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Impure Cultures
University Biology and the World of Commerce
Daniel Lee Kleinman

Science and Technology in Society

How does the world of commerce shape the everyday practices of academic biology?

How are the worlds of university biology and commerce blurring? Many university leaders see the amalgamation of academic and commercial cultures as crucial to the future vitality of higher education in the United States. In Impure Cultures, Daniel Lee Kleinman questions the effect of this blending on the character of academic science.

Using data he gathered as an ethnographic observer in a plant pathology lab at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Kleinman examines the infinite and inescapable influence of the commercial world on biology in academia today. Contrary to much of the existing literature and common policy practices, he argues that the direct and explicit relations between university scientists and industrial concerns are not the gravest threat to academic research. Rather, Kleinman points to the less direct, but more deeply-rooted effects of commercial factors on the practice of university biology. He shows that to truly understand research done at universities today, it is first necessary to explore the systematic, pervasive, and indirect effects of the commercial world on contemporary academic practice.

"One of the most significant research programs in science studies today is that of Daniel Lee Kleinman. Not only does he utilize the ethnographic methods of the laboratory studies to integrate micro- and macrosociological perspectives, but he also analyzes the political economy of laboratory life to point to important policy problems that the privatizing patterns of contemporary biology raise for the public good."—David Hess, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

"Kleinman's confident mustering of evidence and argument results in an original, soundly based piece of scholarship that is both topical, socially important, and effective. The writing is clear throughout, covering technical material (both biological and sociological) competently. . . . For those interested in lab studies, this will be a 'must read.'"—Brian Martin, University of Wollongong

Science and Technology in Society
Daniel Lee Kleinman and Jo Handelsman, Series Editors

Daniel Lee Kleinman is associate professor in the department of rural sociology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of Politics on the Endless Frontier and editor of Science, Technology, and Democracy.

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Image of beakers in a laboratory. Top half is green with red and black title text.

October 2003
LC: 2003007233 QH
222 pp.     6 x 9

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Paper $29.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-19234-1
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Updated February 22, 2012

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