From Infrastructures


Recipes for Reality

By Lawrence Busch

An investigation into standards, the invisible infrastructures of our technical, moral, social, and physical worlds.





An investigation into standards, the invisible infrastructures of our technical, moral, social, and physical worlds.

Standards are the means by which we construct realities. There are established standards for professional accreditation, the environment, consumer products, animal welfare, the acceptable stress for highway bridges, healthcare, education—for almost everything. We are surrounded by a vast array of standards, many of which we take for granted but each of which has been and continues to be the subject of intense negotiation. In this book, Lawrence Busch investigates standards as “recipes for reality.” Standards, he argues, shape not only the physical world around us but also our social lives and even our selves.

Busch shows how standards are intimately connected to power—that they often serve to empower some and disempower others. He outlines the history of formal standards and describes how modern science came to be associated with the moral-technical project of standardization of both people and things. Busch suggests guidelines for developing fair, equitable, and effective standards. Taking a uniquely integrated and comprehensive view of the subject, Busch shows how standards for people and things are inextricably linked, how standards are always layered (even if often addressed serially), and how standards are simultaneously technical, social, moral, legal, and ontological devices.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262016384 402 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 14 figures, 18 tables


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262525053 402 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 14 figures, 18 tables


  • Lawrence Busch's book, Standards: Recipes for Reality, illustrates with vivid clarity the ubiquity and importance of these 'things' called standards. Rather than present a dry economic text or a singular discipline's focus, Dr. Busch has proposed a 'Unified Field Theory' for standards—a multidisciplinary view of standardization. For anyone interested in standardization from a policy, technical, or social perspective, this volume is absolutely essential.

    Carl Cargill

    Principal Scientist of Standards, Adobe Systems; author of Open Systems Standardization: A Business Approach

  • With enviable style and impeccable clarity, Busch shines a bright beam into the anonymous, invisible world of standards to reveal how these commonplace instruments order the messy world we live in. This deeply thoughtful work of political sociology is a must-read for anyone concerned with the hidden dynamics of power in contemporary industrial democracies.

    Sheila Jasanoff

    Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School; author of Designs on Nature

  • This book demonstrates that Lawrence Busch is not only an outstanding expert and even connoisseur of the subtle nuances of the world of standards which are used to make and unmake the world; he is also a critical analyst of their political and moral significance. Deeply informed by debates in the social sciences, economics, and even analytical philosophy, the book combines a rigorous examination with a great sense of humor in a journey that leads the reader from Harlequin romances to the auditable firm.

    Laurent Thévenot

    Professor, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

  • It is hard to imagine a more contemporarily relevant topic than that of Standards: Recipes for Reality. Our times, marked by economic bubbles, political partisanship, and a search for sustainability, would profit from Lawrence Busch's socio-cultural studies romp through histories and cultures seeking balance for standards and ways to ensure a good life.

    Don Ihde

    Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Stony Brook University