Biology and politics have converged today across much of the industrialized world. Debates about genetically modified organisms, cloning, stem cells, animal patenting, and new reproductive technologies crowd media headlines and policy agendas. Less noticed, but no less important, are the rifts that have appeared among leading Western nations about the right way to govern innovation in genetics and biotechnology. These significant differences in law and policy, and in ethical analysis, may in a globalizing world act as obstacles to free trade, scientific inquiry, and shared understandings of human dignity.

In this magisterial look at some twenty-five years of scientific and social development, Sheila Jasanoff compares the politics and policy of the life sciences in Britain, Germany, the United States, and in the European Union as a whole. She shows how public and private actors in each setting evaluated new manifestations of biotechnology and tried to reassure themselves about their safety.


Three main themes emerge. First, core concepts of democratic theory, such as citizenship, deliberation, and accountability, cannot be understood satisfactorily without taking on board the politics of science and technology. Second, in all three countries, policies for the life sciences have been incorporated into "nation-building" projects that seek to reimagine what the nation stands for. Third, political culture influences democratic politics, and it works through the institutionalized ways in which citizens understand and evaluate public knowledge. These three aspects of contemporary politics, Jasanoff argues, help account not only for policy divergences but also for the perceived legitimacy of state actions.

This collection of essays by Sheila Jasanoff explores how democratic governments construct public reason, that is, the forms of evidence and argument used in making state decisions accountable to citizens. The term public reason as used here is not simply a matter of deploying principled arguments that respect the norms of democratic deliberation. Jasanoff investigates what states do in practice when they claim to be reasoning in the public interest. Reason, from this perspective, comprises the institutional practices, discourses, techniques and instruments through which governments claim legitimacy in an era of potentially unbounded risks—physical, political, and moral. Those legitimating efforts, in turn, depend on citizens’ acceptance of the forms of reasoning that governments offer. Included here therefore is an inquiry into the conditions that lead citizens of democratic societies to accept policy justification as being reasonable. These modes of public knowing, or “civic epistemologies,” are integral to the constitution of contemporary political cultures.
Methodologically, the book is grounded in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS). It uses in-depth qualitative studies of legal and political practices to shed light on divergent cross-cultural constructions of public reason and the reasoning political subject. The collection as a whole contributes to democratic theory, legal studies, comparative politics, geography, and ethnographies of modernity, as well as STS.

We live in a world increasingly governed by technology—but to what end?

Technology rules us as much as laws do. It shapes the legal, social, and ethical environments in which we act. Every time we cross a street, drive a car, or go to the doctor, we submit to the silent power of technology. Yet, much of the time, the influence of technology on our lives goes unchallenged by citizens and our elected representatives. In The Ethics of Invention, renowned scholar Sheila Jasanoff dissects the ways in which we delegate power to technological systems and asks how we might regain control.

Our embrace of novel technological pathways, Jasanoff shows, leads to a complex interplay among technology, ethics, and human rights. Inventions like pesticides or GMOs can reduce hunger but can also cause unexpected harm to people and the environment. Often, as in the case of CFCs creating a hole in the ozone layer, it takes decades before we even realize that any damage has been done. Advances in biotechnology, from GMOs to gene editing, have given us tools to tinker with life itself, leading some to worry that human dignity and even human nature are under threat. But despite many reasons for caution, we continue to march heedlessly into ethically troubled waters.

As Jasanoff ranges across these and other themes, she challenges the common assumption that technology is an apolitical and amoral force. Technology, she masterfully demonstrates, can warp the meaning of democracy and citizenship unless we carefully consider how to direct its power rather than let ourselves be shaped by it. The Ethics of Invention makes a bold argument for a future in which societies work together—in open, democratic dialogue—to debate not only the perils but even more the promises of technology.

Investigations into the interplay of biological and legal conceptions of life, from government policies on cloning to DNA profiling by law enforcement.

Legal texts have been with us since the dawn of human history. Beginning in 1953, life too became textual. The discovery of the structure of DNA made it possible to represent the basic matter of life with permutations and combinations of four letters of the alphabet, A, T, C, and G. Since then, the biological and legal conceptions of life have been in constant, mutually constitutive interplay—the former focusing on life's definition, the latter on life's entitlements. Reframing Rights argues that this period of transformative change in law and the life sciences should be considered “bioconstitutional.”

Reframing Rights explores the evolving relationship of biology, biotechnology, and law through a series of national and cross-national case studies. Sheila Jasanoff maps out the conceptual territory in a substantive editorial introduction, after which the contributors offer “snapshots” of developments at the frontiers of biotechnology and the law. Chapters examine such topics as national cloning and xenotransplant policies; the politics of stem cell research in Britain, Germany, and Italy; DNA profiling and DNA databases in criminal law; clinical trials in India and the United States; the GM crop controversy in Britain; and precautionary policymaking in the European Union. These cases demonstrate changes of constitutional significance in the relations among human bodies, selves, science, and the state.

Governance challenges and solutions for the provision of global public goods in such areas as the environment, food security, and development.

Global public goods (GPGs)—the economic term for a broad range of goods and services that benefit everyone, including stable climate, public health, and economic security—pose notable governance challenges. At the national level, public goods are often provided by government, but at the global level there is no established state-like entity to take charge of their provision. The complex nature of many GPGs poses additional problems of coordination, knowledge generation and the formation of citizen preferences. This book considers traditional public economy theory of public goods provision as oversimplified, because it is state centered and fiscally focused. It develops a multidisciplinary look at the challenges of understanding and designing appropriate governance regimes for different types of goods in such areas as the environment, food security, and development assistance.

The chapter authors, all leading scholars in the field, explore the misalignment between existing GPG policies and actors' incentives and understandings. They analyze the complex impact of incentives, the involvement of stakeholders in collective decision making, and the specific coordination needed for the generation of knowledge. The book shows that governance of GPGs must be democratic, reflexive—emphasizing collective learning processes—and knowledge based in order to be effective.

Experts offer theoretical and empirical analyses that view the regulation of transboundary air pollution as a dynamic process.

Governing the Air looks at the regulation of air pollution not as a static procedure of enactment and agreement but as a dynamic process that reflects the shifting interrelationships of science, policy, and citizens. Taking transboundary air pollution in Europe as its empirical focus, the book not only assesses the particular regulation strategies that have evolved to govern European air, but also offers theoretical insights into dynamics of social order, political negotiation, and scientific practices. These dynamics are of pivotal concern today, in light of emerging international governance problems related to climate change. The contributors, all prominent social scientists specializing in international environmental governance, review earlier findings, analyze the current situation, and discuss future directions for both empirical and theoretical work.

The chapters discuss the institutional dimensions of international efforts to combat air pollution, examining the effectiveness of CLRTAP (Convention for Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution) and the political complexity of the European Union; offer a broad overview and detailed case studies of the roles of science, expertise, and learning; and examine the “missing link” in air pollution policies: citizen involvement.

Changing political conditions, evolving scientific knowledge, and the need for citizen engagement offer significant challenges for air pollution policy making. By focusing on process rather than product, learning rather than knowledge, and strategies rather than interests, this book gives a nuanced view of how air pollution is made governable.

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