Ph.D. candidate, The New School for Social Research
Expected Completion: May 2011
Curriculum Vitae (Adobe PDF)
“The Social Life of Measures:
Metrication in the United States and Mexico, 1789-2004”
Areas of Expertise
Sociology of Knowledge and Science,
Historic Sociology, Social Theory, Economic Sociology.
My work focuses on the development of a historical
sociology of knowledge that emphasizes historically grounded
conceptualization and theoretically informed research. More specifically, I am
interested in the processes of creation, distribution, acquisition, and
monopolization of knowledge that can be observed both through long spans of
time at a global scale and in national and local contexts. My current research
focuses on how diverse social groups have appropriated a scientific language
(the metric system) in varying historical and national contexts.
My dissertation is a socio-historical
investigation on how different social groups and institutions have appropriated
the decimal metric system (understood as a scientific language) in Mexico and
the United States, from the end of the eighteenth century to the late twentieth
century. The metric system was invented by the French revolutionaries in the
1790s as a rational instrument to improve political administration, commercial
transactions, and scientific communication; it was also used as a symbolic
break with the past. Over the last 200 years this system of measurement has
spread all over the world to become the first universal metrological language.
Mexico officially adopted it in 1857, but there were necessary more than 80
years to be effectively used by the population at large. In the U.S. several
campaigns have been organized to make the metric the only legally accepted
system of measures, but all tries have been unsuccessful, leaving the U.S. as
one of the seven countries in the world that have not yet adopted the metric
system — alongside Liberia and Myanmar and other four small nations. The slowly
and painful adoption of the metric system in Mexico, and the sound failures to
fully implement it in the U.S. are analyzed considering four different factors
in each country: 1) the ability of the central State to impose its will over
regions and states, 2) integration into the global economy, 3) the level of
influence of scientists in the government, 4) the popular acceptance/resistance
to the metric system.
Decimal Time: Misadventures of a Revolutionary Idea, 1793–2008 (Adobe PDF)
Hector Vera. A peso el kilo. Historia del sistema métrico decimal
en México [The History
of the Decimal Metric System in Mexico]. Mexico: Libros del Escarabajo, 2007.
Hector Vera. “Decimal Time: Misadventures of a Revolutionary
Idea, 1793-2008.” KronoScope: Journal for
the Study of Time, 9 (1-2), 2009, pp. 29-48.
Hector Vera. “Economic Rationalization, Money and Measures:
A Weberian Perspective”. In David Chalcraft et al. (eds.), Max Weber Matters: Interweaving Past and Present. London: Ashgate,
2008, pp. 135-147.
Hector Vera. “Prologue to the Spanish Edition” to Norbert
Elias, Sobre el tiempo [Time: An Essay]. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2010, pp. 9-22.
Department of Sociology
The New School for Social Research
6 East 16th Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10003