Reading Not just neoliberalism...”

Ber­man, E. P. (2014). Not Just Neo­lib­er­al­ism: Eco­nom­iz­a­tion in US Sci­ence and Tech­no­logy Poli­cy. Sci­ence, Tech­no­logy & Human Val­ues, 39(3), 397–431.

not-just-neo

The title of this paper says it all really. It’s good though to have a cogent argu­ment about the rela­tions between ideo­logy, poli­cy and the changes in how sci­ence is being done. I for one very eas­ily slip into an accus­at­ory refrain when talk­ing about and usu­ally cri­ti­cising what I’ve seen to be the neo­lib­er­al (non)interventionist and poli­cy dir­ec­tion in edu­ca­tion and sci­ence. Eliza­beth Ber­man presents a much more meas­ured pos­i­tion and con­vinces me that it’s bet­ter under­stood as an eco­nom­iz­a­tion, as she calls it, where the broad­er shift is towards pri­or­it­ising sci­en­ti­fic research and innov­a­tion vis-a-vis the eco­nomy and spe­cific­ally see­ing them as eco­nom­ic inputs. This recog­nises the ten­sions and com­plic­a­tions and the com­pet­ing interests that have run through the chan­ging status of the sci­ences (in the US, but sim­il­arly, I think, in the UK). 

Some­thing I think Ber­man leaves open is the rela­tion­ship between sci­ence and innov­a­tion. She makes it clear that sci­ence and innov­a­tion become inex­or­ably linked when sci­ence is seen in eco­nom­ic terms. I want, though, to bet­ter under­stand the nex­us. Indeed, but con­flat­ing sci­ence and tech­no­logy (“S&T” as Ber­man refers to it), I think there are fur­ther com­plic­a­tions here that need unrav­el­ing, ones point­ing to the entan­gle­ments of sci­ence and tech­no­logy, and where pro­gress or innov­a­tion sits between (or around) them. Can we talk of tech­no­logy without innov­a­tion? If S&T are two-parts of a unit, how can we dis­en­tangle innov­a­tion?

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