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Knowledge, Sociology of

E. Doyle McCarthy

Subject Cultural Studies » Culture
Sociology » Sociological and Social Theory, Sociology of Knowledge

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The sociology of knowledge examines the social and group origin of ideas, arguing that the entire “ideational realm” (“knowledges,” ideas, ideologies, mentalities) develops within the context of a society's groups and institutions. Its ideas address broad sociological questions about the extent and limits of social and group influence through an examination of the social and cultural foundations of cognition and perception. Despite significant changes over time, classical and contemporary studies in the sociology of knowledge share a common theme: the social foundations of thought. Ideas, concepts, and belief systems share an intrinsic sociality explained by the contexts in which they emerge. From its origins in German sociology in the 1920s, sociology of knowledge has assumed that ideas (knowledge) emerge out of and are determined by the social contexts and positions (structural locations) of their proponents. Its major premise is that the entire ideational realm is functionally related to sociohistorical reality. According to its framers, Wissenssoziologie was developed as an empirical and historical method for resolving the conflicts of ideologies in Weimar Germany that followed the political and social revolutions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, conflicts grounded in competing worldviews and directed by intellectual and political elites. Outlined in early ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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