Talk:Bruno Latour

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Deletion[edit]

whoever keeps removing the reference to latour - he is an anthropologist! not a sociologist. naturally, there are a lot of idios who claim the latter, and these idiots are often found in good referenceable newspapers, however, it doesn't change the fact that latour's method is the paradigm of anthropology - in depth fieldwork. the making of law, his new book, proclaims itself to be anthropology and is quite blatantly so. we must accept the sociology tag for that is what ignorant people wish to call him, however, do not remove the fact he is an anthropologist first and foremost. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 87.112.106.174 (talk) 20:58, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

Is Bruno Latour from a wealthy or privileged background? I would like to know for one) to have some context of his opinion and 2) discern and use information about his to develop a further sense of who, how and why certain people contribute to the human debate and who, how and why others do not, or maybe do it differently. In either case, knowing his personal background and upbringing explains whether he is educated, how well, how much idol time he might have had to think when growing up (unless us middle class folks who had to work, learn, think and repeat the cycle), etc. Is he from the Latour estate wine family? Is he part of the aristocracy? Is he an exception, that has arisen out of poverty?

Stevenmitchell 03:21, 11 April 2006 (UTC)

what inference could you make from that information? --Buridan 12:07, 11 April 2006 (UTC)

Criticism[edit]

The criticism you want, I think, is from Epistemological Chicken by Collins and Yearly in Pickering, A. (1992). Science as practice and culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. It has to do with the agency of non-human objects.

Also the criticism of Schaffer, 1991.

Sokal and Bricmont

RE: "their critics were most particularly directed against the concept of Strong Programme". I do not believe that Sokal's criticism was directed at the 'strong programme'. At no point does he or Bricmont refer to Barry Barnes, David Bloor or John Henry, or anything else that derives from the Edinburgh school of Science and Technology Studies. A closer reading of Sokal would show that he is actually critical of relativism, nominalism, constructivism, and in particular postmodernism - therefore not the 'strong programme'. If anybody would like to disagree with this I am happy to discuss the matter further when i have the time. --CJ 12:47, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)


I agree. Sokals attack is on postmodernism, literary theory and cultural studies. Though, much of the following debate is within science studies. A very interesting debate actually. Christopher Kullenberg 20:20, 23 October 2005 (UTC)


Right. The authors of SSK (Bloor, Barnes,..) are as much positivists as Sokal : to them Science tells something about the world, which is not the case of Latour : To him scientists represent Nature. Sokal has quite weak criticisms (in fact he doesn't understand latour's point at all), but the debate between Bloor and Latour is truely great ("Anti-Latour" by Bloor, "For David Bloor and Beyond" by Latour, "A Reply To Bruno Latour" by Bloor).

After Re-reading, this page is totally wrong : Pasteurization of France is everything BUT a biography of Pasteur! In the whole first part Latour describes "what and who made and translated Pasteur" to avoid giving the first place to somzthing like "the genius of Pasteur", "or the ideas of Pasteur" which he considers as nonsense. Latour has a very complex reflexion : it's not society that "explain" sciences nor the opposite. They're both simultenaously constructed : The discovery of microbs IS a sociological idea and construction.

You are right. The Pasteurization of France needs to be rewritten. I havent read it though, but it is on my "to-read-list". You are absolutely right about Pasteur and the microbes. I added the section "Science in Action" since I am reading the book right now. It will be completed as I go along reading. Since I am not a native english speaker, I would be happy if someone looked over the spelling. Christopher Kullenberg 15:53, 24 October 2005 (UTC)


In response to the above, Sokal and Bricmont do explicitly attack the strong programme at some length, in particular in their "Science and Sociology of Science: Beyond War and Peace" in The One Culture?: A Conversation about Science (University of Chicago Press, 2001) (PDF). --Delirium 22:39, 20 January 2007 (UTC)


Sokal and Bricmont also have a very critical chapter about the strong programme in their book Fashionable_Nonsense. This criticism is directly followed by the chapter about Latour. --J Beckman 17:06, 4 May 2007 (UTC)


It is ridiculous to state that Sokal and Bricmont are attacking postmodernism, literary theory and cultural studies. They are attacking wooly thinking, linguistic obscurity disguised as profundity, and above all the misuse of scientific concepts to advance some notions of relativism which simply demonstrate the weakness (or, to state my own POV, utter banality) of Latour's (and other's) pronouncements.Cross Reference 05:21, 22 September 2007 (UTC)


He's received a lot of it, obviously a section needs to be created. Sokal should be featured in it, as should Olga Amsterdamska. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0162-2439%28199023%2915%3A4%3C495%3ASYAJML%3E2.0.CO%3B2-F --RedHouse18 02:18, 1 November 2007 (UTC)


Someone (preferably an articulate historian of science, which leaves me out) should start writing a Criticism section in the main article ASAP. The general public needs to know that many of Latour's peers think he's all smoke and mirrors. 70.111.85.72 (talk) 2Frann89 18:58, 3 May 2008 (UTC)


I hope that the critizism-section will not put too much weight on the Sokal Bricmont critizism. As stated before here, their specific critizism of Latour is pretty poor, based probably in a lack of understanding (see eg Callon's "Whose imposture") of his work, and also their work is also more of a polemic in general (though I agree with many of their key points). I think, like the previous speaker argues that we should focus on critizism from his peers, meaning people with the knowledge and interest in his field. Note that Sokal and Bricmont explicitly state a lack of interest in the content of the research they criticise. Also: I do not mean that S&B are not relevant. They should be mentioned. But I know there are a lot of S&B fans out there in the internet-world, and I have a hunch that it will quickly gain undue prominence. pertn (talk) 18:47, 8 May 2008 (UTC)


I concur on RedHouse18's recommendation that Olga Amsterdamska's "Surely you're joking, Mr. Latour" is worthy of note here (review of Science in Action)--a quote from her intro would be nice. Another critic of Latour is John Searle, e.g., he makes passing criticism of one of Latour's more extreme claims in his review of Paul Boghossian's Fear of Knowledge, which some blogger has reposted at http://koneill41.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/12/searle-and-relativism.html Lippard (talk) 01:02, 27 March 2010 (UTC)


Unless you're in academia, it's impossible to access both positive and negative reviews of Latour's works, because the average person can only visit his publishers' sites (e.g., Harvard Univ. Press) without ponying up a fee--unsurprisingly, they display nothing but glowing reviews. The sites that contain unfavorable reviews (e.g., MUSE), require a fee or association with a heavyweight library.... 2Frann89 (talk) 18:04, 12 February 2011 (UTC)2Frann892Frann89 (talk) 16:15, 3 September 2012 (UTC)2Frann89

Reference[edit]

Regarding the reference:

Latour Bruno 1992. "Where are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts." Pp. 225-258 in Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change, edited by W. E. & Law Bijker, J. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Shouldn't the authors of the volume be W.E. Bijker & J. Law? Wijnand

Correct, well noticed Wijnand. When you observe such glaring mistakes you should be bold and make the necessary changes.--Nicholas 13:20, 9 November 2005 (UTC)

I am not sure about that. Making a reference to an article in a book that contains several articles one should make the reference to the authors and not the editors. But I guess that varies along different systems and practices... [[[User:Christopher.kullenberg|Christopher Kullenberg]] 21:42, 12 November 2005 (UTC)]

Of course, the author was indeed referenced. The problem identified by Wijnand, as I understood it, was that the editors had been referenced wrongly. For some reason, it said "W.E. & Law Bijker, J." ..... which makes no sense, it should havesaid: "W.E. Bijker & J. Law". --Nicholas 15:28, 22 November 2005 (UTC)
True, my mistake. I did not read properly but misunderstood [[[User:Christopher.kullenberg|Christopher Kullenberg]]]

Latour falsely described social constructionist[edit]

I was a bit dismayed to come across this page and see Latour described as a "social constructionist" in the first paragraph; I believe this is misleading, and it ignores the pains Latour has taken to distinguish his form of "constructionism" from a "social" constructionism. Tonight I only had time to make a change to the first paragraph, but I believe many more changes are needed. At this point, the article fails to take into account recent developments in Latour's thought, best reflected in _Pandora's Hope_, _The Politics of Nature_, and _Reassembling the Social_. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Holi0023 (talkcontribs)

Yes, I think this page is somewhat misleading as it stands, though I'm sufficiently knowledgeable to change it. Latour doesn't, currently at least, promote the view that science is wholly socially constructed, and David Bloor for one has attacked Latour for allowing for an influence from the natural world into the sociology of scientific knowledge. It might be fairly said that he used be either a social cosntructionist or at least something very similar prior to the 1990s. --Delirium 22:33, 20 January 2007 (UTC)
I think you are mistaken, you can clearly see Latour distance himself from social constructionism already in Science in Action. I don't think the epistemological basis of Latour's work has altered since the late 70s. Aleksi Knuutila 22:58, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
Latour is social constructivist in its most radical form. In his 1986 publication written with Steve Woolgar, Labratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts, Latour and Woogar writes:

Our argument is not just that facts are socially constructed. We also wish to show that the process of construction involves the use of certain devices whereby all traces of production are made extremely difficult to detect.

Latour is clearly in agreement with social constructivists that facts are socially constructed. And he even goes one step further to suggest that scientists not only construct facts, but fabricate these facts as though they represent the mind-independent world directly. This is one of the most cynical caricatures of science. --Stampit (talk) 05:46, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Sorry, but that's wrong. His epistemological stance is that reality and the instruments/arrangements by which we percieve it is indistinguisable. Hence, you can't really distinguish the experiment, and the social reality it is performed within, from what it discovers of reality. That does not imply that Latour (the late, at least) claims that scientific facts are made up randomly. Check out the "do you believe in reality?" chapter in Pandora's pertn (talk) 12:21, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Hello, Pertn. Would you point out where you think I am wrong? I am not exactly sure where I disagree with you from what you wrote. Stampit (talk) 01:31, 7 May 2008 (UTC)
Hi. Maybe i misunderstood you. I would not say that Latour goes further than social constructivists. (note also that he changed the sub-heading of the 2. ed of Laboratory life from "The social construction of scientific facts" to "The construction of scientific facts" to distance himself from social constructivism. Where I think you are wrong is if you see him as a radical social constructivist seeing the construction as cynical fabrication. Rather I would see describe his argument as regarding the "construction" as a neccesity for science to percieve anything at all. I am sorry if I misinterpreted what you wrote. If you agree with me, then of course you are not wrong!pertn (talk) 18:36, 8 May 2008 (UTC)
To quote the man (Pandora's Hope, 197):

It is a commonplace in critical theory to say that techniques are social because they are socially constructed -- yes, I know, I also used that term once, but that was twenty years ago and I recanted it immediately, since I meant something entirely different from what sociologists and their adversaries mean by social. The notion of a social mediation is vacuous if the meanings of "mediation" and "social" are not made precise. To say that social relations are 'reified' in technology, such that when we are confronted with an artifact we are confronted, in effect, with social relations, is to assert a tautology, and a very implausible one at that. If artifacts are nothing but social relations, why must society work through them to inscribe itself in something else? Why not inscribe itself directly, since the artifacts count for nothing? Because, critical theorists continue, through the medium of artifacts, domination and exclusion hide themselves under the guise of natural and objective forces. Critical theory thus deploys a tautology -- social relations are nothing but social relations -- to which it adds a conspiracy theory: Society is hiding behind the fetish of techniques.

Considering all social constructivists say could be summarized as everything is text seems to suggest that Latour does in fact differ from them quite a bit.boombaard (talk) 18:53, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

Latour falsely called a sociologist[edit]

In fact, Latour was very critical of SSS. I think he's actually an anthropologist, no? (I have no argument that his work has contributed a great deal to SSS)

Latour is a past President of Society for Social Studies of Science (4S).Untalker (talk) 05:16, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

Tubercholosis quote[edit]

User:Languagehat, I propose you put this..

An example of his social constructivist approach is his reaction to research showing that the pharaoh Ramses II probably died of tuberculosis: "How could he pass away due to a bacillus discovered by Koch in 1882? ... Before Koch, the bacillus has no real existence." He says that it is as much of an anachronism as it would be to claim that the pharaoh died of machine-gun fire.[1]

..under a criticism section. I do not know the source you are using, but I propose you start the paragraph something like this: "The social constructivism of Latour's early works has been criticized by XX.... " and then include their argument of which this example is a part. We the WP users sadly aren't supposed to prove our own points by providing examples. I like Latour myself, but I think this entry needs a criticism section. pertn (talk) 20:04, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

I do not understand your point or why the quote was removed. It was provided with a verifiable citation, which as I understand it is what Wikipedia requires. In particular, I do not understand "WP users sadly aren't supposed to prove our own points"; what do you suppose my point to be? I was providing a quotation that I came across and that struck me as illuminating Latour's approach. I would have assumed the deletion was carried out in order to preserve Latour's image except that you say you think the quote should be in there, so I confess myself baffled. If you indeed think it should be there, I can only suggest you add it yourself in whatever way you think best. I am not about to attempt different formats only to have them deleted with a "try again!" on the talk page. Languagehat (talk) 16:51, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
Please do not assume bad intentions from my side here, Languagehat. I think the quote is noteable and the source is good. The policy which I refer to is that we need sources drawing the syntesis and not draw our own syntesis based on examples and evidence. It is a quite annoying policy, but it has its merits. See WP:SYNT I am not at all interested in removing the point that you are including. I think there is a point to the criticizm of Latour's view and that the qoute illustrates it well. What I asked you to include from your source is (and here you do not even have to qoute it directly) is a sentence referring to the point that your source is trying to prove with the quote. I would guess (though I haven't read the book) that it would look something like this. "Latour has been criticized for a constructivist stance towards scientific facts. One of these critics, Boghossian, refers to Latour's response to to research showing that the pharaoh Ramses II probably died of tuberculosis: "How could he pass away due to a bacillus discovered by Koch in 1882? ... Before Koch, the bacillus has no real existence." He says that it is as much of an anachronism as it would be to claim that the pharaoh died of machine-gun fire.[2] " .. and then maybe a sentence on why Boghossian think this is bad. And I would create a separate criticism section for it. Promise I won't delete it. SeeWP:FAITH PS: I know I seem like a geek with all these policy references. pertn (talk) 22:14, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
OK, thanks for explaining and sorry I got my back up. --Languagehat (talk) 23:16, 20 November 2009 (UTC)

Science in Action Quote[edit]

In "Science in Action" Latour famously wrote his Second Principle as follows:

Scientist and engineers speak in the name of new allies that they have shaped and enrolled; representatives among other representatives, they add these unexpected resources to tip the balance of force in their favor.

Untalker (talk) 16:07, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

sociologist of science[edit]

this is innacurate. latour is an anthropologist, and he says this himself. he is not a sociologist, though, to avoid lengthy and unnecessary debate when i'm revising i'll leave it as sociologist. however, in his book 'making of law' he specifically states 'anthropology of science, my original field' (Latour 2010:Viii) —Preceding unsigned comment added by 129.215.149.96 (talk) 14:06, 19 April 2010 (UTC)

Latour was previously President of Society for Social Studies of Science. He is also an anthropologist.Untalker (talk) 23:22, 30 May 2010 (UTC)

this is not disputed, but it does not change his primary method, which is qualitative, speaking as a doctoral student, latour would use the denotation anthropologist only for conveniance, as his whole argument is that such modernist paradigms do not exist, or at least, in the way in which our language constrains us to depict them. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 190.30.50.145 (talk) 05:06, 15 July 2010 (UTC)

If you look in the paper by Will Wheeler in Bruno Latour: Documenting Human and Nonhuman Associations "Critical Theory for Library and Information Science" , you'll see that Wheeler lists Bruno Latour as a French sociologist of science. It's also interesting that he cites wikipedia in his paper. Interesting to see wikipedia actually being cited in a scholarly published piece of work. --Sarg123 (talk) 04:59, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Furthermore, Wheeler explains in his paper that "Science (with a capital S) is not the process of discovering a reality "out there." The true study of science (and society) shows a completely different picture: a science that is made up of the successive constructions of relatively known states of affairs established through chains of circulating reference that are more or less well articulated" (Wheeler, 189). Yes, Latour is a sociologist of science, but not science as is commonly understood. Perhaps mentioning this would be good on the article? --Sarg123 (talk) 05:10, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

We Have Never Been Modern[edit]

I believe that a section on the book by Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, would benefit this article greatly. I know that there is another wikipedia page that is on the book as well, but I find it does not help much if the section is not included in the article about Latour himself. Therefore I've added a new section. I tried to mention some of the very basic concepts and principles of Latour's work in this book. I know there is a lot of scholarship on it and what I have is not enough or nearly as detailed. But with the groundwork that has been established, it can be worked on further to better represent Latour's scholarship. --Sarg123 (talk) 08:06, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

Pandora's Hope[edit]

I also added a section for Pandora's Hope. Does anyone have any comments/suggestions? I tried to give an overview of the book's structure, and give an idea of the critical reaction. It's one of Latour's lesser-known works - do I give enough of a summary? Conorechlin (talk) 12:46, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

Also, are my citations satisfactory? Is it appropriate to have two block quotes in a subsection of this size? Conorechlin (talk) 13:48, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

I like how you've done your citations. It makes the citations look a lot neater and organized. One thing that we might want to work on is the references list. The way it is now, and most likely its me from the citations I've done, the reference list has a lot of repeats. I looked at the featured article, and the reference list is sorted by type of source (ie. print, web etc). What do you suggest? --Sarg123 (talk) 01:13, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
In addition, I would like to make a recommendation for the section 'Pandora's Hope'. As the section is, it doesn't link to other wikipedia articles. For example, 'we have never been modern' is actually another wikipedia page, so perhaps when its mentioned in the section, you could put [[]] around it, and it'll link to the wiki page. What do you think? --Sarg123 (talk) 01:18, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
Good comments, and glad you like the citations. I'll make the changes for the links in Wikipedia. Thanks for the input Sarg!Conorechlin (talk) 23:38, 31 October 2011 (UTC)


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