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Expertise in Political Contexts: Latour Avec the Third Wave in Science and Technology Studies


The interdiscipline of science and technology studies (‘STS’) has been characterized by its descriptive analyses of the presumptions and practices of scientific communities, and by numerous theoretical internal debates over the proper framework of analysis of science. While STS has not been characterized by a powerful effect on law and government, both of which are consumers of scientific expertise, an opportunity arises for engagement in public policy disputes due to the willful ignorance regarding science in the Trump administration, and the negative effects of political agendas and conflicts of interest therein. The urgent need for reliable expertise in such political contexts is addressed in the so-called third wave of STS that is based on Harry Collins and Rob Evans’s innovative ‘architecture of expertise.’ Two recent book chapters, namely Darrin Durant’s essay on ignoring experts and Martin Weinel’s essay on counterfeit scientific controversies, serve as practical examples of third-wave theory. Bruno Latour, who was engaged in a debate with Collins (and others in STS) concerning their respective approaches during the 1990s, also recently addressed the need for expertise (particularly climate expertise) in government contexts. Nowadays, Collins and Latour both promote consensus expertise and identify its reliance (for its authority) on science as a trusted institution. This article compares the similarities (and acknowledges the differences) between Collins and Latour with respect to their pragmatic strategies, and concludes that notwithstanding internal debates, STS scholars should join Collins (with Evans) and Latour to look outward toward critique and correction of governments that ignore scientific expertise.

Published: 2020-06-08
Pages:4 to 21
Section: Symposium: What is Real about Law and Technology?
How to Cite
Caudill, David S. 2020. “Expertise in Political Contexts: Latour Avec the Third Wave in Science and Technology Studies”. Law, Technology and Humans 2 (2):4-21.

Author Biography

Villanova University
United States United States

Professor David Caudill is the Goldberg Family Chair in Law at Villanova University, where he teaches Evidence, Property, and Sports Law, and a Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne, where he teaches Expert Evidence and Entertainment Law. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Vrije Universiteit te Amsterdam (1989), and a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center (1981). Prior to teaching at Washington and Lee University School of Law (1989-2005), he clerked for federal Judge John R. Brown and practiced law in San Diego and Austin. He is the author of 7 books and over 100 journal articles in the fields of legal ethics, property law, law and science, and law and literature.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2652-4074