The Paradoxes of Science, Technology and Social Change



Science and technology commonly do not play a separate role in macro-accounts of social change.1 Nor do they constitute a separate social order, as here. At the same time, they are frequently and popularly invoked as agents of radical social change — as when, for example, it is asserted that information and communication technologies are drivers of globalization. New scientific discoveries and technological advances are regularly heralded as bringing about momentous transformations, yet little thought is given to the workings of routine technologies and older scientific discoveries that shape our lives (as Edgerton 2006 has pointed out). In social theory, in the meantime, the most prominent current perspective on science, technology and social change is the idea of ‘social shaping’ or ‘social constructivism’, whereby science and technology never do any autonomous shaping, but they are always already shaped by social or cultural contexts. These different approaches are clearly at odds. One reason for this can be previewed, which is that in addition to enthusiasm about scientific discovery and new technologies, there is also often a fear of ‘technological determinism’, of runaway social change, and a hostility to the idea that scientific advance leaves no scope for human volition, as for example in the case of genetic determinants of behaviour.


Mobile Phone Everyday Life Social Change Social Theory Research Front 
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Copyright information

© Ralph Schroeder 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OxfordUK

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