Explorations in law and technoscience, and the joint insights of STS and interdisciplinary legal scholarship in unpacking the processes through which knowledge is made and society ordered, have indeed opened up significant possibilities for questioning the nature of legal processes and the production of technoscience.
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Before turning to this general claim, however, we engage in further detail with three key elements that interrogations of knowledge, technologies and law invite us to consider. Understandings of progress and regulatory framings Much of the debate surrounding law and science has revolved around how law responds, or ought to respond, to new scientific developments, risks and opportunities.
The conversations here have often been loaded with significant policy pressures, with governments having to balance ethical concerns with the possibilities offered by new - and at times controversial - technologies. The truism that law fails to keep up with the scientific and technological innovations has long been deconstructed, as the co- production of law and science, and their inherent interdependency, have progressively been proposed as more adequate way of imagining these interactions Jasanoff, Genetic technologies have been at the centre of many of these explorations, and the past twenty years have seen an inflation of the number of public debates that surround new scientific opportunities, and the normative challenges that they raise.
The regulation of science, and regulation through science, is nonetheless at stake in policy choices made far beyond these examples; for example, when choosing which clean energies to facilitate, how to regulate industries in the face of climate change, or how to engage with nuclear energy. These questions all contain complex sets of issues relating not only to the role of law, but also ideas about development and progress, and of the futures that societies accept, imagine, or strive for.
Legal engagements with technoscience therefore entail particular visions of society, and imply exclusions and silencing, as well as the occasional re involvement of various groups and interests cf. Minnow The regulatory framing of new technology becomes a useful site to explore how citizens contribute to social futures, how these are constituted, and what is gained or lost in different types of regulatory strategies.
Additionally, issues of social justice and re distribution are inherently entangled in regulatory choices, as is most visible in debates about patents and ownership over biotechnology and pharmaceutical products e. Hayden ; Pottage Each strategy deployed, and the balancing of rights and duties that are attached to technoscientific activities, will presume particular notions of un fairness and in justice, and either challenge or perpetuate patterns of exclusion and inequality.
The interrelationship between law and scientific innovation is therefore complex, multilayered, and entangled within both choices about technological futures, and more discreetly, about citizenship and social justice. Expertise, citizens and the making of law The questioning of expertise is also central to exploring the deployment of law, and legal bureaucracies, and has been done most thoroughly in the context of the courtroom. STS scholars have demonstrated how the value of expert-knowledge, and of particular technologies, in the context of the courtroom, is itself dependent on negotiation and resolutions that happen both within and outside the courts Jasanoff Visions of both law and science in which these are, respectively, conceived of as pure constructions of justice, or of truth, have progressively been rendered more complicated than early narratives of trials might have implied.
Explorations of expertise and the roles played by experts in broadly legal settings have also opened up debates on the nature of democracies. The democratic premise of equal participation in the political sphere is often at stake in a context of real or perceived increased reliance on experts in decision-making. At one level, the issue here is to reflect on the balancing that must, or can, be operated between democratic expectations and the necessity of grounding decision-making in informed knowledge.
STS scholarship has reconstructed and enriched questions pertinent to this debate. Highlighting the contingency of knowledge, and the entanglements between epistemology, power and politics, leads, for example, to much reflection on how expertise is mobilized and framed by governments local, national, and supranational.
Overall, the connections between knowledge and law-making appear to break and reform boundaries in ways that are continuous with broader patterns of power and exclusion that are not specific to technoscience, though at times are amplified by the temptations of technocratic decision-making. Interrogating the interlinks between expert knowledge and the law has moved from imagining legal and scientific expertise as independent spheres of knowledge to revisiting them as entangled sites of knowledge production.
Tensions reemerge when this mobility of politics is made apparent — for example by the displacement to either courts or expert committees of highly political issues.
Knowledge, Technology and Law: At the Intersection of Socio-Legal and Science & Technology Studies
Thinking about law and materiality Engaging with law and technoscience invites significant attention to social patterns, events, norms and citizens, as developed above. However, it also requires a shift of attention to material sites of production, and deployment, of both legal and epistemic processes. Indeed, the role of materiality in shaping, conditioning and mediating the construction and action of law has been rendered visible by many commentators Pottage and Sherman ; Cloatre ; Jacob This is in part a consequence of the progressive permeation of STS within the study of law.
Examining specific sites of entanglement of law and technoscience therefore bring to the fore the significance of materiality in the production of norms and the deployment of law. This provides forms of questioning that have not traditionally mobilized legal scholars, but which are now increasingly seen as relevant. For Javier Lezaun: The effacement of the labour involved in making legal categories material is evident in the lack of attention of legal scholars to the fabrication of the artefacts that incarnate legal entities. Increasingly, , attention is being paid to how law becomes entangled in other kinds of objects.
Much of this has been stimulated by wider interest in actor-network theory and posthumanist philosophy Barad, , and an increased attention within political theory to the import of matter Bennett, Within these broader theoretical movements, the attention paid to matter within legal scholarship has progressively moved beyond the materiality of texts and towards the broader set of materials that conditions the day-to-day activities of lawyering Latour ; Riles, A further shift directed attention to reflecting on how materials themselves come to embed particular legal scripts and histories, or come to be formed, accepted and transformed by legal processes Cloatre ; Jacob ; Lezaun In turn, the material environment of the law, and the shaping of environments through the law, have been shown to be essential aspects of our understandings of the nature of legal processes Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos The methodological implications of material explorations of law are, in turn, significant, privileging critical and ethnographic approaches to legal processes — and fostering further links between legal scholarship and the anthropologies of law and science e.
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Jacob and Riles Overall, at stake in these STS-inflected studies of law are the meanings of things in the shaping of legal processes, and in turn the significance of the law in producing forms of materiality — and the inevitable interrelationships between these. Objects become socially charged both in regards to what they project of the law, and in what they enable users of the law to do.
In doing so, STS has participated in challenging and deconstructing categories of sometimes entrenched beliefs, norms and practices, unmaking assumptions as to what constitutes their foundations. We suggest that articulating legal scholarship and STS has necessary consequences for understandings of law and inevitably results in deep challenges to its institutional uniqueness and singularity as an object of study.
Knowledge, Technology and Law: 1st Edition (Hardback) - Routledge
If the insights of STS are taken seriously, and integrated with the understandings of legality unfolded through conceptual and empirical interdisciplinary legal scholarship, law seems to become a set of fluidly defined associations within shifting networks, even though its language, institutional landscapes, and modes of deployment may appear specific or perhaps, more appositely, peculiar.
In other words, law can be reimagined as co-constituted rather than presupposed, in the way that social relations and objects are more generally, and this has significant implications for its study. Indeed, if society as the focus of inquiry turns towards the subtle processes of making and ordering that scholars within STS have tended to pay attention to, the vision of law as a predetermined institution becomes difficult to sustain, as the legal space becomes reimagined as being itself constitutive of, and subjected to, broader patterns of fluid and contingent ordering.
Processes of settlement can be unpacked in order to explore how things fall into place in a particular way, through the joint work of law, science, and other entangled processes, but the idea of law that transpires from each of these instances is to be determined rather than assumed.
Work that we may retrospectively characterize as social studies of law already exists, of course, some of which is referred to above. There, STS-inflected studies of the law commonly meet the concerns of legal anthropology, as everyday praxis becomes intrinsic to the constitution of law and its social role. The analysis of legal processes thus becomes inherently dependent on the repeated unpacking of a range of assumptions, discourses, practices, and objects.
This, in turn, enables the exploration of the making of particular forms of knowledge both legal and technoscientific , and of the ways norms, institutions, and the deployment of legal rules are inherently entangled in social, political and material orders. Enjoined here is a conceptual shift to regard law as a fluid notion that acquires its strength and stability by a range of means verbal, institutional, textual, material… through space and time. The methodological implications of this approach bear consideration, as for instance a microscopic examination of legal processes becomes a valuable tool through which to interrogate the contingent nature of law.
Just because law and its boundaries are performed by societal praxis does not mean that it is irrelevant: it is a thing that is important because it is believed by many to be a thing that is important.
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