States of Knowledge: The Co-Production of Science and Social Order

By Sheila Jasanoff | Go to book overview

5

Knowledge and political order in the European Environment Agency

Claire Waterton and Brian Wynne


Introduction

The discourses of science and politics have perhaps always been confused by the interpenetration of hybrid ideas of both natural and human orders. Indeed, since well before the establishment of a field of science and policy which explores such potent theoretically laden issues, anthropologists had noted the fundamental correspondences between notions of human and natural order in non-modern societies (Horton 1971; Douglas 1966; 1975). In considering the subtle relations between natural knowledge and social-political orders, the political and cultural flux of late-modern Europe may be an especially interesting site for observation and analysis. From early beginnings in a purely economic arrangement, a Common Market, more explicit ideals of a politically and culturally unified Europe began to find expression among Western European leaders. Successive versions of a European Treaty gradually strengthened the momentum towards ideas of a political union. At the same time, original expectations and ambitions of a European superstate along modernist lines have been complicated by a combination of forces which could be called both “traditional” and “postmodern” - a stubborn refusal to relinquish local identifications (witnessed in pockets all over Europe), as well as a more pervasive cosmopolitan sense of global relativity. Whatever their particular shape however, it is clear that knowledge and, in particular, the projection of emergent idioms of natural knowledge, have been central factors in the struggle to define and stabilize competing visions of institutional and political order such as we see in post-Cold War Europe.

In this chapter we examine a contemporary European institution whose purpose is to produce natural knowledge about the environment in Europe. 1 Through an analysis of ways in which the European Environment Agency (EEA) negotiates what kinds of natural knowledge are appropriate for use and dissemination as official EU “environmental information”, we can see instances where quite clearly what we are looking at is the simultaneous emergence of science and a (super)state. There is a strong sense in which this “co-production” of knowledge and state is both a hugely influential and powerful process, yet at the same time an undertaking that is full of contingencies, uncertainties and

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