Published and Forthcoming Work

Scoville, Caleb. “Hydraulic Society and ‘A Stupid Little Fish’: Toward a Historical Ontology of the Nonhuman” (Accepted with Changes at Theory and Society)

  • Jane Goodall Award for Graduate Student Scholarship, Animals & Society Section, American Sociological Association
  • Herbert Blumer Prize for Best Paper Written by a Berkeley Sociology Student
  • Leo Lowenthal Prize, awarded to a UC Berkeley graduate student whose research is in the spirit of Professor Lowenthal’s work

Amironesei, Razvan and Caleb Scoville (Equal Authorship). “Groundwater in California: From a Juridical and Biopolitical Object to a Political Physics of Vital Processes” (Accepted with Minor Revisions at Theory, Culture and Society)

Amironesei, Razvan and Caleb Scoville (Equal Authorship). “Opposing California’s WaterFix: The Trump Administration and the Future of Environmental Advocacy.” Ethics, Policy, and Environment 21.1 (2018): 29-33. [read online]

Scoville, Caleb and Neil Fligstein. “The Promise of Field Theory for the Study of Political Institutions.” In The New Handbook of Political Sociology: States, Parties, Movements, Citizenship and Globalization edited by Thomas Janoski, Cedric DeLeon, Joy Misra, and Isaac Martin, Forthcoming 2018, Cambridge University Press.

Scoville, Caleb. “‘We Need Social Scientists!’ The Allure and Assumptions of Economistic Optimization in Applied Environmental Science.” Science as Culture 26.4 (2017): 468-480. [read online]

Scoville, Caleb. “George Orwell and Ecological Citizenship: Moral Agency and Modern Estrangement.” Citizenship Studies 20.6-7 (2016): 830-845. [read online]

Scoville, Caleb. “Reclaiming Water Politics: California’s Drought and the Eclipse of the Public.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology 59 (2015): 35-43. [read online] [republished by The Hampton Institute]



Current Projects

“Constructing Environmental Compliance: Law, Science, and the Morality of Endangered Species Conservation in California’s Delta” (Working Paper)

Sociologists of law have demonstrated the crucial role of compliance professionals in constructing law’s meaning, focusing on contexts in which they are located within regulated organizations. This article extends this literature to an analytical space where compliance professionals are not creatures of regulated organizations or law. To do so it brings environmental regulation into the sociology of law, conceptualizing science as a compliance profession. Whereas scholars are divided over science and law’s incommensurability or mutual constitution, this article presents them as moral domains that can sustain several possible compliance relations. Drawing on documents, observations, interviews, and bibliometric data, this article is grounded in an in-depth case study of the delta smelt. The species is on the verge of becoming the first Endangered Species Act-listed fish to go extinct and is among the most contentious and scientifically scrutinized endangered species in American history. Tracking the case over nearly thirty years, the author develops three distinct compliance relations and their facilitating conditions. Each is defined around a distinct relationship between science and law’s moral visions of nature. First is moral choreography, a relation of coordination. Second is substantive subordination, a relation of domination. Third is conceptual contention, a relation of conflict.

“The Global Diffusion of Field Theory” with Neil Fligstein (Manuscript in Preparation)

“Sociology of or Beyond Good and Evil? Bourdieu and Foucault on Freedom” (Manuscript in Preparation)

“Ontology: Historical, Social, Moral, Political” with Razvan Amironesei (Manuscript in Preparation)

“Becoming a Natural Instrument: Metis, Mimesis and Polemos in Contemporary Technology” with Razvan Amironesei and Olivier Clain (Project Stage)

“Science, Reflexivity, and Autonomy” with Santiago Molina (Project Stage)

“Sovereign Credit Ratings and Moral Classifications” with Marion Fourcade (Project Stage)

EVENT: “The Hydraulic Society, Revisited,” April 21st 2017, UC Berkeley

Coordinated with Andrew Lakoff (University of Southern California)
Friday, April 21st 2017, University of California, Berkeley
What is California’s relationship with water today? In this one-day workshop we will forge a conversation about how social scientific and humanistic research can help us address this question. Thirty-five years ago, the environmental historian Donald Worster described California as “a modern hydraulic society – a social order founded on the intensive management of water.” The issues that motivated Worster’s political, economic, and ecological analysis remain relevant: the reliance of commercial agriculture and municipal growth on ongoing diversions, the relationship between economic interests and bureaucratic imperatives, the shared fate of humans and their natural environment, and the vulnerability of a civilization dependent on technologies for importing water. However, our relation to water has also evolved significantly in recent decades. One cannot understand water in California today without addressing topics such as: the entanglement of endangered species conservation and water policy, the proliferation of new groundwater management institutions and technologies, the institutionalization of adaptive management regimes, the specters of anthropogenic climate change and seismic vulnerability, and the increasing salience and visibility of environmental justice concerns. In this workshop, we will revisit the “hydraulic society thesis” in order to assess its promises and limitations in light of our own research on water in California. With Worster’s classic formulation as a shared point of departure, we will convene a diverse group of scholars in the social sciences and humanities to forge a new multi-faceted agenda for understanding California’s relationship with water.

Politics, Ethics, Ontology: An Inquiry into the Ontologies of Nature

Collaborative Research Group at the Institute of Arts and Humanities with Razvan Amironesei, Ike Sharpless, and Jacob Hellman