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VARIEGATED SKILLS FOR THE COLLECTIVE
THE CONTRIBUNON OF SCIENTISTS
What can we expect of the sciences, once they have been delivered from Science?
• Give perplexity the formidable asset of appropriate instruments and laboratories, to detect scarcely visible phenomena (task number 1).
• Contribute to the work of consultation (task number 2), thereby dealing with emerging controversy and engaging in experimental testing.
• Put in order of importance the heterogeneous entities in a homogeneous hierarchy (task number 3), a task that moralists used to claim as theirs, forbidding scientists, who were limited to the facts alone, to touch it.
• Who then (task number 4) would want to deprive the institutional orientation of researcher-and-innovator's skills?
If we have criticized Science for its confusion between perplexity and the certainty of instituted facts, it is only because Science claims it can leap directly from one to the other.
There is no longer anything illegitimate in the fact of using the competencies of scientists not only to obtain consensus but also to shelter it right away in forms of life, instruments, paradigms and black boxes:
• The demand for autonomy in questioning (task number 5) mistakenly confused for the moment with an indisputable right to knowledge, recognition and budgets – has for the time being only one weakness, that of being a privilege reserved for scientists! Apportioned out to all the members of the collective (humans and nonhumans), this demand is going to prove decisive for the good health of the collective.
• Nothing ultimately is more indispensable (task number 6) than the multiplication of the great narratives through which researchers "package" the entire collective human and nonhuman history in a grandiose generalization, from the Big Bang to the evolution of life from the amoeba, to Einstein, to "the theory of everything'.
THE CONTRIBUNON OF POUTIQANS
At first glance, it may seem strange to ask politicians to make a grounding contribution, right alongside that of laboratory researchers, to the perplexity of the collective (task number 1). No one will deny, moreover, that politicians have the skill that will allow them to contribute decisively to emergent consultation (task number 2). Despite appearances to the contrary (task number 3), politicians have always dealt with associations of humans and nonhumans, cities and landscapes, things and people, genes and properties, navigation-wise so to speak, in brief cosmograms.
It is probably the last competency of the politicians, for Latour, the one that produces a scenario – Herman's "big picture" – for the collective whole (task number 6), that is the most effective and has been neglected the longest. The collective, as we understand now, is not a thing in the world, a being with fixed and definitive borders, but a movement of establishing provisional cohesion that will have to be started all over again every single day. Because both scientists and politicians delight in the art of transformation, the former to obtain reliable information on the basis of the continual work of instruments, and the latter to obtain the unheard-of metamorphosis of enraged or stifled voices, political ecology has to bring together the scientific and the political ways of intermingling humans and nonhumans. What about, though, the role of economists?
THE CONTRIBUTION OF ECONOMISTS
With the economists of the Old Regime, according to Latour, the collective was stifled, obliged to define itself as natural and self-regulated domains, subject to indisputable laws capable of producing values by simple calculations. Talking about economics as a specific sphere reduced politics, then and more especially now, to a rump agency that cannot do the job. When homo economicus designated the foundation of universal anthropology, the inquiry into the composition of the world ceased at once.
Thinking they had come across an instance of self-regulation, the economic adherents of natural equilibria made a small mistake on the placement of the prefix "self". Yes economics is a self-reflexive discipline, Latour says, but it does not designate any self-regulated phenomenon; it simply allows the "public" to see itself, to conceive itself, to constitute itself a republic. If we stop a moment to measure the immense difficulties of the tasks of hierarchy and institution, he goes on to say, we can easily grasp the crucial real contribution of economizers. For they are going to make it possible, in his view, to give a common language to the heterogeneous set of entities that have to form a hierarchy (task number 3 – our navigation). Nothing could better link black holes, rivers, farmers, the climate and human embryos in an ordered relation, in one integral cosmogram (more often than not a fourfold one).
Thanks to the economic calculation, all these entities become at least commensurable. Instead of defending its virtues by imagining a metaphysics, an anthropology and a psychology entirely invented to serve its own utopia, as was done in the 18th and 19th centuries, perhaps in the 21st century we may finally recognize such from its account books. Latour maintains then that economics has the unique capacity to give a common language to those whose task it is precisely to discover the best of common worlds. Economics, as such, is no longer politics: it no longer dictates its terrifying solution in the name of laws cast in bronze that would be external to history, anthropology and public life: it participates humbly in the progressive formatting of problems, in setting down on paper arbitrages that no other procedure could manage to reduce. Dangerous as infrastructure, economics becomes indispensable as documentation and calculation, as secretion of a paper trail, as modelization.
Latour, then, in this economic context, says little about the tasks of perplexity and consultation, for the dominion of modernism has been such that political economics thought it described them, whereas it scarcely touched them at all. This is the astonishing paradox of a movement that does not even have words to speak of the intimacy of the relations it has woven, more than any other collective, between goods and people. The old version of economics, consisting of objects to be bought and sold and of simply rational subjects, blinded us to the depth and complexity of the connections that humans and nonhumans have always woven together, links ceaselessly explored by merchants, industrialists, artisans innovators, entrepreneurs and consumers. It would take a very different anthropology to begin to take account of, or ground itself in, this immense world.
Let us simply realize, Latour asserts, that no one is better able to detect the invisible entities and involve them in the collective (task number 1) than those who are on the alert for the possible attachment between humans and nonhumans, and who can imagine in order to redistribute bonds and passions, likes and dislikes, recombinations of goods and people that are as yet unknown. By freeing up this "economic" competence, we are going to link the fate of humans and nonhumans, possessors and possessions, more intimately. Persons will be more solidly associated with goods and goods with persons. We now turn to the contribution of moralists.
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