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Science Studies: An Advanced Introduction

David J. Hess
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 197
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  • Book Info
    Science Studies
    Book Description:

    Thrust into the public eye by the contentious "Science Wars"--played out most recently by physicist Alan Sokal's hoax--the nascent field of science studies takes on the political, historical, and cultural dimensions of technology and the sciences. Science Studies is the first comprehensive survey of the field, combining a concise overview of key concepts with an original and integrated framework. In the process of bringing disparate fields together under one tent, David J. Hess realizes the full promise of science studies, long uncomfortably squeezed into traditional disciplines. He provides a clear discussion of the issues and misunderstandings that have arisen in these interdisciplinary conversations. His survey is up-to-date and includes recent developments in philosophy, sociology, anthropology, history, cultural studies, and feminist studies. By moving from the discipline-bound blinders of a sociology, history, philosophy, or anthropology of science to a transdisciplinary field, science studies, Hess argues, will be able to provide crucial conceptual tools for public discussions about the role of science and technology in a democratic society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-9095-3
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    Science has become an integral part of many issues of public concern—medical, informational, and environmental, to name a few. Scientific experts frequently square off on the evening news. At work, professional discourses have become increasingly technical, and at home we face an ocean of competing claims about topics such as carcinogens in our food or the technical features of competing appliances.

    Science studies provides a conceptual tool kit for thinking about technical expertise in more sophisticated ways. Science studies tracks the history of disciplines, the dynamics of science as a social institution, and the philosophical basis for scientific knowledge....

  5. 2 The Philosophy of Science: An Interdisciplinary Perspective
    (pp. 6-51)

    Although STS or science studies is becoming an increasingly interdisciplinary conversation, there is still a gulf of understanding among the different constituent disciplines, especially between the philosophical and social studies wings. I use the term “social studies” to include historians, cultural studies researchers, and social scientists. Following the American usage, I use “social scientist” to refer to sociologists, cultural anthropologists, political scientists and policy analysts, economists, management and administration scientists, and some other researchers such as geographers. (In other countries the term “social scientist” has a much more restricted usage, generally referring to anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists.) In contrast,...

  6. 3 The Institutional Sociology of Science
    (pp. 52-80)

    Social scientists who redeveloped the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) in the 1970s and 1980s did so in opposition to two other, more established fields: the philosophy of science and the “sociology of science” (or, perhaps more accurately, the institutional sociology of science). From the perspective of the SSK researchers, the institutional sociology of science failed because it did not analyze “content” sociologically. In other words, the traditional sociology of science did not examine how social factors shape or permeate relatively technical questions such as design choices, methodologies, theories, the interpretation of observations, and decisions about what to observe in...

  7. 4 Social Studies of Knowledge
    (pp. 81-111)

    The sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK, sometimes also called social studies of knowledge or the new sociology of science) focuses on the content of science. “Content” refers to theories, methods, design choices, and other technical aspects of science and technology, in contrast with institutional or contextual aspects such as those reviewed in the previous chapter. Karin Knorr-Cetina and Michael Mulkay use the term “methodological internalism” to describe the focus on content or the study of how “the ‘internal’ practices of the scientific enterprise constitute the focus of inquiry” (1983: 6). Their choice of terminology, however, may be confused with the...

  8. 5 Critical and Cultural Studies of Science and Technology
    (pp. 112-147)

    Cultural studies is an interdisciplinary conversation that, like STS, defies easy definition. In Britain cultural studies was historically associated with the Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies. The key features of British cultural studies include (1) theoretical frameworks that first drew on Western Marxism (such as Gramsci) and semiotics, followed by feminism and other frameworks; (2) a focus on contemporary popular culture, subcultures, and the mass media rather than high culture, as in traditional literature and art studies; (3) a range of social science and humanities methods (archival, ethnographic, textual criticism); and (4) a politically engaged perspective.¹ In North America cultural...

  9. 6 Conclusions
    (pp. 148-156)

    What good is science studies, technology studies, or STS as a whole? What is the value of all the terms, concepts, schools, and frameworks? In today’s academy, this question has sinister undertones, particularly when it is asked in the context of science wars and budget cuts. All disciplines—and especially the very vulnerable interdisciplinary programs—are forced to justify themselves, and not merely in the philosophical or Calvinist sense of the word. We are asked to provide a reason for our continued existence. It is the most brutal form of justification: budgetary justification.

    Perhaps the oldest answer to the question...

  10. For Additional Information
    (pp. 157-160)

    For those interested in the attacks on STS known as the “science wars,” a good place to start is issue 46–47 ofSocial Text(1996, vol. 14, nos. 1 and 2), which itself became part of the controversy. For an introduction to the philosophy of science, I have found Fuller (1993a), Hacking (1983), and Kourany’s reader (1987) to be the most useful, and Idhe (1993) is a useful guide to the philosophy of technology. Callebut’s collection of interviews (1993) gives a good taste of some contemporary debates in the field. For feminist philosophy of science, the standard starting points...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 161-166)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-192)
  13. Index
    (pp. 193-196)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 197-198)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-199)