its fruits as a resolution of forces and as part of the structured social relations in which it occurs. No labour process is independent of historical relations, and this applies to hypotheses, 'findings', and theories — to facts, artefacts, and all research and development in the spheres of production and reproduction. The forces and relations which make up other aspects of life also make up intellectual life, and intellectual work can be analysed in the same terms, instead of being treated as the fount of timeless universals outside history (Marx & Engels, 1965a:62).

The model of unified theory and practice employing a labour process perspective produces, at last, a new path, one which has been cleared in the ongoing work of the Conference of Socialist Economists and the Radical Science Journal collective. That is, it integrated the critique of science, technology and medicine with that of the rest of the mode of production, not just in a ghetto of 'radical science'. It is a model which stresses the agitational potential in research and development and the articulations between science, technology and medicine, and the embedding of these in other spheres: work, home, school, communication, culture. There is neither space to develop it here nor, I find, does it came easily to write agitationally in a volume of ‘analytical perspectives’ [for which this essay was originally prepared]. If there is any appeal in this attempt to bridge the gulf between the history, philosophy and social studies of science, technology and medicine, on the one hand, and the domain of counter-hegemonic struggles, on the other, the publications starred in the references will be found relevant to the application of a labour process perspective to expert knowledge.

One final point about the search for a forum. I think a forum has opened up as a result of a new alliance between the concerns of the general public about the role of expertise in their lives and the ongoing critical work and practices of radicals. If, as now seems promising, this intersection expands into a series of important political and cultural spaces, we may yet have a chance of becoming organic intellectuals, forged in the crucible of science in society. ’Nature’, as Lukács argued, ’is a sociatal category’ (Lukács, 1971, p.234) .

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This essay was written in 1978-79 and then revised in the early 1980s for inclusion in Science Observed, edited by Karin Knorr-Cetina and Michael Mulkay. It was rejected for being too long. Since my father had died in the meantime, since I dedicate it to him, and since it said what I wanted to say, I was unwilling to truncate it. This is its first publication.

Copyright: The Author

Address for correspondence: 26 Freegrove Road, London, N7 9RQ

robert@rmy1.demon.co.uk


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