chapter  5
31 Pages

Milk and modernity Part II: Measurement, rationalization and control

In this chapter I return to what might be called ‘the socio-economic’, which was the starting point for my historical analysis of the dairy industry, but I approach it rather differently here in the light of the foregoing analyses, with an emphasis not upon the social relations of milk as a commodity as such, but upon the ontological politics and contested knowledge-practices underpinning these relations. Thus I examine the development of the practice of milk recording in the British dairy industry in the early decades of the twentieth century, focussing upon the explication of recording as a process of rationalization, in which the formal measurability of milk yields acted as a powerful mechanism for the transformation of dairy production. In tracing this process, I outline the origins of milk recording and explore the ‘social relations’ which it articulated, the nature and extent of resistance to the practice, and how it underpinned the wider restructuring of the industry. I want to go beyond this crucial but limited historical-sociological account, however, by arguing that within the technical, social, and political processes of rationalization, another less tangible kind of historical process was at work, involving a reconfiguration of human-nonhuman relations. My hypothesis is that the rationalization process carried within itself a redefinition of human-nonhuman relations characteristic of the humanist work of purification.1