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Designs on Nature:
Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States
Sheila Jasanoff

Paperback | 2007 | $37.50 | £31.95 | ISBN: 9780691130422
392 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 3 line illus. 7 tables.
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An interview with the author (From Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School Of Government):

Biology and politics have converged today across much of the industrialized world. Debates about genetically modified organisms, cloning, stem cells, animal patenting, and new reproductive technologies crowd media headlines and policy agendas. Less noticed, but no less important, are the rifts that have appeared among leading Western nations about the right way to govern innovation in genetics and biotechnology. These significant differences in law and policy, and in ethical analysis, may in a globalizing world act as obstacles to free trade, scientific inquiry, and shared understandings of human dignity.

In this magisterial look at some twenty-five years of scientific and social development, Sheila Jasanoff compares the politics and policy of the life sciences in Britain, Germany, the United States, and in the European Union as a whole. She shows how public and private actors in each setting evaluated new manifestations of biotechnology and tried to reassure themselves about their safety.

Three main themes emerge. First, core concepts of democratic theory, such as citizenship, deliberation, and accountability, cannot be understood satisfactorily without taking on board the politics of science and technology. Second, in all three countries, policies for the life sciences have been incorporated into "nation-building" projects that seek to reimagine what the nation stands for. Third, political culture influences democratic politics, and it works through the institutionalized ways in which citizens understand and evaluate public knowledge. These three aspects of contemporary politics, Jasanoff argues, help account not only for policy divergences but also for the perceived legitimacy of state actions.


"The book is worth reading. . . . Jasanoff's fascinating descriptions and explanations of the different interpretations and understandings of biotechnology regulation . . . provide an interesting perspective on the decisions for patenting higher life forms that have been made in each of the jurisdictions during the last 25 years."--Julian Kinderlerer, Science

"Sheila Jasanoff has written a carefully structured, ambitious and timely book . . . about the evolution of public policy on biotechnology over the past three decades in the United States, Germany, Britain and the European Union (EU). . . . She marshals her information carefully, using a comparative approach to illustrate how similar challenges to public policy-makers in these countries were handled differently, in ways that reflect long-standing differences in their political cultures."--Mark Cantley, Nature

"Sheila Jasanoff provides a refined and subtle comparative analysis of the ways in which policy decisions about red and green biotechnologies have been made in the United States, the EU, the United Kingdom, and Germany. She shows, with her mastery of detail and structure that the ways in which decisions are made about the pursuit of particular scientific research agendas and the development of types of technologies depend profoundly on the political cultures within which those decisions are made. . . . The analysis provided by Jasanoff in this scholarly and lucid study suggests that whatever the eventual outcome of the WTO dispute, the probability of institutional and policy convergence is slight, and that diversity may well be sustainable or even unavoidable."--Erik Millstone, Issues in Science & Technology

"Designs on Nature manages to communicate the results of sustained scholarship in a lively and engaging style, and should be required reading for anyone interested in the social dynamics of innovation."--James Wilsdon, Financial Times

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Table of Contents:

Prologue 1
Chapter 1: Why Compare? 13
Chapter 2: Controlling Narratives 42
Chapter 3: A Question of Europe 68
Chapter 4: Unsettled Settlements 94
Chapter 5: Food for Thought 119
Chapter 6: Natural Mothers and Other Kinds 146
Chapter 7: Ethical Sense and Sensibility 171
Chapter 8: Making Something of Life 203
Chapter 9: The New Social Contract 225
Chapter 10: Civic Epistemology 247
Chapter 11: Republics of Science 272

This book has been translated into:

  • Chinese (Simplified)

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