Science & Technology policy in Brazil – II

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The critique of the current notion of science and technology and the birth of technopolitics

This chapter has three parts. In the first, we approach already consolidated concepts and conceptions about the classic and modern view of science, and its modifications in contemporary times. In the second part, we deepen the presentation on the new sciences, what they are and how they present a revolution similar to that of the XNUMXth century. XVII, and its contradictory relationship with business technoscience, in a world where technopolitics was born to launch this dispute into new fields. In the third section, we will address the processes of resistance at the university and in society in the face of the need to strengthen a democratic project for teaching, research and extension of the new sciences in the face of technopolitics.


In the perspective adopted here – from STS Studies (Science, Technology, Society) and STS Science Education – the starting point is the need to understand the set of trends that unite and, at the same time, separate new sciences of technoscience.

“New sciences” has been the name given to the multiple fields of development of contemporary scientific research (after the 1950s, especially). At its base we find a set of interdisciplines formed by interactions between existing disciplines, formulated for the understanding of certain phenomena.

Microelectronics, industrial automation, information and communication technologies, computing, cybernetics, material sciences, genetics, evolutionary biology are included in this characterization; neurosciences, genetic engineering, systems analysis. Multiple trans and multidisciplinary combinations are governed under the logic of interdiscipline, which is the expression of something much greater related to the attempt to overcome the limits of discipline specialization, associated with constructivist experiments in scientific technologies that enable sophisticated records of phenomena.

The boundaries between physics, chemistry and biology become blurred, for example, become diluted. mark the development of the new sciences. It would be a scientific revolution that can be “(...) equated (...) to the one that occurred in Newton's time (...) today we can no longer think about nature, life, humanity without taking into account the discoveries that began with cybernetics, genetic epistemology, computation, self-regulated, adaptive and autopoietic systems”. (…) anyone who does not approach with uneasiness the understanding and mastery of the new sciences as sciences of complexity will not understand (and will practice badly) not only what to do in techno-scientific but also in artistic and political matters”(1).

Both fields are affected by the fundamental changes that interdiscipline promotes in the construction of new areas, fields and domain of knowledge as a highly creative effort in contemporary times to oppose scientism and the different forms of neopositivism that dominate technosciences with their technological operators associated with corporate and business models.

Although they are the basis of technoscience as a technological development worshiped by large corporations and transnationals (euphemistically called “big science”), the new sciences involve a much broader configuration, as a political and cognitive movement and scientific revolution.

The new sciences (Casanova) present a margin of uncertainties and possibilities that expresses the revolution of the potential for liberation and socialization of benefits through S&T policies that the university – as a privileged field of action for the actors – can carry out (or deny). How to situate the differences between the new sciences and technoscience?

The concepts of science and technology have become so intertwined that the mental and epistemological conditions to affirm the neutrality of science have disappeared since the XNUMXth century. XX. We can question whether the very process of transformation of the practice of scientists under the Industrial Revolution was not already marked by the association between Science & Technology.

The separation of the new sciences may seem arbitrary, but for what matters under contemporary conditions, we are facing the erosion of the epistemological boundaries between two fields in any country where the deepening of technocapitalism (as the most complex expression of technoscience) occurs.

Technocapitalism is the expression of the economic regime that will inevitably make use of attempts to capture and subsume scientific fields by technosciences; however, reducing the new sciences to technoscience has been a controversial point.

Those who dedicate themselves to work in a laboratory of a large company or a university: do they do science or do they do technology? Perhaps they simply do technoscience in which the old limits are increasingly blurred”.(2)

We can provisionally state that a substantial part of the scientific and technological morality of the past (that is, what gave autonomy and credibility to scientists in society) was rigidly associated with scientific disciplinary fields.

The successes in generating products that could be realized to solve society's needs, and doing science for the development of industry, were mostly attributed to disciplinary action (and to a certain extent it continues to be so).

This model of success was surpassed when the figure of the classical scientist (the genius, the exceptional, the person without whom discoveries and applications would not be made, would not be made, as in the XNUMXth century scientist) declines in the public sphere. What happens when the production of scientific knowledge becomes part of the collective enterprise, whether state or private capitalist, and collectives of techno-scientific workers become demographically numerous?

These contingents emerge with a morality (that of technoscience) that today is based on a coherent framework of devices, institutions, rules, norms and resources around which the general posture is the consequentialism formal juridical – this systematic and extensive isolation of the cognitive value or of knowledge as scientific production (base of representation of neutrality) in the face of other values.

When we talk about technosciences, we are referring to this isolation of their cognitive values ​​from the influences of society and the external environment (as a rule, through business or industrial secrecy (in this sense, patent policy is a technopolitics). The diagram shown below summarizes the combination of scientific neutrality and technological determinism:

Figure XXX - The basis of the morality of the techno-scientific subject: materialist instrumentation strategies - Adapted from Lacey(3)

Materialist strategies mean creating a demonstration field in the laboratory or through the construction of technological devices, in order to recreate the conditions for recording a physical phenomenon, whose characteristics are described in underlying laws and order. These features are entirely separate from society, or from nature as an external environment. Once the classical social representation of scientific neutrality has been corrupted, what remains?

The graphic representation above is parsimonious, it still leaves room for us to believe that the destruction of neutrality by techno-scientific instrumental reason can be reversed, and we will manage to overcome the materialist strategy of excluding all fields from relations with human beings.

If we believe that there is this great dividing line, it is expressed in the contemporary debate by the attempt to discriminate a space of freedom and autonomy of the university in the practices of the new sciences together with the S&T policies, and those of education at the university. What we must remember, is always subject to concrete situations, here and now, because in Brazil, unlike most Latin American countries such as Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay, among others, constitutional article 207 of the Federal Constitution of 1988, which enshrines the full autonomy of the university, has not been regulated and from time to time clashes are opened between the academic communities and the political power to define the rules of the Federal Institutions of Higher Education, IFES (which will be analyzed later).


One of the reasons that leads us to address the contradictory articulations between new sciences and corporate technoscience stems from the fact that the critical analysis of technology as an expression of ideology has become insufficient. What has been a striking criticism in the last 60 years (since Marcuse and Habermas) in the face of the confrontation of reification (objectification) of human beings converted into components of technical devices, revealed itself as false promises of technology as a liberation from exhausting and repetitive, enslaving work.

Technopolitics was inscribed in the everyday place with marks of another experience. Through technopolitics, this ideological dimension assumes a wide range of decisive changes in technological power and its alterations in the mode of production, domination and appropriation in everyday life by technocapitalism.

In fact, the question of what technoscience is makes a difference in the face of the organization of knowledge under new bases that we are adopting here under the name of  new sciences. This last dimension has not received the priority attention of critical thinking:

“(…) almost all of the interdiscipline (of the new sciences) leaves out a central problem for four-fifths of humanity; almost all of technoscience leaves out relations of domination and appropriation, and almost all of critical or dogmatic Marxism leaves out a technoscience and a science of complex and dynamic systems that has served to understand and change the world, and the dominating global capitalism, and without whose knowledge the dominated, exploited and excluded forces are left in conditions of weakness (…) an overcoming weakness” (Casanova. op. cit).

A technopolitics can be defined as the policy that is built into the technical artifacts and systems. They are bearers of procedures and acts that are seemingly banal and neutral in themselves, but which oblige us to be linked to broader complex systems. In which the technological aspects were previously structured and sewn into everyday life in such a way that there are no alternative uses.

In order to understand this type of challenge, Social Sciences & Humanities approaches are fundamental, capable of providing other interpretative keys for the new sciences that allow us to free access to the new sciences for the social strata of the urban and rural working classes, through the university.

Until the end of World War II there was greater resistance to the technopolitical model imposed by military and civilian elites, but in most of the countries of old industrialization the technical and strictly scientific contingents grew to the millions of the population. Such a phenomenon of massification that gave rise to large segments with technical training in the working classes and this distinction constitutes the main passport of someone to the middle classes (which are confused with the old middle classes).

This process (much more complicated than it is possible to summarize here in a few lines) generates the complicity of these new segments with the dissemination of technical systems in society. Large contingents of men and women come to depend on these systems for their survival; but at the same time, there are growing indicators that movements and positions of resistance take place inside – and not outside – technical systems.

This new social category with a techno-scientific, demographic and sociologically influential background can be considered technological operators who acquired power over large technological systems(4)  Sixty years ago, the emergence of this social group as a technocracy was foreseen in the work of Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) under a double determination that remains current.

Such contingents are part of the traditional and oldest process of military domination (R&D for the war industry where most of the government budget is concentrated compared to civilian S&T). The second aspect of the determination pointed out by Marcuse, still current, was the fact that this techno-scientific social layer, acting as operators of large technological systems (nuclear, automotive, aerospace, mineral, pharmaceuticals and medicines, etc.) key component, the hegemony of these systems before society. It is up to them to express how reliable, secure, responsive these technical systems are, and supposedly the only option for everyone. In CTS empirical and theoretical studies there is much evidence about the controversies about technopolitical determinism, which its protagonists seek to use to maintain hegemony (belief in the effectiveness of technological systems). This component is perhaps one of the most important of technopolitics, if not even more relevant than it seems at first glance.

Any accident in these systems leads to immediate discredit (the case of nuclear power plants as a policy revoked in Germany and Japan, but also placed under suspicion in Russia and the United States). There is a need to ensure an appearance of consensus and self-explanation based on constant manipulations in the communication, media and propaganda systems, in addition to the discipline of science education in the school system(5) .

This education, in turn, is expressed as disciplining bodies, associated with the impulse of consumption as a total psychosocial behavior. This results in continued destruction planned for obsolescence through the recreation of products to satisfy the consumer drive – an aspect also foreseen in the 1960s by Marcuse (1972).

These are the bases of innovationism, also called incremental innovation, because it is made up of small changes or improvements to larger structures. This model allows for a succession of processes and products that invade the daily lives of affluent social strata and reach the popular base in crumbs.

It leads us to believe in a pacified and frighteningly simplistic version of technological innovation as if it were something mandatory that leads objects to become obsolete in order to give way to another generation product with “new” technology.

If this succession is seen as the only way for the university to adhere, it means an abysmal impoverishment that must be avoided; in its place, consistent articulations between the field of public science agents and sociopolitical agents are needed to resolve serious and historical demands of society relegated to abandonment and social exclusion. For these and other reasons, it is not possible to abandon the planning of actions to reduce the structural inequality of access to education, science and technology in Brazil.


The scientistic view of the world despises the political processes of participation or direct democracy in the workplace, university and state that involve choosing alternatives to scientific management paradigms, among them technological choices.

What is proposed in this vision is a functional society managed according to the principles of scientific management. From the 1970s, knowledge changes its status at the same time that societies enter a supposedly post-industrial phase and cultures enter the so-called post-modern age.

Post-modern knowledge is not only the instrument of the powers that be, becoming the main force of production. For Lyotard (1924-1998) the State and/or company abandons the account of idealist or humanist legitimation to justify the new dispute.

In today's financiers' discourse, the only credible contest is the power of technopolitics. Scientists, technicians and devices are not bought to know the truth, but to increase the power (6).

Thus, what is observed contemporaneously, in the context supported by the discourse of the “single thought” and the “end of history” or “end of ideologies”, is the existence of a hyperdimensioning of decision-making by way of technological operators under a technocracy. , to the detriment of democracy.

Winner coined the expression technological somnambulism to define behavior in society directly induced by the State and/or company to legitimize the belief that society must conform to a passive acceptance of the so-called “march of progress”. Faced with which new technological artifacts are continuously produced without any public critical reflection in relation to the decision-making aspects that lead to this production.

It is also a political-organizational challenge at the university to restructure the division of epistemological work around (in)disciplinary boundaries, given the need for new syntheses and intellectual, dynamic and creative re-elaborations. All contributions that we can gather are important to overcome among the many currents, disciplines and schools of thought in the Social and Human Sciences that suffer from technophobia(7).

In Brazil, this confrontation necessarily involves the articulation of two fronts of the academic work of research and teaching of teachers: a) involvement with the issue of democratization in the access of sons and daughters of the working classes to free, quality and universal education, and

b) the creation of a broader mindset based on the STS Science Studies and Education platform. The challenge is above all political-cognitive.

The importance of interdisciplinary approaches to Science, Technology, Society and Education Studies STS help us to understand why in Brazil the science and technology policy created an anomalous regime of knowledge production(8). This anomaly is related to what was pointed out 35 years ago by the physicist José Leite Lopes (1918-2006) in “Science and Liberation”, “in Latin America, as a general rule, branches of industrial companies are installed that are limited to setting up or to manufacture products protected by patents and for which we have to pay high prices” (…) discoveries and innovations are carried out in the great laboratories of the United States and Europe”(9)

This statement remains contemporary. When describing one of the main limitations to the creation of an explicit science and technology policy in Brazil in the 1980s, Leite Lopes was a forerunner in the fight for the creation of a ministerial area of ​​S&T in the power structure of the Brazilian State in that period (he has often forgotten in the celebrations of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science - SBPC, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences - ABC and the Brazilian Society of Physics - SBF).

The university systems of the hegemonic countries, recalls Leite Lopes with the experience of someone who spent most of his professional life in France (exiled during the military regime), cannot encourage the development of teams in dependent countries that can eventually compete with those installed in central countries.

* * *

In the above statement by Casanova – “science is not universally applicable, its methods are not necessarily unique and it is not politically neutral” – it presupposes a dimension of technopolitics: how to change the way of doing (general) public policy in order to adjust them (mutually) with the formal S&T policy (sectoral)?

In the conception of Amylcar Herrera, we are facing the social determinants of science policy in Latin America (10)Politically, Herrera's ideas (since the 1970s) contributed to the theoretical effort then under way at the international level – in STS Studies as well as in the area of ​​economics of technological innovation – of looking more into the interior of the black box (black box) than in the technology offer strategy.

His distinction between implicit and explicit policy contributed with a multidisciplinary approach (and with interdisciplinary potential) through scientific policy, and not through industrial policy and the technology economy approach (today repeated based on teaching manuals of the innovationist current). , generally subordinated to businesses, as if technological innovation were commanded from outside and the black box still constitutes a problem).

* * *

To account for these aspects of reality, the theory of approach or socio-technical adequacy (AST) that originates in the STS Studies differs from the theory of technological innovation for business environments. AST expresses a relationship between science, technology and specific society, which has the common sense reference expressed in the notion of social technology or solidary technoscience(11)  And what does it tell us?

Firstly, it points to a movement that is at the same time technical, training through experience and sociocultural, with three general pedagogical characteristics: it incorporates interactionism, proposes a residency / extension model based on the principles of self-management of knowledge and knowledge, and has a cognitive platform that allows to social subjects to deconstruct and develop a sociotechnical culture in the face of conventional technology (the theory of sociotechnical adequacy, AST discussed at length later).

This approach seeks to dialogue with science science education. on an international scale, in contrast to the way imposed by scientific diplomacy that reproduces the agendas and research agendas of a restricted group of university centers and laboratories in four countries in the Northern Hemisphere: the United States, France, England and Germany.

Many contemporaries of Leite Lopes, such as Amilcar Herrera (1920-1995), Oscar Varsavsky (1920-1976), Darcy Ribeiro (1922-1997), Luiz Hildebrando Pereira da Silva (1928-2014), and many other Brazilians, Argentines, Cubans, Venezuelans and other Latin Americans of the same generation, fought in favor of scientific autonomy and linking university education, research and graduate studies to popular demands in their societies (Che Guevara as a doctor, politician, revolutionary and former -Minister of S&T of Cuba pointed out the relevance of science for the people, otherwise it would be against the people).

A public university without epistemic autonomy leads to the loss of diversity, plurality and sharing. This finding forces us to explain how we must overcome the loss of scientific and technological autonomy that occurs both in terms of cognitive production (at the university) and in government policies structured outside the axis of S&T policy.

S&T policies are traditionally not very adherent to broader social demands, although strategic sectors such as public health, basic and higher education, technical and professional education are driven by policies from different sectors. How implicit science and technology policies express the possibilities of a technopolitics to broaden the foundations of inclusive socioeconomic development.

In a broad sense (work and income associated with increased schooling under education model formats) this technopolitics of the university cannot dissociate the production of scientific knowledge from social, productive and economic inclusion. To put this platform into practice, the university does not need cathedrals, but flour mills and garages, workshops and associations, unions and agrarian reform settlements, spaces where new and renewed forms of solidary, community and family socioeconomics can be expressed (topics that will be addressed in the next issues).

* Richard Neder is a sociologist and political economist, professor at UnB and editor-in-chief of Science and Social Technology Magazine.

*Raquel Moraes is a professor of education and technology at UnB.

To read the first part go to



[1]           Pablo González Casanova (2006) THE NEW SCIENCES AND THE HUMANITIES – FROM ACADEMY TO POLICY. Sao Paulo, Boitempo.

[2]           Renato Dagnino (2008) NEUTRALITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM. Campinas, sp. Edunicamp.

[3]           Hugh Lacey (2012) Reflections on science and technoscience. SCIENTIAE STUDIA. São Paulo, v.10 special issue. P. 103-28. 

[4]           Andrew Feenberg (2002) TRANSFORMING TECHNOLOGY: A CRITICAL THEORY REVISITED. Oxford: Oxford University Press; and (2013) “Subversive rationalization, technology, power and democracy, in Ricardo T. Neder (org.and trans) – THE CRITICAL THEORY OF ANDREW FEENBERG: DEMOCRATIC RATIONALIZATION, POWER AND TECHNOLOGY. Brasília: OBMTS/ Escola Altos Estudos CAPES, UnB Social Construction of Technology Collection no. 3. (pp.67-97).(2013)

[5]           These dimensions appear in the ECTS literature in different ways; to see:

Wiebe Bijker (1995A) OF BICYCLES, BAKELITES, AND BULBS: TOWARD A THEORY OF SOCIOTECHNICAL CHANGE. Massachusetts: The MIT Press./ (1995B) Sociohistorical Technology Studies (in) Sheilla Jasanoff et alli. (eds.) HANDBOOK OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY STUDIES Thousand Oaks, Sage./



Michel Caloon (1987) society in the making: the study of technology as a tool for sociological analysis”, In Bijker et al. SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF TECHNOLOGICAL SYSTEMS. Cambridge. CambridgeUniversity Press.

Pablo Gonzalez Casanova (2006) THE NEW SCIENCES AND THE HUMANITIES – FROM ACADEMY TO POLITICS. Sao Paulo, Boitempo.

Langdon Winner (1980) Do Artifacts Have Politics? DAEDALUS, Vol. 109, No. 1, Modern Technology: Problem or Opportunity? 121-136/1986) THE WHALE AND THE REACTOR. IN SEARCH OF LIMITS IN AN AGE OF HIGH TECHNOLOGY. The Chicago Univ. Press. 

[6]           Jean-Francoisa Lyotard (2000), THE POST MODERN CONDITION. Sao Paulo: Loyola.

[7]           Gérard Lebrun, (1996) On technophobia. In Adauto Cardoso (organizer) THE CRISIS OF REASON. Sao Paulo: Ed. Company of Letters. (Pgs. 471-494).

[8]           Renato Dagnino (2014) The Anomaly of Science and Technology Policy RBCS Vol. 29 No. 86 October/2014 (PP. 46-55)

[9]           José Leite Lopes (1977) SCIENCE AND LIBERATION. Rio de Janeiro. Peace and Earth.

[10]           Amilcar Herrera (2011) 'The social determinants of science policy in Latin America. Explicit scientific policy and implicit scientific policy', In: Jorge A. Sabato, LATIN AMERICAN THOUGHT ON THE SCIENCE-TECHNOLOGY-DESARROLLO-DEPENDENCE PROBLEM / Jorge A. Sabato. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Biblioteca Nacional (pp. 151-170)

[11]           Renato Dagnino. (2019) SOLIDARY TECHNOCIENCE – A STRATEGIC MANUAL. Marília/SP: Anti-capital struggles.

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