Bruno Latour
March 30, 2001


By Bruno Latour

"Regeln fur die neuen wissenschaftlichen und sozialen Experimente"

Prepared for the Darmsdadt Colloquium plenary lecture, March 30, 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen

We are all familiar with the notion of rules of methods for scientific
experiments. Since the time of Bacon and Descartes, there is hardly a
famous scientist who has not written down a set of rules to direct
one's mind or, nowadays, to enhance the creativity of one's own
laboratory, to organise one's discipline, or promote a new science
policy. Even though these rules might not be enough to certify that
interesting results will be obtained, they have been found useful
nonetheless in establishing the state of the art. Equipped with those
rules it is possible, according to their promoters, to say why some
argument, behaviour, discipline, or colleague is or is not scientific

Now the question before us tonight is certainly not to propose yet
another set of rules to determine what is a scientific experiment or
to offer advises on how to become even more scientific. For this task,
anyway, I would be wholly incompetent. What I have chosen to explore
with you is a rather new question w ho has only recently come to the
foreground of public consciousness : namely, collective experiments.
What are those collective or socio-technical experiments ? Are they
run in a totally wild manner with no rules at all ? Would it be
desirable to find rules to conduct them ? What does it mean for the
ancient definition of rationality and rational conduct ? And, I will
add, what does it mean for a specifically European conception of
democracy ? Such are the questions that, with your permission, I
intend, not to try to solve but to touch upon tonight.

That we are all engaged into a set of collective experiments that have
spilled over the strict confines of the laboratories does not need
more proof than the reading of the newspapers or the watching of the
night TV news. At the time when I speak, thousand of officials,
policemen, veterinarians, farmers, custom officers, firemen, are
fighting all over Europe -indeed now all over the world- against the
foot and mouth virus that is devastating so many countrysides. Nothing
new in this, of course, since public health has been invented two
centuries ago to prevent the spread of infectious diseases through
quarantine and, later, disinfecting and vaccination. What is new, what
is troubling, what requires our attention is that the present epizooty
is due precisely to the collective decision not to vaccinate the
animals. In this crisis, we are not faced, like our predecessors, with
a deadly disease that we should fight with the weapons concocted
inside the laboratory of Robert Koch or Louis Pasteur and their
descendants : we find ourselves entangled in the unwanted -but wholly
predictable- consequences of a decision to experiment, at the scale of
Europe, on how long non-vaccinated livestock could survive without a
new bout of this deadly disease. A nice case of what Ulrich Beck has
called " manufactured risks ".

By mentioning this case, I am not trying to make you indignant; I am
not claiming that ‘naturally' we should have vaccinated livestock; I
am not saying it is a scandal because economic interests have taken
precedence over public health and the welfare of farmers. There exist,
I am well aware, many good reasons for the decision not to vaccinate.
My point is different : a collective experiment has been tried out
where farmers, consumers, cows, sheep, pigs, veterinarians,
virologists have been engaged together. Has it been a well designed or
a badly designed experiment -that is the question I want to raise ?

In the time past, when a scientist or a philosopher of science was
thinking of writing down rules of method, he (more rarely she) was
thinking of a closed site, the laboratory, where a small group of
specialised experts where scaling down (or scaling up) phenomena which
they could repeat at will through simulations or modelling, before
presenting, much later, their results, which could then, and only
then, be scaled up, diffused, applied, or tried out. We recognise here
the ‘trickling down' theory of scientific influence : from a confined
centre of rational enlightenment, knowledge would emerge and then
slowly diffuse out to the rest of society. The public could chose to
learn the results of the laboratory sciences or remain indifferent to
them, but it could certainly not add to them, dispute them, and even
less contribute to their elaboration. Science was what was made inside
the walls where white coats were at work. Experiments was undergone by
animals, materials, figures and softwares. Outside the laboratory
borders began the realm of mere experience -not experiment.

It would be an understatement to say that nothing, absolutely nothing,
has been left of this picture, of this trickling down model of
scientific production.

First, the laboratory has extended its walls to the whole planet.
Instruments are everywhere. Houses, factories, hospitals have become
the subsidiaries of the labs. Think, for instance, of global
positioning system : thanks to this satellite network geologists,
naturalists, can now take measurements with the same range of
precision outside and inside their laboratories. Think of the new
requirements for tracability which are as stringent outside as those
for inside the production sites. The difference between natural
history -outdoor science- and lab science, has slowly been eroded.

Second, it is well known from the development, for example, of patient
organisations that many more people are formulating research
questions, insisting on research agendas, than those who hold a PhD or
wear a white coat. My colleague, Michel Callon, has been following for
several years now a patient organisation in France, the AFM, which
fights against orphan genetic diseases : they have not waited for
results of molecular biology to trickle down to patients in wheel
chairs : they have raised the money, hired the researchers, pushed for
controversial avenues like genetic therapy, fired researchers, built
an industry and in so doing they have been producing at once a new
social identity and a new research agenda. The same can be said of
many other groups, the best example being provided by the AIDS
activists so well analysed by Steven Epstein. And you would find the
same situation throughout the whole ecological activism : if a crucial
part of doing science is formulating the questions to be solved, it is
clear that scientists are not alone in this. If in doubt on this
point, ask the anti-nuclear militants about what type of research on
energy they think laboratory scientists should be doingE

Third, the question of scale. Experiments are now happening at scale
one and in real time, as it has become clear with the key question of
global warming. To be sure, many simulations are being run; complex
models are being tried out on huge computers, but the real experiment
is happening on us, with us, through the action of each of us, on all
of us, with all the oceans, high atmosphere and even the Gulf Stream
-as some oceanographers argue- participating in it. The only way to
know if global warming is indeed due to anthropic activity is to try
out and stop our noxious emissions to see then later, and
collectively, what has happened. This is indeed an experiment but at
scale one in which we are all embarked.

But then, what is now the difference with what used to be called a
political situation : namely, what interests everyone and concerns
everyone ? None. That's precisely the point. The sharp distinction
between scientific laboratories experimenting on theories and
phenomena inside, and a political outside where non-experts were
getting by with human values, opinions and passions, is simply
evaporating under our eyes. We are now all embarked in the same
collective experiments mixing humans and non-humans together -and no
one is in charge. Those experiments made on us, by us, for us have no
protocol. No one is given explicitly the responsibility of monitoring
them. This is why a new definition of sovereignty is being called for.

When I am saying that the distinction between the inside and the
outside of the laboratory has disappeared, I am not saying that from
now on ‘all is political'. I am simply reminding you that contemporary
scientific controversies are designing what Arie Rip and Michel Callon
have called ‘hybrid forums'. We used to have two types of
representations and two types of forums : one that was in charge of
representing things of nature -and here the word ‘representation'
means accuracy, precision and reference- and another one which was in
charge of representing people in society -and here the word
‘representation' meant faithfulness, election, obedience. One simple
way to characterise our times is to say that the two meanings of
representation have now merged into one around the key notion of

For instance, the global warming controversy is just one of those many
new hybrid forums : some of those spokespersons represents the high
atmosphere, others the lobbies of oil and gas, still others non-
governmental organisations, still others represents, in the classical
sense, their electors (with President Bush able to represent
simultaneously his electors and the energy lobbies who have bought him
up !). The sharp difference that seemed so important between those who
represented things and those who represented people has simply
vanished. What counts is that all those spokesperson are in the same
room, engaged in the same collective experiment, talking at once about
imbroglios of people and things. It does not mean that everything is
political, but that a new politics certainly has to be devised, as
Peter Sloterdijk has so forcefully argued in his vertiginous text
Regeln fur den Menschenpark.

As I am sure you all know, the old word for ‘thing' does not mean what
is outside the human realm, but a case, a controversy, a cause to be
collectively decided in the ‘Thing', the ancient word for assembly or
forum in Old Icelandic as well as in Old German. Well, one can say,
that things have become ‘things' again : Ein Ding ist Ein Thing. Have
a look at the scientific as well as in the lay press, there is hardly
a thing, a state of affair, which is not also, through litigation,
protestation, also a case, une affaire as we would say in French, res
in Latin, aitia in Greek. Hence the expression I have chosen for this
new politic : how to assemble the Parliament of Things. Rules of
method have become now rules, not to manage the Human Park, but to
elaborate together the protocol of those collective experiments.

Let us pause a moment, ladies and gentlemen, on this major
transformation : it is for me one of the most tragic intellectual
concern of our age that the best minds, the highest moral authorities
we possess, dream only of one thing : " If only, they say, we could
control science, separate it entirely from the realm of human values,
keep humanity safely protected from the encroachment of instrumental
rationality, then, and only then we would live a better life ". They
want to keep science and technology as distinct as possible from the
search for values, meaning and ultimate goals. Is this not a tragedy
if, as I have argued, the present trend leads precisely in the
opposite direction and that the most urgent concern for us today is to
see how to fuse together humans and non-humans in the same hybrid
forums and open, as fast as possible, this Parliament of things ? When
all our energy should be directed to this task, our best minds are
dreaming, on the contrary, of an even sharper cut that would render
us, if they could succeed, inhuman, deprived of our very conditions of
humanness : the things, the controversial states of affairs to which
we are attached and without whom we would die on the spot. Humanists
are marking against their own team, shooting themselves in the foot,
expecting as a wish what would be, if realised, the darkest of all

Alas, the tragedy is compounded, when we see, on the other hand, mad
scientists who are still imagining the possibility of ‘naturalising'
the whole social life, the whole collective existence, by bringing
things in, but those things are not, in their hands, those interesting
cases, those beautiful controversies in search for a forum, those
states of affairs, but the old, boring, cold, matters of fact deprived
of every one of the elements that make them scientific : the
researchers, instruments and collective experiments in which it has a
role. (I want, from now on, to contrast ‘state of affairs', the new
controversial ‘things', and the older ‘matters of fact' of the
modernist tradition).

Take the ‘discourse of gene action', for instance, as Evelyn Fox-
Keller calls it : how ridiculous would it be to try to keep a genetic
interpretation of human behaviour as far as possible from a moral,
symbolic or phenomenological one, since, genetics itself, as a
science, is one of those hybrid forums torn apart by many fascinating
controversies. The distance between Richard Dawkins's gene and those
of Richard Lewontin (or those of Jean-Jacques Kupiec and Pierre
Sonigo, two biologists who have just published in French a fabulous
book with the fiery title ‘'Neither God nor gene !"), this distance
is much greater than between the whole of genetics and Jurgen
Habermas' or Paul Ricoeur's view of humanity. This is what has changed
so much : there are still people who oppose the ‘two culture' of
science and humanity, but the strives have now moved inside the
sciences themselves which, in the mean time, have expanded to the
whole of culture and politics. The new political, moral, ethical,
artistic fault lines are now inside the sciences and technology, but
to say ‘inside' means nothing any more since it is also everywhere in
the collective experiments in which we are all embarked. If nothing is
left of the trickling down model of science production, nothing is
left of the two-culture argument, even though our best minds still
dream of keeping apart scientific facts and human values. I told you,
it is a tragedy -or may be a farce.

That we cannot count on the help of moralists, does not mean that we
have to shun away from our task or that we have to become immoral or
cynical. It just means that there exist also a controversy on the
interpretation of the present time -and we know from history how
difficult it is for thinkers to interpret what the present signifies.
There is no worse intellectual crime than to be mistaken on where and
when one is forced to inhabit. This is why we have to be careful here
and devise a test to take our bearings for sure. Those who dream of
separating facts and values even better are what I called
‘modernists'. For them, there exist an arrow of time, a thrust
forward, that clearly distinguish the past from the future : "
Yesterday, they say, we were still mixing things up, ends and means,
science and ideology, things and people, but tomorrow for sure we will
separate facts and values even more sharply; we won't confuse any more
the way the world is really and the way it should be; others did this
confusion in the ancient past, we won't do that in the future ". Pass
the test, make the experiment, ask yourself, tonight, in this room, if
you feel that the arrow of time flows in this way for you. If so, you
are a modernist. Nothing wrong with that ! You are in good company.
But if you hesitate, you are a ‘postmodernist'. And if, in the depth
of your heart, you are convinced that, if yesterday things were a bit
confused and entangled, tomorrow facts and values, humans and non-
humans, will be even more entangled than yesterday, then you have
stopped being modern. You have entered a different world or, more
exactly, you have stopped believing that you were in a different world
from the rest of humanity. You have come full circle at the end of
European experience and finally rediscovered that when you were
mocking other people because they ‘naively believed' that the sky
could fall on their head, you are now realising that they meant
something else, since you too are convinced that the sky will fall on
your head, -under the form, for instance, of the controversial global
warming. And if it is not a belief for you, it means it was not a
belief for ‘them' either. Thus, there is no ‘them' left. You have
changed of anthropology as well as of history.

Yes, ancient people might have been entangled, but we are even more so
and on a much wider scale and with many more entities and agencies to
take into account. If there is one thing you don't believe in any more
it is in the possibility of being emancipated, freed from all
attachments, blissfully unaware of the consequences of your actions.
End of the modernist parenthesis. Beginning (or return) to what ? What
would be the word if ‘we have never been modern' ? Second modernity ?
reflexive modernisation as Ulrich Beck has proposed ? non modern ? Why
not ‘ordinary', ‘Terran', ‘mortal', ‘anthropological', yes, ‘ordinary'
that's the word I prefer. By stopping being modern, we have rebecome
ordinary humans.

But in what way having stopped being modern could possibly help us in
our politics of controversial states of affairs, in this politics of
things for which we want to write the rules, to keep the protocol
book, to define a new Sovereign ?

Let me try out by using a simple amusing example, that of Monsieur
Chirac, my President, stating, a few weeks ago, that from now on "
herbivores are herbivores ". This is not as stupid as it sounds :
although, at first sight, it seems a truism, a fact of nature, it is,
in effect, a strongly political statement, since it means that
Monsieur Chirac takes a stand in the controversial matter of the mad-
cow disease and decides, yes decides, about a matter of fact : "
herbivores are herbivores and should remain so ".

Let us be careful here : when uttering this sentence he is not
invoking the wisdom of Mother Nature to forbid man to break Her
limits. Our president, believe me, is a fully modernist mind (one of
the few left), a famous beef-eater, and I am sure he does not give a
hoot for the sacred limits of nature -by the way, on which moral
ground could we refuse to the cows the chance of becoming carnivores,
like some of us ? No, Monsieur Chirac is drawing what I will call a
cosmogram : he is deciding in which world he wishes French to live :
after the catastrophic collective experiment of the mad-cow disease, a
cosmos is redesigned in which herbivores become, yes become,
herbivores again and for good -or, at least as long as another
cosmogram has not been redesigned.

What is a cosmos ? As we know from the Greek and from the word
‘cosmetic' it means a beautiful arrangement, the opposite of which
being a kakosmos, a horrible shamble. Politics, if I am right in my
interpretation of the present, is not in defining what humans values
should be, given that there exist only one cosmos known by a unified
science and simplified as one nature (I will come back to this in a
minute), but in drawing, deciding, proposing a cosmogram, a certain
distribution of roles, functions, agencies to humans and non-humans.
When uttering his sentence that looks like a factual statement -and a
tautological one at that- Monsieur Chirac is defining at once a type
of landscape for the CorrŤze region in which he lives, a role model
for cattle-raisers, a type of industry, an agro industrial model, a
pattern of consumer taste, probably also a European subsidy policy.

But you could object, I am sure, that such has always been the way
political claims have been formulated ? There is nothing new in this
since never politics has been about human values only, but always also
about infrastructure, city planning, boundaries, landscape, ways of
life, industry, economy and so on.

There is however a huge difference in the way political claims can now
be articulated around cosmograms and the way they were authorised
before : nature has disappeared, " the Great Pan is dead ", and so
have the ‘experts' mediating between the production of science and the
desire or wishes of society. By nature I mean this unified cosmos
which could shortcut political due process by defining once and for
all which world we all have to live in. Nature, contrary to the
appearance, is a political animal : it is what used to define the
world we have in common, the obvious existence we share, the sphere to
which we all pertain equally. And then, in addition, there is what
divides us, what makes us enemy of one another, what scatters us
around in a maelstrom of controversies : namely passions,
subjectivities, cultures, religions, tastesE Nature unifies in advance
and without any discussion nor negotiations; cultures divides. " If
only, if only, so the modernist dreams, we could all be children of
nature, forget about our cultural, subjective, ideological, religion
divisions, we will all be unified again, we would all zoom on the one
same solution. " More nature, hence more unity. More cultures, hence
more divisions.

We all know from our reading of the Bible that the tower of Babel has
fallen and that people have been scattered around the world, prisoners
of their differing dialects and of their incommensurable cultural
biases. Yes, but who has told the terrifying story of the second fall
of Babel, when nature, yes nature Herself, as a united tower which
should have reached to the Heaven and made all of the people of the
world agree again, has been destroyed under the weight of its own
ambition and lie everywhere in ruins ? To multiculturalism born on the
ruins of the first Babel, one should now add the many tribes of
multinaturalism born in the wreck of the second Babel. The whole
political energy of nature was depending on its being one and unified,
and indisputably so : " herbivores are herbivores ". But what can you
do with multiple natures ? How to defend it, to invoke it ? Such is
the trap in which political ecology has fallen into : nature cannot be
used to renew politics, since it is the oldest mean devised to block
politics and to make it impossible to compose the cosmos since you
start with an already unified one. The weakness of ecological
movements everywhere has no other cause, in my view, than this use of
nature that poisons their good will and thwart their activism. It is
their mono-naturalism that render them unable to be those who monitors
the collective experiments. They might expand to renew the whole of
politics, only when they are ready to swallow not only
multiculturalism but also multinaturalism.

Here is another test to decide for yourselves if you are modernist,
post-modern or ordinary mortals, in case the first trial has remained
inconclusive ! Do you believe that the second tower of Babel can reach
the Heaven and that the whole planet, having been fully naturalised,
will then agree rationally on all the important issues -the little
divisions that will remain being only due to subjective opinions and
leftover passions ? A simple, sharp, but, believe me, very
discriminating test : do you associate nature with unification or
nature with even more divisions ?

It is my sentiment that we now live in the ruins of nature -in all the
meanings of this expression- and also more and more in the ruins of
those sciences, for which the last century has been so prolific, which
dreamed of prematurely unifying the cosmos, without taking the pain of
doing what Isabelle Stengers has called cosmopolitics. By reusing this
venerable word from the Stoics, she does not mean that we should be
attuned to the many qualities of multiculturalism and
internationalism, but to the many worries of multinaturalism as well.
The whole civilisation that has been devised under the heading of
cosmopolitism, because it was obvious we all shared one nature, and
especially one human nature, has to be reinvented, this time, with the
added terrible difficulties that there are many competing natures and
that they have to be unified through a slow due process. The common
world is not behind us as a solid and indisputable ground for
agreement, but before us, as a risky and highly disputable goal, that
remains very far in the future.

Some people, especially some scientists and philosophers of science,
have of late been terrified when they heard the first crumbling of the
second Babel. Irritated by the realisation that nature could no longer
unify nor reconcile, that new sciences where not putting down the
fires of passion but fuelling them, they turned against other
philosophers, ‘postmodern' thinkers, science students and other
anthropologists of various hues and colours. Such is the meaning, for
me, of the Sokal affair, that you might have heard of, and of what has
been called by journalists ‘the science wars'. People like me have
been accused to be responsible for the breaking of the Second Tower,
as if we were strong enough to do like Samson and destroy the pillars
of established nature under our own heads ! No, no, no, you can be
assured : we are not that strong, we don't have this power, and we
have no taste for heroic suicide; as to the Tower, never was it that
strong either; if it has crumbled it is under its own weight, under
its own ambition : by expanding everywhere to cover the whole of human
experience it has lost its immunity, its unity, its privilege. It has
become the common cause, and thus, entered fully the realm of politics
as usual.

When pacing among those ruins, there is nothing to be sad, or
nostalgic, since one of the many reasons that made politics so weak in
the past -in the European tradition at least- has been this absolute
distinction between, on the one hand, the sovereignty of nature (known
by science) and, on the other hand, the pathetic efforts of naked
humans to put an end to their passions and divisive opinions. As long
as the two Towers had not been smashed to the ground, it remained
difficult to begin again and to define politics as what I call the
progressive composition of the common world. You always had to defend
the hybrid forums against those coming from the ranks of the social or
natural sciences who claimed that elsewhere, outside, in another
place, in their discipline, existed a pure forum where agreement could
be obtained by simply behaving rationally and by assembling people
around indisputable matters of fact. Although it sounds like a
negative progress only, it is for the monitoring of collective
experiment a huge advantage not to be threatened again by the promise
of any salvation by any science -neither physics, nor biology, nor
sociology, nor economics. Now at least, there is no other alternative.
We are embarked. We cannot hope for the transcendence of nature to
come and save us. If we don't discover the ways through which the
world can be made common, there will be no common world to share, it
is as simple as that -and nature will no longer be sufficient to unify
us, no matter what, in spite of ourselves. To sum up this part, I
could say that when Galileo modified the classical trope of ‘the Book
of nature', adding that it ‘was written in mathematical figures',
little could he anticipate that now we would have to say that the
‘Book of nature' is in fact a protocol book that should be written in
a mixture of legal, moral, political and mathematical figures.

But certainly, ladies and gentlemen, this negative progress is not
enough. We want to probe further and see through what sort of
procedure, what sort of process, the protocol of collective experiment
could be written.

Everything happens as if, on the long run, John Dewey had triumphed
over John Locke. Instead of a politics established as far as possible
on nature, the matters of fact, it should now be carefully balanced on
‘states of affairs' on the perilous notion of what Dewey has called
the ‘public'. As you are well aware, I am sure, Dewey's definition of
the ‘public' is as far as possible from what, in Europe, we call the
State, especially the Hegelian State. As long as we see the
consequences of our own action, this is what Dewey calls the
‘private', which does not need to be individual or subjective, but is
simply made up of what is well known, predictable, routinized, fully
internalised. By opposition, the public begins with what we cannot see
nor predict, with the unintended, unwanted, invisible consequences of
our collective actions. Contrary to all the dreams of rational
politics which have devastated this continent over the centuries,
Dewey equates the public not with the superior knowledge of the
authorities, but with blindness. The public is made when we are
entangled without knowing why and by what, when the Sovereign is a
blind one. Instead of confiding the fate of the republic to the
benevolent oversight of experts who take on themselves everything
having to do with the general will, Dewey traces the building of the
public when there is no expert able to determine the consequences of
collective action. So what defines the elite if it is not their
superior knowledge ? Only their specialised skills in making sure that
the public, what ties all of us together, is being represented and
constantly refreshed, through the common blind fumbling of the social
and natural sciences, the arts and the wild vigilance of the
activists. ‘Representation' here does not mean either election nor
epistemological accuracy, but the reflexive production of a plausible
and revisable version of what risk we take by experimenting
collectively. Dewey invented reflexive modernisation before the
expression was coined. The elite, the former State, are not defined by
knowledge or foresight, but by their abilities to monitor the strive
and sorting out of what I have called the competing cosmograms.

Read his book, it is as fresh as in 1927, and the fact that Dewey has
lost for seventy years against the appeal to experts made by his
opponents, such as Walter Lippman, renders the book even more
fascinating. While the second Tower of Babel was being built, he
quietly explained why it will never work out, why the State, as he
says, " has always to be reinvented " why nature, and especially the
so-called ‘natural laws' of economics, could not possibly be used to
frame collective action. Only us, now, from the vantage point of the
end of nature, after the closure of the modernist parenthesis, can
read with profit this book written for us.

There is a striking similarity between what Dewey calls the public and
this now famous precautionary principle which has become the catch
word of the new European politics. At first sight, the precautionary
principle (of which there exist as many definitions as there are
bureaucrats, eurocrats, lawyers and scientists) seems a poor candidate
for our rules of method. This is because, in my view, it is wrongly
assumed to be a rule of abstention in situations of uncertainty -or as
Pierre Lascoumes has argued, a rule of prevention in case of
ascertained risks. But reading it this way, would be fully to remain
in the old mould of science-based rational action, in the trickling
down model of science production : action, in this view, follows
knowledge without adding much to it, except that it is finally applied
and realised. The experts have assembled. They have agreed on one best
way. Action is nothing more than the implementation of knowledge into
the real world outside. That's the modernist way of imagining rational
decision. The unfortunate consequence of which being that when no
decisive knowledge is produced, when no consensus of experts is
insured, then no action can be taken. Once we know for sure, we act;
when we are not sure, we don't act. In both cases, action is thought
of being subservient to the acquisition of previous rational

That this is a ridiculous and totally implausible model of action was
hidden, during the modernist period, by the fiction of agreement
between experts and the confined nature of laboratory sciences. The
proliferation of public scientific controversies has revealed how bad
a model it is : action is never the realisation, nor the
implementation of a plan, but the exploration of the unintended
consequences of a provisional and revisable version of a project. We
have moved from science to research, from objects to projects, from
implementation to experimentation. The dream of rational action has
become a nightmare now that consensus and certainty is so hard to
obtain : everything would be stalled if we had to wait for experts to
agree again. Multinaturalism has rendered the division of labour
between experts and politics totally moot. If the precautionary
principle meant this absurd idea that we should abstain to move until
absolute certainty is reached, then that would be the end of European
creativity, the end of science and technology, the end of all the
collective experiments -and of course, we would not have moved an inch
away from the dream of absolute rationality.

But according to me, the precautionary principle means exactly the
opposite of this abstention. It is a call for experimentation,
invention, exploration, and of course risk taking. More than that, it
means that all of the topics dealing with scientific and technical
state of affairs (that is, if I am right, literally all of our issues
and topics today) are now back into the normal, ordinary model of
decisions with which we deal with our daily concerns. Who among you
would say : " I apply the precautionary principle on the question of
marriage and thus abstain from getting into wedlock until I am
absolutely sure there is no risk ? ". No one of course, and the same
for planting trees, giving birth, banking, borrowing, arming against
potential enemies, and so on. For all our actions we consider risk
taking and precaution taking as synonymous : the more risk we take,
the more careful we are. This is what is called an experience and what
an experienced man or woman is. Well, what is true of daily
experience, becomes now true of the collective experiment as well,
thanks to the precautionary principle. Far from waiting for absolute
certainly before moving the little finger, we know we have to
experiment and distribute equally the audacity and what in German you
call, so beautifully, Sorge and what we call in French le souci. Care
and caution go together with risk taking.

Nothing surprising in that, nothing out of the ordinary. What is
really extraordinary, what is really baffling, is that modernist
experts could have imagined for a few centuries the totally
implausible idea that once knowledge had determined plans and objects,
then realisation would ensue without care and caution being necessary
any more -except for mopping out eventual after effects ! This is what
is odd, not the emergence of the precautionary principle. Fancy that :
you could innovate at the scale of the planet, modify all the
ecosystems, bring together in huge assemblages masses of humans and
non humans, let the human race increase to several billions, and all
of that without taking infinite care and caution, without Sorge,
without souci ? How implausible ! How monstrous in retrospect appear
this model of action, now that we are slowly extirpating ourselves
from the modernist exceptionalism, and are falling back on ordinary

We can measure up how fast times are changing, if we read, for
instance, Hans Jonas's appeal for a ‘heuristic of fear'. Although his
book is much more recent than John Dewey's argument, it looks much
more dated, since he too relied exclusively on experts to oversees the
new general will and play the role of the new Sovereign. But the
‘public' for Dewey is not in the hands of specialists. In this new
configuration I am sketching so clumsily for you tonight, it is
actually the expert which is disappearing from view. Never was the
expert a coherent figure : neither a researcher, nor a political
representative, nor an activist, nor an administrator in charge of the
protocol of the experiment, but playing a bit of all those roles at
once without being able to fulfil any one satisfactorily. The idea of
an expert is a remnant from the tricking down model of scientific
production in charge of mediating between the knowledge producers, on
the one hand, and the rest of the society in charge of values and
goals, on the other. But in the collective experiments in which we are
engaged, it is this very division of labour that has disappeared : the
position of the expert has been washed out with it.

So what does the new division of labour looks like ? If I was not
ending this lecture with some indication of the new configuration, you
would be entitled, ladies and gentlemen, to say that I remain in the
critical mood, unable to produce any positive version adjusted to the
new situation.

In their new book soon to appear Michel Callon, Pierre Lascoumes and
Yannick Barthe, propose to replace the defunct notion of expert by the
wider notion of co-researchers. As I have said at the beginning, we
are all engaged, at one title or another, into the collective
experiments on matters as different as climate, food, landscape,
health, urban design, technical communication and so on. As consumers,
militants, citizens, we are all now co-researchers. There is a
difference, to be sure, between all of us, but not the difference
between knowledge producers and those who are bombarded by their
applications. The idea of an ‘impact' of science and technology ‘on
society' has been shipwrecked exactly as much as the weak notion of a
‘participation of the citizens into technology'. Now we have been made
(most of the time unwillingly) all co-researchers and we are all led
to formulate research problems - those who are ‘confined' in their
laboratories as well as those that Callon and his colleagues call
‘outdoor' researchers, that is all of us. In other words, science
policy, which used to be a specialised bureaucratic domain interesting
a few hundreds of people, has now become an essential right of the new
citizenry. The sovereignty over research agendas is much too important
to be left to the specialists -especially when it is not in the hands
of the scientists either, but in those of industry that no one has
elected and that no one controls. Yes, we might be willing to
participate in the collective experiments, but on the condition that
we give our informed consent. Don't play on us any more the dirty
tricks of considering all of us as the mere domain of applications of
innovations concocted elsewhere. Look at what happened to those who
believed genetically modified organisms could be made to ‘impact'
European countryside. It does not mean people believe it is dangerous,
nor it means that GMO are not safe -they might, as far as I am
concerned, be totally safe and even indispensable for third world
countries. But the question is not there anymore, as if we should
accept anything as long as it is innocuous : the question has become
again that of will and sovereignty : do we wish to live in this world
? do we wish to draw that cosmogram ? And if experts and modernists
replies that there is one world only and that we have no choice to
live in it or not, then let them say as well that there is no politics
any more. When there is no choice of alternative, there is no
Sovereign. What was true of the nation states, is becoming truer every
day, under our very eyes, of our conflicting cosmos.

As I have argued at length in a book soon to appear in German,
Politics of nature, all of the rules of method for the collective
experiment can be summarised by taking up again this magnificent
slogan that our forefathers have chanted, and chanted again, in
building, through so many revolutions, their representative democracy
: " No taxation without representation ". Except that now, for the new
technical democracies to be invented, it should read : " No innovation
without representation ". In the same way as the benevolent monarchies
of the past imagined that they could tax us for our own good without
us having a say on their budget because they alone were enlightened
enough, in the same way, the new enlightened elite have been telling
us for too long that there is only one best way for the innovation
they have devised, and that we should simply follow them for our own
good. Well, we might not be as enlightened as they are, but if the
first Parliaments of the emerging nation-states were built to vote on
budgets, the new Parliament of things have to be constructed to
represent us so that we have a say on the innovations and decide for
ourselves what is good for us. " No innovation, without representation

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to bring this long and may be too
hesitant lecture to a close, by offering a last proposition that has
to do, this time, with Europe and its identity. As you are all too
painfully aware, there seems no clear idea of what is specific to our
sub-continent in those times of so called ‘globalisation'. I have
always found this uneasiness pretty puzzling, since Europe, it is fair
to say, has invented and developed in many ways the modernist regime
of scientific and technical innovations -others of course had
developed many sciences and techniques but never did they engage in
the mad experiment of building their politics with them as well. But
Europe is also a real life experiment, at an incredible scale, in
multiculturalism, multinationalism, and in spite of that, it is trying
to see how a common good can be slowly and carefully built. Nowhere
else have so many fighting nation-states existed, so many provinces,
regions, dialects, folklores and cultures. Nowhere else have world
wars be waged to the bitter and deadly end. And yet, nowhere else have
so many people engaged simultaneously into the cosmopolitic task -in
the ordinary sense of the word- of living side by side in the same
shared space, with the same Parliament, soon the same currency, and
the same sense of democracy.

Now, I am asking you, why what is true of multiculturalism would not
be true of multinaturalism as well. After all, if we have invented
modernism, who else is better placed to, so to speak, disinvent
modernity ? No one else would do it, certainly not the United States
which are too powerful, too sure of themselves, too deeply steeped in
the modernity they have inherited without paying the costs -since
others are bearing the cost for them. Certainly not the many cultures
who dream only, from Africa to the shores of Asia and Latin America,
of being at last fully, utterly, and completely modernised -no wonder,
alas, they took up at our own words ! No, its Europe's chance,
Europe's duty, Europe's responsibility to tackle first the perilous
project of adding technical democracy to its old and venerable
tradition of representative democracy. If we, Europeans, have learned
the hard way how difficult it is to build a common good out of so many
warring nation-states, we have a unique competence to learn, the hard
way also, how to build a common world out of competing cosmos. Ladies
and gentlemen, only those who have invented the premature unification
of the whole world under the aegis of an imperialist nature, are well
placed, now that nature has ended, to finally pay the price of the
progressive, precautionous, modest, slow composition of the common
world, this new name for politics. Thank you very much for your