The Politics of `Actor-Network Theory'. What Can `Actor-Network Theory' Do to Make Buildings More Energy Efficient?


This text discusses controversies surrounding theoretical, practical, and political implications of actor-network theory' (ANT’). Since its inception around 1980, ANT' has been applied in an immense number of empirical studies, both within and outside the field of science and technology studies. But it was also rejected as radical chic without substance and/or as theoretically and politically unacceptable in perhaps as many instances as it was accepted. Implicit in both the application and critique ofANT’ is the assumption that it can be treated as a black-boxed' set of notions and rules containing certain strengths and weaknesses. Proposing to treat black-boxedANT’ as useful provocation, I discuss what this kind of ANT' can and cannot do for me in my own empirical research on energy efficiency in buildings.In the second part of the text I turn fromblack boxed’ and well-defined ANT' toANT in the making’. In recent and ongoing work Bruno Latour, John Law, Annemarie Mol, Vicky Singleton, and others (in alphabetic order) answer to critiques of ANT's' political implications. The authors share an interest in the development of a non-essentialist foundation of politics, which neither turns into crude functionalism nor into hollow relativism. Concluding this text, two of the proposals made here,political ecology’ and `ontological politics’, are compared and discussed in the context of my own research.

Science, Technology & Innovation Studies
Thomas Berker
Professor of Science and Technology Studies