Law, Organisation, Science and Technology (LOST)

For up-to-date information please see LOST Research Group.

In the recent wave of globalisation virtually no corner of the world has been left untouched by globally circulating ideas, artefacts and models for operating all kinds of affairs. Many of these travelling ideas are, at their core, combinations of juridical-organisational and techno-scientific solutions in potentia, in search of appropriate problems and/or questions (that they themselves often create in the first place). As the potential solutions locate their problems – and not, for the most part, the other way round – they encounter various forms of local appropriation or rejection. One essential dimension of this process is that even when these circulating models are rejected, the context in which this rejection occurs is altered. Conversely, the adoption of such models does not result in the global homogenisation that is often feared. Circulating models are always and necessarily substantially altered as they spread – that is, they are translated and only in this way are they transferred. In most cases they contain their own relativisation and their own antidote.
The process of globalisation has resulted in a new form of postcolonial scrutinisation of globalising ideas. The relativisation resulting from such scrutiny calls the notion of universal validity more radically into question than has historically been the case. The issue at stake is no longer the equality of cultural worldviews or socio-political orders, but rather the equality of various epistemological positions and thus the universal validity of techno-science. In this context, the older insight that techno-science is inevitably embedded culturally, socio-politically, and economically acquires a new relevance and is taken up and developed by different actors. At the same time, however, an increasing number of techno-scientific and juridical-organizational solutions are embraced universally. Given this tendency, the legal dimension of techno-scientific solutions assumes an ever more crucial role.
The current research programme investigates the hypothesis that the global spread and increasing importance of the principle of equal rights simultaneously triggers two opposing developments: (1) the spread of techno-scientific and organizational solutions that reproduce tacit claims to universal objectivity, and (2) the spread of the right to self-determination that fosters various forms of relativism. The programme investigates the interactions and tensions between these opposing tendencies in different negotiations involving legal and scientific arguments.
In recent years, a number of scholars – primarily from the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, and history – working under the broad rubric of Science and Technology Studies have sought to move beyond the field’s traditional focus on scientific practices carried out by credentialed experts in laboratories, clinics and legal institutions in the industrialized world. The Max Planck Fellow Research Group follows the various relocations of techno-sciences and examines their legal presuppositions and implications.

Publications about LOST

LOST Report in the Yearbook 2006 - 2007 of the Max Planck Society (German)
LOST Report in the Yearbook 2006 - 2007 of the Max Planck Society (English)

For the last report (2008–2009), Richard Rottenburg presented a summary article relating to one key aspect – experimentalisation – that touches on all empirical projects.
LOST Report in the Yearbook 2008 - 2009 of the Max Planck Society (English)

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