The question of universalism versus relativism is often taken to be a matter of critical reflexivity. This article attempts to present the question instead as a matter of practical, political, and always situated concern. The attempt starts from consideration of modern experimental sciences. These sciences usually serve as the stronghold for universalist claims and as such are a target of relativism. It is argued here that the specificity of these sciences is not a method but a concern. To be able to claim that they have not unilaterally imposed their definitions on the phenomena they study is the leading concern of experimenters and should be understood in terms of the following achievement: the creation of a very particular “rapport” that authorizes claiming that what is operationally defined “lends itself” to this correlation. Linking knowledge production with a creation of rapports entails a pluralization of sciences along with the pluralization of modes of concern associated with the rapport. However, resisting unilaterally imposed definitions is not enough because with the coming “knowledge economy,” the questions that this essay raises will soon be part of a romantic past. Thus it concludes with a speculative touch, or perhaps it is a requiem, relating the creation of rapports to an ecology of practices akin to William James’s always-under-construction pluriverse.
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Isabelle Stengers; Comparison as a Matter Of Concern. Common Knowledge 1 April 2019; 25 (1-3): 176–191. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-7299270
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