Challenging Knowledge: The University in the Knowledge Society

Challenging Knowledge: The University in the Knowledge Society

Challenging Knowledge: The University in the Knowledge Society

Challenging Knowledge: The University in the Knowledge Society

Synopsis

"For far too long, we have waited for a book that recorded the ideas of the modern university. Now, in Gerard Delanty's new book, we have it. Delanty has faithfully set out the views of the key thinkers and, in the process, has emerged with an idea of the university that is his. We are in his debt." Professor Ronald Barnett, University of London "Gerard Delanty is one of the most productive and thought-provoking social theorists currently writing in the UK. He brings to his work a sophisticated and impressively cosmopolitan vision. Here he turns his attention to higher education, bringing incisive analysis and a surprising optimism as regards the future of the university. This is a book which will stimulate all thinking people - especially those trying to come to terms with mass higher education and its tribulations." Professor Frank Webster, University of Birmingham "For too long social theory, the sociology of knowledge and studies in higher education have mutually ignored each other. Gerard Delanty, founding editor of the European Journal of Social Theory, was just the right person to bring them into dialogue. Indeed, 'dialogue' and 'communication' are his watchwords for revamping the institutional mission of the university." Professor Steve Fuller, University of Warwick Drawing from current debates in social theory about the changing nature of knowledge, this book offers the most comprehensive sociological theory of the university that has yet appeared. The famous philosophical conceptions of the university from the Enlightenment to postmodern thought are discussed along with the major writings in modern social theory on the university, such as those of Weber, Parsons, Habermas, Gadamer, Lyotard and Bourdieu. In this far reaching contribution to the sociology of knowledge, Delanty views the university as a key institution of modernity and as the site where knowledge, culture and society interconnect. He assesses the question of the crisis of the university with respect to issues such as globalization, the information age, the nation state, academic capitalism, cultural politics and changing relationships between research and teaching. Arguing against the notion of the demise of the university, his argument is that in the knowledge society of today a new identity for the university is emerging based on communication and new conceptions of citizenship. It will be essential reading for those interested in changing relationships between modernity, knowledge, higher education and the future of the university.

Excerpt

The history of western social and political systems of thought can be said to be the expression of a deeply rooted conflict between two kinds of knowledge: knowledge as science and knowledge as culture. the origins of this go back to the classical Greek opposition of logos and doxa, knowledge versus opinion, a conflict which also established the superiority of knowledge over democracy. As is well known, Plato rejected the world of ordinary knowledge as illusion and democracy as the expression of political degeneration, and not without reason, for when Athens became a self-governing democracy one of its first acts was to sentence Socrates, the paragon of knowledge, to death by drinking poison. It would appear that knowledge and democracy are incompatible and that nothing can bridge the worlds of the cave and the academy.

Moving from Plato's Academy to Immanuel Kant's plea to the Prussian king to have a university founded on the principles of reason, we find a second instance of the precarious relation between knowledge and democracy (Kant, 1979). in what was to be one the most influential visions of the modern university, Kant gave expression to patrician republicanism which confined democracy to academic discourse. in distinguishing between public and private reason, with the former pertaining to academic discourse and the latter being outside argumentation, Kant excluded from the university anything that might be disruptive of the smooth functioning of society. Public reason, institutionalized in the university, was thus de-politicized. the subject of my book is precisely this question of the relationship of knowledge and the culture of democracy with respect to the university. Is a democracy of knowledge possible? of what would it consist and what kind of university would it call into being?

The current situation of the university reflects the contemporary condition of knowledge. the most striking aspect of this is the penetration of communication into the heart of the epistemic structure of society precisely at a time when this is also happening to democracy, for both knowledge and democracy are being transformed by communication. in the past, in . . .

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