Reason, Politics, and the Politics of Truth: How Science Is Both Autonomous and Dependent
Article first published online: 18 FEB 2004
Volume 22, Issue 1, pages 106–122, March 2004
How to Cite
Brown, R. H. and Malone, E. L. (2004), Reason, Politics, and the Politics of Truth: How Science Is Both Autonomous and Dependent. Sociological Theory, 22: 106–122. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9558.2004.00206.x
- Issue published online: 18 FEB 2004
- Article first published online: 18 FEB 2004
The concept of “science” usually includes commitments to reason, objectivity, and disinterest in the search for truth about the nature of the world. In this view, politics, in the sense of maneuvering to gain power, corrupts both the process and the product of science. However, we show that science is political through and through—in the process of constructing scientific knowledge, in maintaining disciplines, and in being responsive to partisan sponsorship. Nevertheless, the practitioners of both science and politics maintain the boundary between the two fields; in fact, the disciplines most dependent upon government support tend also to be the most autonomous. This situation becomes understandable when both fields are considered as discursive practices. Then, scientific debates can be seen as productive precisely because they derive from an objective agreement about science as an autonomous intellectual enterprise, and science itself can be seen as a politics of truth.