Renewal of the Sociology of Knowledge

Article excerpt

Renewal of the Sociology of Knowledge

Tim Dant, Knowledge, Ideology & Discourse: A Sociological Perspective (New York: Routledge Revivals, 2012), ISBN-10: 0415615828, Pages 254.

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This student textbook brings together a wide range of theoretical issues in social theory, but its main contribution is to the field of sociology of knowledge. Traditional problems of the discipline are analyzed from a new perspective. Chapters of the book progressively introduce the main effort of the author-his intent to show that sociological analysis of knowledge and ideology is possible through the empirical analysis of discourse. In this respect, the author develops a sustained argument for the sociology of knowledge and its renewed relevance in contemporary sociology.

The central claim of the author is that knowledge, ideology and discourse are social processes that are inextricably linked. Discourse is the form in which knowledge appears as empirical and social phenomenon. At the same time, the process of discourse has ideological effects because the lived relations are rendered into representations in language and can be traced within utterances, where those relations are simplified and transformed. For that reason, the discursive analysis proposed by Dant is oriented to practical and empirical problems in sociology of knowledge and concerned with the contents of discourse that are related to the world of experience and action.

The point of departure for the analysis is definitions of knowledge, ideology and discourse, where knowledge is the construal of the relation between abstract entities that are taken to represent the world of human experience. Here, knowledge is shared by humans through communication for the purpose of understanding both the experience of the world and for guiding actions (p.5). Discourse is the material content of utterances exchanged in social contexts that are imbued with meaning by the intention of utterers and treated as meaningful by other participants. Exchange of meaning is a social action and is introduced as a way of empirical analysis of the process of knowledge, ideology and discourse. However, because it is taken as a theoretical category, discourse does not do the same work as knowledge or ideology, but it does describe an empirical phenomenon where knowledge and ideology are effectively produced (p.195). The concept of ideology has been developed by Dant to describe the management of contradictions involved in the social process of knowledge. …