Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

An Introduction to the Sociology of Ignorance: Essays on the Limits of Knowing

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

An Introduction to the Sociology of Ignorance: Essays on the Limits of Knowing

Article excerpt

McGoey, Linsey M., editor. An Introduction to the Sociology of Ignorance: Essays on the Limits of Knowing. Abingdon: Routledge, 2014, 131 pp. ISBN: 9781138779679, hardback. US$ 160.00.

This short book includes six articles related to the social study of ignorance and its consequences. In other words, how do individuals and decision-makers act and react in unsure or unpredictable situations, and how does this unawareness guide their perceptions and decisions? Keeping these goals in mind, these authors in sociology of ignorance deploy a variety of topics that are of interest in Social Epistemology and especially Environmental Studies, e.g. risk, expertise, governance and policies. For many environmentalists and for policymakers in environmentally-related problems, this notion of ignorance is proven to be a frequent guide in acting (and in non-acting) with regards to environmental issues.

Even more than ignorance and Ulrich Beck's concept of risk, the notion of uncertainty is also used by scholars to describe the future (p. 87). All contributors in this book insist on the idea that ignorance should not be seen as just the opposite of "knowing" because "not knowing" can be infinite and in unpredictable directions. Furthermore, there are more "unknown things" than "familiar notions" and certainties, and "not knowing" can be a guide for many people who doubt; this can explain (in part) the "various forms of standardization and rationalization" studied by so many social scientists in bureaucracies (Jacqueline Best, p. 87).

Environmental issues are discussed and conceptualized, for example in Steve Rayner's chapter about "Uncomfortable Knowledge" which in one specific case describes Sustainable Development as a "Constructive Ambiguity" (Steve Rayner, p. …

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