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Responsible Agencements: Constructing Markets for Nanotechnology Through the European Regulation
Volume 9, Issue 3

Brice Laurent

As the call for the “responsible development of nanotechnology” is widespread, there is a need to problematize the very notion of “responsibility.” This article does not consider “responsibility” as granted but discusses the devices that practically construct it. It considers the example of European initiatives in the definition of nanotechnology as “responsible.” Adopting an approach inspired by the social studies of markets, it describes two “agencements” performing responsibility in nanotechnology, and thereby qualifying objects and defining political and economic organizations. An experimental agencement distributes responsibility among industrial actors and member states, and define a plurality of “nano” qualification. Within a liberal agencement, a specific “nano” market is constructed, in which producers are constrained by the initiatives of the elected representatives of the European public to label their products, for consumers to decide whether to buy them. The differences between these two agencements and the challenges they face are illustrations of the contested construction of Europe as a consistent political and economic space.

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