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Biology and politics have converged today across much of the industrialized world. Debates about genetically modified organisms, cloning, stem cells, animal patenting, and new reproductive technologies crowd media headlines and policy agendas. Less noticed, but no less important, are the rifts that have appeared among leading Western nations about the right way to govern i Biology and politics have converged today across much of the industrialized world. Debates about genetically modified organisms, cloning, stem cells, animal patenting, and new reproductive technologies crowd media headlines and policy agendas. Less noticed, but no less important, are the rifts that have appeared among leading Western nations about the right way to govern innovation in genetics and biotechnology. These significant differences in law and policy, and in ethical analysis, may in a globalizing world act as obstacles to free trade, scientific inquiry, and shared understandings of human dignity. In this magisterial look at some twenty-five years of scientific and social development, Sheila Jasanoff compares the politics and policy of the life sciences in Britain, Germany, the United States, and in the European Union as a whole. She shows how public and private actors in each setting evaluated new manifestations of biotechnology and tried to reassure themselves about their safety. Three main themes emerge. First, core concepts of democratic theory, such as citizenship, deliberation, and accountability, cannot be understood satisfactorily without taking on board the politics of science and technology. Second, in all three countries, policies for the life sciences have been incorporated into nation-building projects that seek to reimagine what the nation stands for. Third, political culture influences democratic politics, and it works through the institutionalized ways in which citizens understand and evaluate public knowledge. These three aspects of contemporary politics, Jasanoff argues, help account not only for policy divergences but also for the perceived legitimacy of state actions.


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Biology and politics have converged today across much of the industrialized world. Debates about genetically modified organisms, cloning, stem cells, animal patenting, and new reproductive technologies crowd media headlines and policy agendas. Less noticed, but no less important, are the rifts that have appeared among leading Western nations about the right way to govern i Biology and politics have converged today across much of the industrialized world. Debates about genetically modified organisms, cloning, stem cells, animal patenting, and new reproductive technologies crowd media headlines and policy agendas. Less noticed, but no less important, are the rifts that have appeared among leading Western nations about the right way to govern innovation in genetics and biotechnology. These significant differences in law and policy, and in ethical analysis, may in a globalizing world act as obstacles to free trade, scientific inquiry, and shared understandings of human dignity. In this magisterial look at some twenty-five years of scientific and social development, Sheila Jasanoff compares the politics and policy of the life sciences in Britain, Germany, the United States, and in the European Union as a whole. She shows how public and private actors in each setting evaluated new manifestations of biotechnology and tried to reassure themselves about their safety. Three main themes emerge. First, core concepts of democratic theory, such as citizenship, deliberation, and accountability, cannot be understood satisfactorily without taking on board the politics of science and technology. Second, in all three countries, policies for the life sciences have been incorporated into nation-building projects that seek to reimagine what the nation stands for. Third, political culture influences democratic politics, and it works through the institutionalized ways in which citizens understand and evaluate public knowledge. These three aspects of contemporary politics, Jasanoff argues, help account not only for policy divergences but also for the perceived legitimacy of state actions.

30 review for Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sharad Pandian

    Solid study of the last decades of the 20th century in American, British, and German biopolitics, although it is somewhat tedious to get through (lots of dense facts) and keeps trying to position itself as theoretically groundbreaking somewhat unconvincingly (it came out only in 2005, which is quite late in the social studies of science). Also for an STS book titled "designs on nature", there is shockingly little Science itself, with most of the nitty-gritty science itself mysteriously blackboxe Solid study of the last decades of the 20th century in American, British, and German biopolitics, although it is somewhat tedious to get through (lots of dense facts) and keeps trying to position itself as theoretically groundbreaking somewhat unconvincingly (it came out only in 2005, which is quite late in the social studies of science). Also for an STS book titled "designs on nature", there is shockingly little Science itself, with most of the nitty-gritty science itself mysteriously blackboxed, thereby giving the impression of a uniform science treated differently in different national contexts. [a point made by Rosemary Robins in a book symposium] Each chapter is somewhat stand-alone, and Chapter 4 was particularly enjoyable because it briskly takes you over how different set-ups were first stabilized by institutions and interests, but then later destabilized by public outcry.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen

    While it's a fantastic book on the comparative politics of biotechnology, its overreliance on social constructivism and co-production of knowledge limits its comprehensiveness and downplays the role of competing national coalitions. While it's a fantastic book on the comparative politics of biotechnology, its overreliance on social constructivism and co-production of knowledge limits its comprehensiveness and downplays the role of competing national coalitions.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emek Baris Albayrak

    I read her books for my master thesis. Her writing style creates a better understanding of her vision and concepts.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    well, read it through. my professor pointed it out to me. I still want to write an essay on toilets, inspired by it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stas

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thom

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cian O'donovan

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chiara Garbellotto

  10. 5 out of 5

    Maurice

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Hart

  12. 4 out of 5

    John Carter McKnight

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rasmus T.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Rumbold

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nubia Rodrigues

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bas Lee

  19. 5 out of 5

    BDT

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul Copeland

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jorge

  24. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  25. 4 out of 5

    Beverley Gibbs

  26. 4 out of 5

    Abe Tidwell

  27. 5 out of 5

    Allison

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Ruff

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ermal Hasimja

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

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