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The Price of PrestigeConspicuous Consumption in International Relations$
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Lilach Gilady

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226433202

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226433349.001.0001

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Big Science and the Transits of Venus

Big Science and the Transits of Venus

The First Race to Space

(p.121) Chapter Five Big Science and the Transits of Venus
The Price of Prestige

Lilach Gilady

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the connection between extravagant state-funded scientific megaprojects—known as Big Science—and international prestige by focusing on the Transits of Venus (TOVs). It first provides an overview of the international reaction to China's 2003 launch of the spacecraft Shenzhou V and whether it raised the prospects for a renewed space race before discussing Big Science projects such as space programs and ambitious biomedical projects like the Human Genome Project as examples of conspicuous consumption. It then considers Big Science in relation to prestige and three primary utility-based alternatives that explain Big Science as strategic investment, as a promoter of knowledge, and as pork-barrel politics, arguing that conspicuous consumption is a necessary complementary component for the analysis of Big Science. It also describes the international race to observe the TOVs of 1761, 1769, 1874, and 1882 as a case study of conspicuous consumption.

Keywords:   prestige, Transits of Venus, China, Shenzhou V, space race, Big Science, space programs, conspicuous consumption, utility

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