Authors: Hansen, Janus
Title: Social Robustness as Analytical Tool or Normative Standard?
Other Titles: A comment on Kurath's "Nanotechnology Governance. Accountability and Democracy in New Modes of Regulation and Debate"
Language (ISO): en
Abstract: A recent issue of STI-Studies (vol. 5, no. 2) contained two articles, which both addressed the so-called ‘Mode 2-diagnosis’ by Nowotny et al. (2001). In particular, they both made reference to the affiliated concept of ‘social robustness’. Given this topical overlap, the editors of STI-Studies encouraged the authors of the two articles to provide comments on each other’s paper. My own paper (Hansen 2009) is concerned primarily with the theoretical consistency and analytical value of the concept of ‘social robustness’ for comparative analysis of public engagement processes, and was conceived as an attempt to lay a conceptual ground for ongoing empirical work. In this respect, Monica Kurath’s paper is ahead of mine, as it presents a completed comparative study of nano- science governance based on the concept of social robustness (Kurath 2009). In my view, Kurath’s paper thus constitutes a fruitful step beyond my own reflections. I am pleased to note that her analysis indeed addresses a number of the dimensions I suggest as central for empirical inquiries in the final pages of my paper, such as institutional embedding, procedural design, and discursive dynamics, and does so in a grounded and hands-on manner. However, her more operational approach to questions I pose only at an abstract and analytical level also illustrates some of the caveats I believe are entailed in applying the concept of ‘social robustness’ for comparative empirical analysis. I shall discuss some of these in the following. However, I should emphasize that I am keenly aware that Kurath has faced the more challenging task of leaving the academic office and confront theories with actual, social practice. This inevitably makes matters more complicated compared to isolated theoretical reflection. Therefore, the following comments should be read as constructive suggestions for further work, not as a polemic against the work done by Kurath.
Issue Date: 2010-11-29
Provenance: Technische Universität Dortmund
Appears in Collections:Issue 1

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