Synopses & Reviews
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.
The Pasteurization of France offers everything one wants from a book. It is immensely stimulating, intelligent, and funny. Stylistically, it is dazzling, sometimes splendid. It offers a bold and light-hearted approach to problems that bedevil everybody trying to write historical accounts of scientific innovation in the wake of structural, poststructural, grammatological, sociological, anthropological, and narratological critiques of history. Ian Hacking - Philosophy of Science Journal
Everything [Latour] writes is provocative, important and worth the closest scrutiny...The radical originality and wit of Latour's approach is hugely attractive. Steven Shapin
Bruno Latour delights some of us and infuriates others, but either way he has, for the past decade, been one of the most brilliant and original writers about science. Nature
Latour has written a complex and provocative book. His insight into the way in which Pasteur transformed social relations in France and its colonies by introducing a new agent, the microbe, is fascinating. Elizabeth A. Williams - Social History of Medicine
Bruno Latour [is] one of today's most acute, if idiosyncratic, thinkers about science and society...[His] prose is often amusing...But the charm should not blind the reader to the serious intent. Mr. Latour is aiming at one of the late twentieth century's biggest problems. He is trying to provide a way of talking about science and society that does not start from the differences between them: to break down the barrier between them that started to go up in the seventeenth century. Lindsay Wilson - Journal of Social History
Pasteur's success depended upon a whole network of forces, including the public hygiene movement, the medical profession and colonial interests. It is the operation of these forces, in combination with the talent of Pasteur, that Latour sets out as a prime example of science in action.
About the Author
Bruno Latour is Professor at Sciences Po, Paris and the 2013 winner of the Ludvig Holberg International Memorial Prize.Alan Sheridan's most recent book is Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth. He has also translated over 50 books, including works by Sartre, Lacan, and Foucault.
Sciences Po Paris
Table of Contents
PART 1: WAR AND PEACE OF MICROBES
Introduction. Materials and Methods
1. Strong Microbes and Weak Hygienists
2. You Will Be Pasteurs of Microbes
3. Medicine at Last
PART 2: IRREDUCTIONS
1. From Weakness to Potency
4. Irreduction of "The Sciences"