Open access

Introductory Chapter: Sociology of Knowledge and Epistemological Paradox of Globalization

Written By

Zlatan Delić

Published: 26 July 2017

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.70097

Chapter metrics overview

2,017 Chapter Downloads

View Full Metrics

1. Introduction

Sociology of knowledge constituted, as an extremely reflective field of knowledge research, in the first half of the twentieth century.1 However, all the way until the first decade of the twenty‐first century, it has been unclear what really makes the specific problems of sociology of knowledge. Sociology of knowledge is also neglected today, in the first half of the twenty‐first century. But why is that? We should be careful of simplified answers, however, for easier resolution of the meaning of the upcoming text; we should use some categorical, constative statements. To make it simple, we are in the anti‐epistemological situation because this situation is not shaped by epistemology, but rather it is shaped by the new knowledge economics as a false replacement for epistemology. In such situation, it is hard to find vocabulary in which it would be possible to ask adequate questions relating to that situation, and it is even harder to think that we could offer or even have answers that would be operative in education or some other practice. According to the warnings of many specialists from the field of education theory, already in the progressivist vocabulary, which we use when we talk about development, we may observe the anti‐epistemological, anti‐educational trends. Trends that speak of unlimited, linear progress, growth, and development simply are not correct. The remainder of this chapter has a task to explain, at least in short bullets, how it is possible that thorough disciplines, which were responsible for studying social conditions of knowledge by their vocation, all the way up to the second half of the twenty‐first century, did not make a more significant cognitive impact on the society itself. Simply said, epistemology of science, sociology of knowledge, sociology of science, technology and education, as well as other critical and reflective disciplines that process knowledge and education, are truly neglected. Instead of those disciplines, the main word in the knowledge things is already led by the so‐called the new knowledge economics. With the help of financial institutions, institutions of subtle and less subtle supervision and control, with the help of administrative bureaucratic procedures of evaluation and self‐evaluation of study programs, which must be written in the new economics, progressivist language of management and marketing, the new economics of knowledge (and skills) has successfully colonized, hegemonized, oppressed, and completely erased the emancipated vocabularies and emancipated potentials of social sciences. Critical social sciences are, with the excuse that higher education must be “adapted to the market needs”, placed in a humiliating position—a position of slaves of the neoliberal ideology.


2. Marginalization of sociology of knowledge as a symptom of epistemological crisis of science in the age of postglobalism

The main reason for marginalization of sociology of knowledge, and fields of research related to it, is that the subject field of research of social sciences (and this is the global society) is completely colonized by the progressivist ideology and vocabulary of the new knowledge economics. This is the symptom of epochal epistemological crisis of social sciences in the twenty‐first century. This chapter searches for at least one sentence in which it would be possible to pledge for creation of new intellectual areas in which it is possible to speak about complex relations, in an alternative way, between knowledge‐science‐education‐development‐ideology‐new media environment and living environments. In her book, Connected Sociologies, Gurminder K. Bhambra follows the critical tradition of Wright Mills and Alvin W. Gouldner, and she persuasively criticizes Ulrich Beck, Michael Mann, and Immanuel Wallerstein. The final result of the works of these authors have been famous because of their criticism toward dominant systems of knowledge in the West, Bhambra recognized in the impossibility that these authors—such great and significant critics of the West paradigms of development—throw away their prints (conceptual blueprints) of Eurocentrism. Bhambra suggests creating connected sociologies. Those would be sociologies that could preserve pluralism of local experiences. Without a thorough read, and special sensibility for injustice, we should not think that it could be crystal clear to us in which way these local connections, only on the grounds of local experiences and intellectual experience of the postcolonial studies, but without some greater institutional and symbolic noble power, could or should correct the multi‐century discursive domination of main flows of social theory. In order for these local connections, local fields of knowledge could impact the future directions of development of sociology of globalization. This still remains to be seen. In every case, it seems that one such book still, in some way, outlines new ways of understanding global society and offers hope in the future of social sciences, as Raewyn Connell states. However, what do we do with the new economics of knowledge and information in global society of knowledge, if the global knowledge society threatens to turn into global society of asymmetrical supervision on production and reproduction of knowledge and information? The problem of justification or self‐legitimization of what is called the “new knowledge economics” consists of the fact that the new knowledge economics has an institutional power and forceful administrative‐political and supervisory means, with which we may state that it is based on knowledge, without any scientific or logical evidence for such statement.

Since sociology of knowledge has been neglected in the main flows of social sciences until the second half of the twenty‐first century, it did not, even later with the flare of “globalization,” have a greater institutional or cognitive impact on educational processes and processes of internal or external evaluation or self‐evaluation of those processes that were conducted under the trademark of new knowledge economics that should have been the foundation on which free and prosperous global society of knowledge is built. It is devastating that the interconnected field of knowledge, such as philosophy of science, epistemology of social sciences, social epistemology, sociology of knowledge, sociology of science and technology, sociology of information society and cyber culture, and so on could not have a significant impact on newer reforms of high and higher education. Therefore, simply said, even sociology of knowledge, as many other close critical researches on science and ideology, could not have almost any impact on theoretical and methodological trends and movements in economy, society, politics, and such. Under the general term sociology of knowledge, we may find very important groups of synchronic and diachronic connected topic, intellectual impacts from the past and highly demanding symbolic interactions between different, older and newer, research fields that deal with theories and practices of knowledge. Or, even with corporative use or misuse of what may be called “knowledge,” in any communication‐clear context of epistemic discussion, through justified or unjustified faith or belief. It is therefore possible to differentiate classical sociology of knowledge, founded by Kall Mannheim, in the first half of the twentieth century, and the new sociology of knowledge, which is primarily connected with the sociology of globalization.2 However, both classical and new sociology of knowledge are closely related on mutually unclassified fields of critical reflection which may be conducted in a sign of philosophy of social sciences, social epistemology, or something similar.


3. Sociology of knowledge and paradox of development in an approach of “new knowledge economics”

At the end of the second decade of the twenty‐first century in philosophy and epistemology of social sciences, in sociology of knowledge, in social epistemology, and especially in economics theories and politics of development (in their immanent logics of measuring development), as well as in logics of synchronic and diachronic classification of social and economic reality in which we live in, we are missing an adequate concept of knowledge and what we actually mean by development—“Development,” which would be worthy of that name. Knowledge is better than ignorance and, it is assumed, that knowledge is developing. It is assumed that in this way the general knowledge on meaning of the concept of knowledge itself is developed, as the knowledge of the meaning of development is developed. That is, we should become subject to an equal cosmopolitan discussion led between equally communicating individuals—members of epistemological community of the global society of knowledge. Progress, growth, and development are truly wonder words of the West Enlightenment and rationalism. To many, they are weird, tragicomic, obscure, sensitive, symptomatic, slippery, and such. However, indeed, those are the key determinants of privileged explanation of modern “progress”—progress that leads to economic and financial globalization and to globalization of knowledge as such. But, what is knowledge indeed? Is it maybe some fashion such as “Eurosong”? Or, should such question be understood, evaluated, and disregarded simply as wrong, as wrongly asked question? Who decided about what knowledge is, and who knows what should be decided when defining differences between knowledge and justified or unjustified belief? Is all knowledge equal? In what relationship are theory of knowledge and practice of application of knowledge? In what relationship are theory and practice (and theory of practice)? How do knowledge and power, knowledge and ideology mutually function? There are no simple answers to these questions, as there are no simple answers to question of globalization being a Western project. Where is the West? “It is not clear to me. In all parts of the world there is a place where the Sun comes up and the opposite, where the Sun comes down. If we are in Tokyo, for example, Beijing is west, where the Sun comes down, therefore in the West [1]” Economists, who believe in the neoliberal economics, as the new knowledge economics, are mostly pragmatic, especially in the twenty‐first century. They did not overwork themselves thinking about overly hard socially epistemological, methodological, and geo‐epistemological questions about relationships between knowledge and power. They were not writing for an overly long period of time, such as Spinoza, about relationships between theology and ethics. They did not exhaust themselves with figuring out puzzles about scientism, quantophrenia, and qualitative methodology. They actually used the time after the philosophers made an early pronunciation of “the death of philosophy,” and then they successfully invented lucrative phrase “new economics of knowledge and skills” and placed it in drive, in the market where only the strong ones win. They have placed that phrase in the duty of economics and “social construction of reality.” Economics practitioners, and even economics who lecture economics as a science (subjects from the field of social sciences), tried to neutralize as much as possible, to infinitely mathematize the subject (object) of economics, even though it should be clear to everyone that economics is a social, and not a natural science.3 In such a way, they have shown that they are working on an epistemologically slippery field—in the middle of a growing chasm—a chasm that is growing between economics theory, practice, and politics. This enabled them to completely neglect the epistemological and methodological assumptions of own “scientific” impact acting as if the epistemological and socially epistemological problems in economics theory, practice, and politics do not even exist. Economists and militant ideologists of progress have adopted the word knowledge and announced it (privileged) ownership of the new economics of knowledge (and information). Economic entrepreneurs of knowledge took the concept of knowledge in their own hands and announced it their own asset, a resource rather, on which the new knowledge economics decides. In this way, the knowledge is reduced to only one dimension, the economic one. Only one, significantly limited view of knowledge, is announced as a universal foundation upon which should be built a building of the global society of knowledge. They have cunningly announced how we are living—that is, how we should live—in the global society of knowledge and skill. One such diagnosis has become so generally accepted, so that every criticism of the new knowledge of economics today risks of being announced subversive, that is, dangerous for the reproduction of the dominant regime of knowledge.

If we go back to past, we also may speak of marginalization of sociology of knowledge. Even after Louis Wirth and Edward Shils translated Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge, sociology of knowledge in USA carried a stigma of over abstractness, impracticality, and burden of the philosophical—hermeneutic—epistemological reflection and relativism. Conceptual schemes of sociology of knowledge were burdened with theory, abstract, overly fluid, and reflexive. They were not possible to be directly applied in research or business practice. It seems that such books were not of any use, and this opinion still reigns even after 2008, even though it is obvious that economics was found in a collapse. It was like that even earlier, for many decision makers in higher education institutions and universities. It seemed that philosophical and sociological books, which study and research socially epistemological and methodological foundations of what we call knowledge in various contexts, were not necessary. Books on knowledge, written by sociologists of knowledge, such as Mannheim, could not have had a ready answer to the universal question of what knowledge is before time, and this was evident in the way of asking questions as well as the way of searching for answers. This is why neither the sociology of knowledge in the twentieth century nor the epistemology of globalization could have been forced as a socially impacting intellectual field, even though, in nature of asked questions, they deal with dynamic questioning of the meaning of knowledge in the social context.

As Florian Znaniecki tried to explain later on, sociology of knowledge is not a “sociological theory of knowledge,” because, in that case, sociology could have been found in an unusual position. As a theory of knowledge, “the science of other sciences” must have determined its own character in sociology, while it, as sociology, would determine its own character as “the science of all sciences.” Naming these subtle differences, Znaniecki (See Ref. [2]) believed that in a non‐problematic way, he could clear position of sociology of knowledge in a becoming society. However, since the 1980s and 1990s of the twentieth century, that is, since the time when hyperinflation of shallow writing on globalization came into place, it has become very clear that the so‐called global society of knowledge does not favor criticism, doubt, nor asking new sociological and epistemological questions about foundation upon which the building of the new knowledge economics is built. Znaniecki wrongly believed that there is no need to argue about the word knowledge. He stated that many arguments could have been avoided if we had completely formed “science about knowledge.” However, it is impossible to establish a universal science about knowledge. This is why the new knowledge economics, always and in every place where it wants to pretend in a universal character of its limited discourse about knowledge, transforms into quasi‐sciences, which has the power of competition with definitions of knowledge just because it in itself represents a result of symbolic and real domination of the neoliberal ideology of global capitalism. We are surely talking about a globally forced quasi‐science, the new economics of knowledge, skills, information, and such.4 This is an approach that, with the help of the world financial institutions and Western educational institutions, was placed as a universal science, as the science of all sciences, and as a fundamental social ontology of the twenty‐first century that has, almost unnoticed, encased into the structure of language itself, into the vocabulary we use to explain the world we live in. The new knowledge economics is, in fact, a “modern success story.” This is how, in an unbreakable semantic relationship with management and manufacturing of knowledge, a great guru Peter Drucker has cunningly/lucratively marked it in his wrongly titled work Post‐Capitalist Society.5 In the chapter, The Third World, the author writes: “This book focuses on the developed countries – on Europe, on the United States and Canada, on Japan and the newly developed countries of the ‘Third World’. This is not because I consider the less‐developed nations unimportant or even less important. That would be folly. Finally, two thirds of the global population lives in the third world, and until the time when the present period of transitions comes to an end (about 2010 or 2020), the third world will be home to a three quarters of the population. However, I also believe that is very probable that during the next decade or two, there will be the new and startling ‘economic miracles’ where the poor and fallen behind countries of the world are being transformed, literally over night, into economic forces that are recording growth. It is even possible, Drucker claimed then, that it would be far more of such transformations that there were in the last 40 years or so, since when we first started to talk about social growth [3]” It was necessary to include this long citation because of what we will mention in the main part of this chapter in the context of an opposing thesis: a thesis that the neoliberal conception of development, from start until today, was wrong, in order for it to finally transform into one of the most dangerous ideologies of the twenty‐first century.

Drucker’s words are an educative paradox about globalization and we cited them in order to emphasize one enormous discrepancy: a discrepancy between the Great promise (expressed by the great guru, founder of management) and the Great disappointment. Disappointment for what was happening, not only in the Third world but worldwide, since 1993 (when Post‐capitalist Society was published) and until today. In more recent times, the doubt in the Great promise given during the 1990s has grown. The doubt is in the promise that we will, as mankind, in the limitless global world, and on foundations of the new cognitive economics based on knowledge (and only knowledge), soon step into the global society of knowledge and information where we will finally all be happy and satisfied because we live in a unique world with no limits, “most beautiful of all possible worlds.”

Georges Gurvitch, in one text from 1971 [4], has expressed a belief that it could come as occurrence of other forms and types of knowledge in the future. He was right. That is why he stated that we cannot start our research of concrete relationships (regardless of whether it is about manifesting sociality, certain groups, groups of such groups in countries and churches, social classes, or global societies of different types) unless we take primarily more precise and more detailed analyses of knowledge types and their connections with forms of knowledge. Even though the sentence above sounds very abstract, I believe that it is useful to remind ourselves how classical sociologists seriously approached the topic of knowledge. On the contrary, from economists, for example, who were talking about the new knowledge economics or about the global society of knowledge and skills, and almost never, at least to my knowledge, showed the need to previously define own epistemological and methodological assumptions, or to explain what they actually think with the term knowledge. On the contrary to that, Gurvitch shows special caution for the use of terms. He believes that certain types of knowledge, especially the perceptual knowledge about the outside world, as well as knowledge about the Second and about the We, about groups, classes and so on, political knowledge, certain groups of expert knowledge that came out of natural sciences (astronomy, physics, biology, and such) or humanities (including history and sociology), require studying specific space and time in which the study objects are moving.

Neoliberal spaces of knowledge as well as neoliberal politics of knowledge and truth are using colonial logics of “free market” and anti‐epistemological systems of knowledge that are totally destructive for human beings and nature. Neoliberalism transforms ideas of freedom, democracy, and education reducing them actually only to neoliberal economics. For human beings to be able to live together, and in peace, with other human beings, it is necessary to educate ideas, concepts, and terminology in which it is possible to differentiate relations science‐knowledge‐education‐society‐rest of the world. Neoliberal knowledge economics represents an anti‐educational concept, in which it is not possible to educate concepts about ourselves and our world, nor it is possible, in the frame of the language of the new knowledge economics, to truly make freedom serious as well as true potentials of a man as a citizen of the world. From that, there is a foundational tension between philosophy of social sciences, sociology of knowledge, social epistemology (pluralist and anti‐colonial approaches), and the new knowledge economics. The new knowledge economics has put itself in a privileged epistemological position. The new knowledge economics thesis states that only neoliberal economics based on knowledge, technologies, and information may lead to creation of the global society of knowledge.

There are many ways in which neoliberal paradigm of globalization and the “new knowledge economics” serve as a quasi‐epistemological basis for creation of the so‐called global society of knowledge—impacts not only the spreading of neoliberal ideology in the field of social sciences but also education in mathematics, science, and technology in undeveloped countries. Paul Ernesto, from Exeter University, believes that dominant effects, achieved through ways in which research institutions, organizations, and scientific publications from Northern and “developed” countries, usually Anglophonic, dominate the international research community and education, are multiple, but they are economic and ideological before all. It is basic that there is export of university education from Western countries into Eastern countries and “developing countries.” There is an asymmetrical economic effect, that is, asymmetrical inflow of knowledge and specialty to “developing countries.” With that, there is a certain ideological effect. What is called an ideological effect is seen in that the import (that is) export of knowledge, skills, specialties, and research methodologies always also follows a set of implicit values, along with epistemological and ideological orientations. There is an international regulation (and promotion and marketing) of products of educational research through international bodies, conferences, and related publications.

In mathematical education, there are international coordination bodies, such as the International Commission on Mathematical Instructions (2001) that organizes conferences and study project, including organizations ICME, PME, HPM, organizations IOWME and conferences, and independent series of conferences (e.g., MES, ALM, and CERME) that gather researchers from many countries. An asymmetrical economic effect, Ernesto claims, does not represent a surprise. We may agree with such an opinion. An asymmetrical economic effect does not represent a surprise because we are used to living in a deeply unfair ideological world. We are probably used to living in such a world because we got used to that it is normal that the new knowledge economics (by definition) is based on trade of goods and sales of knowledge. Western and “developed” countries, in this way, may dominate manufacturing and guarantee (warranty) of knowledge of high value. They achieve that through control of highly prestigious publications and conferences and through forced Eurocentric epistemologies, Eurocentric methodology, and standards. Standards perform the function of insurance and keepers of those values through forced educational practices of their application. Such kind of “distorted trade,” as it would be called by a French philosopher and sociologist of media, Jean Baudrillard, always and again leads to an ideological effect. Ernesto, therefore, truly masterfully observes how researchers in developing countries internationalize ideological and epistemological assumptions and values of such dominant research culture. Further, “drain of brains” from undeveloped and poor countries into developed countries is used for recruiting talented migrants. Such individuals simply cannot resist accepting good working conditions and good conditions of intellectual development that do not exist in undeveloped nor developing countries [5]. In this way, developed countries, through exploitation of position of undeveloped countries, are ensuring assumptions for own economic progress. Globalization, consumerism, and ideology are all parts of the same semiotic system—system that does not acknowledge epistemic limitations of growth. Without consumerism, as a universal secular religion, ideology, and pathology, globalization would be impossible. Without globalization, as an ideology and religion of a consumer society, pathology of consumerism would not be possible.


4. Sociology of knowledge and vocabulary for the new era

The first decade of the twenty‐first century has unwound in the sign of a dominant discourse about globalization. There were different discussions led on that topic, all until we started talking about “postglobalism” and the collapse of the neoliberal globalization of the world. The feeling of collapse has been emphasized after 2008, when there was an economic‐financial crisis that shook the trust in the “new knowledge economics.” For that new insightful economics, that stated for itself that it was based on knowledge, it was believed that—with the help of technology, new media, and mathematical models of explication of its explanations—it may function as an inviolable cognitive foundation and an instrument for creation of the global society of knowledge. However, this has been shown as an illusion. Even though through main flows of opinion in the West, the new economics was represented as a saving solution that (apparently) ensures the future of mankind, the crisis has destroyed a significant part of earlier economic‐deterministic dreams. The phrase, which is the new knowledge economics that we keep repeating very often on purpose, is often expressed as self‐understanding. This is because a great number of people believe that economic knowledge is important for the whole world and not just for narrow groups of economics students. It would be hard, except in an ironic way, to dispute the statement that knowledge is more valuable and more important of ignorance. It is believed that scientific knowledge is more superior to other forms or types of knowledge. Science is a valuable social activity because it represents the result of the intellectual, theoretical, practical, and research work of many individual scientist and scientist teams in time and space. Time and space of their work may be named on the foundation of various mechanisms of differentiation which do not have to be purely scientific, because there is no such thing as pure science. Also, we should warn about the danger of anti‐science. In the second decade of the twenty‐first century, the most different anti‐scientific and populists movements are thriving. The best way to defend against populism should be critically oriented science and social epistemologies of individual sciences in the context of understanding true problems of development.

What can we even think about and in which categories of patterns do we think in? If we think in progressivist, techno‐scientific categories of progress, growth, and development, it is clear that we think in globally privileged categories of the “new knowledge economics.” Exactly because of this progressivist, privileged character of the new‐economic vocabulary—which is recycled in the same intensity even after 2008—it has been shown that it is almost impossible to criticize the Bologna reform of education. Just as every criticism of the Bologna reform of higher education is turned against the one making it (as shown by Konrad‐Paul Liessmann in Theorie der Unbildung: Die Irrtümer der Wissensgesellschaft [6])—similarly—everyone who dares to criticize the new‐economic concept of development is exposed to the risk of being accused of anti‐science (or even something more dangerous). This is why it is necessary to not give up from the task of manufacturing of cosmopolitan public knowledge about positive and negative dimensions of global development. It is necessary to search for new intellectual areas of knowledge in the context of application of epistemology of reflective rationalism (at the same time connecting global, regional, and local knowledge and experiences of the world). This means that it is necessary to epistemologically unite all epistemic units in genuine areas of knowledge. However, this union could only occur from one (still inadequately justified) unconditional respect of orders for universal responsibility. This knowledge should occur from responsible search for those knowledges about globalization that would, from its inside order for truth, come to true knowledge—knowledge that would indeed be worthy of that name. Craig Calhoun and Michel Wieviorka write: “If researchers in social sciences, regardless of their numerous differences, should unite, what could be the purpose of their engagement? What would be the reason of such worth for them to flow in to those risks? The answer is simple, at least in theory. This purpose and reason are concerned with the truth itself, truth about social life. This seemingly innocent answer is not at all fashionable, and still, it is about truth. It is never certain, it can always variate depending on accepted perspective, and it could be expressed through many different shades, in many different languages. Even though, it is legitimate to criticize the pretention for absolute truth, we cannot doubt the important significance of infinite search for fair understanding and well justified insight. [7]”

Wiebke Keim, Ercüment Çelik, Christian Ersche, and Veronika Wöhrer deal with the manufacture of world knowledge. Those who are excluded are humiliated. They give special attention to theoretical and epistemological reconfiguration of social scientists and humanities in the light of postcolonial criticism of knowledge. At the same time, they also provide a strong criticism of Eurocentrism. They took rigorous criticism of modern state of social sciences, naming series of limitations in Eurocentric epistemological approaches. They have included India, America, South Africa, Australia, and Europe [8].

Massimo Pollifroni, in his works, focuses on epistemological analysis of globalization and on paradoxes of globalization of discourse. He believes that globalization is a project of world integration of economics that has negative consequences. For him, epistemological problem represents what is in the vocabulary of economics known as corporatized and mostly senseless, because we cannot determine the meaning of some circulating economic terms. This is why he is close to making a statement that such imprecise discourse leads to dangerous discrepancy between theory and reality, but also to real violence and injustice. He criticizes corporatization of terms, that is, the vocabulary of economics, stating that there is resistance to globalization through the “new ethical feeling.” Therefore, he believes that we are already living in the “postglobal era.” He is convinced that the economists in the twenty‐first century will be obliged to have this “ethical feeling” directed against negative social effects of overall corporatization of society. He is convinced that the economic vocabulary must be changed, as well as methodological instruments and the incumbent accounting techniques [9]. Graeber claims that capitalism, in its final, stultifying study, shifts from poetic to bureaucratic technologies. With poetic technologies, Graeber means using rational, technical, and bureaucratic means for realizing free and unbelievable fantasies. Today, however, Graeber claims there is something completely opposite going on. It is not about encouraging vision, creativity, and final free fantasies. It is about making those fantasies “stay afloat”; we do not even pretend anymore that it is possible to shape or embody them. In the meantime, those few fields, in which freedom, imaginative creativity are truly nurtured, such as development of Internet software of open code, are used, finally, to make a more efficient platform for filling forms. By this, we mean “bureaucratic technologies”: administrative imperative, which are not means but aims of technological development, claims Graeber [10].

It is known that we owe to Foucault the far‐reaching observation that the historical epochs are not different in the fact that people who belonged to those epochs thought, but they are different in the fact of what was possible to be thought in a given epoch. Foucault wrote about changes in “episteme”—they were not simple systems of classification, but rather a deep logic on the foundation on which different classifications may be construed. Characteristics of different episteme are discrete rules of separation and connection between things for more on topic, see Ref. [11]. Already three centuries of discipline techniques, training, and management have tried to force knowledge that has to be gained and transferred, as knowledge worthy of that name. In that sense, every society, and even global society of knowledge and information, has its own regime of truth, its own politics of truth, its own strategies of extortion of recognition of what surely is knowledge and truth. Knowledge, power, and truth are the words—as Paul Veyne claims—that have impressed Foucault. It is not that there should be some kind of furious triad between those three terms. It is mostly to explain in what relationship these terms were in different systems of knowledge, different discursive regimes, and different regimes of truth. However, the special question is what did the thinker of archeology do, what did he want to do and achieve, with his impressions about knowledge, power, discourses, and classifications? What did he do with words and things? What meanings did he make when he played with that famous classification of animals? Did he run away from truth or did he want to get close to something we call truth? All in all, for Foucault, thought is essentially connected with the fight and not with the mind for more on topic, see Ref. [12]. His credit is in this, in the formation of one specific geo‐epistemology of human knowledge. Could the archeology of knowledge be applied onto the dominant knowledge about consumerism, western image of globalization? It seems that globalization is the final phase of thought whose representatives do not want to give up from the progressivistic understanding of development—despite that it has not been clear for a long time in which direction we—as an epistemic community—are actually moving.

It would be good if the book, for example, Educating the “Right Way. Markets, Standards, God, and Inequality,”[13] written by Michael Apple, could influence more careful questioning of the meaning of development. The named book could be insightful, primarily, because it questions not only the progressivistic economic thesis about development but also the ruling general thesis about neutrality of knowledge and technology in the age of domination of economic model of development. Apple believes that the starting statement about neutrality of knowledge is simply not correct. Question about knowledge, about whose knowledge is, whom it belongs to, who chooses it, and how does one justify it, represents a constitutive question for understanding the paradox of globalization. When we think about whose knowledge is, we should try to think in different directions. It seems that today, and today lasts too long, no one at all may show were forward is. Could knowledge go backward, in paradox terms? Where is that forward? It seems that also the ontological dimension is the future colonized by economic discourse about the infinite, limitless development. How can we, in progressivist language of the new knowledge economy, speak of progress or improvement of our systems of knowledge? To make it even more concrete: how can we, with the same progressivist language of economic “science” write our syllabi? Who are we, as a global epistemic community writing our syllabi to when we anticipatively speak of expected learning outcomes—of objectives—of methodologies? The leading structure of understanding—“discourse” (discussion)—determines what may and what may not be known. It determines what we may let slide as the “truth” and “real” and what is lost as a “myth,” “made up.” Is it actually power rather than knowledge—power that is found in the foundation of discourse about globalization and connected to colonialism, racism, sexism, and hegemony? And if it is, in what way is it happening and why is there so little and rarely talked about? for example, see Refs. [1416] After multi‐decade, radical crisis of economic paradigms of knowledge—that were included on the inside in the education building of the global society of knowledge—we need different, alternative perspectives of naming people, things, and events. I am sure that we are standing in front of a long‐term task of constructing new programs of work that would be directed toward the epistemological and moral recovery of social sciences, and I think especially of the new information economics of knowledge and skills. The task consists of how we should learn to forget what it is learned wrongly and learn how to learn from the start. For a long time, it was necessary to educate different imaginary meanings of time and space. In many places, there is free intellectual space missing, a space for free thinking and understanding of the irreplaceable educational role of social studies and humanities. Considering the positive and negative experiences of different ideologies, it is necessary to reconstruct vocabularies of social sciences and humanities that have become overly technocratic and instrumental. Sociological and philosophical opinion must not become instrumental or dogmatic. It must shape the new critical opinion of the world and the man in that world. It must take over historical responsibility for that tough intellectual task.

Until the end of this chapter, we should—in the context of expressing symbolic resistance toward the dominant economic‐political‐militaristic scheme of development—try to point to the complex interconnection between knowledge and power. This connection was unmasked also by Teun A. Van Dijk, when he wrote: “That which is considered knowledge in any period or community is determined by the one who has power to define and determine the truth within a society (public opinion, church, media and science). This argument will also correctly predict that if certain minorities, dissidents, or individuals express beliefs that they find (or even justify) to be the truth, they will not be believed, or their knowledge will be disregarded as just an opinion, or they will be prevented to express their own beliefs [17].”

It is known that since the creation of philosophy, critical thinking faces dangers of misunderstanding of complex relations and co‐relations between science, philosophy, theology, and so on. It is the same today. Because, we, as human beings, without consolation of universal theology, as theology of all possible theologies (regardless of the fact that something like that does not and could not exist), could not probably know, but we could maybe only believe that we know “who the one is” who could eternally answer the hardest philosophical, sociological, metaphysic, theological question, which is: who does the future belong to?

Ecological pollution of the earth, air, and water represents the greatest possible global threat of survival on earth. Only danger from nuclear catastrophe could measure up to this problem. Commercial media rarely present the ecological threat in public, as a global ecological threat that endangers life on earth. It is rarely spoken of that we may already be late for correct understanding of the meaning of growth in order for our relationship toward nature and ourselves to change—and to timely prevent this catastrophe from happening. Moreover, there still are a large number of those who believe that ecological problems are false problems, that is, made up. However, sociologists and other responsible scientists are aware that the danger of ecological catastrophe is extremely large: “Environmental problems have become such a emphasized line of social life in the twenty‐first century that sociologists would have to try very hard to find any empirical topic that would not, in this way or that way, be under their influence [18]. If sociological researches do not include consideration of ways in which social and natural systems overlap, their explicative value will be lowered,” claim Randolph Haluzy‐Delay and Debra J. Davidson. This means that finding efficient answers to ecological threats will depend on, before all, the competency and courage of our educational institutions (institutes and universities before all) to execute a decisive epistemological reconstruction of all our “systems of knowledge.” We should, before all, find ways to stop commercial‐corporative, hegemonic trends, and practices in order for all social sciences to be submitted to economic model of a man (homo oeconomicus). In order for this to be possible, it would probably be necessary to educate the wider consensus that our human activity is rooted at the same time not only in the economic but also in social, political, economic, and geo‐epistemic constructions that all together have the same earthly foundation. Global epistemological situation in sciences never depends only on science and scientists. Epistemological situation also depends on institutional environment. That is, on complete social conditions and ways in which people, who are not scientists, perceive what scientists do. However, the problem is in that administrative‐bureaucratic specialization (differentiation) of various areas of science does not let broader integrations (de‐differentiation) of various areas. Some bold scientists, through their own creativity and dedication, try to point to epistemic and institutional limitations of the new corporative science that is dangerous to survival of the research community itself. However, is there such a thing as a global epistemological situation and global epistemic community? Before we even try to answer to those questions, someone may think that we should search for answers to other questions that are not purely sociological, purely philosophical, or purely epistemological, but they deal with the possible meaning of “emerging society,” that is, global society of knowledge in the twenty‐first century. Pessimists believe that until there are large differences in material and financial resources dealt with by various epistemological communities (where it is already implied that a unique socially epistemological community does not exist), it would be very hard to speak of a common epistemological foundation of sociology of knowledge about globalization. Regardless of that, I believe that the new sociology of knowledge, which is emerging right at the moment, owns cognitive capacities for far‐reaching criticism of what we called knowledge about development and progress. Epistemological crisis of knowledge creates circumstances in which it becomes clear that we should definitely ask ourselves over again: in what way, and in which conceptual categories, we should analyze our life in order to, on the foundation of those analyses, be able to improve it.

After 40 years or so of very fruitless discussions about postmodernism, and after almost 30 years of discussing globalization, there is a feeling of satiety from epistemological and moral relativism contained in those discussions. Postmodernism will remain remembered by its distrust toward definitions and toward meta‐narrations, while globalization will remain remembered as the greatest possible meta‐narration. A meta‐narration that, because of its fake plurality, we almost did not even recognize as a falsely “successful” meta‐ narration. We say falsely successful because that narration, it seems, with the help of symbolic capital of the new knowledge economy, has “successfully” replaced almost all other narrations about development.

It is necessary to re‐actualize the question of limitations of economic growth. Without the initial change of perspective, without new concepts, that is, without new meanings that we assign to old terms (e.g., progress, growth, and “development”), we probably cannot understand that in the foundation of all crises (which we painfully face at the end of the second decade of the twenty‐first century) there is a social‐epistemological crisis of meaning, that is, crisis of utilization of terms which we got used to (by mistake). However, this is not the end of the story. It should be the new beginning. There are already certain epistemologically un(certain) attempts made, to outline foundational conceptual tools to advocate for a different society. Different from this in which we live in, therefore, it is necessary to emphasize possible meanings of the term degrowth. This term is, at the same time, used in at least threefold meaning: (1) as a synonym for renewal of utopian energies, (2) as the fastest growing global social movement, and (3) as a term for conceptual frame with which we differently show the transformation and utilization of energy and materials on planet Earth; social structures that use a part of that energy; those management mechanisms that direct that use [19]. They say, when we can express what we want with everyday language, we need a new conceptual frame, that is, different conceptual scheme. With the term degrowth, we wish to strongly mark distancing away from the imperative of growth. All institutions were created by collective action of people, so their good and bad sides are something we must take responsibility for. This is how courageous researchers believe, researchers that work together on creation of vocabulary for the new era. There are a series of terms in the vocabulary. Their meanings should be explained. Unfortunately, we do not have enough time to explain all these terms in one chapter, such as this one, the one we think of as an experiment. This is why we will name only several of those terms and their central meanings. The term “décroissance” (a French term for degrowth) was first used by a French sociologist Andre Gorz 1972. He asked many questions about the balance of Earth, material manufacturing, and capitalism that are found even today in the core of discussions about what is degrowth, and what could it mean. The following term in the vocabulary for the new era is anti‐utilitarianism. It is a worldview that criticizes predominance of epistemological starting points of economics in humanities and social sciences. Anti‐utilitarianists criticize utilitarianism because it impairs a human being. Social metabolism—this term describes a pattern of material and energetic flows that may be connected with expression of functions and reproduction of structures of human society. Similar to metabolism of living beings, which need a certain sequence of complex chemical reactions in their bodies in order for them to function, the term social metabolism describes a named sequence for replenishment of the society itself. Environmental justice relates to the right that an individual may stay in a place and environment that he/she belongs to, protected from uncontrolled investment and growth, contamination, land usurpation, speculative investments, de‐investments, collapse, and neglect. To this, we should add movements for environmental protection and political ecology—an approach that combines ecology and political economics, in order to deal with questions of relationships between society and natural resources, and between social groups and classes that have a different, unequal approach to these resources (and who use them differently). Autonomy—a brave Greek sociologist Cornelius Castoriadis defines autonomy as an ability to enforce laws and rules upon ourselves, either consciously or unconsciously. Decolonization of the imaginarium—a key term for criticism of imperialism. If growth and development are beliefs, and therefore “imaginary meanings” (Castoriadis), such as “progress” and all other foundational categories of economics, to get out of them, to leave them, to overcome them, to cancel them (famous Hegelian Aufhebung), which means that imaginarium should be changed. Therefore, realization of a just society means decolonization of our imaginarium. De‐materialization relates to a decrease (actually enormous decrease) of the amount of raw materials used in order to satisfy the needs of manufacturing and consumption of our planet. De‐materialization emphasizes that (a large part) of our social metabolism must be decreased. Social limitations of growth and social limitations—a thesis on social limitations is foundational for understanding of the meaning of the term “degrowth.” It is not only an issue that growth will not last forever and that it is becoming uneconomical because of its social and ecological expenses. It is about that growth is “un‐smart,” a goal without reason, a search for the elusive dream [20]. Due to the limitations of space, we will name just other few most significant conceptual terms. Terms with which we emphasize the paradox of economic globalization (and paradoxes of the “new knowledge economics”), hoping that, perhaps even before the global catastrophe, they may be used as the vocabulary for the new era. Here are these terms (in footnotes, we name authors whose definitions we used, or unknowingly modified, for the purpose of this chapter6): New economics, Simplicity, Jevons paradox (rebound effect), Energy, Entropy, Hubbert’s peak theory, Capitalism, Co‐modification, Conviviality, Pedagogy of catastrophe, Growth, Care, Happiness, Common goods, Digital common goods, World sharing, Direct democracy, Ecological communities, Indignados (Occupy), Employment guarantee, Public money, Local currencies, Disobedience, Basic and maximum income, Postnormal science, Revision of debt, Cooperatives, Buen vivir, Economics of Stability, Feminist economics, Ubunty, From saving measures to dépensea. It is paradoxical that, considering final ambivalent effects of techno‐scientific and information development, main current in social sciences in the twenty‐first century are not, say, connectionist organized critical studies of science and technology. These studies could advocate trans‐disciplinary, trans‐continental, anti‐imperialistic, and decolonizing character of new social sciences. They could be in an infinite balanced phronetic communication with cosmopolitan‐defined public sphere. These studies should be the main focus of reconfiguration and reconstruction of globalization. They could, say, in a socially responsible way, explain current events in sciences, especially epistemological events related to debates about nature of “rationality,” “objectivity,” and value neutrality of knowledge and technology, in different contexts dealing with life and violent, biotechnologically (and teletechno‐teoteleo‐ logically) manufactured death of people, and communities.


  1. 1. Roger‐Pol Droit. L’ Occident expliqué à tout le monde, Copyright©Editions du Seuil; 2008
  2. 2. Znaniecki F. The Social Role of the Man of Knowledge, New York: Harper and Row
  3. 3. Drucker P. Post‐capitalist Society, p. 12
  4. 4. Gurvitch G, The Social Frameworks of Knowledge, New York: Harper & Row; 1966. 1971
  5. 5. Ernesto P. Matematics education ideologies and globalization. Philospophy of Mathematics Education Journal. 2007;21:5
  6. 6. Liessmann K‐P. Theorie der Unbildung: Die Irrtümer der Wissensgesellschaft. Amazon, Paul Zsolnay Verlag. ISBN:9783552053823
  7. 7. Calhoun C, Wieviorka M. Manifeste pour les sciences sociales, commenté par Edgar Morin et Alain Touraine, Editions de la Maison de l’homme; 2015
  8. 8. Keim W, Çelik E, Ersche C, Wöhrer V. Global Knowledge Production in the Social Sciences, Made in Circulation, University of Freiburg, Made in Circulation, Ashgate, 2014. p. 288. ISBN:978‐1‐4724‐2617‐8
  9. 9. Pollifroni M. Globalization and Glocalization: An Epistemological Analysis from Business Economics, Economia Aziendale Online, Business and Management Sciences International Quartale Review: Pavia University Press. No 3; 2006
  10. 10. Graeber D. The Utopia of Rules. On Technology, stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy First published in the United States by Mellvile House Publishing
  11. 11. Swidler A, Arditi J. The new sociology of knovledge. Annual Review of Sociology;20:pp 305‐329
  12. 12. Veyne P. Foucault sa Pensee, sa Persone, Copyright @ Editions Albin Michel, 2008
  13. 13. Aplle MW. Educating the “Right” Way. Markets, Standards, God, and Inequaliti Routledge; 2006
  14. 14. Chowdhry G, Nair S. eds. Power, Postcolonialism, and International Relations: Readings Race, Gender, and Class. London. Routledge. 2002
  15. 15. Campbel D. Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity, Manchester: Manchester University Press; 1998
  16. 16. Walia S. Edward Said and the Writing of History. Cambridge: Icon Books Ltd; 2001
  17. 17. Dijk V. Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Publications London ‐ Thousand oaks‐New Delhi, First published, 1998. pp. 115 ISBN 0 7619 5654 9; ISBN‐13 978‐0‐7619‐5655‐5 (pbk)
  18. 18. Randolph Haluza-Delay and Debra J. Davidson, The Environment and a Globalizing Sociology, Canadian Journal of Sociology, 2008;33(3):631-656
  19. 19. Domazet M, Dolenec D, Cvijanović V, Tomašević T, Walton JF, Dolan K, Žitko M. We need to change. ideas of growth and development in a time of crisis of fossil energy and capitalism Ethnological Tribune. 2014;44(37):37‐71doi: 10.15378/1848‐9540.2014.37.01
  20. 20. Skidelsky R, Skidelsky E. How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life, London, Penguin; 2002


  • It is believed that the founder of sociology of knowledge is Karl Mannheim. After the translation of his capital work Ideologie und Utopie to English, there were fruitful assumptions for critical research of knowledge made, in the fields of new sociology of knowledge, sociology of ideology, sociology of science and technology, epistemology of science, social epistemology, epistemology of economics, epistemology of legal sciences, epistemology of mathematics, and so on. However, it seems that not even in the twenty‐first century epistemological situation in social sciences and scientific research in general (that was, say, according to the thinking of “theorists of addiction” catastrophic) was not recognized as a foundational problem of the survival of mankind. However, as we will see in the last pages of this chapter—and further—it seems that the epistemological situation is gradually changing because we are searching for new epistemological communities. In the twenty‐first century, fields such as sociology of knowledge, social epistemology, and epistemology of social sciences are truly becoming interesting interference fields for many marginalized researches from “undeveloped countries” and “developing countries.” For many researchers who deal with paradoxes of development, paradoxes of economic globalization, and such—that is, asymmetrical development of whole continents, regions, and zones—social sciences are found in an epochal milestone. They are found on a milestone for many scientists, scientific rookies, researchers, activists who deal with questions of epistemological colonialism, cultural imperialism, inside colonialism, racism, discrimination, post‐colonial studies of science and technology, not only in Latin America, Asia, Africa, but throughout epistemic‐free areas of knowledge that search for emancipated intellectual areas in which genuine cosmopolitan conversation of mankind would be possible.
  • Sociology of globalization leans on the tradition of Western rationalist philosophy and, consequentially, on the linear, progressivist understood conception of development. The main concepts of globalization are thought of in the West, with the goal for their use as the universal order of words and things. That is, before all, a symbolical order of discourse that is euphemistically named global society of knowledge (skills, information, and such). The problem (not challenge) is that the Western concepts of globalization are only ostensibly pluralist and only ostensibly pluri‐perspectivist. They are founded on a diabolic heritage of scientific rationalism, individualism, comodification, hedonism, epistemic progressivism, techno‐centrism, technophilia, total management, militarism, rigmarole, consumerism, economist application of the idea of freedom, and ideologically applied (in fact discriminated) concept of human rights.
  • In this way, they showed that they are working on an epistemologically slippery field—in the midst of a growing chasm—a chasm that grows between economic theory, practice, and politics. Economists, with the help of new knowledge economics, construed a pragmatic, operative difference between the term know and skill know‐how. This enabled them to completely neglect the epistemological and methodological assumptions of own “scientific” action, acting as if epistemological and socially epistemological problems in economic theory, practice, and politics do not even exist. Economists and military ideologist of progress have adopted the word knowledge and announced it (privileged), and ownership of the new economics of knowledge (and information). Economic entrepreneurs of knowledge have taken the term knowledge in their own hands and announced it their own, that is, a resource, about which the new knowledge economics decides. In this way, knowledge is reduced to only one dimension, the economics one. Only one significantly limited view of knowledge is announced as the universal foundation upon which we could and should build the building of the global society of knowledge. They cunningly announced the way we live—that is, the way we should live—in the global society of knowledge and skill. One such diagnosis has become generally accepted that even today, each criticism of the new knowledge economics risks of being announced subversive, that is, dangerous to the reproduction of the dominant regime of knowledge.
  • It is an approach that, with the help of world financial institutions and Western education institutions, forces as the universal science, the science of all sciences. As a fundamental social ontology of the twenty‐first century, that has, almost without notice, snuck in the narrative structure of language, in the vocabulary by which we explain the changes and the world we live in.
  • In the first chapter, under the title “From Capitalism to Society of Knowledge,” Drucker writes: Today, knowledge relates to and is applied only to knowledge itself. It is the revolution of management. Knowledge, today, quickly becomes an exclusive factor of manufacturing, pushing aside both capital and labor force. It may be too early (and definitely forced) to call our society the “society of knowledge”; for now, we only have the economics of knowledge. However, our society is surely post‐capitalist….. This transformation is surely become a radical change in the meaning of knowledge.
  • List of authors whose definitions we used to create a preliminary draft of the vocabulary for the new era: Onofrio Romano, Mauro Bonaiuti, Joshua Farley, Arturo Ascobair, Alevgul H. Sorman, Isabelle Anguelovski, Susan Paulson, Joan Martinez‐Alier, Marco Deriu, Dan O’Neill, Serge Lotouche, Sylvia Lorek, Onofrio Romano, Erik Swyngedouw, Giorgos Kallis, Sergio Ulgiati, Christian Kerschner, Samuel Alexander, Blake Alcott, Diego Andreucci, Terrence McDounough, Erik Gomez‐Baggethun, Marco Deriu, Joan Martinez‐Alier, Marta Condre, Mariana Walter, Serge Latouche, Peter A. Latouche Peter A. Victor Filka Sekulova, Silke Heifrich, David Bollier, Mayo Fuster Morell Juliet B. Schor, Christos Zografos, Claudio Cattaneo, Viviana Asara, Barbara Muraca, B. J. Unti, Mary Mellor, Kristofer Ditmer, Rita Cavario, Iago Otero, Xavier Renou, Tim Jackson, Samuel Alexsander, Giacomo D. Alisa, Giorgos Kallis, Sergi Cutillas, David LIistar, Gemma Tarafa, Chris Carlsson, Denis Bayon, Isabelle Nadia Johaniosova, Ruben Surinach Padilla, Eduardo Gudinas, Philippa Pary, Eduardo Gudynas, Chiara Corazza, Solomon Victus, Antonella Piccho, Mogobe b Romose Giacomo D Alisa, Giorgos Kallis, Federico Demaria.

Written By

Zlatan Delić

Published: 26 July 2017