A Euroasian project on Capitalisms, Technologies, Society and Health (CTSH)

The general goal of this project is to revisit the relations between technologies and societies by focusing on health issues. This is in partial continuity with our previous research agendas but is also characterized by strong discontinuities, which require to build a new and international team based at the EHESS.

On the side of the partial continuity is the book edited by S. Lechevalier in 2019, Innovation beyond technology. Science for Society and Interdisciplinary Approaches, and to which Jean-Paul Gaudillière contributed, together with 13 other Japanese and French (mostly from the EHESS) colleagues. In a critical context of crisis and loss of confidence in science and technology, a group of colleagues decided to gather to discuss in an interdisciplinary manner about the ways, we, as social scientists, should criticize and rethink the concept of innovation, in order to rethink the relations between technologies and societies. The research agenda has been developed in dealing primarily with two fields of inquiry, which constitute two distinct parts of the book: environment and health.

The present project is going several steps further in proposing to build a temporary international laboratory, to extend our research team and to focus on health issues, with an original approach that goes beyond traditional segmented disciplinary approaches of health such as economics (of health), sociology (of health), anthropology (of health) of history of (medicine and health).

The rising doubts about the pertinence of the innovation model

Our premise is the recognition of the paradoxes of innovation in troubled times. For a few decades now, innovation – mainly derived from technological advances – has been considered a driving force of economic and societal development and prosperity. However, during the last decades, which can be considered as the Golden Age of innovation, from an ideological viewpoint, there have been rising doubts about the pertinence of this model, as it is obvious from the following facts:

  • Gap between the increasing resources dedicated to innovation and decreasing well-being observed in many cases (see the evolution of well-being in hospitals for example);
  • Contribution of innovation to rising inequalities in different dimensions (e.g. health, as emphasized by the contributions of Sarah A. Burgard, among others);
  • Various technology related scandals (e.g. in pharmaceutical industries);
  • Some problems related to the use of technologies (g. use of personal data related to health in order to build algorithms.)

Our conviction is that the crisis of innovation is the crisis of the relationship between technological innovation and society. In this context, the goal of the proposed team is twofold:

  • To analyze the conditions of a shift from a techno-centric society to a human-centric society, one where technology’s potential is not disregarded, but where social and human wellbeing is central.
  • To discuss non-technological aspects of innovation and their importance in dealing with complex contemporary societal issues, while making a critical assessment of the relationship between science, technology, innovation, and society.
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