Accepted Paper:

Why Political Theorists Ignore Science  


Stephen Turner (University of South Florida)

Paper short abstract:

Political theorists ignore science because science holds itself to be outside the normal definitions of “the political,” which are in terms of enmity and the possibilities of radical democracy.

Paper long abstract:

Although there is a large and confused literature on science and democracy, there has been little uptake by political theorists of the topics treated as political by STS scholars. There are two reasons for this. The first is that political theory has been consumed, for a generation, by the distinction between politics as a limited empirical phenomenon governed by procedures and "the political," i.e. the category of the potentially political, understood as that which can potentially be a matter of enmity, or that which might be the subject of radical democracy. Science has a peculiar relation to these conceptions of the political. On the one hand, to be a believer in science is the mark of rationality; on the other, the actual role of science in relation to democracy is authoritarian, as expressed in the repeated claim in the public statements of science that politicians are obliged to accept the claims of science that have become part of the scientific consensus. These assertions, which have an effect on public decision-making and are therefore in some sense political, are specifically constructed to disclaim any relevance either to enmity or the possibility or revision under radical democracy.

Panel T023
Science Is Politics by Other Means Revisited