What is the Sociology of Knowledge?

Dear Readers,

First, apologies for the long delay! Summer is in full bloom, and I’m deeply ensconced in writing a new version of a paper for ASA (as well as for a “publishable paper” requirement in my department). If you’re going to ASA, and want to see me give my first big talk*, check out the science studies section panel: “Knowledge about the economy: creating it and using it,” 8:30 AM on Tuesday, August 17. If you read the blog and say hello, I will probably stammer and say thank you and possibly offer to buy you a drink. Feel free to do the same!

Second, I was wondering if anyone knew what the sociology of knowledge is? I mean specifically some sort of “traditional” sociology of knowledge that does not include science studies. Science Studies seems to be a really coherent field, with a few big camps (SSK, ANT, ethnomethodological approaches, feminist work, etc.), a core set of journals, authors, etc. Sociology of Knowledge seems like a nearly empty signifier – anything can count as Soc of Knowledge, and nothing comes close to uniting the various strands. Is Foucault in? What about Merton? Mannheim seems like a key name, but I still don’t know what he’s being cited for, or how his work is supposed to be the backbone of anything. Can anyone in the audience recommend more recent work that you think defines or exemplifies the sociology of knowledge?


* 30 years from now, when I’m a big shot endowed chair, you can say, “I knew him when..!” You can also say this if 30 years from now I’m an adjunct at a community college. But it won’t sound as flattering.



  1. Coming form a background of german theoretical sociology this is a strange question: sociology of knowledge is big and accepted here whereas you always have to explain why science studies is real and good sociology. The traditional perspective sees its ancestors in Marx (The german ideology), Scheler, Mannheim, then to Berger/Luckmann (in reference to Schuetz) and from there to Soeffner and Luhmann. “Love as Passion. The Codification of Intimacy” is a Luhmann work on the sociology of knowledge also published in english.

  2. joshmccabe

     /  July 18, 2010

    8:30am on Tuesday? Does this mean we’re not going to be going shot-for-shot at the blogger party the night before?

    • Ugh. Shots? Can’t we just drink frozen margaritas or something? Seriously though, are you going to be there? It’d be a pleasure to meet!

  3. Keith

     /  July 27, 2010

    I am unsure if the blog is open to all-is not, please regard my post as persona non grata

    The sociology of knowledge

    I have been studying the sociology of art and am doing UG study that compares the collective activity of the art world to the collective activity of the world of science research. What this sociological study revealed was that the participants in the social activity of the comparative fields collectively produce a different in the kind of cultural product, However the activities are actually quite similar.
    This type of study seems to follow a tradition sociology that allows a comparison of two sociological activities. The same method can be used to ask the affect of the art critic on types of art activity. But when questions are asked such as when did we begin to have an intermediary explain art to us, and for us? How have we come to accept and believe this ? These question seem to be answered in the subfield of sociology of knowledge. What is fascinating to me is questions like the formation of the “American’ self or pluralities of ‘selves’ that can be examined to study what knowledge is necessary for self- construction and what knowledge is necessary when culture is deconstructed and then reconstructed. It seems to be a discipline that addresses the social forces that affect our epistemology .

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