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Power and Invention

Situating Science

1997
Author:

Isabelle Stengers
Translated by Paul Bains
Foreword by Bruno Latour

Power and Invention

Explores the interplay between science, society, and power.

One of the most penetrating and celebrated thinkers writing about the philosophy of science today, Isabelle Stengers here provides a firsthand account of the meeting of science and history. Concerned with the force and inventiveness of scientific theories, this work offers a unique perspective on the power of those theories to modify society, and vice versa.

Explores the interplay between science, society, and power.

One of the most penetrating and celebrated thinkers writing about the philosophy of science today, Isabelle Stengers here provides a firsthand account of the meeting of science and history. Concerned with the force and inventiveness of scientific theories, Power and Invention offers a unique perspective on the power of those theories to modify society, and vice versa. The book makes an eloquent argument for an “open science,” one that focuses on singularities, is specific to context, wary of hasty generalizations, and open to a profusion of events; one that conceives of nature less as an object than as an actor and interlocutor.

Using the law of thermodynamics, Stengers sets out to explain the consequences of nonlinear dynamics (or chaos theory) for philosophy and science. She makes a case for the concept of complexity that transcends the conventional boundaries of scientific discourse and that clearly exposes the risks of scientific thinking. “Open science” then leads Stengers to the ethical and political concerns that attend scientific practices because of their internal histories and their gendered nature. Among the questions she confronts are: Is psychoanalysis a science? Is there such a thing as “women’s science”? What are scientific theories?

Finally, Stengers considers the sciences in their technological and social applications, bringing scientific, societal, and power issues, philosophical and epistemological considerations, and social and political analyses. Always grounded in the concrete problems of “doing science,” her work gives us a rare look into the interchange of science and society.

248 pages
Theory out of Bounds Series,
Volume 10

Power and Invention

Isabelle Stengers is associate professor of philosophy at the Free University of Brussels and a Distinguished Member of the National Committee of Logic and the History and Philosophy of Sciences in Belgium. Among her many books are History of Chemistry (1993), The Will to Science: About Psychoanalysis (1992), Memories of a Heretic (1990), and The Invention of the Modern Sciences (Minnesota, forthcoming).

Paul Bains is a research scholar at Murdoch University, Western Australia.

About This Book