Wozu Experten? pp 370-389

Technologies of Humility: Citizen Participation in Governing Science

  • Sheila Jasanoff


Long before the terrorist atrocities of 11 September 2001 in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, the anthrax attacks through the US mail, and the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, signs were mounting that America’s ability to create and operate vast technological systems had outrun her capacity for prediction and control. In a prescient book, published in 1984, the sociologist Charles Perrow forecast a series of ‘normal accidents’, which were strung like dark beads through the latter years of the twentieth century and beyond — most notably, the 1984 chemical plant disaster in Bhopal, India; the 1986 loss of the Challenger shuttle and, in the same year, the nuclear plant accident in Chernobyl, USSR; the contamination of blood supplies with the AIDS virus; the prolonged crisis over BSE (‘mad cow disease’); the loss of the manned US space shuttle Columbia in 2003; and the US space programme’s embarrassing, although not life-threatening, mishaps with the Hubble telescope’s blurry lens, and several lost and extremely expensive Mars explorers (Perrow 1984). To these, we may add the discovery of the ozone hole, climate change, and other environmental disasters as further signs of disrepair. Occurring at different times and in vastly-different political environments, these events nonetheless have served collective notice that human pretensions of control over technological systems need serious re-examination.


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© VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften/GWV Fachverlage GmbH, Wiesbaden 2005

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  • Sheila Jasanoff

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