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The Politics of Talk: Coming to Terms with the 'New' Scientific Governance


By csep - Posted on 09 August 2012

TitleThe Politics of Talk: Coming to Terms with the 'New' Scientific Governance
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsIrwin, A.
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Volume36
Issue2
Pagination299 - 320
Date Published04/2006
ISSN Number0306-3127
KeywordsPublic Engagement
Abstract

Talk of public dialogue and engagement has become fashionable internationally, and particularly within Europe. Building especially upon recent British experience, this paper argues that ‘public talk’ (that is, talk both by and about the public) represents an important site for science and technology studies analysis. The relationship between ‘new’ and ‘old’ approaches to scientific governance is considered. Drawing upon a series of official reports, and also the GM Nation? public debate over genetically modified food, the paper suggests that, rather than witnessing the emergence of a new governance paradigm, the current approach can more accurately be portrayed as an uneasy blend of ‘old’ and ‘new’ assumptions. Eschewing a straightforward normative account, the paper explores the social construction of public talk, the relationship between talk and trust, the search for the ‘innocent’ citizen, and the pursuit of social consensus. Current initiatives should not simply be criticized for their inadequacies, but should also be viewed as symptomatic of the state of science–society relations. In that way, stresses and strains within the politics of public talk assume wider analytical significance than the ‘mere talk’ epithet would suggest.

DOI10.1177/0306312706053350
Short TitleSocial Studies of Science