Scientific Research – Tool in Class Struggle

Dick Levins, in his talk entitled “One Foot In, One Foot Out”, had a lot to say about the politicization of science. He said that for most laborers, the product of their labor is a matter of indifference. This is a defining characteristic of capitalism – the worker’s alienation from his or her labor. For scientists, there is a stake in their intellectual labor. Today, the scientific proletariat is increasing, while the elite class that “owns” science is growing increasingly smaller. Science for the People started out denouncing the misuse of science. It recognized that science is owned, something that is easily forgotten. In fact, most people operate under the assumption that science is neutral, apolitical, detached from class struggle. In the context of today’s most pressing issues, it is essential to show how science is not objective. Environmental injustice is one such manifestation of that fact. As another speaker, Michael Dorsey, pointed out: climate crises unevenly affect those on the margins of society – people of color and the poor. Similarly, marginalized groups are most likely to bear the brunt of air pollution, water pollution, and so one. I think the most important outcome of the SftP conference was to serve as a reminder of the powerful political implications of scientific research.

2 thoughts on “Scientific Research – Tool in Class Struggle

  1. Evelyn W

    I think one of the difficulties with scientific research is deciding what research is “useful” and worth funding. A single person with a lower or middle income and a multi-million dollar corporation are going to want different areas of science funded. It’s going to be important for us as activists and or scientists to not only question the results of scientific research but to question the contents of the research before it is even started.

  2. Chelsea D

    Dick Levins’ talk was so powerful. Each sentence was bursting with meaning. Your synopsis touches on one of his major points, and I would like to expand it somewhat here. It is not only the scientific facts/the application of them that is politicized. In fact, I would think that most of us at the conference do not align with the false division between “pure” and applied science. It is the entire production of scientific knowledge, and the modes that constitute it as “scientific”. This denotation implies that there is scientific governance, and this is largely what is discussed in relation to the political arena. Where is the money coming from? Where is the money going? Who benefits from the research? Who is being ignored? Who is being excluded?

    As Dick Levins mentioned, although scientific workers are unique from other laborers in that they have intellectual stake in their commodities (knowledge), they are still workers who do not bear the power of capital S, Science. So my question is, how can we, as scientific workers, act in ways to challenge the system we must operate under? I think it goes much further than the suggestions made at the conference for scientists to promise to be responsible for the ethical consequences of their work. The laboratory is the house for scientific research. It is a space for experimentation and performance, and it is ultimately a social space. Given this, by incorporating notions of radical performance and alternative social organizations of the laboratory, scientists, themselves, have the opportunity to change what kind of science is being done, and to be more transparent about the importance of a person’s political and social identity in the laboratory. The notion of the interchangeable observer falsely and unjustly erases identity from scientific workers.

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