The Mangle of Practice Time, Agency, and Science
by Andrew Pickering
University of Chicago Press, 1995
Cloth: 978-0-226-66802-4 | Paper: 978-0-226-66803-1 | Electronic: 978-0-226-66825-3


This ambitious book by one of the most original and provocative thinkers in science studies offers a sophisticated new understanding of the nature of scientific, mathematical, and engineering practice and the production of scientific knowledge.

Andrew Pickering offers a new approach to the unpredictable nature of change in science, taking into account the extraordinary number of factors—social, technological, conceptual, and natural—that interact to affect the creation of scientific knowledge. In his view, machines, instruments, facts, theories, conceptual and mathematical structures, disciplined practices, and human beings are in constantly shifting relationships with one another—"mangled" together in unforeseeable ways that are shaped by the contingencies of culture, time, and place.

Situating material as well as human agency in their larger cultural context, Pickering uses case studies to show how this picture of the open, changeable nature of science advances a richer understanding of scientific work both past and present. Pickering examines in detail the building of the bubble chamber in particle physics, the search for the quark, the construction of the quarternion system in mathematics, and the introduction of computer-controlled machine tools in industry. He uses these examples to address the most basic elements of scientific practice—the development of experimental apparatus, the production of facts, the development of theory, and the interrelation of machines and social organization.



1.1 Science as Practice and Culture

1.2 Representation and Performativity

1.3 Agency and Emergence

1.4 The Mangle of Practice

1.5 More on the Mangle

Part One: Instantiations

2. Machines: Building the Bubble Chamber

2.1 Building the Bubble Chamber

2.2 The Mangle and Material Agency

2.3 The Mangle and Intent

2.4 The Mangle and the Social

2.5 Actors, Interests, and Constraints

3. Facts: The Hunting of the Quark

3.1 The Hunting of the Quark

3.2 Emergence and Posthumanism in Empirical Practice

3.3 Multiplicity, Heterogeneity, and Association

3.4 Representational Chains

3.5 Discipline

4. Concepts: Constructing Quaternions

4.1 Disciplinary Agency

4.2 From Complex Numbers to Triplets

4.3 Constructing Quaternions

4.4 Concepts and the Mangle

4.5 Science and the Mangle

4.6 Postscript: Mathematics, Metaphysics, and the Social

5. Technology: Numerically Controlled Machine Tools

5.1 Numerically Controlled Machine Tools

5.2 The Mangle and the Social

5.3 The Mangle, Social Theory, and Limits

Part Two: Articulations

6. Living in the Material World

6.1 Realism

6.2 Incommensurability

6.3 Knowledge and Us

6.4 Objectivity

6.5 Relativity

6.6 Historicity

7. Through the Mangle

7.1. Antidiscipline: A New Synthesis

7.2 Cultural Studies and the Mangle

7.3 Performativity and Historiography: The Big Picture

7.4 Macromangling

7.5 Postscript: Nonstandard Agency

7.6 Postscript: The TOE Mangle