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Minerva

, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 239–254 | Cite as

Where are the Missing Masses? The Quasi-Publics and Non-Publics of Technoscience

  • Shiju Sam Varughese
Article

Abstract

The paper offers a political-philosophical analysis of the state and publics in the age of technoscience to propose three distinct categories of publics: scientific-citizen publics constituted by civil society, quasi-publics that initiate another kind of engagement through the activation of ‘political society,’ and non-publics cast outside these spheres of engagement. This re-categorization is possible when the central role of the state in its citizens’ engagement with technoscience is put upfront and the non-Western empirical contexts are taken seriously by Science, Technology and Policy (STP) studies. The paper argues that in most of the world the state maintains a political contract with technoscience to form a functional coupling as the state-technoscience duo, which shapes public engagement with science through different functional modalities of government. Civil society is the sphere of legitimate engagement and participation in technoscientific issues for the scientific-citizen publics. The quasi-publics choose to be in the shady zone of political society establishing a paralegal relationship with the state-technoscience duo, while the non-publics come into being due to conditions of extra-legality created by the duo. The non-publics are implicated in the political community paradoxically as an excluded category who cannot be included in deliberation because of their status as being expelled from political community in a ‘state of exception.’ The paper proposes that the scientific-citizen publics are mobilized in contrast to the quasi-publics and with reference to the non-publics, helping STP studies to identify the ‘missing masses’ of technoscience.

Keywords

Public engagement with science Citizenship Deliberative democracy Civil society Political society State of exception 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to Atul Mishra and Jomy Abraham for detailed discussion on various dimensions of the subject and close reading of multiple drafts of the paper. Dhruv Raina’s comments and disagreements were helpful in realizing the shortcomings of my arguments and the gaps in understanding the Indian context of public engagement with science. Satheese Chandra Bose was a sympathetic but critical listener of my arguments. I am extremely grateful to Arie Rip and Dan Sarewitz for their detailed comments and criticisms on earlier drafts of the paper as referees and guest editors, which shoved me into unknown waters of political philosophy and STP studies. I am thankful to them for the enthusiasm and patience they have shown at each stage of development of the paper and for being available for elaborate discussion on a variety of conceptual issues involved.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Studies in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, School of Social SciencesCentral University of GujaratGujaratIndia

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