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York University

Department of Sociology

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

AP/SOCI 4910 6.0 A (Y)

Sociology of Knowledge

Fall 2013 - Winter 2014

Course Director: Dr. Marcello Musto

Class Time: Tuesday 7:00-10:00

Class Location: VH 1022

Office Location: 637 Atkinson College Office Hours: Thursday 6:00-7:00

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: 416 – 736 2100 Ext. 22565

Course Syllabus

This course will centre on the principal authors, texts and debates of the sociology of knowledge. Its first part will be dedicated to some of the most important foundational texts and classic intellectual developments within the field, while the second part will focus on the contributions and controversies that have followed from Marxist and other critical approaches.

The goal of the course is to explore the ways in which ideas figure in the development of social institutions, with particular attention to the social impact of belief systems. What knowledge is, how it is comprehended, and what it implies for society cannot simply be taken for granted. On the one hand, knowledge is socially constructed in even its most strictly scientific forms; on the other hand, the forms and patterns through which things are known have the most profound influence on social experience and behaviour. The constant mutual interaction between knowledge and social existence is both inherent in what sociology proposes to study, and constitutive of such study in practice.

Francis Bacon famously proposed that 'Knowledge is power'. The precise nature of this relationship depends, of course, on how each of these terms is conceived. Special attention in the course will be dedicated to the various meanings of 'ideology' and how these conceptions have figured within the sociology of knowledge over time. Although the course may appear to be devoted to studying ideas about ideas, ultimately it is about the forms and processes of social being constituted by people who grasp ideas.

Course Requirements

Class Participation:

This course is taught in 24 weekly seminars lasting 2 hours and 50 minutes. Attendance and informed participation at all class meetings is not only strongly recommended, but required. Students are expected to attend class regularly, complete the assignment readings on time, and participate actively in class discussion. Participation will be marked on the basis of a combination of attendance and quality of participation.


Each class will begin with a student presentation (30 minutes long) on the assigned readings. Presenters should provide a 2-page summary (by photocopy) of her/his presentation for the other students. Every student has to give two presentations: the first in fall term and the second in winter term.

A good presentation is very important to stimulate discussion. Therefore, please avoid just reading from a paper, and try to present ideas and raise questions for the engagement of others. Presentations should:

- provide pertinent biographical information about the author(s) and the historical context in which the assigned texts were written;

- reconstruct the main argument of the author(s) and provide a brief overview of the assigned readings;

- identify the key questions for discussion, and the controversies implied by the material;

- critically analyze the texts (for example: what are the limitations of the position expressed in the readings?);

- identify anything you found unclear or particularly hard to understand;

- conclude with three discussion questions for the group to consider.

Final Paper Proposal:

Students are free to propose their own final paper topic, but it has to be related to the authors and/or the writings read during the course (papers on the knowledge "models" of one or more authors, or offering comparison among different sociological conceptions of knowledge, are the most welcome).

Final paper proposals should be 3-4 pages and should include the following information:

- an indication of the title;

- an annotated bibliography of 5-10 sources to be consulted, beyond those on the course outline. Each entry must include: a) the full and complete bibliographic citation; and b) a short assessment of why the source will be useful for your paper;

- a preliminary outline for the paper. This text should be a prose summary (i.e., not bullet-points) of the approach and ideas from which you will start, providing an overview of the paper you expect to write. It should also describe the probable sections into which your paper will be divided.

Final papers proposal will be due 14 January, in hard copy and by email. Late assignment will be penalized.

Final Paper:

The topic of the paper must be the one approved through the Final Paper Proposal. The Final Paper should:

- be approximately 5000 words, including footnotes and bibliography (roughly 20 pages double-spaced in 12 pt. 'Times New Roman' font);

- be clearly structured (divided into at least 4/5 sections), and written with rigorous reference to supporting evidence; generally, 1-2 references to books or articles per page is a good rule of thumb. These sources may include assigned readings, but there must also be evidence of original research.

- citations should refer to hard-copy books and journals, indicating page numbers. Papers with references to internet sources - unless they are truly necessary - will be penalized. (Books and articles can of course be accessed on-line; what is essential is that the sources be published.)

Final papers will be due 1 April, at the beginning of the final class, in hard copy and by email. Late assignments will be penalized.

Warning: the final paper must be entirely your own work. No plagiarism or other failure of academic integrity will be tolerated. You are fully responsible for knowing what academic honesty means and how it is to be practised. If you have any uncertainty, it is your responsibility to raise the question in class or during office hours.

Access to Course Readings:

The following titles have been ordered at theYork Bookstore:

Emile Durkheim - Marcel Mauss, Primitive Classification;

Marcello Musto (E d.), Karl Marx’s Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy 150 Years Later;

Max Weber, A Reader (Routledge);

Peter Berger - Thomas Luckmann, Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge;

Immanuel Wallerstein, The Uncertainties of Knowledge;

E. Doyle McCarthy , Knowledge as Culture: The New Sociology of Knowledge;

Edward W. Said, Orientalism;

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions;

Paul Feyerabend, Against Method;

Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge;

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality. Vol. I: The Will to Knowledge .

A list of texts from among which to choose for the last class will be distributed during the course.

Many of the required readings are available on-line (more information on the course can be also found at; while Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, and Bertell Ollman, Dance of Dialectic are on reserve at Scott library.

Course Evaluation

Class Participation


Presentation I (Fall Term)


Presentation II (Winter Term)


Final paper proposal


Final paper


Note: As required by Senate policy, at least 30% of the final grade will be available to students in the course prior to the last date by which full-year courses can be dropped without receiving a grade (February 14, 2014). This partial grade will comprise marks for the Fall Term Presentation and the Final paper proposal, and a preliminary evaluation of Participation based on the Fall Term. This portion of the Participation grade, however, is not necessarily fixed; the final Participation grade will be based upon the whole of the course.

 Schedule of Classes and Readings

Winter Term

Sep 10 Introduction and Overview

Sep 17 The Pioneers I

Emile Durkheim - Marcel Mauss, Primitive Classification [1902] (chapters 1. Introduction, 2. The Problem, 7. Conclusions)

Sep 24 The Pioneers II

Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life [1912] (Introduction and Conclusion)

 David Bloor, “Durkheim and Mauss revisited: Classification and the sociology of knowledge”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science vol. 13.4 (1982): 267-97

Oct 1 The Marxian Critique I

 Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach [1845]

Friedrick Engels – Karl Marx, The German Ideology [1845-46] (Part I: Feuerbach.Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook)

Oct 8 The Marxian Critique II

Karl Marx, Grundrisse [1857-58] (“1857 Introduction” [pp. 81-112])

Marcello Musto, 'History, Production and Method in the 1857 Introduction', in idem (Ed.), Karl Marx’s Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy 150 Years Later, pp. 3-32

Oct 15 Weber and the Objectivity of Knowledge

Max Weber, “The Objectivity of the Sociological and Social-Political Knowledge”, [1904]

Oct 22 Mannheim and the Foundation of the Concept

Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia [1929] (Part V: The Sociology of Knowledge)

Nov 5 The Contribution of Robert Merton

Robert Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure [1949] (Part III The Sociology of Knowledge and Mass Communications)

Nov 12 Knowledge in Everyday Life I

Peter Berger - Thomas Luckmann, Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge [1966] (Introduction and Section I)

Nov 19 Knowledge in Everyday Life II

Peter Berger - Thomas Luckmann, Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge [1966] (Section II)

Nov 26 Knowledge in Everyday Life III

Peter Berger - Thomas Luckmann, Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge [1966] (Section III and Conclusion)

Dec 3 Phenomenology and Knowledge

Alfred Schutz, The Structures of the Life-World [1973] (Part 4: Knowledge and Society)

Winter Term

Jan 7 World Systems Analysis and Knowldge I

 Immanuel Wallerstein, The Uncertainties of Knowledge [2004] (Introduction and chapters 1, 2 and 3)

Jan 14 World Systems Analysis and Knowldge II

Immanuel Wallerstein, The Uncertainties of Knowledge [2004] (chapters 9, 10 and 11)

Jan 21 True and False Knowledges

E. Doyle McCarthy , Knowledge as Culture: The New Sociology of Knowledge [1996] (Introduction and chapters I and II)

Jan 28 Knowledge, Dialectic and The Philosophy of Internal Relations

Bertell Ollman, Dance of Dialectic [2003] (Introduction and chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4)

Feb 4 The French Structuralist and the American Pragmatist Traditions

E. Doyle McCarthy , Knowledge as Culture: The New Sociology of Knowledge (chapters III and IV)

Feb 11 The Feminist Approach

E. Doyle McCarthy , Knowledge as Culture: The New Sociology of Knowledge (chapters V and Epilogue)

Alison Wylie, Elizabeth Potter, and Wenda K. Bauchspies, “Feminist Perspectives on Science”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Feb 25 Knowledge, Postcolonialism and Subalternity

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?", in C. Nelson and L. Grossberg (eds), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture [1988]

Edward W. Said, Orientalism [1978] (Introduction)

Mar 4 Sociology of Scientific Knowledge

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions [1962]

(chapters TBA)

Mar 11 Anarchism in Science

Paul Feyerabend, Against Method [1975]

(chapters TBA)

Mar 18 Power and Knowledge

Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge [1972] (Introduction, Part IV, chapter 6: Science and Knowledge, and Conclusion)

Mar 25 Sexuality and Knowledge

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality. Vol. I: The Will to Knowledge [1976]

Apr 1 Final Overview and Conclusion

(Final essay due at the beginning of the class)

Additional Readings:

Barber, Bernard 1952 Science And The Social Order. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.

Berger, Peter L. 1965 Toward A Sociological Understanding Of Psychoanalysis. Social Research 32: 26-41.

Coser. Lewis A. 1965 Men Of Ideas: A Sociologist's View. New York: Free Press.

Dahlke, H. Otto 1940 The Sociology Of Knowledge. Pages 64-89 In Harry E. Barnes, Howard Becker, And Frances B. Becker (Editors), Contemporary Social Theory. New York: Appieton.

Gerard L. DeGré 1943 Society And Ideology: An Inquiry Into The Sociology Of Knowledge. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Lazarsfeld, Paul F.; And Thielens, Wagner Jr. 1958 The Academic Mind: Social Scientists In A Time Of Crisis. A Report Of The Bureau Of Applied Social Re­search, Columbia University. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.

Levi-Strauss, Claude 1945 French Sociology. Pages 503-537 In Georges Gurvitch And Wilbert E. Moore (Editors), Twentieth Century Sociology. New York Philosophical Library.

Machlup, Fritz 1962 The Production And Distribution Of Knowledge In The United States. Princeton Univ. Press.

Mannheim, Karl (1922-1940)1953 Essays On Sociology And Social Psychology. Edited By Paul Kecskemeti London: Routledge. - See Especially Pages 77-164 In"Conservative Thought.

Mannheim, Karl (1923-1929) 1952 Essays On The Sociology Of Knowledge. Edited By Paul Kecskemeti. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. -* See Especially Pages 191-229 On "Competition As A Cultural Phenomenon"

Maquet, Jacques J. (1949) 1951 The Sociologyof Knowledge, Its Structure And Its Relation To The Phi­losophy Of Knowledge: A Critical Analysis Of The Systems Of Karl Mannheim And Pitirim A. Sorokin. Translated By John F. Locke. Boston: Beacon. - First Published In French.

Mead, George H. 1934 Mind, Self And Society From The Standpoint Of A Social Behaviorist. Edited By Charles W. Morris. Univ. Of Chicago Press. - Pub­lished Posthumously

Mills. C. Wright 1963 Power, Politics And People: The Collected Essays Of C. Wright Mills. Edited And Introduced By Irving Louis Horowitz. New York: Ox­ford Univ. Press. - See Especially Pages. 423-438 On "Language, Logic And Culture," Pages 439-452 On "Situated Actions And Vocabularies Of Motive," And Pages 453-456 On "Methodological Consequences Of The Sociology Of Knowledge."

Scheler, Max (1926) 1960 Die Wissensformen Und Die Gesellschaft. 2d Ed., Rev. Bern: Francke.

Seeman, Melvin (1956) Intellectual Perspective And Adjustment To Minority Group Status. Social Problems 3: 142-153.

Sorokin, Pitirim A. (1943) 1964 Sociocultural Causality, Space, Time: A Study Of Referential Principles Of Sociology And Social Science. New York: Russell.

Stark, Werner 1958 The Sociology Of Knowledge: An Essay In Aid Of A Deeper Understanding Of The History Of Ideas. London: Routledge; Glencoe. Ill.: Free Press.

Veblen, Thorstein (1891-1913) 1961 The Place Of Science In Modern Civilisation, And Other Essays. New York: Russell.

Wolff, Kurt H. 1959 The Sociology Of Knowledge And Sociological Theory. Pages 567-602 In Llewellyn Gross (Editor), Symposium On Sociological Theory New York: Harper.

Znaniecki, Florian 1940 The Social Role Of The Man Of Knowledge. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.