Dikes and Dams, Thick with Politics

W.E. Bijker*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Things are thick with politics. This essay illustrates the point by focusing on a variety of technologies that help to manage water: anicuts and tanks in India, dikes and a storm surge barrier in the Netherlands, and levees in New Orleans. Technologies are not only shaped by political forces; they also exert political force themselves: on social stratification in Indian villages or on government stability in the Netherlands. We should recognize, then, that the functioning of technologies and the functioning of societies are intricately linked. The essay traces this interlinking by using the concept of "technological culture." It argues that the different styles of coastal engineering in the United States and in the Netherlands can be explained by differences in their technological cultures, particularly the different styles of risk handling. This conclusion is then applied to the Indian case and to issues of development, democracy, and innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-123
JournalISIS. An International Review Devoted to the History of Science and its Cultural Influences
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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