We have never been modern

B.runo Latour was born as a sociologist of science. In his early twenties, after completing his doctorate at the University of Tours, he had observed endocrinological research in California as a kind of ethnologist in the laboratory of future Nobel laureate Roger Guillemin and had come to the conclusion that truth and facts are not discovered but fabricated. . The laboratory appeared as a place where facts are formed through reputation, bureaucracy, quotes, machines, third party funds, arguments and conflicts. Scientific publication makes the history of the discovery of facts invisible, here the facts are always the result of “logical” investigation phases.

On the contrary, Latour and his colleague Stephen Woolgar made it clear how strongly social factors determine research in “Laboratory Life” in 1979 with the discovery of a substance that triggers the production of the hormone thyrotropin. They meticulously reconstructed which decisions went in the search for this substance, which paths were taken and which were not. Even in the laboratory, rhetoric is used constantly to negotiate, even if it is not fixed, what constitutes proof, what is a good test, what is the point. From this the conclusion has often been drawn that science is no different from the bazaar, in parliament or in court. The fact that the claim that “everything is a construction” is meant to be taken seriously and that sociological research claims to say something true has often gone unnoticed. Latour, who in 1982 received a professorship at the renowned technical institute “Ècole Nationale Supérieure des Mines”, continued his work with a book on the influence of Louis Pasteur in France and in 1993 with a fascinating study of the “Berlin key. “, what an invention an object with a double beard that keeps the entrance doors always closed at night and always open during the day. Technology reigns here between subject and object, which cannot be placed on both sides.

This was followed by Latour’s increasingly strong attacks on a social philosophy in which things were also attributed to the quality of the actors. Society and nature, he proclaimed in 1995 in “We have never been modern”, cannot be separated, and therefore neither can the premodern and the modern. In 1998 he asked for a “Parliament of Things” under ecological auspices, but without being able to explain who can speak on behalf of the Alps, coasts and bees as human persons with their own interests. However, his theses have found echo in the environmental protection movement, and he himself has published extensively on climate policy and, more recently, even a “terrestrial manifesto”. He concluded by recalling his origins as the son of a family of winemakers in Beaune, Burgundy, and that Europe is a province in world historical terms, which is the best thing about this continent. Don’t overdo modernity was Latour’s motto. He died in Paris at the age of 75.

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