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Actor-Network Theory, Actants

Steve Fuller

Subject Sociology » Sociological and Social Theory

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


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Actor-network theory has been the dominant school of science and technology studies since shortly after the English publication of Latour (1987) . It reflects the combined efforts of Michel Callon, an engineer turned economist, and Bruno Latour, a philosopher turned anthropologist, both of whom have worked since 1980 at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation at L'Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines in Paris. Together, they have provided, respectively, the “hard” and “soft,” or “policy oriented” and “academically oriented,” versions of their joint intellectual standpoint. Actor-network theory has flourished in the context of the changing status of academic knowledge production in the European Union, where states influenced to varying degrees by neoliberalism have increasingly forced a traditionally protected higher education sector to justify itself by establishing ties with external “users and beneficiaries.” Its name notwithstanding, actor-network theory is less a theory than a method for mapping the patterns of “technoscience” that emerge from this neoliberal regime. However, the UK sociologist John Law, the main proponent of actor-network theory in the English-speaking world, has worked hard to convert the “theory” into a postmodern metaphysics presaging a complete makeover of the social sciences, in which networks become the stuff out of which both individual identity ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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