[xmca] A comment on Bernstein and Latour

From: Lars Rossen (lhrossen3@gmail.com)
Date: Wed Jul 13 2005 - 12:03:01 PDT

When reading the Bernstein paper I had the feeling that the descriptions of
vertical discourses would link to Latour's analysis of institutional life
and their localized, emerging discourses and the connection is indeed made
in the end. However from my (somewhat fragmented and far from qualified)
reading of both the researchers in focus, a question comes to mind: I am
under the impression that Latour would claim that any and all discourses,
theoretically specialized or not, would be horizontal, situated and take the
shape of enclaves and these enclaves will, through their research and
science production contribute to the language of science, reshaping the
general scientific language tools by participation and localized negation
that spreads into the larger network of science workers.
Even though the language might be structured around established cannons (as
science) it will quickly reshape under the influence of the language users
(as research). As far as I understand the Latourian mindset, it can not be a
question of vertical vs. horizontal discourses, or putting one over the
other, since this would be in opposition to the idea of the network (or
work-net) where the discourse of everyday life and science and research
float back and forth within the enclave and between the nodes in the net as
a larger set of enclaves.
Where the dichotomy of the two axis seems to imply that one has to develop
from a lover state to a higher rise from the profane to the academic - in
order to participate in the scientific discourse and that the acquisition of
the vertical languages equals a adaptation to a pre-set structure and growth
towards a given set of behaviors by learning the hind lying theoretic frame
work, Latour seems to bring emphasis to the fact that knowledge distribution
and social development is a matter of circulated and indeed non-hierarchical
negotiations and refrains from giving any heed to theoretical frameworks or
power structures that might be governing the network in question meaning
specialized language becomes a tool among many others that can be analyzed
alongside any other tool in play very much in line with the activity
theoretical understanding.

My question is - when the paper conclusively points towards focusing on a
problem instead of a theory as a solution to the issues of too many
specified languages, is there not a discrepancy between the use of Latours
notion of a theory-free approach and the notion of the sketched
horizontal-vertical dichotomy?

Lars Rossen

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