Machineries of Technoscience in Constructing the Social and its (In)Equalities

Aleksandra Derra (Institute of Philosophy, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland)


There are two research areas which shape my philosophical reflection on science: critical feminist tradition of philosophy of science and science and technology studies (STS). Both of them still seems to be fresh and sometimes controversial currents in reflection on technoscience, but with an already informative and inspiring tradition which can be dated back to the 1970s and 1980s. They also have much in common. They treat science as inevitably social giving up with the idea of scientist as individual genius acting in isolation and producing scientific knowledge independently of all factors. They reformulate the idea of objectivity, impartiality and neutrality of science, denying the assumption that technoscience is value-free enterprise. Analysing the history of science and technology and interpreting various case-studies, feminist and STS thinkers underline the role of technoscience in creating and sustaining ‘social relations’. It is worth noting that I prefer to use the term ‘the social’ here rather than the notion of society, following Bruno Latour’s idea that society is not something ‘pre-given’, static and self-explanatory. On the contrary, we should rather think in terms of assemblages which have to be assemble and sustain in order to produce locally and temporarily stable social networks. Such networks (with semiotic and material, political and technological tools) legitimize certain power relations, also within science, helping to construct the social (in)equalities. Both feminist and STS scholars develop theoretical frameworks which make important ethical and political statements and introduce various non-epistemic values into the research. They admire the approaches informed by egalitarian goals, which take into account factors like gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, social class etc. This in turn is supposed to allow for the development of ‘science for humans’, including those who have been excluded from science both as subjects producing knowledge as well as objects of research. The aim of my paper is to present selected results of STS research on the social (in)equalities, pointing out the advantages of its methodology and convince the audience that they are cognitively and ethically beneficial.