Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Work in Progress

Sheila Jasanoff and Sang-Hyun Kim. Forthcoming. “Sociotechnical Imaginaries and National Energy Policies.”Social Studies of Science.

Energy systems, unlike weapons, satellites, or biomedicine, have not normally been considered as targets of the sociotechnical imaginaries of Western nation states, but as the salience of energy issues rises on domestic and international agendas, they are likely to assume greater significance. This paper reviews strategies used by the United States to maintain a balance between risks and benefits in the energy sector, with a look to South Korea and Germany for comparative and contrastive insights. In three sectors — nuclear, coal, and biofuels — the US approach has characteristically privatized the benefits while nationalizing the risks. This strategy is consistent with a basic commitment to the free market ideal, in which opportunity is foregrounded while risks and losses are underwritten by the state, and so in effect erased from public consciousness.