The Pasteurization of France

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Harvard University Press, 1993 - Science - 273 pages
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What can one man accomplish, even a great man and brilliant scientist? Although every town in France has a street named for Pasteur, was he alone able to stop people from spitting, persuade them to dig drains, influence them to undergo vaccination? Pasteur's success depended upon a whole network of forces, including the public hygiene movement, the medical profession (both military physicians and private practitioners), and colonial interests. It is the operation of these forces, in combination with the talent of Pasteur, that Bruno Latour sets before us as a prime example of science in action.

Latour argues that the triumph of the biologist and his methodology must be understood within the particular historical convergence of competing social forces and conflicting interests. Yet Pasteur was not the only scientist working on the relationships of microbes and disease. How was he able to galvanize the other forces to support his own research? Latour shows Pasteur's efforts to win over the French public--the farmers, industrialists, politicians, and much of the scientific establishment.

Instead of reducing science to a given social environment, Latour tries to show the simultaneous building of a society and its scientific facts. The first section of the book, which retells the story of Pasteur, is a vivid description of an approach to science whose theoretical implications go far beyond a particular case study. In the second part of the book, "Irreductions," Latour sets out his notion of the dynamics of conflict and interaction, of the "relation of forces." Latour's method of analysis cuts across and through the boundaries of the established disciplines of sociology, history, and the philosophy of science, to reveal how it is possible not to make the distinction between reason and force. Instead of leading to sociological reductionism, this method leads to an unexpected irreductionism.

 

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User Review  - bdtrump - LibraryThing

Going against much of the crowd, the first part of the work has significantly more substance than his 'Irreductions.' Latour is clearly a significant scholar on the subject of science and technology ... Read full review

The pasteurization of France

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In examining Pasteur's influence on the history and sociology of medicine, Latour focuses on the phenomenon of a theory becoming reality because it's time had come. He observes that as Napolean and ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction Materials and Methods
3
Strong Microbes and Weak Hygienists
13
You Will Be Pasteurs of Microbes
59
Medicine at Last
111
Transition
146
Introduction
153
Sociologies
176
Anthropologies
192
Irreduction of The Sciences
212
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About the author (1993)

Bruno LaTour was born in the French province of Burgundy, where his family has been making wine for many generations. He was educated in Dijon, where he studied philosophy and Biblical exegesis. He then went to Africa, to complete his military service, working for a French organization similar to the American Peace Corps. While in Africa he became interested in the social sciences, particularly anthropology. LaTour believes that through his interests in philosophy, theology, and anthropology, he is actually pursuing a single goal, to understand the different ways that truth is built. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, LaTour has written about the philosophy and sociology of science in an original, insightful, and sometimes quirky way. Works that have been translated to English include The Pasteurization of France; Laboratory Life; Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society; We Have Never Been Modern; and Aramis, or the Love of Technology. LaTour is a professor at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation, a division of the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines, in Paris.

Alan Sheridan is the author of Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth. He has also translated over 50 books, including works by Sartre, Lacan, and Foucault.

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