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Archive for August, 2013

“I am telling you, how it really is”: Epistemic paternalism is widely accepted.

The enterprise of the social sciences, particularly the sociologies of science, knowledge, and technology, and science studies aka STS, despite calls and provocations to the contrary – i.e. through feminist theories –, has utterly failed to react critically to epistemic paternalism in situations, wherein negotiations over epistemic differences run the danger of being pre-emptively and deterministically decide by epistemic authorities. This failure is partially (con)founded in the

uncritical and acquiescent acceptance of external circumstances, such as explicit knowledge regimes of neoliberalism and post-democracy stemming from the Western colonial matrix of power. More importantly, there is such a tendency of ‘mandarinate’ paternalism – pace Fritz Ringer – within the social sciences themselves, especially at their core, sociological theory: Epistemic paternalism is, above and below all, a political issue.

The international discussion about the state of theory in sociology that has emerged recently between Gabriel Abend, Peeter Selg, Jeroen van Bouwel, and others, suggests that the meshwork of theory, politics, and society (and not for nothing do numerous academic journals carry a combination of these words in their title) is still highly ‘problematic’ on these three axes: The political was – also in the age of post-foundationalism – always already theory-laden, and theory was always already political, politics, and politicizing.

And yet, the critical potential – without becoming oneself paternalistic – could be achieved, if it weren’t for an ‘armistice for perpetual peace’ between corporate, political, and scientific elites.

Among scientific elites, the ‘notary approach’ in STS (Jasanoff) and the ‘defeatism’ of (post-/pseudo-pragamtismic) social phenomenology can count as ideal-typical exemplaries. This perpetual peace lavishes in a regime that de-cosmopoliticizes and paternalizes epistemic hospitality, silences the (sub-altern) Other, and exsolutes and excretes it as a parasite.

The picture that emerges, for example through the lens of semantic agency theory (SAT),

reveals that governace within the sciences and scholarships as well as technoscientific governance in policy-making, i.e. it reveals that the cognitive policy and ideas, the mental maps of decision-makers who ‘inhabit institutions’ – such as, for example, in clinical ADHD discourses or in the discourse of differentiation-theories of legal fragmentation – are glued together and factorially charged on both ends through epistemic paternalisms that suffocate (genuinely) critical potentials. Against this logics from the Western colonial matrix of power, one can defend only through gestures of de-colonial option and epistemic dis-obedience.

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