Max Weber revisited
The value relation(s) of technology assessment
In the current debate on the normative foundations of technology assessment (TA), demands for TA to explicitly take a political stance in technology policy making coexist with positions holding on to TA’s traditional role as a distanced observer of policy making. The present paper tries to clarify TA’s role by revisiting Max Weber’s critical comments in the so-called “Werturteilsstreit” (Value Judgment Dispute) at the beginning of the 20th century. It is argued that, contrary to what is often stated, for Max Weber scientific analysis refraining from value judgments and engaged scientific intervention are consistent with each other. Scientific analysis, for Weber, is impossible to conceive of without explicit reference to societal values. TA accordingly can (and should) be clear about its own value relations (Wertbeziehungen), and hold on to them in political debate, without necessarily abandoning its ambition of proper and distanced scientific analysis.
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