Perfecting European democracy. Science as a problem of technological and political progress

Science policy has become a consequence as much as an engine of European integration. This paper argues that European construction is a process whereby science and democracy are jointly problematized as matters of progress and perfectibility. In turn, framing science and democracy as matters of progress participates in the making of Europe as a political, economic and moral entity worthy of public support. This paper identifies three operations that make science a problem of both technological and democratic progress, namely the construction of nanotechnology as an “experiment” for the connections between science and European publics, the writing of the GMO controversy as a narrative of “failure” of science/society relationships, and the “integration” of values in science through the current objective of responsible research and innovation (RRI). Experimenting with nanotechnology, writing a narrative of failure about GMOs and integrating through RRI are processes that are by no means neutral. They contribute to base the European research policy on the selection of a few technoscientific “challenges”. These challenges are deemed to be worthy of public support as they are expected to respond to the needs of a general European public, a public whose political representation thereby ceases to be a problem of electoral politics. As the European polity is imagined in the terms of continuous democratic progress, it is also meant to be purified from un-orderly publics or alternative technological trajectories.