Bruno Latour: We Have Never Been Modern (1991–) [EN, PT, RU, ES, CN]

15 July 2009, dusan

With the rise of science, we moderns believe, the world changed irrevocably, separating us forever from our primitive, premodern ancestors. But if we were to let go of this fond conviction, Bruno Latour asks, what would the world look like? His book, an anthropology of science, shows us how much of modernity is actually a matter of faith.

What does it mean to be modern? What difference does the scientific method make? The difference, Latour explains, is in our careful distinctions between nature and society, between human and thing, distinctions that our benighted ancestors, in their world of alchemy, astrology, and phrenology, never made. But alongside this purifying practice that defines modernity, there exists another seemingly contrary one: the construction of systems that mix politics, science, technology, and nature. The ozone debate is such a hybrid, in Latour’s analysis, as are global warming, deforestation, even the idea of black holes. As these hybrids proliferate, the prospect of keeping nature and culture in their separate mental chambers becomes overwhelming–and rather than try, Latour suggests, we should rethink our distinctions, rethink the definition and constitution of modernity itself. His book offers a new explanation of science that finally recognizes the connections between nature and culture–and so, between our culture and others, past and present.

Nothing short of a reworking of our mental landscape. We Have Never Been Modern blurs the boundaries among science, the humanities, and the social sciences to enhance understanding on all sides. A summation of the work of one of the most influential and provocative interpreters of science, it aims at saving what is good and valuable in modernity and replacing the rest with a broader, fairer, and finer sense of possibility.

Originally published as Nous n’avons jamais été modernes. Essai d’anthropologie symétrique, La Découverte, 1991
Translated by Catherine Porter
Publisher Harvard University Press, 1993
ISBN 0674948386, 9780674948389
157 pages

google books

We Have Never Been Modern (English, trans. Catherine Porter, 1993, updated on 2012-7-17)
Jamais fomos modernos. Ensaio de antropologia simétrica (Portuguese, trans. Carlos Irineu da Costa, 1994, added on 2013-9-13)
Нового Времени не было. Эссе по симметричной антропологии (Russian, trans. Д. Я. Калугина, 2006, added on 2013-9-13)
Nunca fuimos modernos. Ensayo de antropología simétrica (Spanish, trans. Víctor Goldstein, 2007, added on 2013-9-13)
我们从未现代过. 对称性人类学论集 (Chinese, trans. 刘鹏 and 安涅思, 2011, added on 2013-9-13)

See also Latour’s Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (2012/2013)

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