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Unformatted text preview: Epstein/ AIDS Activism 411 Medical Science, Social Movements, and the Study of Credibility Scientific credibilityrefershere to the capacityof claims makersto enroll b a supporters ehindtheirclaims, to legitimatetheirarguments s authoritative knowledge, and to present themselves as the sort of people who can give voice to science.6 Credibility, therefore, can be considered a system of authority in Weberian terms, combining aspects of power, dependence, legitimation,trust,and persuasion(Weber1978, 212-54). In his analysis of the medical profession, Paul Starr(1982, 13; cf. Cicourel 1986, 88-89) has observedthat authorityof this kind includes notjust social authorityrooted in the division of laboror in organizational ierarchies-the probabilitythat h a commandwill be obeyed, in Weber'sterms-but also cultural authority, which rests on an actor'scapacityto offer what is takento be truth. As Shapin (1994) has emphasized, credibility is the backbone of the cognitive and moralorderin modernscientific inquiry,andtrustingrelationships are a sine qua non of scientific practice(see also Barnes 1985; Barnes and Edge 1982; Latourand Woolgar 1986; Shapinand Schaffer 1985; Star 1989,138-44; WilliamsandLaw 1980). Questionsof credibilitymay emerge as particularly alient in fields, such as AIDS research,that are markedby s extremedegrees of controversy, ncertainty, nd, in particular, oliticization a u p (cf. Martin1991, chap. 4). When variousinterestedpublics pay attentionto the progressof researchandexpect answers,a "credibility ap"may develop g if solutions are not forthcoming.Indeed, despite the suspicion of expertise that has become rampantin many quarters,people in advancedindustrial societies do typically expect doctorsand scientists to protectthem from the effects of epidemic disease. The failureof the expertsto solve the problem of AIDS quickly, as they were "supposedto" do, has heightenedpopular resentmentand diminishedthe credibilityof the establishment;it has also openedup more space for dissidentvoices. c s Credibility an reston a rangeof social markers uch as academicdegrees, trackrecords, institutionalaffiliations,and so on. The sheer complexity of AIDS froma scientificstandpoint ndthe profoundanddifferentiatedmpact a i of the epidemic have ensuredthe participation f scientists from a range of o o disciplines, all of them bringingtheirparticular, ften competing,claims to credibility.But the strikingfact aboutAIDS is that the politicizationof the epidemic has broughtabout a furthermultiplicationof the successful pathways to the establishmentof credibility,a diversificationof the personnel beyond the highly credentialed,and hence more convoluted routes to the constructionof facts and the establishmentof closure in biomedicalcontro- ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/10/2010 for the course ENG 000121 taught by Professor Mcgrand during the Spring '10 term at Cornell.
- Spring '10