Sociology of knowledge.

The sociology of knowledge is not a clear subdivision of sociology. Its concern is the relationship of knowledge to a social base—although what is meant by knowledge and social base is likely to vary from author to author. All the major sociological theorists have something to say about this topic, but as an integral part of their theory, not as a separate area of study, Émile Durkheim for example, in his sociology of religion, suggested that the basic mental categories by means of which we order the world are rooted in the way we organize society. Max Weber, in his sociology of religion, gave considerable weight to material conditions influencing the formation of religious beliefs.

The clearest tradition in the sociology of knowledge is Marxism—where discussion is tied specifically to the theory of ideology. The social origins of knowledge are seen as related to the possibility of grasping truth. It is sometimes argued that the content of knowledge depends upon social or economic position: the bourgeoisie will come to look at the world in one way (say in terms of individual competition and survival of the fittest), the proletariat in another (the point of view of co-operative enterprise and mutual support). These different viewpoints come directly from the experience of each class in the productive process. A more sophisticated tradition, building upon the work of Hegel and associated with György Lukács and the Frankfurt School (see CRITICAL THEORY), argues that it is the form of knowledge rather than its content that is important. Thus, for Lukács in History and Class Consciousness (1923), the thought appropriate to the bourgeois period is marked by formal logic. It is analytic in form, breaking down its subject-matter into component parts, and centres around a number of so-called antinomies—categories such as subject and object which cannot be brought together into a coherent whole. Marxist thought, on the other hand, is claimed to be synthetic, totalizing, and dialectical. Each form represents the experience of a different social class. For both approaches the proletarian forms of thought are closest to the truth.

Read more @ GORDON MARSHALL. “knowledge, sociology of.” A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Retrieved March 19, 2010 from

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