The Sociology of Scientific Work
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The Sociology of Scientific Work

The Fundamental Relationship between Science and Society

Dominique Vinck

More than ever before, science and technology play a significant role in modern society as evidenced by the development of nanotechnologies and the controversies surrounding GMOs and climate change. This book comprehensively explores the flourishing field of science and technology studies and examines its creation, development and interaction with contemporary society.
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Chapter 1: Science and Society: A Complex Relationship

Dominique Vinck


Science would appear to stand out from other social activities. This phenomenon has kept thinkers pondering, notably those striving to understand society and its transformations. Indeed, heads were being scratched well before the sociology of knowledge and the sociology of the sciences actually came into being. In this first chapter, we shall overview the analytical work of several classical authors (Comte, Condorcet, Marx and so on), who studied the relationship between science and society and, in particular, the conditions behind the presence and development of science in society. We shall study the analysis put forward by one of the first sociologists of science, Merton, who explored the relationship between Puritanism and the role of the scientist. Then, referring to the work of Ben-David, we shall look at the process according to which science emerged as a distinct social activity. Finally, we shall concentrate on the mechanisms behind the organisation and governance of the sciences in society. The question of the relationship between science and society shall be looked at again in Chapter 4 when we study the production of scientific knowledge. Emergence of a Distinct Social Activity In this first part, we shall see how science emerges as a social phenomenon, how the social role of the scientist is institutionalised according to the values of society, how the scientific community becomes independent of society, how the laboratory emerges as an institution and disciplines are established within society. Science as a Social Phenomenon The idea of science is often associated with...

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