ABSTRACT

When researchers account (literally) for physical processes such as the management of matter, energy, masses and of space and place, they follow certain housekeeping principles. To do so, they have developed numerous instruments and techniques of intervention as well as various ways of representing the results. All these activities are essentially economic activities: weighing, recording, measuring, metering, comparing, calculating, consolidating and, nally, accounting for what all these activities have provided in terms of theoretical knowledge and experimental practices. What makes this a political, rather than a moral or cognitive economy,2 is the fact that a decision is to be made about how the housekeeping is to be managed and what is to be its bene t (theories or products, discovery or innovation, fundamental or applied knowledge, etc.). Essentially there are two modes of housekeeping: one is an economy that follows a logic of adaption to limits while the other is an economy that strives for conquest and thus seeks to transgress limits. Given the foregoing discussion on the practices of experiments, it is apparent that these are decisions of eminent political relevance. e case studies provided in Part IV give an impressive account of this, be it the promise of ‘green technologies’, a sustainable development that is o ered as a substitute to conservation, or the construction of ecosystems that are better than any natural ecosystem could ever be in terms of e ciency and local adaptivity. Further examples not included in this book come to the mind, such as the search for inherently benign technologies that are safe by design and the idea of enhancing material nature, be it by using biotechnologies to turn a genetically rich collection of local crop plants into an industrially commodi ed product like golden rize3 or by using nanotechnology to turn dead matter into smart material. Again, other examples are approaches in climate change research that seek to develop social and technical tools to prepare ‘us’ for cultural trans-

formation while ‘we’ are going to adapt to climatic change,4 or activities in the ecotechnological design of nature, as in the previous chapter’s discussion of ‘building with nature’ as a social experiment.