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Reflections on Bruno Latour's Version of the Seventeenth Century Reflections on Bruno Latour's Version of the Seventeenth Century <i>Margaret C. Jacob</i>

Margaret C. Jacob

in A House Built on Sand

Published in print September 1998 | ISBN: 9780195117257
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785995 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195117255.003.0016
 Reflections on Bruno Latour's Version of the Seventeenth Century  Reflections on Bruno Latour's Version of the Seventeenth Century  Margaret C. Jacob

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Because some historians of 17th-century science did not understand the vast differences in the political positions taken by Robert Boyle and Thomas Hobbes, they concluded that not much difference would have resulted had Hobbes’s absolutism become the English form of government in the 17th century. The actual autonomy of parliament and relative freedom of civil society seemed relatively insignificant. Not being an historian but undeterred by his inexperience, Bruno Latour jumped into the field and argued that modernity, representative institutions, and the freedom of civil society, like the science of either of these great theorists, offered little that was distinctively different from the forms of government in France or Spain at the time. “We Have Never Been Modern” argued that position, and this essay seeks to show how wrong-headed it is.

Keywords: Bruno Latour; freedom; civil society; Robert Boyle; Thomas Hobbes; absolutism; We Have Never Been Modern

Chapter.  8320 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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