- Le gouvernement des technosciences: Gouverner le progrès et ses dégâts depuis 1945 ed. by Dominique Pestre
This book, edited by historian of science Dominique Pestre, is ambitious in its goals, its theoretical framework (building on Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler, most notably), and its stakes, explicitly described in the introduction. Le Gouvernement des technosciences makes its choices with firmness and assurance, and it presents a wide range of authors well-known in France for their contributions to history and sociology of science and technology. Many of these have previously joined forces, in particular on the study of the Anthropocene.
Pestre builds a strong fil rouge for his project, which justifies in and of itself the reader’s attention to the book. Unsatisfied by the use of notions such as co-production, agency, hybridity (p. 17)—key concepts for science and technology studies (STS), which he does not repudiate, but considers susceptible to dogmatic uses—he aims at bringing greater nuance to this literature by re-introducing not only the temporal dimension, but also a way to think about asymmetries and reproduction phenomena in the face of determinism and contingency.
Sovereignty, governmentality, and governance are never far removed, in a gameplay that varies the scales of analysis and questions regulation in its supranational, global, and long-term “glocal” dimensions. These concepts are gathered around the concept of “government” as defined by Peter Miller and Nikolas Rose in Governing the Present (2008)—the “historically constituted matrix within which are articulated all those dreams, schemes, strategies and authoritarian manoeuvers of authoritis that seek to shape the conduct of others in desired directions” (p. 54 in Miller and Rose).
Thus, the book is neither constructionist nor structuralist, and attempts to identify both what is modifying and what is perpetuating—ultimately, [End Page 485] one of the main goals of history as a discipline. However, the book also attempts to shed light on the present, in particular when it underlines that “sustainable development and global governance are the signatures of the new social and political arrangement that emerges from this new form of hegemony, of political evidence and of reality” (p. 25). “Engaged” from a scientific standpoint, the volume is also engaged from a political standpoint, as its subtitle testifies.
Working on the tensions and crossroads among projects, devices, actors, and temporalities, the book presents a wide historical panorama of the government of technosciences, often playing on the articulation between it and the government by technosciences. Indeed, this articulation and the reasons underlying it would have benefited from a more explicit clarification. The case studies presented go from Nathalie Jas’s analysis of the national and supranational arrangements working on chemical substances to Soraya Boudia’s exploration of economic instruments; from Yannick Mahrane and Christophe Bonneuil’s analysis of the issues related to the biosphere to Sara Fernandez’s work on the governance of water(s). And again, one can find Jean-Paul Gaudillière’s stimulating analysis of the objectification of health needs via the use of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY), or Amy Dahan and Stefan Aykut’s interesting notion of “reality schism” to account for climate governance.
The bet for a “global reading” highlighted by Pestre in his conclusions is, in this regard, successfully won and opens up interesting research perspectives as well as methodological and epistemological debates. Beyond the feedback of STS researchers, the response of (other) historians also will be interesting to follow, especially when it comes to the “periodization” of the important crossed themes proposed in the conclusion. In particular, the book calls for further discussion when it comes to the issue of what sources are, and can be, mobilized to foster and prolong this global reading of the government of technosciences. Among the questions we would like to ask the authors is that related to the modest use of oral history and, in several chapters, of direct sources and internal institutional archives that would...