Mobilizing Modernity: The Nuclear Moment

By Ian Welsh | Go to book overview

8

Conclusions

It is time to draw together the multiplicity of threads running through the preceding chapters and focus them upon substantive issues within the reflexive modernisation debate. In doing so I am concerned with both the theoretical and policy domains relevant to 'Big' science and society relations. Whilst the theoretical and policy dimensions are intimately related I will deal with some of the theoretical concerns first as they apply to the conceptualisation of modernity.


Modernity and the nuclear moment

The widespread analytical use of modernity evident since the mid 1980s has been subject to swingeing critique seeking to banish the term from the sociological vocabulary (see Woodiwiss 1997). Such criticism ultimately seeks to reinstate the analysis of capitalism at the centre of the sociological problematic. 1 The dominance of modernity as the analytical centrepiece of contemporary social theory, combined with the pervasive use of globalisation, prematurely de-emphasises the role of the nation state and key state institutions such as the military. In foregrounding the importance of knowledge in general and scientific knowledge in particular contemporary theory decouples the process of knowledge formation from the social expression of crucial sets of material interests (Giddens 1990, 1991, Beck 1992). In adopting knowledge as a key currency for the expression of risk and trust relations in late century the underlying social and economic relations are in effect obscured. One consequence of this is that the material interests lying behind a variety of collective risk statements, past, present and future remain under-specified. A further criticism of the modernity/globalisation/risk literature revolves around the dominance of an explicitly Euro-US bias (see Welsh 1999). One explanation for these tendencies lies in the increasing respectability of approaching all that is social as if it were part of a single system within which a process of autopoetic response operates (Luhman 1989). Two major consequences flow from this. First there is a reproduction of facets of structural functionalism, particularly the tendency towards ahistorical accounts of a prevailing set

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Mobilizing Modernity: The Nuclear Moment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Acronyms x
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Nuclear Moment 34
  • 3 - Resisting the Juggernaut 68
  • 4 - Accidents Will Happen 95
  • 5 - Modernity's Mobilisation Stalls 118
  • 6 - The Moment of Direct Action 150
  • 7 - Networking 183
  • 8 - Conclusions 206
  • Notes 228
  • Bibliography 244
  • Author Index 256
  • Subject Index 259
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