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We Have Never Been Modern Paperback – Nov 14 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (Nov. 14 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674948394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674948396
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.3 x 1.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #68,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By daum@socrates.berkeley.edu on Dec 16 1997
Format: Paperback
For this reader, Bruno Latour's book is one of the most ambitious, original, and important reformulations of social theory since 1989. It is getting lots of attention among scholars, and deserves a wider public. The press reviews here don't do this book justice.
Latour, for those of you who don't know him, has been at the forefront of the emerging field of "science studies", the history and sociology of science, for the past 15 years. He's also a rather bizarre fellow. His "Aramis" is a book of real sociology that is told in the form of a novel, in which the metro car of a failed Parisian public transportation project becomes one of a series of narrators. In "We Have Never Been Modern," he conscisely summarizes the theoretical basis of his work, and stakes out ground that is genuinely new. The book should excite humanisitic academics, scientists, and intellectually adventurous people from all walks of life with a taste for theory.
The thesis -- the basis for the "we have never been modern" part -- is that the "great divide" between nature and human, subject and object, science and society, was never real. Instead, he says, this subject/object divide was the great dirty fiction of the "modern" world.
To give you the gist of the argument as briefly as possible: the separation of nature and human, that has marked Western intellectual life since the 17th century, allowed both science and the humanities to make their own claims for absolute truth. This divide was the basis for our image of "modern western man."
But these claims hid the fact that "hybrids" were springing up all the while.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By the sparrowhawk on July 18 2003
Format: Paperback
i loved this book: it questions the idea of repeatability, which means that it questions the religion of science (as practiced by amateurs)and it shows you how language has served the impulse towards duplicity. the book also has a certain tongue-in-cheek wit about it, and that makes the ideas more interesting to read.
i can see where latour would make people nervous if they were fully invested in a point of view not fully understood. but, until the government takes down the bill of rights, diversity in thinking is still allowed and maybe even encouraged.
enjoy this book. it is fun.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful By kent dahlgren on Oct. 29 2000
Format: Paperback
I'd like to think I'm not a dummy, but this was hard to read. It looks to me like the book was translated to English by someone who might know more about Anthropology than written communication. There were times when I felt that maybe it had been run through Babblefish.
Dissing of the translator aside, the author assumes the reader is completely knowlegable of all the apparently pretty divisions and differences in opinions between one group of scientists and another. Man I could care less, unless it leads to an advancement of a science, and I wasn't convinced. But maybe because I didn't care.
There were times where I felt that a greater service would have been done if the soap opera would have been skipped.
That said, the book contains some insightful and thought provoking ideas on how societies view each other and themselves. I found some concepts a powerful catalyst in my design efforts.
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3 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn Law on March 1 2000
Format: Paperback
Anglophone readers probably don't realise that Latour meant this book as a tongue-in-cheek exercise to capture the postmodern social theory market in his own country by using a postmodern style to show what an illusion postmodernism has always been. But, as fate would have it, when someone sneezes in Paris, an Anglophone is felled with pneumonia. It's hard to believe that anyone with a firm grasp of the history of the last 250 years of Western culture would find this book anything more than a diversion worthy of maybe a couple of arguments in the pub. It's telling that historians of science, who are really the people who are in a position to hold Latour accountable to anything he says here, have given the book a chilly reception. Classify this one under 'Pseud's Corner'.
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Richard Cassidy on July 4 2006
Format: Paperback
As a professional research scientist who has read extensively on broader issues concerning science and society, and who has developed courses in this area for graduate science students, I was looking forward to reading a book by Bruno Latour. As one other reviewer has stated, Latour is a prominent name in the area of science studies. Prior to obtaining this book I had only read short summaries of his ideas or short sections of his writing contained in other authors books.

In the "Acknowledgements" section, which introduces the book, Latour states "I am trying here to bring the emerging field of science studies to the attention of the literate public through the philosophy associated with this domain.” Unfortunately he does not even come close to his stated goal. If Latour considers this book to be written in a style that the “literate public” will be able to understand, then his definition of a literate public is quite unusual, in my opinion. Another reviewer was kind enough to lay some of the blame on the translator, but clearly the author has to take full responsibility for the final content.

Richard Feynaman, one of the most famous physicists of the 20th century, was well know for his skill in expressing the physicist’s complex ideas of matter and energy in terms that ordinary people could understand. Feynaman felt that it was important to express one’s knowledge in terms that the literate public could understand. If an expert’s goal is to produce a document that the literate public can understand, but fails to do this, then one has a right to question whether the author really understands his own field. Our Western noun-based languages can easily fool us into believing that our abstract concepts have some definite reality.
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