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The 1931 London Congress: The Rise of British Marxism and the Interdependencies of Society, Nature and Technology

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Rispoli,  Giulia
Department Structural Changes in Systems of Knowledge, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Max Planck Society;

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Ienna, G., & Rispoli, G. (2021). The 1931 London Congress: The Rise of British Marxism and the Interdependencies of Society, Nature and Technology. HoST — Journal of History of Science and Technology, 15(1), 107-130. doi:10.2478/host-2021-0005.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-BC3E-0
Abstract
The Second International Conference of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, held in London in 1931, exerted a profound influence on the historiography of science, giving rise to a new research field in the anglophone world at the intersection of social and political studies and the history of science and technology. In particular, Boris Hessen’s presentation on the Social and Economic Roots of Newton’s Principia successfully ushered in a new tradition in the historiography of science. This article introduces and discusses the London conference as a benchmark in the history of the social study of science within a Marxist and materialist tradition. In contemporary science and technology studies, political epistemology, and the study of society-nature interaction, it is no less relevant today than it was at the beginning of the fabulous 1930s. In reconstructing some important theses presented by the Soviet delegation in London, we aim to revive the conference’s legacy and the approach promoted on that occasion as a pretext to address current debates about society’s major transition toward a new agency and ways of existence in the Earth system. In particular, the London conference invited us to think of the growing metabolic rift between society, technology, and nature, and further reflects a historical moment of profound environmental and political crisis.