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Political Matter

Technoscience, Democracy, and Public Life

Bruce Braun

Publication Year: 2010

Taking seriously the argument that things have politics, Political Matter seeks to develop a fully materialist theory of politics, one that opens new possibilities for imagining the relationship between scientific and political practices. The contributors assert that without such a theory the profusion of complex materials with and through which we live-plastic bags, smart cars, and long-life lightbulbs, for example-too often leaves us oscillating between fearful repudiation and glib celebration.
Exploring the frictions that come from linking the work of scholars in science and technology studies and political theory, these essays spark new ways of understanding the matter of politics.

Contributors: Andrew Barry, U of Oxford; Jane Bennett, Johns Hopkins U; Stephen J. Collier, New School; William E. Connolly, Johns Hopkins U; Rosalyn Diprose, U of New South Wales; Lisa Disch, U of Michigan; Gay Hawkins, U of New South Wales; Andrew Lakoff, UC San Diego; Noortje Marres, U of London; Isabelle Stengers, U Libre de Bruxelles; Nigel Thrift, U of Warwick.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The conversation between science, technology, and society scholars and political theorists staged here began life as a workshop convened at the University of Oxford in December 2006. The chapters in this volume are the products of a workshop format in which their earlier incarnations were generative intermediaries ...

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The Stuff of Politics: An Introduction

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pp. ix-xl

“That’s the stuff of politics.” It is a common phrase that often denotes nothing more than the shady deals and overheated rhetoric that we imagine constitutes political life in representational democracies, as intimated by Sir Ivor Jennings (1962) in the title of the third volume in his study of party politics in Britain. ...

Part I. Rematerializing Political Theory: Things Forcing Thought

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1. Including Nonhumans in Political Theory: Opening Pandora’s Box?

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pp. 3-34

Let us start with the obvious problem—the impossibility of giving an adequate definition of the term nonhumans. I will present three obstacles that stand in the way of such a definition. ...

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2. Thing-Power

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pp. 35-62

In the wake of Foucault’s death in 1984, there was an explosion of scholarship on the body and its social construction, on the operations of biopower. These genealogical (in the Nietzschean sense) studies exposed the various micropolitical and macropolitical techniques through which the human body was disciplined, ...

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3. Materiality, Experience, and Surveillance

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pp. 63-86

I seek to come to terms with the materiality of perception by placing Merleau-Ponty, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze into conversations with each other and neuroscience. Such a conversation has been obstructed by the judgment that Merleau-Ponty is a phenomenologist whereas the latter two are opposed to phenomenology. ...

Part II. Technological Politics: Affective Objects and Events

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4. Materialist Politics: Metallurgy

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pp. 89-118

How might one conceive of the relation between materials and politics? As is common enough in science and technology studies, this chapter centers on a case study: the field of metallurgy and the materiality of metals and other inorganic matter. ...

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5. Plastic Materialities

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pp. 119-138

You see it walking into the supermarket: an image of a plastic bag with a big black cross over it and the words say no to plastic bags emblazoned above. The message is clear: bags are bad. How did it come to this? How did this flimsy, disposable thing acquire such a shocking reputation? ...

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6. Halos: Making More Room in the World for New Political Orders

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pp. 139-174

This chapter represents one small part of a more general attempt to struggle over the hill of various Western philosophies, social sciences, and forms of politics to see a new, more open vista, one in which, through the articulation of an ontology of achievement, different associations are able to be made and made manifest, ...

Part III. Political Technologies: Public (Dis)Orderings

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7. Front-staging Nonhumans: Publicity as a Constraint on the Political Activity of Things

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pp. 177-210

Over the last years, a sizeable publicity machine has been set up by governments, energy companies, and environmental organizations to promote reductions in domestic energy consumption as a way for people to help “combat global warming.”1 These initiatives have been criticized on various grounds, ...

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8. The Political Technology of RU486: Time for the Body and Democracy

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pp. 211-242

A public debate erupted in Australia in late 2005 when, in an unprecedented move, four female senators from across the political party spectrum sponsored a “private members bill” to repeal the federal minister for health’s jurisdiction over the licensing of RU486 (the so-called home abortion pill).1 ...

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9. Infrastructure and Event: The Political Technology of Preparedness

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pp. 243-266

As a number of analysts have argued, contemporary citizenship is simultaneously political and technical (see, e.g., Barry 1999; also contributions to Ong and Collier 2005). Thus, for example, access to material systems of circulation—such as water, electricity, communication, and transportation—is critical to participation in collective life. ...

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10. Faitiche-izing the People: What Representative Democracy Might Learn from Science Studies

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pp. 267-296

Democratic political theory has unheralded champions in science studies. A cadre of scholars has succeeded in calling attention to a poignant paradox: modern democracy, which came to be in and through the fragile but ingenious practice of representative government, was rendered “powerless as soon as it was invented, ...


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pp. 297-300


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pp. 301-319

E-ISBN-13: 9780816674954
E-ISBN-10: 0816674957
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816670895

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2010