The contribution of the field of science and technology studies (STS) to mainstream
sociology has so far been slim because of a misunderstanding about what it means
to provide a social explanation of a piece of science or of an artifact. The type
of explanation possible for religion, art or popular culture no longer works in the
case of hard science or technology. This does not mean that science and technology
escapes sociological explanation, but that a deep redistribution of what is a social
explanation is in order. Once this misunderstanding has been clarified, it becomes
interesting to measure up the challenge raised by STS to the usual epistemologies
social sciences believed necessary for their undertakings. The social sciences imitate
the natural sciences in a way that render them unable to profit from the type of
objectivity found in the natural sciences. It is argued that by following the STS
lead, social sciences may start to imitate the natural sciences in a very different
fashion. Once the meanings "social" and "science" are reconfigured, the definition
of what a "social science" is and what it can do in the political arena is considered.
Again it is not by imitating the philosophers of science's ideas of what is a natural
science that sociology can be made politically relevant.