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Re: Science, capitalism and culture
by Andre Gunder Frank
13 August 2003 17:09 UTC
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Below are the opening paragraphs - by way of abstract - of a paper of mine
on similar topic. The complete thing  is also to be found on my web-site
in the on-line section.

               ANDRE    GUNDER      FRANK

Senior Fellow                                      Residence
World History Center                    One Longfellow Place
Northeastern University                            Apt. 3411
270 Holmes Hall                         Boston, MA 02114 USA
Boston, MA 02115 USA                    Tel:    617-948 2315
Tel: 617 - 373 4060                     Fax:    617-948 2316
Web-page:csf.colorado.edu/agfrank/     e-mail:franka@fiu.edu
Web-page UPDATES are at   http://rrojasdatabank.info/agfrank 

                [Ms. of an article published in
Social Epistomology , Vol. 12, No. 4,1998: 321-334.
                and in
Economic and Political Weekly  XXXIII, 42 & 43, 
                Oct. 17?24, 1998 :2715?1723.   

                         A Review Essay 

of Naked Science. Anthropological Inquiry into Boundaries, Power, and
Knowledge edited by Laura Nader. New York & London: Routledge 1996,
xvi,318 pp. $ ??

                   ANDRE GUNDER FRANK
        Political radicalism means speaking truth to power 
             - Barbara Epstein

        The great enemy of truth is very often not
        the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest -
        but the myth - persistent, persuasive and
                - John F. Kennedy

        Complete objectivity as usually attributed to the exact  sciences
        is a delusion and is in fact a false ideal.
        Such is the personal participation of the knower in all
        acts of understanding [that] comprehension is neither an
        arbitrary act nor a passive experience, but a responsible act
        claiming universal validity. Such  knowing is indeed objective in
        the sense of establishing contact with hidden reality. It seems
        reasonable to describe this fusion of the
        personal and the objective as Personal Knowledge.

                  Michael Polanyi
                   Chemist & Philosopher, brother of Karl, and
                   father of chemistry Nobel Laureate John          


This book has its origin in its editor Laura Nader's participation in
studies by the U.S. National Academy of Science's Committee on Nuclear and
Alternative Energy Systems, one of which she oversaw and edited (Nader et
al 1980), and on which she reports in the Conclusion here. Therefore, its
alarming or perhaps disarming Naked Science title notwithstanding, this
book is also still sympathetic to the goals and contributions of science
to human betterment, even if that early experience, explains Nader,
"stimulated me to scrutinize and question some basic assumptions of
scientists and engineers working on energy questions" [p.261]. Since then
she and her collaborators have expanded their purview to other sciences
and technical endeavours as well.

The editor explains: "The point is to open up people's minds to other ways
of looking and questioning to change attitudes about knowledge, to reframe
the organization of science - to formulate ways of thinking globally about
science traditions ....  There are different kinds of knowledge that
provide valid truths of use to human kind. If a dominant [Western] science
silences that knowledge, we all lose.... The myth of a single science can
be seen as a myth; the false separation between science and nonscience may
be considered a barrier to new thinking; and a whole range of vital and
experimental thinking is possible" [23-24].

The central theses and the abundant evidence in this book are that
"science is not free of culture; rather, it is full of it. Militarization
has certainly had an effect on American science... [and] has also fired
the pervasive commercialization of the scientific effort....
Politicization of science is unavoidable, [because] behaviour is affected
by those who control funding and who often determine the research
questions [and] virtually all science has social and political
implications.... Denial of a contexutalized science, or the assertion that
science is autonomous, strikes at the scientific endeavour, defined as a
process of free inquiry" [xiii,9].

At superficial first glance, this argument may mistakenly appear to be yet
another instance of the currently fashionable post-modernist and
post-colonialist post-structuralism that claims to 'deconstruct' all
science and knowledge to the point of the denial of the existence of
reality itself. In that case of course, there is nothing to be known
and/or no way of knowing or even inquiring into anything beyond the
completely subjective and arbitrary ones that include this post modern
thesis itself. This 'discourse analysis' of science not to mention
literature, has gained much popularity among anthropologists, historians
and social 'scientists' and is mentioned by Pamela Asquith [240].  
Fortunately for us, the authors of this book do not adopt this
'know-nothingism' approach; and it is important to distinguish theirs from
those of all too many others in the West and South who have been bitten by
the bug that carries this 'post' modern plague, which has become a cause
celebre from New York and Boston to New Delhi and Bombay/Mumbai.

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