Donald A. Mackenzie, Inventing Accuracy: An Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1990)
MacKenzie uses guidance systems for ICBMs as a window into Cold War politics, defense planning, and nuclear strategy. He argues that the quest for more accurate missiles reflected a shift in strategy from MAD to counterforce targetting. The development of guidance systems not only shaped the way that the U.S. conducted the Cold War, but was also shaped by those same politics, strategies, etc. (2-3). He seeks "to understand nuclear missile guidance as a historical product and social creation" (2) by tracing the links between guidance design, strategy, and multiple actors (e.g. political, military, technical) (23).
To tell his story MacKenzie draws on an exhaustive amount of primary source material. And even though his argument is mainly focused on the social shaping of guidance technology, he provides a great amount of technical detail. To construct an effective narrative supporting his thesis he uses what he calls a historical sociology method. He eschews the typical case study approach in history of technology, arguing that it tends only to look at big systems and big changes. Rather, he seeks to look at a more mundane system over a longer period of time as a way of better seeing/demonstrating the social and political aspects of technological development (8). Second, realizing that technology is a social, political, and economic matter, he seeks to apply insights from SSK to the study of technological knowledge (9-10).
MacKenzie draws on John Law’s notion of "heterogenous engineering" and Thomas Hughes’ technological systems work. He draws on SSK and the social construction framework in history/sociology of science to analyze the large, sociotechnical system of ICBM guidance. He makes an important contribution to both history of technology, as well as STS. But, his book has also been widely read in the internation relations, arms control, and defense communities.
The STS themes in Inventing Accuracy are classic ones: social construction of technology, the sociology of knowledge, etc.
There are two important things for my research. In terms of content, the discussion of the relaitonship between technology and strategy, and the question of which one drives the other, is very improtant because it is a central concern in my own research. Second, the arguments in the last chapter clarify his position, eschewing a naive or knee-jerk social construction position that becomes political determinism. While he rejects technological determinism, he also rejects political determinisms: "the state", "the military", "corporations", etc. He even recognizes the need for inhabiting to do useful political work.