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.