Introduction:Instituting Science

In Neal Stephenson's cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash, freelance hacker Hiro Protagonist leads a double life delivering pizza in postmodern Los Angeles and honing his ninja warrior skills in the Metaverse, a virtual reality world he jacks into from his personal computer. Stephenson's imaginings of the dimensions of the Metaverse and its physical properties are fascinating. The main geographical feature of the Metaverse is the Street, more garish than Las Vegas, where the buildings, constrained by neither physics nor finance, only by the technical abilities of the hackers who write the codes that define and produce them, seem a mile high. One hundred and twenty million pc users can travel the Street at any one time; many of them simply ride the monorail, a free piece of public utility software, up and down looking at the sights. Others, like Hiro, design motorcycle software, racing into "the black desert of the electronic night." Stephenson describes the rules of travel in the Metaverse:

The Metaverse can serve as a metaphor for instituting science. Institutions guide, enable, and constrain nearly every aspect of our lives. Within scientific fields, professional life takes place entirely within a context of nested, overlapping, interacting, sometimes conflicting institutions. Like the experienced hacker Hiro, perfectly at home in the Metaverse he helped to create, persons who embody the required skills--the culture--of an institution, move through it unconstrained:

The key to success in Metaverse motocross is, surprisingly, embodied skill: even though the place exists only in virtual reality, Stephenson presents it not as an abstraction but as a fully imagined, physicalized location governed by rules and guided by practice. The same goes for scientific institutions: far from being characterized by theoretical, disembodied abstraction, I view them as sites for the coordination and embodiment of skill. Persons deficient in the requisite culture, lacking both explicit and tacit knowledge of how the institution works, run spang into concrete walls: they experience the institution as a disciplining force, either oppressing them (in the case of those upon whom discipline is practiced in a negative way or who are systematically excluded from entry) or generating and organizing competence (for those hoping to become initiates in the institution).

In time, those who are disciplined in this second way may become, like Hiro the ninja hacker, adepts within the institution, able to avoid its constraints, to innovate within its parameters, to locate and exploit loopholes. Hiro discovers such a loophole while writing sword-fighting software:

Within an institutional context, it is when one attempts to try something new, to occupy a new position in the field of struggle for honor, prestige, or resources authorized by the `rules of the game', to act outside the repertoire of moves allowed by the institution, that one tests one's level of institutional acculturation. One may slip successfully inside a minute but enabling gap, or one may find that invisible walls suddenly become palpable constraints to action.

The chapters in this volume draw upon historical materials from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to explore the dynamic processes through which the institutions that constitute and support science are formed, maintained and rendered "invisible" for those with the requisite culture. By focusing on instituting science, my purpose is to revisit a topic that was mainstream for students of the sociology of science constructed in the American functionalist tradition exemplified in the writings of Robert K. Merton and Joseph Ben-David, but which has disappeared from the recent science studies literature. Having rejected the view of science, the scientific establishment, and the growth of scientific knowledge at the core of the Mertonian framework, the early practitioners of the social studies of science turned their attention away from questions of institutionalization, which had tended to emphasize macrolevel structural explanations, and attended instead to microstudies of laboratory practice. My approach in this book is sympathetic with these recent directions in science studies--and as the microstudies offered here attest, I am indeed highly indebted to them--but I am interested in resurrecting certain aspects of the investigation of institution formation, particularly the formation of scientific, medical, and engineering disciplines. My approach, however, departs from that of Merton and Ben-David, which emphasizes contractual relations between science and society that enable the autonomy of science. Instead, I emphasize the manner in which science as cultural practice is imbricated in a seamless web with other forms of social, political, even aesthetic practices, and I treat the formation of discipline and scientific institutions as sites for constructing and sustaining forms of social and cultural identity situated in relation to these other cultural frames. My strategy for elaborating this framework is to offer case studies that reexamine certain crucial junctures in Joseph Ben-David's historical picture of the evolution of the role of the scientist in modern Western society; I focus especially on the establishment of new disciplines within the context of the German research universities in the nineteenth century, the problematic relation that emerged between science, industry and the state at the turn of the twentieth century, and finally the situation of post World War II science and technology which threatens, in Ben-David's view, to undermine the autonomy of scientific institutions with attendant compromise in the quality of scientific knowledge.

Before proceeding to sketch my proposal to treat institutionalization within a framework of cultural production, it will be useful to review aspects of the work of Robert Merton and Joseph Ben-David which serve as counterpoint to my argument. At the center of this sociology of science was an essentialist and presentist definition of science. Science--by which these sociologists understood the natural sciences, and physics primarily--was defined as rational inquiry into nature in terms of logical inference aimed at finding universal laws, preferably written in the language of mathematics, and the prediction of new empirical facts deducible from theory confirmed by observation and experiment. The goal of the historical sociology of science was to identify the social, political, and cultural conditions under which the pursuit of science thus conceived came to be a value in its own right, capable of sustaining the cumulative growth of knowledge independently of its connection to other institutions such as religion, philosophy, or even technology. Along with these intellectual characteristics the pursuit of science demanded a particular cultural ethos and normative structure internalized by the scientist and binding his "scientific conscience."4 Merton identified four norms crucial to the functioning of science as a social institution: communalism, disinterestedness, universalism, and organized skepticism. In addition to the internal culture of science, an appropriate external supporting environment was required. Emphasizing the interdependence of socially patterned interests, motivations and behavior in one institutional sphere, such as economics or religion, and behavior in another sphere, such as science, Merton argued that substantial and persistent growth of science occurs only in societies of a certain kind.5 In a similar vein, Ben-David stressed the importance of particular organizational frameworks for the pursuit of science, such as the unification of teaching and research in the nineteenth century German universities, and the importance of a decentralized, competitive market for scientific talent as an incentive to innovation in contrast to societies, such as absolutist and Napoleonic France, organized in a centralized bureaucratic form. Like Merton, Ben-David believed that the ethos of science thrives in a liberal, democratic political environment which guarantees the autonomy of science.6 For both Ben-David and Merton science as an autonomous institutionally sanctioned activity embodying the norms constitutive of the "scientific ethos" first emerged in the Royal Society of London in the seventeenth century, and it achieved its most perfect historical realization in the organization of science in post-World War II American science.

This admittedly truncated description of the views developed by the practitioners of the sociology of science is intended not to critique the discipline per sê, but rather to highlight the features of the view which formed the starting points of my own deliberations.7 I found several assumptions made by Merton and Ben-David difficult to accept. Realism, objectivity, disinterestedness, and autonomy were the cornerstones for their picture of science, each of which is problematic from my perspective, which takes the institutional setting of scientific work as a vantage point from which to produce a contextualized, historically sensitive account of the production of scientific knowledge. Crucial assumptions for the models developed by Merton and Ben-David are realism--the notion that we are inhabitants of a `real world' of objects and processes bearing properties, with the correlated notion that the truth of scientific theories consists of a correspondence to this world--and objectivity--the notion that there are `objective facts' about the world that do not depend on the interpretation (or even the presence) of any person. In terms of these assumptions science can be characterized as cumulative and progressing toward truth. At the same time the content of science can be regarded as independent of the context of its production or the conditions of its reproduction and distribution. Social, ideological, or economic context plays a role only insofar as denying support or interfering with the operations of the norms of science diverts science from its goal of producing truth. From the historical perspective I prefer to adopt, however, knowledge is always situated, local, and partial. The object of knowledge and the interpreter do not exist independently of one another; knowledge is a form of interpretation, involving temporal, bodily engagement with the world rather than the detached, disembodied contemplative stance favored by the sociology of science.

The privileging of scientific theory is another key feature of this tradition. Along with the central notion that science is the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, Ben-David and Merton insist on distinguishing between pure and applied science, concern with application diverting and corrupting the disinterested pursuit of knowledge. Furthermore, the best way to further the growth of knowledge is through preserving the institutional autonomy of science. As the institutionalized form of organized skepticism, science, in its goal of achieving objective knowledge, is the antithesis of ideology and interest, whether social, political or economic. A related set of propositions deriving from this privileging of scientific theory are notions about the relationship, on one hand, between theory and experiment and, on the other, between science and technology. In the sociology of Ben-David and Merton, efforts to confirm theory drive experiment. Similarly, technology is conceived as applied science, with technological innovation emerging from a linear development of theory through application and refinement. The notion that technological innovation might drive the ostensibly leading edge of theory, or that the construction and refinement of scientific instrumentation might inform theory is not part of this perspective. The position I articulate in the essays in this volume, however, drops distinctions between pure and applied as meaningless. Instead I regard the internal history of science, the part normally treated as the `content of science', as a crucial element in a seamless web involving interested action that is simultaneously social, political, economic, and technical. This involves a shift in focus from the history of theory to a history of science as the history of practice and culture.

My dissatisfaction with Merton's and Ben-David's models extended beyond disagreement with their characterization of science to the appropriateness of their norms of science, particularly disinterestedness and autonomy. From my own commitment to the notion that knowledge is engagement with the world in an interpretive relation it follows obviously that, for me, knowledge is necessarily interested. But Ben-David lays great emphasis on the pursuit of knowledge about the natural world for its own sake, unmotivated by utilitarian economic or class interest. For Ben-David, "An economic investigation of the subject would be about as useful as an attempt at the economic analysis of private prayer or neighborhood gossip."8 Ben-David describes the pursuit of science from the nineteenth century to World War I as a "calling." Discovery was regarded as the inspired work of charismatic genius rather than the disciplined outcome of method, instrumentation, and technique. As the pursuit of knowledge became itself a value, the pursuit of scientific research became accepted as one of the most respected and important ways to pursue truth claims. Thus, although scientists necessarily sought material resources in order to pursuetheir research, they were motivated by disinterested pursuit of truth. But in these terms it becomes curious to describe science as disinterested activity. In the end Ben-David is forced to admit that this position leads to a paradoxical situation. Ben-David observes that throughout the nineteenth century science increasingly became a paid occupation: first university professors taught the natural sciences, and then with the bacteriological revolution and the application of chemistry to the needs of industry, scientific research became a paid occupation outside the academy as well.9 When he examines the post-World War II era, however, Ben-David is led to see in these developments a threat to science. It is necessary, he notes, "to take into account the fact that science itself has become an important economic enterprise. Scientists today are an interest group that competes for resources with other interested groups and thus may be involved in class conflict. These new involvements of science with central government, military, and some industrial interests on the one hand, and the involvement of scientists in conflicts of class interests on the other, threaten the faith in science."10 Ben-David attributes the source of these problems to the success of efforts to professionalize science, which resulted in its establishment as an autonomous and self-regulating institution with the power over the distribution of funds through the modern peer review system.11 Hence we are led to the paradoxical result that precisely in the period of the greatest growth of science and its establishment as an autonomous institution, its continuation as an institution best suited to produce certified knowledge valued by society for its own sake threatens to dissolve amidst the struggle of economic and class interest.

Problems with the realist-objectivist conception of science at the core of the sociology of science and apparent contradictions in the implications of the norms of disinterest and autonomy guiding its functional organization and development led me to attempt to rethink the institutionalization of science in terms of different starting points. In particular, it seemed crucial to drop the notions of disinterest and autonomy altogether. Given that matters of distinction, prestige, recognition, and struggle over economic and technical resources have been so inseparably intertwined with the production of scientific knowledge since at least the turn of the twentieth century, why bother to keep these matters distinct in the first place? From this point of view the characteristics of disinterest and autonomy are idealizations artificially imposed on the practice of persons engaged in the construction of scientific knowledge. To accommodate the notion of knowledge as interested in the twofold sense, encompassing active interpretive engagement with the world as well as the social and economic interests of the actors involved in the construction of knowledge, it seemed best to pursue a mode of investigation which treats the cognitive and social as mutually implicated in one another. Such an approach situates science as a form of cultural practice. Thus, as the essays "Social Interests and the Organic Physics of 1847" and "The Politics of Vision" included in this volume argue, the founder generation of "science" as an independent, institutionally supported career in Germany is best understood not as pursuing the goal of institutionalizing (and especially not professionalizing) science, but rather as actively remaking their own culture as part of a broader reshaping of German Bildungsbürger culture to include the values of scientific materialism and technological progress.

The account of science and its institutions I wish to offer is better situated within other traditions of sociology, cultural history and philosophical reflections on the foundations of knowledge. The work of the American Pragmatists, C.S. Peirce and William James, offers the notion of truth as historically situated, which combined with their advocacy of pragmatic realism provides, it seems to me, a solution to the impasse I have sketched in the preceding paragraphs concerning realism and objectivism. I explore this pragmatic turn in a number of places in this volume, but it is the central concern of the essay, "Practice, Reason, Context." In thinking about science and technology as cultural production, the phenomenological tradition of Edmund Husserl, particularly the notion of the lifeworld as the precondition for objective science, is a valuable additional resource for thinking about linking pragmatism with our concerns about instrumentation, skill, practice, and the material embodiment of dispositions, taste and other cultural forms that do crucial mediating work between disparate domains of experience. I focus on these subjects in "The Lifeworld of Haber-Bosch," in the "Politics of Vision," and elsewhere in the volume. The tradition of sociology most relevant for my purposes derives from Pierre Bourdieu's work on practice. Bourdieu's notions of the habitus, cultural capital, and the dynamics of the field frame several of the chapters in this volume. I want to devote a portion of this introduction to examining the relevance of this work to the task of instituting science.

Bourdieu's approach supports my attempt to treat the construction of natural knowledge as simultaneously an attempt to define society and to legitimate one's own version of social reality or that of the group to which one belongs.12 Moreover, while acknowledging rational calculation as crucial, Bourdieu draws a distinction between the logic and rationality of the-ory and the logic of practice and strategic action. As I see it, a move of this sort provides a useful starting point for the endeavor I want to pursue of an alternative to theory-dominated history of science by forcing us to consider the historically situated, time-dependent character of plans and actions. The focus on practice shifts our gaze to the mundane, to the construction of instruments, the manipulation of experimental apparatus in the time and space of the laboratory, and the relationship of these practical activities both to the `object' and to its theoretical representation. This activity differs profoundly from the rationalist notion that experiments and instruments are simply the mechanical implementation of previously laid theoretical plans. Practice, for Bourdieu, has a life of its own: "Practice has a logic which is not that of logic"-- that is, the logic of abstract, theoretical representation.13 Among the crucial differences between the domain of embodied, material practice and that of theoretical representation is a difference in the role of temporality. "The shift from the practical to the theoretical schema, constructed after the event, from practical sense to the theoretical model, which can be read either as a project, plan or method, or as a mechanical programme, a mysterious ordering mysteriously reconstructed by the analyst, lets slip everything that makes the temporal reality of practice in process."14 Whereas the logic of theoretical representation treats relationships synoptically, `detemporalizing' time in the single homogeneous space of representation, practice unfolds in time; its temporal structure and its directionality constitute its meaning. An account of science from the perspective of practice is thus necessarily historical in character.

The focus on practice expands the horizon of inquiry into the production of scientific knowledge. Instrumentation, experiment, and practical interpretive labor are shown simultaneously to participate in an economy of social, political, and cultural interests, thus dissolving the distinction between `internal' and `external' in traditional history and sociology of science. These scientific practices are part of what Bourdieu calls "symbolic capital" and "fields of cultural production." Bourdieu defines symbolic capital as education, gift-giving, aesthetic or cultural interest, competence, honor or respectability: in general anything that can be characterized as opposed to and therefore autonomous from strictly material, economic interest.15 He explicitly rejects the notion that pursuit of cultural or symbolic goods is disinterested and fundamentally not an economic transaction. On the contrary, Bourdieu argues for a general economy of practices according to which economic interest in the narrow sense of material profit is simply one form of capital along with symbolic, cultural, and political capital. Crucial to Bourdieu's entire perspective is that all forms of `capital' are interconvertible, all conforming fundamentally to the logic of interested calculation in the narrow sense:

Thus the theory of strictly economic practice is simply a particular case of a general theory of the economics of practice. The only way to escape from the ethnocentric naiveties of economism, without falling into exaltation of the generous naivety of earlier forms of society, is to carry out in full what economism does only partially, and to extend economic calculations to all the goods, material and symbolic, without distinction, that present themselves as rare and worthy of being sought after in a particular social formation--which may be "fair words" or smiles, handshakes or shrugs, compliments or attention, challenges or insults, honor or honors, powers or pleasures, gossip or scientific information, distinction or distinctions, etc....the only way in which such accountancy can apprehend the undifferentiatedness of economic and symbolic capital is in the form of their perfect interconvertibility.16

Thus, in Distinction, Bourdieu treats economic and symbolic capital as symmetrical and opposite, but interconvertible. He assumes that each individual has a certain `volume' of capital, composed of certain material economic resources and a quantity of cultural capital, which is determined, for instance, by education and life trajectory. The volume and relative distribution of the different kinds of capital, the "asset structure," are the basis for groupings within classes (Bourdieu calls them "class fractions") as well as for distinctions among classes, among larger segments of society and, most importantly for my purposes, even among fields of cultural production, such as art, literature, medicine, or mathematics. Each class is characterized by a "dominant" and a "dominated" pole, and in every class a struggle for domination goes on between persons possessing economic capital and those whose position, power and status depend primarily on cultural capital. For example, some members of a group, such as small businessmen among the middle class, have more economic capital; others within that same class, such as secondary school teachers, have assets consisting primarily of cultural capital. Similarly certain groups of professionals such as academics, artists, or writers are members of the dominant class, having high degrees of both economic and cultural capital. But, in Bourdieu's terms, they occupy the "dominated" pole of that class: they possess a dominated form of power in the sphere of power.17

Whether possession of a predominance of material and economic assets provides the key to power within a given class or whether power is to be located in a predominance of symbolic capital is always a contingent matter determined by the field itself. In the economic fields of business and industry, for instance, possession of economic clout is obviously the principle of domination. What distinguishes the fields of cultural production from the economic fields is that the logic of domination is reversed. In these social worlds the law of success is not defined in financial or economic terms but rather in terms of the creation of value--the generation of belief in the value of art or science for its own sake and the recognition of the legitimacy of the artist, writer, or scientist as a creator of valued objects. As Bourdieu notes, "the literary field is the economic world reversed; that is, the fundamental law of this specific universe, that of disinterestedness, which establishes a negative correlation between temporal (notably financial) success and properly artistic value, is the inverse of the law of economic exchange."18 The same genetic structuring principle operates within the university field, generating a space of differences between positions and the dispositions of those holding them. Some fields within academe are closer to the economic pole, have deeper ties to industry, government, or the military, their personnel recruited largely or almost exclusively from class sectors with specific asset structures of economic and cultural capital, whereas fields in the arts and humanities and some fields in the social sciences are, relative to the other fields, autonomous in asserting principles of legitimation independent of and even opposed to political or economic interest or relevance.19 But even within a "pure" theoretical or autonomous field, such as literature, a transformed form of the opposition between the two competing principles of legitimation can be seen: on the one hand, a dependence on the principles operative in the field of power, on the other an insistence on the autonomy of the intellectual order. Thus, production in the literary field can be oriented toward literary criticism or journalism, Broadway theater or television, symbolist poetry or pulp novel--in other words, forms that are culturally dominant and symbolically "pure" though economically dominated versus those that are commercially oriented to "the market." Similarly, philosophy can be oriented via sub-fields, such as philosophy of mind, to areas of psychology or, more recently, toward cognitive sciences and artificial intelligence; within these domains, it can participate in the production of educational software for commercial markets or, via its connection to linguistics, in the translation of natural languages or, through work on pattern recognition, acquire relevance to military research.

At any given moment, some fields are more autonomous than others, however. For instance, sociology is, in Bourdieu's view, less autonomous than biomedical fields, and these less so than physics.20 But these designations of autonomy are always relative and never permanently fixed. Thus, in the late 1990s physicists working in the large government laboratories founded in the Cold War era are in the process of making a "new contract with society," forging new research alliances with industry that are redefining basic science in a manner unthinkable two decades ago.

In the older functionalist sociology behavior aimed at the discovery of new scientific facts was regulated by the norms of science. These were static idealizations arrived at by privileging the standards of judgement in certain fields, such as physics, and imposing the criteria of those fields on others. Moreover, the distinction between pure and applied was taken to be relatively obvious and the positive valuation of the "pure" fields empowered the argument for autonomy. From the practice perspective each of these categories is the contingent outcome of the dynamics of the field organized around the struggle for domination. Crucial in this scheme are the conditions regulating the conversions among different forms of economic, social, and cultural capital. These are the stakes of the field, which, in contrast to the illusive "norms of science," are constantly up for grabs. According to Bourdieu, the exchange rate among forms of capital is always at stake in the struggle within the dominant class to determine which of the forms of capital should supply the dominant principle.21 Restructuring and controlling the exchange of the different types of capital is one of the fundamental stakes in the struggles between class fractions whose power and privileges are linked to one or the other of these types of capital. As I argue in the "Discipline of Nature and the Nature of Disciplines," one of the objectives of disciplinary struggles is to rechart the boundaries of the field, to legitimate and consecrate new combinations of assets with cultural prestige and authority, to revalue a form of capital previously considered "impure" and to secure that valuation through an instituionalized structure. The struggle to grant Ph.D.s to engineers graduated from German technische Hochschulen in the late nineteenth century, or in our own day, efforts to legitimate computational mathematics as a field of mathematics on a par with traditional mathematical disciplines, or the consecration of science fiction as a literary genre admissible within academic departments of literature may be considered cases in point. Similarly in "Instrument Makers as Discipline Builders," Christophe Lécuyer and I argue that transforming the practices of organic chemists by introducing expensive new NMR instrumentation and the new body of interpretive skills required to use them was a discipline-building strategy deployed by a group of nuclear and microwave physicists who sought to build a new hybrid research culture situated between the walls of the university and industry.

The notion of an economy of practices is central to several of the essays in this volume. In "Social Interests and the Organic Physics of 1847" and "The Politics of Vision," I argue that in a society in which cultural authority was held by practitioners of the "pure disciplines" such as philosophy, philology, art, literature, and increasingly history, young Bildungsbürger of the generation of Hermann Helmholtz, Emil DuBois-Reymond, Werner Siemens, and Carl Ludwig tried to redefine the cultural field to include the natural sciences as "pure" scientific pursuits on a par with philosophy. Indeed, they sought to move these disciplines away from the theoretical wing of applied and pragmatically oriented disciplines such as medicine and technology and to relocate them within the philosophical faculty. They tried simultaneously to expand the occupations yielding high cultural status to include the natural sciences and, in Siemens' case, science-based industry. Much of their work was founded on the most advanced technologies of the industrial age, particularly the telegraph, and their concern with exact method and measurement in science potentially marked them, in the context of late 1840s Germany, as practical men, able to advance the material interests of the Bürger classes--but not as bearers of culture. Their efforts to counteract these conditions by redefining the cultural field can be seen, I argue, in their extraordinary interest in matters of sensory physiology, in issues relating to mind-body problems in philosophy, in their effort to bring mathematical and experimental methods to bear on matters of art and artistic practice in areas such as theories of color and pigment, and in their interest in the physical and physiological principles of acoustics. Moreover, their concern to present themselves as men of high culture--DuBois Reymond's much praised ability to recite the entire first book of Goethe's Faust, Helmholtz' deep appreciation of art and music, or Ernst Brücke's membership on the board of directors of the Vienna Academy of Art, together with his production of a volume on color theory for artists-- all these instances testify to their pursuit of a politics of the cultural field. In Bourdieu's terms, specifically at stake was a struggle over the principle of domination and the conversion of certain forms of cultural capital into powerful positions in the political and economic orders. Also at stake in these struggles was another issue crucial to Bourdieu's model: the construction of the perception that these were pure activities, which amounts to the misrecognition of an economic transaction as disinterested.

The approach taken here is not a rewriting of "externalist" history; I am not examining how external political, demographic, or economic forces shaped the institutions and contents of scientific practice. I do not treat the intellectual positions adopted by the individuals in these studies as "reflections" of their class; nor do I treat their stated intellectual interests and scientific work as disguised forms of their social interests. Science is not politics pursued by other means. Instead, I advocate a careful look at the conditions of the production of the scientific work in question and the social relations that support it. While internalist history may focus on the intellectual product as the sole object of investigation and the prime historical mover, scientific work itself, even in the most `disinterested' fields of inquiry such as abstract fields of mathematics, is unthinkable without the objective conditions giving rise to and supporting them.22 This is a truism, but one that deserves more attention. Contextualist history takes as its object not just scientific theory or published products, scientific texts, but scientific work. Focus on scientific work entails examining the objective conditions that enter into the creation, circulation, and reproduction of the products of any given field. Within this perspective the author of a scientific text or theory is only the most visible node of a whole network of social relations, including authors of other scientific texts with whom he or she argues or from whom he or she draws support, publishers, instrument makers, lab assistants, university and state administrators, possibly even commercial suppliers of equipment and expertise. "In short, it is a question of understanding works of art [or science] as a manifestation of the field as a whole, in which all the powers of the field, and all the determinisms inherent in its structure and functioning, are concentrated."23 Contextualist history views the formation of scientific institutions within a twofold set of relationships. As we see in the studies of Emil DuBois-Reymond, Carl Ludwig, Hermann Helmholtz and Ernst Brücke, Paul Ehrlich and Farbwerk Hoechst, Fritz Haber and Robert Bosch, and James Shoolery, Martin Packard and Varian Associates in this volume, the dynamics of the scientific field are organized in terms of individual actors or groups staking out positions with respect to other positions in the field. The character of those positions, however, is conditioned by local factors of varying sorts, the market for the specific pursuit, and the social and material support for it. The scientific field is a field of positions occupied by agents with differential stances toward one another. Each field, whether politics, economics, art, literature, or science has its own logic. To play for stakes in the scientific field requires a specific form of capital, such as educational experience and appropriate material resources. The field is not just a domain of differentially constructed intellectual positions; it also includes instruments of circulation, such as journals or publishing houses, which choose to publish articles and books in accordance with certain criteria and specific audiences in mind. Each field also has institutions concerned with consecrating good work, through, for instance, bestowing prizes and membership in academies. In addition, each field has institutions responsible for the circulation and reproduction of other entrants in the field, namely educational institutions, prescribed courses of study, and beyond this even public institutions, such as museums, which disseminate the views of dominant fractions in the field more widely to other groups. In the case of fields in the natural sciences an additional means of circulation is the production of scientific instruments, including their standardizing and marketing for other scientific practitioners.

An account that seeks to understand the formation of institutions in terms of the dynamic interaction of interested groups of actors must come to grips with the problem of the relation of knowedge to power--power considered both within and among the disciplines no less than the relation of knowledge to power in the broader sense of economic and political power. These were issues conveniently legislated as irrelevant by the earlier sociological tradition in terms of its notion of the contract between science and society as one in which boundaries establishing the autonomy of disinterested pursuit of knowledge were safeguarded. In treating the relation of knowledge and power I view each disciplinary field of scientific and technological work as having its own structure of power and as itself situated within the field of power more generally. All fields are relatively autonomous with respect to one another in that each has its own beliefs, specific logic, rules of the game, and stakes. Each field has its own specific forms of economic and cultural capital.24 Persons are obviously members of other social units, such as families, schools, and churches, before and even while they are trained professionals. But whatever attributes a person might have due to his or her class background, upbringing, and education, the set of disposi-tions internalized as what Bourdieu calls the habitus, and the objective cultural and economic goods attached to a person, the logic of the field determines which attributes are valid in its own market. This means that the positions occupied by individuals in a specific field, whether it be art, literature, or organic chemistry, depend upon the specific capital they can mobilize within the field, whatever other forms of wealth or cultural capital they may command.

No field is completely autonomous, however. The point is crucial, for it alerts us to a supplemental source of the dynamics within and among fields. In a certain sense, each field is a transformed version of the others, since each is organized by the same dynamical relationships between economic and cultural capital. Though coded in different forms and obeying their own specific logic, the struggles surrounding the production of specific types of scientific knowledge and their status among the disciplines is homologous with the dominant relations of economic, social and political power generally in society. This point is crucial to understanding how the practice-centered approach I am advocating avoids the problems of internal-external dichotomies and treats the pursuit of knowledge by its own immanent criteria as an interested form of social action. For instance, in the Cold War era the relations of economic and political power energized by the military-industrial complex were refracted into relations of relative power among academic fields. Thus, in wake of the Manhattan Project in the 1950s and 1960s, physicists enjoyed enormous prestige in the U.S. Among academic fields few were closer to seats of economic and political power than physicists; physicists were important intellectual leaders even outside their own disciplines as well as advisors to government. Physics departments and those closely allied to them received the largest budgets; and proximity to physics was a crucial social resource for other fields, such as biology in borrowing physics-like agendas, language and attitudes, which reframed the character and goals of biological disciplines, empowering fields such as molecular biology and evolutionary biology.25 Even distant domains seemingly driven by other independent concerns, such as medicine, were equally sites refracting the dominant power relations of the Cold War into their own economies of practice. Thus the introduction of physics-based instrumentation, radionuclides, scanners, tomographs, computers, magnetic resonance imaging and other physics-based instrumentation transformed the American medical landscape spawning entirely new medical specialties, while leaders of major medical schools, such as Stafford L. Warren of the UCLA Medical School, consciously viewed the large multi-disciplinary style of organization in the Manhattan Project as a model to emulate in biomedicine.26

A theme repeated throughout the historical episodes I examine in this volume is the observation that declarations in the realm of theory, method, technique, or even style are, in addition to being matters of substantive content, also always social strategies in which powers are affirmed or claimed.27 In order to see how these power relations resonate in homologous fashion throughout the system, it is crucial to realize that academic fields are loci of struggles to determine the conditions and criteria of legitimate membership and legitimate hierarchy.28 In any scientific field the primary stake is the struggle over the principle of domination and with it the very definition of the field itself: its objectives, its methods of legitimate inquiry, its procedures for resolving disputes, and finally its allocation of financial resources.

But absolutely crucial to understanding the dynamics of discipline formation and institution building is realizing that no field, no matter how autonomous it appears, is completely closed to external factors. Indeed, "external" factors provide crucial leverage points in the dynamics of the field. Changes external to the operation of a specific field, such as shifts in funding, political developments, or expansion of student clientele, are refracted by the logic of the field. Indeed, the degree of autonomy of the field is a function of its ability to refract external demands into its own logic.29 From this perspective then, scientific and engineering disciplines embed within them the structure of the general power relations in society, while each disciplinary field's own activity of selection and indoctrination contributes to sustaining that structure. Each disciplinary field has its own logic, specific forms of capital, and stakes, but each discipline is homologous to the grid of general power relations. No field is entirely free of relationships to external economic, political, or cultural resources. Indeed, as I argue in Chapter 3, "The Discipline of Nature and the Nature of Disciplines," and illustrate in several of the case studies in this volume, the state of external political struggles or economic developments combines with historically contingent openings to "external" resources to provide the main points of leverage for struggles within a scientific field.

In each of the struggles over discipline and institution building treated in this volume, a common strategy employed by defenders of orthodoxy as well as by heretical innovators is the attempted construction of a strategic, timely fit between the internal constitution of the field and an exter-nal power perceived as (or hoped soon to become) dominant. The actors in the various studies in this volume are always weighing the advantage to their own projects of invoking powers external to the value structure and acknowledged rules of the game internal to their own discipline in order to create points of leverage for their programs. Early in their careers, Helmholtz, Du Bois-Reymond, and Brücke actively linked support of their scientific work to the politics of building modernized industrial nations, whereas in later life they sought to defend their scientific edifice by participating in the cultural politics of a renewed German Idealism. Varian scientists and managers actively courted Sputnik-generated policies for the funding of science to generate markets for their NMR instruments, their tools for transforming the disciplines of analytical and organic chemistry.

A related cluster of issues an interpretation of science as a form of cultural production must address is the construction of meaning, the naturalization of representations, and the linkage between different domains in an economy of practices. These were not problems for traditional sociologies of science based on realist epistemologies and theory-dominated accounts. The truth of theories was a function of their fit with an independent world of objective facts. Appeals to laws of nature and the assumption that rationally constructed representations mirror the structure of the world guaranteed the universality of scientific claims. In this traditional account, if one wanted to introduce social, political, or economic interests into the picture--always conceived as distortions--one did so under the rubric of discussions of ideology, where ideology was always conceived as a rationalization of a veiled oppressive interest. By contrast the approach to science as the construction and practice of a certain form of culture highlights the radically historical, contingent, and local character of knowledge production. One of the central implications of this work is that universality must be constructed. An account must be given of how meanings locally produced are multiplied in other sites and how representations circulate and acquire global legitimacy. A further implication of this approach is that science is disunified. Analogous to the manner in which I consider different fields to have relative autonomy with respect to one another, I regard the work of theorizing as driven by different interests, guided by varied sensibilities organized through different schemas of perception, and conducted independently of work in fields of experimentation or of instrumentation. Recent work in historical and social studies of science demonstrates that these skills are concentratedin distinct communities.30 How links between these different communities and between different domains of action are fashioned in order to generate a meaningful form of life is an object of investigation for cultural studies of science. Ideology has a crucial role to play in this process. Ideology is not negatively valued in my account. Rather I look to ideology's role in generating and sustaining links between disparate domains of belief and practice and between the different communities in which they are located. Forging links and coordinating exchange between these different domains is a problem in the organization of skill and management of work.

Several chapters in this volume persue the centrality of the organization and management of skill to instituting science is pursued in. The chapter on Carl Ludwig depicts the formation of an innovative research program and its establishment as a model for institutionalizing science-based medicine. Rather than treating Ludwig's institute as the logical outcome of efforts to secure funds for an expanding research effort, the paper demonstrates that the direction of Ludwig's research was both shaped and enhanced by the confluence of interests of state ministers, local institutional agendas, and strategies for defending scientific claims. The implication that organizational setting is crucial for establishing links between different domains of practice is explored further in the paper on Paul Ehrlich's magic bullet, an effort to develop a program of drug research and chemotherapy in a joint state- and industry-supported extra-university research institute which served as a model for the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institutes. Like the previous paper, this essay emphasizes the role of entrepreneurial state ministers as well as local institution builders in discipline formation. This paper also illustrates the crucial role of the market economy in bringing about configurations of practice. The theme of configurations of practice within an economy of practice is the central focus of the case study on the Haber-Bosch synthesis of ammonia. Like the Ludwig and Ehrlich essays, this study emphasizes the difficulties in fashioning a fit between quantitative theory and practice: how engagement with measurement, agreement about standards, and problems of scaling up from bench-top model to industrial production produce a simultaneous articulation and refinement of theory (in this case of thermodynamics and of catalytic reactions). Central to the depiction of how mathematical tools and theory are linked with practical experience of materials and technology is what I term the lifeworld of Haber-Bosch.

Discussions of the formation of scientific disciplines invariably focus on academic institutions, on the organization and dissemination of technical training within those institutions, on professional societies and on the organization of scientific communication. The standard, virtually unquestioned assumption in disciplinary studies is that academics create disciplines. Parallel to the assumption in older studies of technology transfer and innovation of a linear flow of innovation from academic research settings to industry, older studies of discipline assumed that the flow of disciplinary knowledge and technical practice flow from the university to industry, where the industry practitioners are the consumers of scientific discipline. The focus on practice suggests a broader spectrum of sites for discipline formation. Given the importance of discipline-specific instruments and training in their use and interpretation, we might do well to consider the role of the industrial partner, particularly the manufacturer of instruments, in the process of discipline formation. In the final chapter of this volume, "Instrument Makers as Discipline Builders," Christophe Lécuyer and I analyze the role of university-industry relationships and extended networks of exchange of skills and tacit knowledge in the generation of a new technology, nuclear magnetic resonance scanners, and the active role of the industrial partner in the creation of new regimes of practice at the core of a young scientific discipline. We argue that NMR, as a discipline of technology, science, and knowledge production, was invented in large part by scientists at Varian Associates in Palo Alto. At stake here was not only than the challenge of constructing a machine; but more importantly, industry scientists and engineers intent upon having their work valued and adopted by others produced the interpretive techniques and practices that made the NMR scanner an instrument. Equally crucially, through their educational and promotional activities, Varian scientists helped transform the discipline of chemistry in the university. Rather than treating university-industry relations in terms of bounded, sharply delimited organizations, this study as well as the chapter on Haber and Bosch suggest it may be fruitful to think of universities as participating in a situated knowledge community, and in effect, to treat the disciplinary structure of the university as part of a regional knowledge economy.

I began this introduction by discussing the constraints experienced by participants in disciplined institutional formations. In the story of Varian Associates, what also become clear are the ways that such restraints can prompt creatie response, and the opportunities available to those who know how to negotiate disciplinary boundaries. Varian, the start-up company founded alongside--not within-- Stanford University's walls, which offered an alternative and self-consciously designed campuslike work site and work style to physicists and engineers raised professionally within the university culture, provides an apt image for the conceptions of discipline and institution I am advocating here: the effort to construct disciplines is simultaneously an effort to inscribe supportive structures that sustain a culture.


1. Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, New York; Bantam Books, 1992, pp. 353-354.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid., p. 435.

4. For Robert K. Merton's classic statement of these matters, see "Science and the Social Order," originally published in 1938, and "The Normative Structure of Science," originally published in 1942, both reprinted in Norman W. Storer, ed., Robert K. Merton,The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations, Chicago; University of Chicago Press, 1973, pp. 254-266, and pp. 267-278.

5. See Robert Merton, "Social and Cultural Contexts of Science," (1970), in The Sociology of Science, p. 182.

6. See especially Ben-David's two posthumously published essays, "`Norms of Science' and the Sociological Interpretation of Scientific Behavior," and "The Ethos of Science in the Context of Different Political Ideologies and Changing Perceptions of Science," in Gad Freudenthal, ed., Scientific Growth: Essays on the Social Organization and Ethos of Science: Joseph Ben-David, Berkeley; University of California Press, 1991, pp. 469-514.

7. For an overview of the problems with the "traditional" sociology of science, see Steve Woolgar, Science: The Very Idea, London; Tavistock Publications Limited and Ellis Horwood Limited, 1988.

8. Joseph Ben-David, The Scientist's Role in Society: A Comparative Study, Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.; Prentice Hall, 1971, p. 14.

9. See especially, "The Profession of Science and Its Powers," in Scientific Growth, pp. 187-209.

10. Scientist's Role in Society, p. 180.

11. See "The Profession of Science and Its Powers," pp. 206-209. From Ben-David's point of view there is no inconsistency in this. In the functionalist model all apparent anomalies are attributed to "external" forces misdirecting science from its proper course. For Ben-David that ideal organization was the "charismatic" pursuit of natural scientific knowledge in the German university setting. The professionalization of science was the outcome of its adaptation to the conditions of the American institutional ecology. Thus the "Americanization" of science is both the source of the success of science as an autonomous institution and simultaneously its undoing.

Since the mechanisms for allocating economic resources are supposedly those whereby the scientific community allocates recognition and prestige, Ben-David thought the peer review system for allocating economic resources was the best among a host of bad alternatives. While not eliminating the possibility of class conflict, this system could at least mitigate the potential by favoring informed judgements on merit, talent, and contributions to the growth of knowledge. For Robert Merton the problems that appeared to Ben-David a potential stumbling block were resolved by the peer review system, which allocates both credit and resources in the scientific community in obedience to the norms of science.

12. Mario Biagioli makes similar use of Bourdieu's framework in his treatment of Galileo's science and his career as shaped by the "invisible walls" of patronage and the etiquettes of courtly cultural practice. See Mario Biagioli, Galileo Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism, Chicago; University of Chicago Press, 1993. For a discussion of Bourdieu's work see Fritz Ringer, "......" also see Luc Boltanski, The Making of a Class: Cadres in French Society, Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1987.

13. Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1977, p. 109. See also the later elaboration of this theme in The Logic of Practice, Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 86.

14. Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice, p. 81.

15. See Outline of a Theory of Practice, p. 177; and Logic of Practice, pp. 11-121.

16. Outline of a Theory of Practice, pp. 177-178. Italics in original.

17. The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, Randal Johnson, ed., New York; Columbia University Press, 1993, p. 164.

18. Ibid., p. 164.

19. See Homo Academicus, Graph 2, p. 80, Graph 3, p. 82, and Figure A, p. 122, for a graphic interpretations of the space of the university field.

20. See Pierre Bourdieu, "The Specificity of the Scientific Field and the Social Conditions of the Progress of Reason," Social Science Information, Vol 14 (6) (1975), pp. 19-47, expecially pp. 35-36. According to Bourdieu, since the power to produce, impose and inculcate the legitimate representation of the social world is one of the principal stakes in the political field, the social sciences are never in a position of full independence.

21. Distinction, p. 125.

22. Brian Rotman has challenged the "platonist" view of mathematics as disembodied rational thought in two groundbreaking works, Signifying Nothing: The Semiotics of Zero, London; Macmillan, 1987, reprinted by Stanford University Press, 1993, and Ad Infinitum: The Ghost in Turing's Machine. Taking God Out of Mathematics and Putting the Body Back In, Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1993.

23. Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production, p. 37.

24. In Bourdieu's view, "Because capital is a social relation, ie., an energy which only exists and only produces its effects in the field in which it is produced and reproduced, each of the properties attached to class is given its value and efficacy by the specific laws of each field." Distinction, p. 113.

25. Evelyn Fox Keller,"Physics and the Emergence of Molecular Biology: A History of Cognitive and Political Synergy," Journal of the History of Biology, 23 (1990), pp. 389-409; Vassiliki B. Smocovitis, "Unifying Biology: The Evolutionary Synthesis and Evolutionary Biology," Journal of the History of Biology, 25 (1992), pp. 1-65.

26. See Timothy Lenoir, "The Manhattan Project for Biology," in Phillip R. Sloan, ed., Controlling Our Destinies: Historical, Philosophical, Social and Ethical Perspectives on the Human Genome Project, South Bend; University of Notre Dame Press, 2000.

27. Homo Academicus, p. 123.

28. "that is, to determine which properties are pertinent, effective and liable to function as capital so as to generate the specific profits guaranteed by the field," The Field of Cultural Production, p. 11.

29. Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production, pp. 181-182. On this point see further Randal Johnson, "Editors Introduction," to The Field of Cultural Production, p. 14., and A. Viala, "Prismatic Effects," in Phillipe Desan, Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson and Wendy Griswold, eds, Literature and Social Practice, Chicago; University of Chicago Press, 1989, pp. 256-266.

30. Peter Galison, How Experiments End, Chicago; University of Chicago Press, 1987; Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life, Princeton; Princeton University Press, 1985; M. Norton Wise and Crosbie Smith, Energy and Empire: A Biography of William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1989; Heinz Otto Sibum, "Reworking the Mechanical Value of Heat: Instruments of Precisionand Gestures fo Accuracy in Eary Victorian England, Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, (in press) ; Harry Collins, Changing Order, London; Sage, 1985; David Gooding, Experiment and the Making of Meaning, Dordrecht ; Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990. Nicolas Rasmussen, "Facts, Artifacts, and Mesosomes: Practicing Epistemology with the Electron Microscope," Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 24 (1993), pp. 227-265.