Hierarchy versus symmetry in German and Israeli science

Gad Yair*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Is science culturally determined? If so, in what aspects and how? Using evidence from three studies of German and Israeli science, this paper shows that the contexts of scientific discovery in those countries are highly distinct. Respondents from each study embraced a universalist position by holding the belief that ‘science is science,’ suggesting that they share similar understandings about the context of scientific justification. However, respondents also agreed that the deep cultural codes of hierarchy (in Germany) and symmetry (in Israel) constitute the actual contexts of scientific discovery on utterly different trajectories. Specifically, they claimed that deep cultural codes determine the organization of labs; that they set the ground rules for the relations between senior and junior scientists; that they determine concrete research practices; and that they even constitute intellectual styles. By adding ‘national culture’ as an important factor in science studies, this paper suggests that it is the task of science and technology studies to employ broader approaches of cultural analysis. Such approaches would bring to light national particularities in socialization towards the universal Temple of Science; they also would facilitate greater appreciation for the multiple cultural ways of doing science.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)214-245
Number of pages32
JournalAmerican Journal of Cultural Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

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© 2019, Springer Nature Limited.


  • Cultural codes
  • Germany
  • Israel
  • Science studies


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