Experimentações teóricas, fichamentos e outros comentários descartáveis


Figura 2 no artigo citado (Latour)
Rafael Gonçalves
Bruno Latournão-humanostecnociênciasociotécnica

Fichamento do texto Pragmatogonies: a mythical account of how humans and non-humans swap properties1 de Bruno Latour.

Princípio de simetria de Bloor

The study of science and technology has been deeply modified in the last 20 years through the use of what has been called a principle of symmetry (Bloor, 1991). Truth and falsity, efficiency and irrationality, profitability and waste have been treated in the same terms instead of being partitioned in two incompatible realms. Instead of extracting the three sisters—truth, efficiency, and profitabil- ity—from the messy social world, they became mixed into social practice as intimately as possible. (p. 791)

Problema nas ciências sociais. Solução: princípio de simetria entre humanos e não humanos.

Very quickly, however, it appeared that the social theory that had been used to study rationality as well as irrationality in a symmetrical fashion was deeply flawed because it had been devised in contraposition to the world of objects. This birth defect made very difficult the use of the resources of the social sciences to study the natural world. (p. 791)

To get out of this difficulty, it has been necessary to define a generalized principle of symmetry, not between rational and irrational behavior, but between humans and nonhumans (Latour, 1987). The apparent difficulty of this new principle—which is nothing but an extension of the first one—is that it seems to blur the boundaries between the human subject and the nonhuman object. (p. 791)

Ação técnica como delegração: mobiliza temporalidades, espacialidades e agências diversas

First, let me define technical action as the form of delegation that allows us to mobilize in an interaction movements which have been executed earlier, farther away, and by other actants, as though they are still present and available to us now. Without the presence of the past, the presence of the far away, the presence of nonhuman characters, we would be limited, precisely, to interac- tions, to what we can manage to do, right now, with our own social skills, like the Machiavellian baboons I have just introduced. (p. 792)

Técnica como socialização de não-humanos (em oposição a mitologia do Homo faber que descreve técnica como acesso imediato a objetividade)

Second, this definition of technical action does not imply any Homo faber mythology as if we had through techniques some sort of privileged, unmediated, unsocialized access to objective matter and natural forces. Objects, matter, force, and nature are latecomers and cannot be used as our starting point. The tradi- tional definition of techniques as the imposition of a form consciously planned in advance onto some shapeless matter should be replaced by a much more oblique, although more accurate, definition as the socialization of non-humans (Latour & Lemonnier, 1994). (p. 792-3)

Coletivos modernos: impossibilidade de diferenciar um órgão coletivo, um artefato e um sujeito

Third, the most important consequence of criticizing the Homo faber myth, is that when we exchange properties with nonhumans through technical delega- tion, we enter into a complex transaction, which is visible in contemporary collectives as well as in traditonal ones. If anything, as I have shown elsewhere (Latour, 1993b), what we call modern collectives are not the ones in which society and technology are finally divorced from each other, but those in which relations are so intimate, transactions so many, and mediations so convoluted, that there is no longer any plausible way to differentiate for good a collective body, an artifact and a subject. (p. 793)

Crítica da visão da Teoria Crítica: tecnologia como relação social de dominação

If artifacts are social relations, then why on earth has society to pass through them to inscribe itself onto something else? Why not inscribe itself directly? After all, the artifacts count for nothing; they are just there to transport domination, exclusion, and power, conducting them like electricity along a wire. I know the answer critical theory will give. By going through the medium of artifacts, power and domination hide them- selves under the guise of natural and objective forces. They appear naturalized or objectified or reified. Do you see how critical theory functions? First it uses a tautology: Technology is nothing but social relations. Then it adds a conspiracy theory: Society is hiding itself behind the fetish of techniques. (p. 793)

Sociedade é construída tanto por humanos como por não-humanos

Society is not stable enough to inscribe itself onto anything. On the contrary, most of the features of social order — scale, asymmetry, durability, power, division of labor, role distribution, and hierarchy — are impossible even to define without bringing in socialized nonhumans. Yes, society is constructed, but not just socially constructed. (p. 793)

So every activity suspends the easy commonsense idea that humans speak and act. Every activity implies a generalized principle of symmetry or, at the least, offers an ambiguous mythology that disputes the unique position of humans. We find exactly the same uncertainty with techniques, where we have a human action ending up in the action of a nonhuman. So who eventually is responsible for the action? Both. The responsibility has to be shared, symmetry restored, and the role of humanity shifted sideways from being the sole transcendant cause to that of mediating mediators. (p. 794)

Pragmatogonia: uma genealogia da troca de propriedades entre humanos e não-humanos

Unfortunately, I am going to take a totally unreasonable and speculative path. Instead of describing sociotechnical networks, I am going to attempt a genealogy of the swapping of properties between humans and nonhumans. Because it will be as unreasonable, implausible, and unempirical as the cosmogonies of the past, and because it will retrace the metamorphosis of the object, I will call it, after Serres (1987), a pragmatogony. (p. 794)

If I succeed in giving some space for the imagination, this would mean that we are not forever stuck with the boring alternation of humans to nonhumans and back. It would be possible to imagine a space, that will later be studied empirically, in which we could observe the swapping of properties without always having to start from a priori definitions of humanity. (p. 795)

11 - Ecologia política: necessidade de atribuir direitos à não-humanos (políticas das coisas)

Nowadays, when we look above our heads, we watch a sociopolitical imbroglio, because, for instance, the depletion of the ozone layer brings together a scientific controversy, a political dispute between North and South, and gigantic strategic moves inside industry. The idea of a political representation of nonhumans seems not only plausible but necessary, although it would have seemed ludicrous or even indecent a few years ago. (p. 796)

In the new crossover we bring the property learned through this prior experiment in large-scale management of the planet to bear on the political system. The new hybrid remains a nonhuman, but not only does it lose its material, objective, and rational character, it also takes up some of the properties of citizenship. It has rights, it should be protected, it cannot be enslaved. To use Michel Serres’s (1990) phrase, we should replace the social contract by the “natural contract.” I will call this first layer of meaning — last in chronological order — political ecology. We now understand that we must literally and not just symbolically manage the planet and practice the politics of things. (p. 796-7)

10 - Tecnologia: construção da ciência, de organizações, da indústria (objetos-instituições)

We again encounter a crossover here, but it is of a different sort and goes in a different direction, although it can also be called sociotechnical. For the scientist I interviewed, there was no question of granting any sort of rights of citizenship to the yeast. For him, the yeast is a strictly material entity. The industrial laboratory, where new modes of organization of labor elicit com- pletely new features of the nonhumans, would be a good definition of what a technology is in the English sense of the word: that is, a fusion of science, organization, and industry. (p. 797)

In technology, the forms of coordination learned through networks of power (see below) are extended to disarticulate entities not only on a much larger scale but also in a much more intimate way. Although yeast had, for millenia, already been put to work by the old brewing industry, the yeast now distributed through the networks of 30 European laboratories to have its genome mapped is humanized and socialized in the much more literal sense of becoming a code, a book, a program of action, compatible with our ways of coding, counting, and reading, and no longer retaining any of its material quality, its outsiderness. It has been swallowed within the collective. (p. 797)

Through technology, socialness is shared with nonhumans in an almost promiscuous way, automatons being endowed with some sort of primitive speech, intelligence, foresight, self-control, discipline. They have no rights, to be sure, as in the eleventh meaning, but they are much more than material entities: They are complicated organizations. (p. 797-8)

9 - Redes de poder: emergência de malhas de energia, transporte e comunicação a partir de propriedades não-humanas (rearticulações extensivas)

Rede de poder (Hughes), corporação global (Chandler).

This is not to say that what I call organizations and networks are purely social, because they are themselves recapitulating nine former crossovers of humans and nonhumans. Alfred Chandler and Thomas Hughes have each shown the simultaneous extension of what the former calls the global corporation (Chandler,

  1. and the latter calls networks of power (Hughes, 1983). Here again, I could talk of a sociotechnical imbroglio and replace the dualist paradigm by the seamless web of technical and social factors so beautifully deployed by Hughes. (p. 798)

The extension of networks of power in the electrical industry, in telecommu- nications, in transportation, are impossible to imagine without the massive mobilization of material entities. The reason why Tom Hughes’ (1983) book is so exemplary for the field of science studies lies in his ability to show how a technical invention—that of electric lighting—is brought to bear by Edison on a mode of organization, of management, of law, that creates a corporation without much precedent because its scope and scale, to use Chandler’s title, are directly related to the physical properties of the electrical networks. Not that Hughes in any way talks of a material infrastructure triggering changes in the social superstructure. On the contrary, his networks of power are complete hybrids, but hybrids of a peculiar sort: They lend their nonhuman qualities to what were until then weak, local, and scattered corporate bodies. Management of large masses of electrons, clients, power stations, subsidiaries, meters, and dispatching rooms takes on the formal and universal character of scientific law. (p. 798)

Genealogia do aprendizado de propriedades ontológicas: naturalização do social e cosialização do não-humano

But the point of my little genealogy is to be able to identify inside the seamless web the properties which are borrowed from the social world to socialize the nonhumans, and, vice versa, from the nonhumans to naturalize and expand the social realm. For each layer of meaning, everything happens as if we were learning, through our contact with one side, ontological properties, which are then reimported to the other side, generating new, completely unexpected effects. (p. 798)

Matéria é composta de intersecções humano-não-humano e também possui uma genealogia

The principle of my genealogy, however, is that whenever we talk of matter as a given, we are in fact considering a package of multiple layers of former crossovers between social and natural elements so that what we take as primitive and pure terms are belated and mixed ones. Just by retracing the most recent three steps, we can already see that matter is vastly different depending on the different layers I have called political ecology, technology, or networks of power. Far from being a primitive term, always immutable in contrast to a fast changing society, matter has a genealogy too, and nonhumans can in no way be limited to their material definition, which, on the contrary, we should be able to retrace. (p. 799)

8 - Indústria: autonomização do trabalho através da composição de não-humanos (automação)

The extraordinary feat that I will call industry is to grant nonhumans the possibility of being related to one another in an assembly of actants that we call a machine or an automaton, which is endowed with some sort of autonomy and which is submitted to regular laws that can be measured through instruments and accounting procedures. From tools held in the hands of human workers, we shift to an assembly of machines where tools are related to one another, creating a massive array of labor and material relations in the new factories that Marx has forcefully described as so many circles of Dante’s Inferno. (p. 799)

Automação não como alienação e desumanização, mas como socialização.

The paradox of this stage of the relations between humans and nonhumans is that it is seen as alienation, dehumanization, as if this was the first time that poor and exploited human weakness was confronted with an all-powerful objective force. However, to relate nonhumans together in an assembly of machines, ruled by laws, and accounted for by instruments, is still to grant them some sort of social life. Indeed, the whole modernist project consists of creating that peculiar hybrid: A fabricated nonhuman that has nothing of the character of society and politics, but that builds the body politic all the more effectively because it seems completely estranged from humanity (Latour, 1993b). (p. 799)

We treat it as m-echanistic. forgetting that mechanism is one half of the modern definition of society. (p. 799)

7 - A Megamáquina: organização humana em larga escala como protótipo da máquina (gestão em larga escala)

Lewis Mumford has made, in a series of beautiful books, the intriguing suggestion that megamachines are the templates on which ma- chines were then constructed (Mumford, 1966, 1986). First comes the megama- chine, that is, the organization of large numbers of humans through chains of command, deliberate planning, and accounting procedures. This change of scale through the imperial machinery of legal commands is what has first to be invented. The local interactions of humans are now extended through the large, stratified, externalized body politic, which can keep track of many nested subprograms of action through the invention of such intellectual techniques as writing, counting, and accounting. (p. 800)

According to Mumford, before having any notion of wheels, gears, works, and movements, you first need to have set up the very possibility of a large-scale organization. Large-scale management is the template for large-scale technologies. Then and only then, by substituting some but not all of its subprograms by nonhumans, may you generate machinery and factories, industries and automatons. The nonhumans, in this view, enter the organization and take up the role of obedient servant which has already been rehearsed for centuries by humans enrolled in the imperial megamachine. Nonhumans are the understudies of human servants. (p. 800)

Before being able to delegate action to nonhumans, and before being able to relate nonhumans to one another in an automaton, you first need to be able to nest many subprograms of action into one another without losing track of them. Management, in a way, always precedes the expansion of material techniques. Or rather, if we want to keep with the logic of my story, every time we learn something about the management of humans, we shift this new knowledge to the nonhumans, endowing them with more and more organizational properties. (p. 800)

Transferência de propriedades humanas para não-humanos e vice-versa

This is how we could interpret the even-numbered episodes I have recounted so far: Industry transfers to nonhumans the management of people learned in the imperial megamachine, just as technologies do for the large-scale manage- ment learned through networks of power. And if we recapitulate the odd- numbered episodes, we see the opposite process at work: What has been learned from the nonhumans is then reimported to reconfigure people, as that which happens in networks of power and political ecology. (p. 800)

6 - Ecologia internalizada: socialização de animais, plantas e materiais (reificação)

How can we define domestication and agriculture better than by considering it as the granting of socialness and intimacy to nonhuman actants? I will call this process inter- nalized ecology; where so many animals, plants, and materials are submitted to such an intense socialization, re-education, and reconfiguration, that they change shapes, functions, and even genetic makeup (Kent, 1989). (p. 801)

The result of this shift of characters is a human-made landscape (gardens, villages, and cities); a development so radical that it completely changed what is meant by social and material life. (p. 801)

5 - Sociedade: reificação nos artefatos de interações individuais (domesticação)

Durkheim: social a priori que age sobre indivíduos

In the Durkheimian interpretation, a society is what precedes individual action, what lasts much longer than any interaction, what dominates us, the reality in which we are born, live, and die. Society is this corporate body that is so overarching that it socializes us, the humans, giving us a role, a shape, and a function; yes, it domesticates us by teaching us how to behave and to conform. It is externalized, it is reified, it is more real than ourselves. The origin of all religions and sacred rituals, for Durkheim, are nothing but the return, through figures and myths, of what is transcendant over any individual interaction: society. (p. 802)

Garfinkel: social a posteriori como resultado de interações individuais

And yet we build our society solely through interactions. No matter how many roles and functions we have been disciplined into, we still repair the social fabric out of our own knowledge and ethnomethods. Durkheim may be right, but so is Garfinkel. (p. 802)

Mediação técnica como forma duradoura de interações passadas

Instead, the solution may simply be found in yet another incarnation of the word sociotechnical. We are not alone in our interac- tions. We also bring the long-lasting influence of all the actions which we, or others, have taken in the past through technical mediation. (p. 802)

What Durkheim mistook for the effect of a sui generis social order is simply the effect of having brought so many techniques to bear on our social relations. From them, we learned what it was to last longer, to be spread over space and time, to occupy arole, to be dispatched into a function. By reimporting this competence into the definition of society, we learned how to reify it, to make it stand independently of fast-moving interactions. And indeed, we learned how to delegate to this externalized body even the task of delegating us into roles and functions. Yes, society exists for real, but no, it is not socially constructed. Even in this, the most primitive concept of all social theory, nonhumans proliferate rendering it impossible to recognize a “pure” society. (p. 802)

4 - Técnicas: extração e combinação de não-humanos (externalização)

As we learn from archaeologists, techniques imply articulated subprograms of action which are spreading in space and time (Leroi-Gourhan, 1964). (p. 803)

In other words, they imply not a society, which is a later hybrid, but some sort of social organization to hold together nonhumans extracted from very different seasons, matters, and places. A bow and arrow, a hammer, a net, a piece of clothing, are made of many different bits and pieces which have to be recombined in a time and space sequence bearing no relation to their natural settings. (p. 803)

So, techniques are what happened to tools and nonhu-man actants when they were processed by a form of social organization that allowed them to be extracted, recombined, and socialized. Even the simplest techniques are sociotechnical. Even at this primitive layer of meaning we cannot separate forms of organization from technical practices. (p. 803)

3 - Complicação social: uso de não-humanos para estabilizar relações sociais (articulação)

Shirley Strum and I have called this third layer of meaning social complication (Strum & Latour, 1987). Complex interactions are now marked and traced by nonhumans brought to bear on social relations. Why would the enrollment of nonhumans be of any use? Because they can stabilize social negotiations. At this stage, nonhumans offer an extraordinary feature: They are at once pliable and durable; they can be shaped very fast, but, once shaped, they last much longer than the interaction that has fabricated them. Social interactions, on the other hand, are extremely labile and transitory. More exactly, they are either negotiable but transient, or, if they are encoded for instance in the genetic makeup, they are extremely durable but impossible to easily renegotiate. (p. 803)

By bringing in nonhumans, the contradiction of durability and negotiability is solved. It is now possible to trace interactions, to blackbox them, to recombine highly compli- cated tasks, to nest subprograms one into another. What was impossible for highly complex social animals to do becomes possible when prehumans transfer the use of tools not to gain access to food, but to trace, fix, underline, and materialize their interactions. The social realm, although still made only of interactions, becomes visible and gains some durability through its own tracers. (p. 803)

2 - O kit básico de ferramentas: extensão de propriedades sociais na forma de ferramentas (flexibilidade, durabilidade)

Even the basic tool kit, this epitome of the Homo faber myth, cannot be accounted for by a sudden access to objective matter, to the obduracy of stones, straw, and wood. What is a tool, then, in my genealogy? It is the extension of social tools to nonhumans! Remember the complex social negotiation that Machiavellian baboons, chimpanzees, gorillas, and vervets are supposed to enter, according to primatologists (Byrne & Whiten, 1988)? They have few techniques, to be sure, but are perfectly able, as Hans Kummer (1993) has shown, to devise social tools through the manipulation and modification of one another in their complex strategies (De Waal, 1982; Strum, 1987). If you grant the prehumans of my own mythology at least the same kind of social complexity (see below), you may generate tools simply by shifting this ability, through a crossover, to nonhumans. Just treat pieces of stone and wood as social partners and modify them so that you can act on another. Prehuman tool use, in contrast to the ad hoc use of implements by primates to fulfill a task, would then be the extension of a skill rehearsed in the realm of social interaction. Even the most primitive tools already require some sort of social life, but one which is very different from my earlier episodes (later episodes in terms of the mythical history recounted here). (p. 805)

Não existem 2 genealogias (infraestrutura material e superestrutura social). Mas uma genealogia que engloba negociações do que seria uma história sociotécnica

Many archeologists try to go straight from what I will call the basic tool kit to techniques as if they were directly related by a sort of Darwinian evolution of tools into composite tools. In the humblest flints some archaeologists are ready to see the first inceptions of techniques, of industry, of technology as if a direct route linked stones and nuclear plants. (p. 803-4)

There are no two parallel histories, the first for the technical infrastructure and the other for the social superstructure, but only one sociotechnical history. There are not two parallel histories, one for the function and the other for the style, one for the material world and the other for symbolic representation. At every stage, according to my pragmatogony, it is through the commerce with nonhumans that the necessary social skills and properties are learned, and it is only by reimporting those skills back to the nonhumans that they are made to do different things and play different roles. (p. 804)

1 - Complexidade social: interações sociais pré-humanas? (ferramentas sociais)

We are now back to the point where I started: to the sitcom of Clairborne, Crook, and Sharman; to the Machiavellian intelligence of primates, engaged in Garfinkelian interactions so as to repair the constantly decaying social order, manipulating one another to survive in groups of many conspecifics who are constantly interfering with one another. We are back to what Strum (1987) calls social complexity. I could go further and show you that even this “primitive term” is no freer from contact with nonhumans than any of the later stages, but I will spare you the rest of my pragmatogony, the rest of this mad pursuit into the logical origin of society and techniques. (p. 805)

A abordagem sociotécnica apresentada escapa do dualismo humano / não-humano

Even if this very speculative genealogy is entirely false, it shows, at the very least, that it is perfectly possible to imagine an alternative to the dualist paradigm I have criticized so much. We are not forever stuck in the boring alternation between two different substances, one made of objects and matter and the other of subjects and symbols. We are not forever limited to “not only, but also” types of explanation. According to my origin myth, it is impossible even to conceive of an artifact that does not incorporate social relations, or to define a social structure without the integration of nonhumans into it. Every human interaction is sociotechnical. (p. 805-6)

Second, and more importantly, it is no longer true to say that once we abandon the dichotomy between society and techniques, we are simply faced with a seamless web of factors (Hughes, 1986) in which everything is included in everything else and vice versa, as so many of my critics like to argue (Collins & Yearley, 1992; Schaffer, 1991). On the contrary, the properties of humans and nonhumans cannot be swapped haphazardly. Not only does there exist a strict order in the acquisition of properties, but for each of the layers I have peeled away, the meaning of the word sociotechnical may be clarified by considering the crossover: what has been learned from the nonhumans and reimported back onto the social link, what has been rehearsed in the social realm and exported back to the nonhumans. Nonhumans too have a history. They are not material objects or constraints. Sociotechnical, is different from sociotechnicalg or socio- (p. 806)

Existe uma alternância entre humano e não-humano, mas ela não tem a ver com humanismo ou objetividade

Third, it should be clear from Figure 2 that there is a sense, nonetheless, in which the old dualism was right. We do indeed have to alternate between the state of social relations and the state of nonhuman relations, but this is not the same as alternating between humanism and objectivity. The mistake of the dualist paradigm comes from its definition of humanism. The very shape of humans, our very body, is already made in large part of sociotechnical negotia- tions and artifacts. So, considering the human as that which must be protected (p. 806)

Nós somos animais sociotécnicos (mediação entre humano e não-humano)

We are sociotechnical animals. We are never limited to social ties. We are never faced with objects. Where should we position humanity, then? Humanity should be positioned in the crossover, in the middle column of Figure 2, as the very possibility of mediating between different mediators. (p. 806)

Pragmatogonia mostra uma diferença de escala (e não de separação entre natureza e culura). Tese de Jamais fomos modernos. Não existe grande divisão entre coletivos tradicionais e modernos.

Fourth, in the pragmatogony I have attempted in this article, I reasoned as if we alternated from the social to the nonhuman repertoire, always through the same move: When we wanted to understand how an object comes to the collective, we looked at what type of social relevance with which it had first to be endowed, and when we wanted to understand how a social interaction could sustain a durable social link, we looked for those nonhumans which could lend their properties so as to render the social order more durable. This meant retracing the creation of a collective by the enroliment of nonhumans. I wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to pay respect to technical mediation without using the dualist paradigm, without inventing those two artifacts, a society, on the one hand, and an objective world, on the other. But scale is another feature of that movement. Ateach of the 11 moves I have retraced, amuch larger number of humans are mixed with a much larger number of nonhumans, to the point where, today, the whole planet is internalized in the making of our politics, of our legal system, and, soon, of our morality. (p. 806-7)

The illusion of modernity was to believe that the more we grew the more distant objectivity and subjectivity would become, thus creating a future radi- cally different from our past. After the paradigm shift in our conception of science and technology, we now know that this will never be the case, indeed that this has never been the case. (p. 807)

Objectivity and subjectivity are not opposed, they grow together, and they grow irreversibly together, thus breaking the great divide between so-called traditional and modern collectives. (p. 807)

Coletivo como emaranhado de sociedade e mundo objetivo

5 - I use the word collective as a substantive to mean the tangle (as conventionally understood) of the society (humans-among-themselves) and the objective world (things-in-themselves). (p. 807)

  1. LATOUR, B. Pragmatogonies: A Mythical Account of How Humans and Nonhumans Swap Properties. American Behavioral Scientist, v. 37, n. 6, p. 791–808, 1 maio 1994.