Responsive Science

Posted: 19 Oct 2020

See all articles by Peter Drahos

Peter Drahos

Australian National University (ANU); European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW)

Date Written: October 2020


Regulatory capitalism depends heavily on science, but science faces epi-stemic critiques and crises of research integrity. These critiques and crises are outlined and then located within capitalism's general tragedy of commodification. Drawing on Marx's insights into the relationship between science, commodity production, and the machine age, the general tragedy of commodification is outlined. From here, the article shifts to discussing some well-known global public good problems relating to access to medicines and access to knowledge. The roots of these problems can be traced back to the way the institution of science has been bent toward processes of capital accumulation. The evidence we have from the history of science suggests that too often its research agendas have been set by capital and the demands of war-making capitalist states. The final part of the article considers whether the ideal of responsiveness might help us to reformulate the way in which we think about the responsibilities and duties of science. It focuses on human rights, citizen science, and the intellectual commons as potential sources of responsiveness. Responsiveness has been a fertile ideal for law and society theorists when it has come to theory building in law and regulation. It also has something to offer the debates around the crises of science.

Suggested Citation

Drahos, Peter, Responsive Science (October 2020). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 16, pp. 327-342, 2020, Available at SSRN: or

Peter Drahos (Contact Author)

Australian National University (ANU)

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
50-139 Firenze

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