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1he polilical economy of lechnoscience An emerging research

agenda
Author(s): Kean Birch
Source: Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of
Science, Vol. , No. ! (2u!3) 496!.
Published by: 1he Universily of 1oronlo
DOI: 10.4245/sponge.v7i1.19556
F D I 1 O R I A L O F F I C F S
Inslilule for lhe Hislory and Philosophy of Science and 1echnology
Room 3!6 Vicloria College, 9! Charles Slreel Wesl
1oronlo, Onlario, Canada MS !K
hapsat.society@utoronto.ca
Published online al jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/SpontaneousGenerations
ISSN !9!3 u46
Founded in 2uu6, Spontaneous Generations is an online academic journal published
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Fottsrr Dtsttssto Prra-Rrvtrvrr
1he polilical economy of lechnoscience
An emerging research agenda
*
Kean Birch

1his shorl essay presenls lhe case for a renewed research agenda in
S1S focused on lhe polilical economy of lechnoscience. 1his research
agenda is based on lhe claim lhal S1S needs lo lake accounl of
conlemporary economic and financial processes and how lhey shape
and are shaped by lechnoscience. 1his necessilales underslanding how
lhese processes mighl impacl on science, lechnology and innovalion,
ralher lhan lurning an S1S gaze on lhe economy.
I. I+aortt+to
Fconomics and science are inlrinsically enlwined domains of life and
research, whelher we like lo lhink so or nol. Il can be uncomforlable
lo acknowledge lhal pharmaceulical research is lied lo brulish economic
calculalions of relurns on inveslmenl and nol jusl lhe moral economy of
qualily of life or elhical responsibilily. Yel lhese calculalions are whal people
do on a daily basis in life science companies, in inveslmenl firms, and in
slockbrokerages. 1hese dismal decisionslo misappropriale 1homas Carlyles
descriplion of economicsare necessary objecls of invesligalion for anyone
inleresled in social, hislorical or philosophical sludies of science and lechnology,
as lhis special issue highlighls. Hence lhe economics of science musl go beyond
lhe narrow applicalion of economics lo science and lechnology, or whal many
scholars now call lechnoscience. Il has lo address lhe political economy of
lechnoscience, by lhis I mean lhe ways lhal lhe economy is elhically, socially
and polilically organized and configured and howlhis shapes lechnoscience and
is consliluled by lechnoscience in lurn.
Polilical economy is ofen conflaled wilh specific forms of polilicaleconomic
analysis like Marxism, il is nol my inlenl lo make lhal conflalion here. In
lhis shorl arlicle I wanl lo lhink aboul how social, hislorical and philosophical
sludies of science and lechnologyor science and lechnology sludies (S1S)
for shorlcan engage wilh conlemporary polilical economy. Classical polilical
*
Received ! March 2u!3. Accepled !6 Augusl 2u!3.

Kean Birch is an Assislanl Professor in lhe Business and Sociely programin lhe Deparlmenl of
Social Science al York Universily. He is a member of lhe graduale facully of Graduale Program
in S1S.
Spontaneous Generations 71 (2u!3) ISSN !9!3u46. Universily of 1oronlo.
Copyrighl 2u!3 by lhe HAPSA1 Sociely. Some rights reserved.
49
K. Birch The political economy of technoscience
economy concerns lhe social and polilical conlexl in which lhe produclion,
consumplion and dislribulion of goods, services and weallh happens. By
conlemporary polilical economy I mean lo include lhe growing lileralure
on subjeclivilies, moral discourses, inslilulions, knowledge and innovalion
dynamics, and nalural ecologies lhal conslilule and are consliluled by lhe
social and polilical conlexl of economic aclivily (see Hudson 2uu8, Robbins el
al. 2u!u, Mirowski 2u!!, 1yfield 2u!2a, 2u!2b, 2u!2c, Mazzucalo 2u!3). Whal is
imporlanl lo nole is lhal polilical economy rejecls lhe underlying assumplions
of neoclassical economics and economic models, such as fixed and ralional
selfinleresl, slalic preferences and ulililymaximizing behaviour (Mirowski
2u!!). In lhis sense il is imporlanl, as one referee poinled oul lo me, nol
lo conflale lhe economyilself a fairly recenl epislemological conslruclion
according lo Milchell (2u!!)wilh economics.
1he recenl economic lurn in S1S has involved an examinalion of
economics, economy and howlechnoscience is implicaled in bolh lhe pursuil
of economic knowledge and lhe conslruclion of economies (e.g. Callon !998,
Pinch and Swedberg 2uu8, MacKenzie 2uu9). Whal lhis economic lurn has nol
done so well, however, is examine howeconomics, as a discipline and disciplinary
lool, and economic aclivilies shape or coproduce lechnoscience, or in olher
words, whal polilical economylhe sludy of social and polilical conlexlcan lell
us aboul lhe promolion and developmenl of lechnoscience. 1here are obviously
exceplions lo my claims including lhe work of people like Philip Mirowski (2u!!),
David 1yfield (2u!2a, 2u!2b, 2u!2c), and olhers (e.g. Mirowski and NikKhah
2uu8, Lave el al. 2u!u, 1horpe and Gregory 2u!u, Birch 2u!2, Courlney and
Abraham 2u!3, Birch and 1yfield 2u!3). Moreover, lhere are broader fields like
lhe economics of science (see Belladonne 2u!2) and innovalion sludies (see
Fagerberg and Verspagen 2uu9) which have always focused on lhese issues,
allhough from specific analylical perspeclives. Whal I wanl lo do in lhe resl of
lhe arlicle is updale lhe S1S audience on some emerging research and research
agendas lhal are rejuvenaling lhe polilicaleconomic sludy of lechnoscience.
II. S+ta+tc Pot+s
Il is imporlanl lo acknowledge lhal S1S scholars have engaged wilh polilical
economy over lhe years, and lhal whal I am oullining as an emerging agenda is
nol necessarily a radically new perspeclive. People like David Noble (!984) and
Fdward Yoxen (!984), for example, produced malerialisl (i.e. Marxisl) analyses
of lechnologies like machine lools and biolechnology in lhe !98us. In lhe same
era, olhers like Hughes (!983) produced delailed work on lhe emergence of
sociolechnical and economic syslems such as energy infraslruclure, a field
which is opening up again wilh work on suslainable lransilions (e.g. Monsladl
2uu9, Lawhon and Murphy 2u!2, 1ruer and Coenen 2u!2). And, as menlioned
already, lhere is a whole field dedicaled lo sludying innovalion from an
Spontaneous Generations !(2u!3) u
K. Birch The political economy of technoscience
evolulionary and Schumpelerian perspeclive (see Fagerberg and Verspagen 2uu9
for a review) as well lhe field of economics of science ilself (see Belladonne 2u!2).
Il seems lhough lhal S1S scholars somelimes forgel lhe hislory of lheir own
discipline.
1o illuslrale whal I mean, I refer lo lhe recenl revival of inleresl in Marxisl
polilical economy, as shown by lhe emergence of concepls like biovalue
(Waldby 2uuu) and biocapilal (e.g. Helmreich 2uu8) in (mainly) anlhropological
sludies of lechnoscience. One apl example is a recenl ediled colleclion enlilled
Lively Capital which covers a range of lopics from lhis perspeclive (Rajan 2u!2).
However, whal lhis revival of (one form of) polilical economy merely indicales
is lhe slagnanl walers in which much S1S lhinking is slowly bubbling when
il comes lo polilical economy, we frequenlly find S1S sluck in lhe mud of lhe
pasl. Specifically, il is sluck in lhe nineleenlh cenlury, wilh a relurn lo Marx
evidenl in lhese hybrid concepls. Nol lhal lhere is anylhing wrong wilh Marx,
of course, il is jusl lhal il is imporlanl lo updale our underslanding of polilical
economy by exploring conlemporary polilicaleconomic processes, praclices and
conlexlswhich I will come back lo shorllyralher lhan relurning lo lhose more
appropriale lo a dierenl age.
Il is a rare sighl lo find S1S scholars engaging in any serious way
wilh conlemporary polilical economy, lhal is, examining how dierenl
polilicaleconomic processes, praclices and conlexls inform lechnoscience. One
example of lhis deficil will have lo suice here. Il is puzzling lhal S1S scholars
have largely failed lo engage wilh neoliberalism as eilher a parlicular process
involving lhe commercializalion of lechnoscience, or a sel of markelbased
praclices, or lhe social and polilical conlexl of lechnoscienlific change. While
lhere are nolable exceplions lo lhis, which I will come back lo shorlly, lhe facl
lhal Social Studies of Science (SSS)one of lhe premier journals in S1Sonly
has 29 arlicles referencing lhe word neoliberal is lanlamounl lo burrowing our
heads in lhe sand.
!
S1S has lolally dropped lhe ball on lhis one. A possible
reason for lhis neglecl may be lhal dominanl S1S approaches can fil very
comforlably wilhin neoliberal lenels, for example, Chris McClellan (!996) argues
lhal aclornelwork lheory (AN1) appropriales lhe language of neoclassical
economics and lhe polilical juslificalion of markelbased perspeclives. In
parlicular, McClellan makes lhe imporlanl poinl lhal AN1 mirrors neoclassical
assumplions lhal social slruclure is lhe resull of individuals pursuing personal
inleresl by linking up wilh olhers in a reciprocal exploilalion of each olhers
aclivily for lhe salisfaclion of lhe personal inleresl of each agenl involved
(p.!99). In lhis AN1 framework, science is lurned inlo a markelplace for ideas
!
Science, 1echnology and Human Values only comes oul a liule beuer wilh 42 references, while
Science and Public Policy only has !6 and Public Understanding of Science only has references.
For full disclosure, Science as Culture, on which I am an Associale Fdilor, also only has 29
references lo neoliberal.
Spontaneous Generations !(2u!3) !
K. Birch The political economy of technoscience
wilh lhe resull, according lo Mirowski lhal il seems neoliberalism had laken
rool in lhe mosl avanlgarde precincls of science sludies i.e. AN1|, gussied
up wilh lhe seemingly noneconomic lerminology of aclanls, rhizomes, and
parliamenls of lhings (2u!!, 66).
Whal is evidenl is lhal lhe global financial crisis has opened up nol only
inleresl in neoliberalism in S1Sfor example, 24 of lhe 29 arlicles referencing
neoliberalism in SSS have been published since 2uu8bul also lhe polilical
space lo even discuss il as a suilable lopic. Olher lhan neoliberalism, S1S
scholars have also ignored olher areas of conlemporary polilical economy
such as financializalion (nol one reference in SSS) and corporale governance
(one menlion), illuslraling lhe exlenl lo which polilical economy has been
evacualed from S1S. I chose lhose lwo examples for lhe following reasons
firsl, financializalion is nol only implicaled in lhe global financial crisis and lhe
leadup lo lhe currenl mess we are in bul also in changing innovalion policies
and slralegies (see Serfali 2uu8, Andersson el al. 2u!u, Lazonick and 1ulum2u!!),
yel il has been almosl lolally ignored in S1S, and second, corporale governance
is increasingly imporlanl as more and more economic aclivilyaboul halfis
underlaken inside business organizalions ralher lhan in markels (Hodgson
2uu). Again, lhe failure lo consider such corporale configuralions is a major
gap in S1S, wilh some exceplions (e.g. Vallas and Kleinman 2uu8). Despile lhese
gaps in S1S, an emerging research agenda has gradually surfaced. 1here are
examples I can poinl lo, as lhe lille of my arlicle should indicale, bul lhey are
nol commonplace even if lhere is increasing inleresl in such lopics. For example,
lhere are now a number of scholars engaging in lhese debales, especially lhe
relalionship belween neoliberalism and lechnoscience (e.g. Birch 2uu6, Berman
2uu8, Kinchy el al. 2uu8, Lave el al. 2u!u, Biddle 2u!!, Mirowski 2u!!, Moore el
al. 2u!!, 1yfield 2u!2c).
1his emerging research agenda in S1S, small as il is righl now, oers lhe
S1S discipline an imporlanl opporlunily lo reengage wilh polilical economy.
Nol only lhal, il is our responsibilily as S1S scholars lo reengage in order lo
undersland how lechnoscience has been and is being shaped by conlemporary
polilical and economic knowledge claims aboul lhings like markel eiciency,
consumer welfare, and relurns on inveslmenl. However, in order lo do lhis
we need lo undersland whal orlhodox and helerodox economisls and polilical
economisls are wriling aboul (i.e. epislemic claims), how lhey are lheorizing (i.e.
moral claims), and whal lhey are promoling as conlemporary policy proposals
(i.e. polilical claims). 1hese diverse claims are incredibly powerful, providing
visions and narralives lhal drive research and innovalion policies (see Fell el al.
2uu) as well as lhe coproduclion of scienlific and (polilical) economic orders
(see Levidow el al. 2u!2a, 2u!2b). Whal I wanl lo do now is highlighl some key
aspecls of lhis emerging research agenda and idenlify where I lhink we need lo
do more work.
Spontaneous Generations !(2u!3) 2
K. Birch The political economy of technoscience
III. A Fractc Rrsrtatn Acrrt
I wanl lo slarl lhe discussion of lhis emerging research agenda by
suggesling lhal we need lo look squarely in lhe face of lhe polilicaleconomic
lransformalions our socielies have faced over lhe lasl few decades as specific
economic epislemic claims (i.e. neoliberalism) have dominaled elhical, polilical
and social agendas, and shaped lechnoscienlific palhways. 1his is necessary in
order lo find ways lo challenge lhe assumplionsof neoclassical economics in
parlicularunderpinning our social, polilical and economic orders lhal mililale
againsl lhe (radical and syslemic) lechnoscienlific lransilions required lo save
our socielies from lhe combined global crises of ecological and economic
ruin. If S1S scholars do nol lake up lhis challenge lhen il is lef lo olhers,
like neoclassical economisls, who are likely lo promole discrediled, allhough
slill powerful, epislemic claims lhal are embedded in numerous lechnologies
and embodied by numerous policymakers (see Mirowski 2u!u, 2u!!, 2u!3).
Ullimalely, whal lhis means for S1S scholars is lhal lhere is a need lo engage
more visibly and deeply wilh concepls, lheories and approaches drawn from
across polilical economy. 1he research agenda Im discussing here has emerged
from dierenl analylical origins, providing somelhing for everyone should lhey
choose lo look. Il is lo lhis diversily lhal I now lurn.
Firsl, lhere are lhe fields close lo S1Scousin disciplineslike innovalion
sludies (see Fagerberg and Verspagen 2uu9 for a review). 1his field has produced
some very insighlful analyzes of research and innovalion process and policies,
including sludies by many scholars al lhe deparlmenl of Science and 1echnology
Policy Research, Universily of Sussex, working on lhe biolechnology seclor
(e.g. Nighlingale and Marlin 2uu4, Hopkins el al. 2uu) and olher areas (e.g.
Mazzucalo 2u!3). As a field, innovalion sludies illuslrales an already malure
research agenda, bul one ripe for furlher S1S conlribulions and crossovers,
especially since innovalion sludies has lhus far been somewhal dominaled
by evolulionary and Schumpelerian conceplions of sociolechnical change.
Of parlicular relevance lo fulure S1S scholarship is lhe emerging lileralure
on suslainable lransilions, which focuses on sociolechnical syslems and
sociolechnical regimes (e.g. Geels and Schol 2uu, Shove and Walker 2uu,
Lawhon and Murphy 2u!2, 1ruer and Coenen 2u!2). Whal lhe lheorizalion and
analysis of suslainable lransilions has done is open up our underslanding of how
sociolechnical syslems and inslilulions bolh encourage lransilions and lock
socielies inlo exisling lechnoscienlific palhways. For example, an imporlanl, and
slill emerging, area of inleresl is infraslruclureor infrasyslemsincluding
lhe planning, design and developmenl of infraslruclure and whal il means for
supporling or limiling suslainable lransilions (e.g. Franlzeskaki and Loorbach
2u!u, Birch and Wudrich 2u!3, Bollon and Foxon 2u!3).
Second, S1S already benefils from lhe crossferlilizalion of ideas in closely
relaled disciplines like sociology and anlhropology. However, lhere is plenly
Spontaneous Generations !(2u!3) 3
K. Birch The political economy of technoscience
of polilicaleconomic research in lhese subjecls lhal is nol currenlly very
influenlial or has been enlangled wilh lhe economic lurn in S1S (e.g. Callon
!998, MacKenzie 2uu9). 1here are several insighlful analyses of economic,
financial and evalualive processes in bolh anlhropology and sociology lhal have
conlribuled lo lhe emerging polilical economy agenda in S1S. In anlhropology,
lhese include, bul are nol limiled lo, lhe following (a) lhe work of Karl Polanyi
(2uu!!944|) on ficlilious commodilies, which is parlicularly relevanl lo lhe
commercializalion of lechnoscience behind inlelleclual properly righls (e.g.
1yfield 2uu8) and lhe crealion of newmarkels like climale lrading (e.g. Lohmann
2u!u) or wealher derivalives (e.g. Randalls 2u!u), (b) lhe concepl of virlualism
arising from lhe work of James Carrier and Daniel Miller (!998), which has
informed my own work on lhe bioeconomy (Birch 2uu) as well as lhal of
olhers (e.g. Ponle 2uu9). 1here is also work by David Graeber (2uu!) on value,
in which he emphasizes lhe need lo lhink aboul value in lerms of aclion, and
arlefacls as processes ralher lhan slable or slalic lhings, and lhe work by Karen
Ho (2uu9) on organizalional cullures in financial firms and lheir implicalions
for how businesses are run and how employees acl. 1hese examples oer S1S
scholars several possibililies for engaging wilh a range of new issues, whelher
in lerms of lhinking aboul lechnoscience in lerms of economic process or how
economic cullures (e.g. finance) influence research and developmenl.
In sociology lhere are several areas lhal mighl be of inleresl lo S1S.
Allhough recenl and ongoing research on sociolechnical imaginaries has proved
influenlial in S1S, especially lhe work of Sheila Jasano (2uu4) and collaboralors
(e.g. Kim and Jasano 2uu9) on lhe coproduclion of lechnoscienlific and
polilical orders, il is missing one crilical elemenl, namely, a proper consideralion
of lhe economics of science (1yfield 2uu!2c). 1he work of Bob Jessop (2u!u) on
economic imaginaries represenls a useful complemenl here, as illuslraled by my
own work wilh colleagues (e.g. Birch el al. 2u!u, Levidow el al. 2u!2a, Birch and
Ponle 2u!3). We need lo undersland lhese economic imaginaries, how lhey are
conslrucled, and how lhey relale lo specific forms of polilical legilimalione.g.
social democralic, neoliberal, slalisl, elc. Sociology mighl also conlribule more
when il comes lo economic sociology, going beyond lhe economic lurn in S1S.
Sociologisls like Palrik Aspers (2uu, 2uu9), for example, provide an inleresling
analysis of dierenl lypes of markels and how lhey are consliluled by dierenl
forms of social order and social slruclure. 1hese dierences obviously have
dierenl implicalions for research and innovalion (see Birch and 1yfied 2u!3).
Aspers work dovelails nicely wilh S1S conceplions of lechnological expeclalions
(e.g. Brown and Michael 2uu3, Borup el al. 2uu6) since such expeclalions add
anolher dimension lo markel exchange. Anolher relevanl sociological angle is
lhe research on global commodily chains and/or value chains (GCC/GVC) which
has emerged from lhe work of Gary Gerei (!996) and olhers (e.g. Gibbon
Spontaneous Generations !(2u!3) 4
K. Birch The political economy of technoscience
and Ponle 2uu8).
2
1here are clear conceplual and melhodological resemblances
belween GCC/GVC and S1S approaches, especially wilh lhe formers call lo
follow lhe lhing in analysis. Moreover, lhe emphasis in GCC/GVC approaches
on lhe configuralion and governance of commodily or value chains provides a
useful lens from which lo explore nol only arlefacls and olher lechnoscienlific
developmenls, bul also epislemic, regulalory and economic praclices (e.g. Birch
and Cumbers 2u!u).
1hird, lhere is a weallh of polilicaleconomic research in olher disciplines of
lhe social sciences. Whal I wanl lo do here is lo provide a flavour of lhis research
ralher lhan conlinue going lhrough each field in lurn. Firsl, in human geography
lhere is a growing inleresl in malerialilies of nalure and lhe environmenl (e.g.
Caslree 2uu8a, 2uu8b), as well as lechnologies and arlefacls (e.g. 1ruer 2uu8).
Much of lhe former builds on work in polilical ecology by focusing on lhe
neoliberalizalion of nalure and lhe environmenl lhrough lhe inlroduclion of
markelbased processes and mechanisms (see Bakker 2u!!). One parlicularly
imporlanl parl of lhis work on neoliberal naluresas il has come lo be
knownis lhe way lhal il problemalizes lhe nolion lhal humans are in charge
of nalure, il highlighls lhe malerial recalcilrance of nalure as il is incorporaled
inlo capilalisl and induslrial processes and mechanisms (e.g. Boyd el al. 2uu!).
In lhis sense il fils neally inlo issues of malerial agency lhal have dominaled
lhinking in S1S for some lime. Second, lhere is a range of work in polilical
science lhal could be relevanl lo a renewed research agenda in lhe polilical
economy of lechnoscience. 1he field of inlernalional polilical economy (IPF),
for example, has exploded in lhe lasl few years, well before lhe global financial
crisis. Much of lhis research could be relaled lo S1S and is perhaps loo broad lo
be considered adequalely here. One suggeslion, however, is lhe need lo look
al lhe lechnoscience of lhings like public, corporale and household debl or
lax evasion lhrough lransfer pricing of inlelleclual properly. A much clearer
example of lhe close fil belween S1S and polilical science is lhe work of 1imolhy
Milchell (2uu, 2u!!), whose research on lhe conslruclion of markels and carbon
democracy inlegrales ideas and approaches from bolh fields (see Birch and
Calverl forlhcoming). As wilh human geography, Milchell inlegrales issues of
malerialily in his analysis, illuslraling lhe need lo lhink beyond sociolechnical
syslems lo lhe social and malerial dynamics covering lhe social, lechnical
and environmenlal aspecls in S1S analysis. Here lhe concepl of socio-material
systems mighl be a useful addilion lo S1S scholarship, incorporaling lhe social
and lechnoscienlific wilh lhe malerialily of a recalcilranl nalure.
Finally, lhere is economics ilself. As conlesled knowledge, economics enlails
conlesled valuesparlicularly in lighl of ils very public failure lo predicl or
ameliorale lhe global financial crisis (Mirowski 2u!3). Whelher or nol we agree
2
See websile hup//www.globalvaluechains.org/concepls.hlml
Spontaneous Generations !(2u!3)
K. Birch The political economy of technoscience
wilh lhe founding assumplions of melhodological individualism or ralional
selfinlereslwhich I assume many people in S1S would nol, bul see my
earlier commenls aboul AN1lhe emerging agenda in lhe polilical economy of
lechnoscience has confronled lhese assumplions headon (see above). However,
whal I wanl lo highlighl here are examples of where S1S mighl fruilfully engage
wilh economisls. 1here are al leasl lhree areas which have already proved
influenlial or mighl prove influenlial in lhe fulure. Firsl, lhere is exisling work by
inslilulional and evolulionary economisls lhal I menlioned above in relalion lo
lheir influence on innovalion sludies. 1he recenl work of scholars like Mariana
Mazzucalo (2u!3) on lhe (posilive) role of lhe slale in promoling innovalion
helps lo illuslrale how economics mighl be enrolled in challenging dominanl
mylhs aboul lhe benefils of (free) markels. Second, lhere are olher areas
where S1S inleresls mighl overlap wilh key lopics in economics. Firsl, over
lhe lasl few decades financial economisls have sludied corporale governance
and corporale finance, lransforming lhe economics discipline as well as lhe
world (see Dobbin and Jung 2u!u). 1he reason lo look al corporale governance
is lhal lechnoscience is increasingly a privale seclor aclivily (Mirwoski 2u!!),
while economic aclivilies and praclices are now largely underlaken wilhin
business organizalions ralher lhan in (free) markels (Hodgson 2uu). However,
corporale governance raises queslions aboul lhe organizalion of research and
developmenl (R&D) since il is increasingly dependenl upon forms of privale
oversighl and commodified governance lhal are bound up wilh relalionships
belween managemenl and inveslors (Lazonick and 1ulum 2u!!). Whal lhis
means is lhal il would be useful lo undersland how parlicular economic
knowledges, like corporale finance, inform lechnoscience, for example, whal
are lhe implicalions of shareholder primacy for research and developmenl
decisions` How do inveslors and shareholders calculale and judge lhe value
of R&D` Whal does lhis mean for wider science and innovalion agendas and
policies` 1hese are all issues in need of invesligalion, yel lhey seem peripheral
lo much S1S scholarship righl now. Second, lhere have been major changes
in accounling and valualion processes over lhe lasl few years. Increasingly,
inlangible assels like sofware and dala, inlelleclual properly, human capilal,
elc. have come lo dominale lhe evalualion and calculalion of value (Serfali 2uu8,
Pagano and Rossi 2uu9). 1his accounling of inlangible assels seems more lhan
relevanl lo S1S scholarship, considering lhal il deals wilh lhe focus of much S1S
research.
IV. Cotttsto
1his shorl arlicle can only provide lhe bare bones of lhe emerging research
agenda around lhe polilical economy of lechnoscience. I have menlioned some
of lhe areas where I lhink il would be worlhwhile lo pursue furlher S1S
work. By no means is lhis an exhauslive or definilive lisl of lopicsil is very
Spontaneous Generations !(2u!3) 6
K. Birch The political economy of technoscience
much meanl lo be illuslralive. Whal is imporlanl for S1S is lo conlinue lo
engage wilh olher social science disciplines on lhis lopic. Whal I wanl lo
emphasize in lhis conclusion is lhal S1S scholars need lo lackle (or langle wilh)
a range of imporlanl polilicaleconomic processes lhal are very much implicaled
in lhe developmenl and conslilulion of lechnoscience. Some I have already
menlioned, like financializalion and neoliberalizalion, bul olhers are also worlhy
of auenlion as well. 1hese include privalizalion of lechnoscienlific services
(e.g. forensic services in lhe UK), commodificalion and commercializalion of
everylhing (e.g. climale credils), and markelizalion of R&D (e.g. impacl agenda
in lhe UK). Il is imporlanl lo nole lhal nol everylhing involves lhe exlension
or inlensificalion of markels, or parlicular forms of economislic lhinking. 1here
are plenly of examples of opposile lrends worlh researching, examples of which
would include decommercializalion or nalionalizalion of lechnoscience as well
as lhe rise of open science and open source forms of properly righls (e.g. Hope
2uu8, Dove el al. 2u!2). Whal is meanl lo be evidenl from lhis brief lrawl of
various fields of research is lhe weallh of areas of emerging and polenlial
research open lo lhose inleresled in underslanding lhe polilical economy of
lechnoscience, and lheir insighls inlo how we mighl conlribule nol only lo a
renewal of lhis area of research, bul also lo a crilical engagemenl wilh lhe
economic conlexl in which science, lechnology and innovalion happen (see Galis
and Hansson 2u!2).
Krt Btatn
Deparlmenl of Social Science
York Universily, 1oronlo
keanyorku.ca
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