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The Pasteurization of France

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  178 ratings  ·  11 reviews
What can one man accomplish, even a great man and brilliant scientist? Although every town in France has a street named for Louis Pasteur, was he alone able to stop people from spitting, persuade them to dig drains, influence them to undergo vaccination? Pasteur’s success depended upon a whole network of forces, including the public hygiene movement, the medical profession ...more
Paperback, 292 pages
Published October 15th 1993 by Harvard University Press (first published 1984)
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Mark Bowles
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
A. Summary: This is a semiotic study of Pasteur based on three French journals. There are continuous comparisons in the book between what Tolstoy did in War and Peace and what Latour does here. Tolstoy attacks the hagiography of Napoleon showing how he was only a part of the war, Latour does the same with Pasteur. To understand the greatness of a man all the actors in which he associates must be examined. Latour concludes that the revolution in medicine in the 19th was not attributable solely to ...more
Luther Wilson
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The second part of this book lays out in Tractatus-fashion Latour's "metaphysics"...and if that don't blow your mind, I don't know what will...I'm hooked & ready for more of this... ...more
Read this in my Sociology of Medicine university course. Latour sucessfully shows how society and its scientific developments grow together. He doesn't fall into deterministic traps that society controls everything or that science (or scientists) develop irregardless of social forces. Crucial social forces like the public hygiene movement, the medical profession (both military physicians and private practitioners), and colonial interests were in fact necessarily cooperating with the briliant/emp ...more
Trystan Hopkins
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oft held as a genius in postmodern sociology circles, and as a buffoon in pretty much everywhere else.

The book is, however, definitely still a worthwhile read. The argument Latour puts forth as his pièce de résistance (the disagreement between Pasteur and Pouchet) takes very little critical thinking to see as wanting.

It is like a Swiss cheese, full of holes!

To his credit Latour is a linguistically dexterous, however vapid, writer.

Overall, sadly, a perfect example of a mind left rotten from rea
Sharad Pandian
This is a wonderful book by Latour, published close to his Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society (although translated into English later). In the first ~150 pages, he sets out the historic tale of how Pasteur's techniques won popularity in France, and in the last ~80 pages, he sets out his actant-network theory in the form of brief-ish numbered propositions. It's well-written, deeply insightful, hilarious, and vicious, making it a fantastic resource and read.

Jerry Balzano
Nov 05, 2011 marked it as shelved
Shelves: tasting-tasted
I'm actually reading the "appended" manifesto "Irreductions", which is absolutely brilliant. ...more
Shulamith Farhi
Mar 02, 2022 rated it liked it
I'm only reviewing part 2: Irreductions. I don't wish to give the impression that Latour is a charlatan - there are many interesting insights here, and we would be mistaken if we chastised the book for not being philosophy, since it never claims to be. Latour incisively criticizes the 'symbolic' and 'spiritual', preferring the letter. Unfortunately, a lot of the novelty here is essentially restating the position of Thrasymachus in the Republic, especially the emphasis on the priority force - it' ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A provocative reconceptualization of how to write of the history of science. He argues that below the (in his view artificially) created social/natural distinction there exist networks of actors/agents (including, in this case, bacilli) and that their interactions should be the subject of analysis.
Sep 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Part one only
Jan 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Going against much of the crowd, the first part of the work has significantly more substance than his 'Irreductions.' Latour is clearly a significant scholar on the subject of science and technology policy and history, yet the translation to English is spotty and sometimes difficult to read. However, I could easily see why the second part of his work is more appealing, and is more forward thinking than his "War and Peace of Microbes." ...more
Latour does a good job at showing the social and cultural prerequisites necessary to encourage the French to accept Pasteur's microbes as revealed truth, as well as the process by which these conditions are obscured in favor of the "Great Man" thesis. ...more
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Bruno Latour, a philosopher and anthropologist, is the author of Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory, Our Modern Cult of the Factish Gods, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence, and many other books. He curated the ZKM exhibits ICONOCLASH and Making Things Public and coedited the accompanying catalogs, both published by the MIT Press.

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