Sociology of knowledge, science and intellectuals (so 223)

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Academic Year 2007/8

Lecturer: Prof. Steve Fuller ( W 10-10.50, S011

Tutor: Ms. Elisabeth Simbuerger ( M 2-3, 4-5, Reinvention Centre, Westwood Campus.
This module will consider the role of authoritative knowledge in society: How do people decide what to believe and, more crucially, what is worth having beliefs about? How do these decisions interact with other concerns about how people allocate time and resources? These questions, while always important, have taken on an added significance as more specialised forms of knowledge, or ‘expertises’, have come to influence public policymaking in areas of health, security, welfare and education. In the classical sociological tradition, these issues have been associated mainly with religious and political ideologies, including the sorts of social divisions, and even conflicts, they generate and legitimate. More recent work has focused on organized inquiry, or ‘science’, and the ideally knowledgeable citizen, or ‘intellectual’. Existing between these two forms of knowledge is the ‘expert’, who often occupies a quasi-political or quasi-juridical role. All of these forms of knowledge are offshoots of the history of philosophy, which in the past few years has been itself subject to a major systematic sociological treatment.
We shall examine all of the above matters from a comparative, historically informed, cross-cultural perspective from ancient times to the contemporary period.

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