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Rev. of Sociol.


by Annu.

Ann~Rev. Sociol.

1994. 20:305-29

Copyright©1994 by Annual Reviews lnc,

All rights



Ann Swidler

and YorgeArditi

Departmentof Sociology,Universityof California, Berkeley,California94720





knowledge, classification

and boundaries,




The newsociology of knowledgeexamines howkinds of social

makewhole orderings of knowledgepossible,

of individuals or groups. Thereview

begins with the effects on knowledgeof the mediathrough whichit is pre- served, organized, and transmitted. Wethen analyze collective memory,ex- aminlng social conditions that shape howknowledgeis transmitted through time. Thereview then e×arnines howpatterns of authority located in organi-



than focussing on the

differing social locations and interests

zations shape both the content and structure of knowledge,looking at how authority affects the scope, generality, and authoritativeness of knowledge.We then review recent workon howsocial power, particularly that embodiedin institutional practices, shapes knowledge.Weexaminehowknowledgerein- forces social hierarchies and howthe boundaries and categories of systemsof

knowledge are constituted.

Looking at power, gender, and knowledge, we

discuss newversions of the standpointtheories that characterizedthe traditional

sociology of knowledge,l~inally, knowledge.

webriefly review recent workon informal


The older sociology of knowledge epitomized by Mannheimasked howthe social location of individuals and groupsshapes their knowledge.Elementsof this tradition becameinstitutionalized in sociology and political science as attitude and opinion research. The sociology of knowledgeproper, however, concernedwith the social sources of knowledgeand political ideologies, fell out of favor. Mannheim’sworkhas continued to inspire current scholarship



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Annual Reviews


("The Problemof Generations" [ 1952(1928)] as stimulus for Wuthnow[ 1976] or Schuman&Scott [1989]), but the tradition has comeunder criticism. Its imageof the relationship of knowledgeand social position seemsreductionist

(Geertz 1983:152-3), and it has too thin a conception both of knowledgeand of the social positions or interests that affect knowledge.

culture, religion, science, and ideology,

alongwith scholars in social history, philosophy,anthropology,and the history of science, havebegunto revitalize the field. Theexpansionof cultural studies throughoutthe social sciences has also greatly enriched the materials a soci- ologist of knowledgehas to workwith. Whilethere is as yet no unified field, manydiverse strands of theory and research have begunto crystallize around commonthemes.

Recentlysociologists interested in

Changes in the

phenomena encompassed by the

The traditional

term "knowledge" are sociology of knowledge

symptomaticof changesin the field.

focussed on formal systems of ideas, concentrating especially on such matters

of intellectuals.

the sociology of intellectuals, though we note the lively debates about the interests and social locations of contemporaryintellectuals Ehrenreich & Ehrenreich 1977, Gouldner1979, Eyermanet a11987, Szelenyi &Martin 1988, Brint 1994). Thesearch for social interests that bias even supposedlyneutral, disinterested, objective understanding of the world what the very term "knowledge"connoted was central to the agenda of the field.

as the world-viewsand politics

(This reviewlargely neglects

Newerworkin sociology and cultural

studies suggests that formal systems

of ideas are linked to broader cultural patterns--what wemight think of as



the thinking of laypersons. Wedo not, however,attempt to cover all aspects of culture. The sociology of culture has focussed largely on worksof art and entertainment. In cultural studies, culture connotessymbolicsystemsthat are deeply embedded,taken-for-granted, often enduring, and sometimesinvisible. Thesociology of knowledgeinstead directs attention to cultural elementsthat are moreconscious, moreexplicitly linked to specific institutional arenas, and morehistorically variable. Thenewsociology of knowledgeexamineshowkinds of social organization makewholeorderings of knowledgepossible, rather than focussing in the first instance on the differing social locations and interests of individuals or groups. It examinespolitical and religious ideologies as well as science and everyday life, cultural and organizational discourses along with formal and informal types of knowledge.It also expandsthe field of study froman examinationof the contents of knowledgeto the investigation of forms and practices of knowing. This review begins with a fundamental factor that shapes the waysknowl-

consciousness. Wefocus not only on the ideas developedby knowledge

but also on structures of knowledgeor consciousness that shape

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edge can be structured--the



time. The review then examineshowpatterns of authority located in

zations shape both the content and structure

workon howformsof authority affect the scope, generality, and authoritative- ness of knowledge.Wethen review recent workon howsocial power, partic- ularly that embodiedin institutional practices, shapes knowledge.In the next section, we examinehowknowledgereinforces social hierarchies and howthe boundaries and categories that define the basic terms of systems of knowledge are constituted. Lookingat the recent literature on power,gender, and knowl- edge, wediscuss revitalized versions of the standpoint theories that character- ized the traditional sociology of knowledge,exploring hownewapproaches deepenthe understanding of what a social standpoint involves. Finally, we turn briefly to recent workon informal knowledge,that knowledgeordinary people develop to deal with their everydaylives.

organized, and transmitted. It then ramsto the analysis of collective

media through which knowledge is preserved,

conditions that shape howknowledgeis transmitted through


of knowledge.Webring together







Perhaps the most dramatic example of howsocial factors affect the basic structure of knowledge is what Goody& Watt (1963) called "The Conse- quencesof Literacy." Historians, anthropologists, and psychologists have ex- aminedhowthe introduction of new mediafor the recording, transmission, and cumulation of knowledgechanges knowledgeitself. Walter Ong(1971, 1977, 1982), in a set of sweepingarguments,has contrasted the organization of literate and oral cultures, arguingthat the mediain whichwordsare trans- mitted have repeatedly transformed consciousness. Others (Olson 1977, Goody1986, Graff 1987, Finnegan 1988) have drawn

the contrast betweenorality

the presence of both formal and informal learning in literate

and literacy

less starkly.

Akinnaso(1992) notes

and nonliterate

societies, showingthat formal learning can create intellectually disciplined,

specialized, decontextualized knowledgeeven in nonliterate

(1988), arguing that writing conveysauthority only whenstate powerprivi- leges it (Clanchy1979), examinesthe fascinating case of an African kingdom whoserulers actively resisted writing in order to maintainthe flexibility and ambiguity of the gift exchangeson whichtheir powerdepended.



Eisenstein (1969, 1979) has argued that print,

whichmultiplied and thus

preservedidentical copies of texts, decisively transformedthe shape of schol- arly knowledge:corrected texts could be assembledand replicated, freed from the inevitable corruptions of scribal transmission; rediscoveredtexts could be permanentlyrather than only temporarily recovered; authorship of texts could be established; texts andauthors couldbe placedin a firm historical sequence;

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and knowledgecould be redefined as cumulative progress, rather than as

inevitable decay from a scribes howfeudal elites,

pristine past. MarcBloch (196111940])vividly de-

often dependenton oral transmission of knowledge,

jumbled chronologies and unwittingly assimilated newpractices parently unchangingtradition.

into an ap-

Becauseliteracy and knowing, the

study. Eisenstein (1969)notes that the first

lease on life to medievalbooks, creating a flood of texts of mixedprovenance. Mukerji(1983) traces the influence of printed objects, frompictorial prints printed mapsand books, on materialism in Europeanculture. She argues that print stimulated both production and consumptionand that waysof appropri- ating printed booksbecamea metaphorfor scientific exploration of the natural world. Print culture infused by ~ still vigorous oral tradition appears to have a special vitality (Bakhtin 1984, Thompson1963, Levine 1977). Ginzburg

(1980) offers a remarkableaccountof howliterate


available and reading began to give ordinary people confidence in their own


ideas. People whoread very few books read them in a radically different

effect of print wasto give a new

and especially print so profoundly altered both knowledge

early-modern period has proven particularly



and oral cultures interacted

made the richly

fabulous world of medieval books more widely

than modernreaders do, elaborating particular passages out of coatext and filtering whatthey read throughthe screen of oral culture.



modesof reading have been explored by numerous

scholars. Damton(1984:215-56)describes the intimate, passionate reading prerevolutionary French readers. Grafton (1991, 1992)has analyzed the read- ing practices of scholars in earlier eras, whileother historians (Chattier 1987,

1989, Vincent 1989, McKitterick 1990) have explored print

and reading in

both popular and elite

Marshall McLuhan(1962, 1964) speculated that television wouldagain alter humanconsciousness as print had done, creating instantaneous, immediate, globally shared communication. But the effects of newmedia on knowledge remain unclear despite decades of mass communicationsresearch, perhaps because formal knowledge remains bound by print and reading even while popular knowledgeis increasingly visual, multi-channeled,and interactive. We do not yet knowwhether and howthe computer revolution will alter formal knowledge,perhaps eventually supplanting the bookand undoing the "fixity" Eisensteinattributed to print.




Studies of collective

(Halbwachs1980 [1950]) or social (Fentress &Wickham

1992) memoryask howsocial

groups retain,


or reappropriate


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knowledge.This workhas developedin two important directions. First, re- searchers have shownthat muchpresumedtradition is in fact "invented" to serve current social purposes (Hobsbawm& Ranger 1983, Wilford 1990), especially defining nations and the character of national communities(Ander- son 1983, Schwartz 1987, Hobsbawm1990, Kammen1991). Students of the French revolution have shownhownew traditions and rituals helped create newpolitical realities (Hunt 1984) and, less charitably, howmemoriessuch as that of the storming of the Bastille (Schama1989) wer~ concocted political entrepreneurs. Onthe other hand, Schwartz(1991:234) has empha-

sized how,in shapingthe present, memoriesof the past provide "a stable image upon which new elements are superimposed."

Thesecond important line of research on collective

memoryinvolves sys-

tematic analysis of the factors that lead events or objects to be retained or lost

as part of the stream of collective

analyzed howWatergateentered and influenced collective memory.Using ~he imageof culture as a repertoire or repository ($widler 1986), he asks why somethings are retained and others forgotten. Henotes that events are more likely to be rememberedif they happenedduring one’s lifetime, if they are

commemorated,if they touched people personally, and if they concern the public center of national life, as Watergatedid. Healso notes that events may

be rememberedindirectly

institutionally (whennewrules or procedures,like that of the "special prose- cutor" are created). Schudson(1989:175) has systematized arguments about the powerof culture, arguingthat "a cultural object is morepowerfulthe more

it is within reach, the moreit is rhetorically effective, the moreit resonates

with existing opinions and structures

institutions, and the morehighly resolved it is towardaction." Interest in the uses and practical determinants of cultural memorycome together in the study of literary or artistic canons--whatis preservedas part of a cultural heritage. Escarpit’s (1971)brilliant workmadeclear that "exter- nal" factors as well as the qualities of aesthetic worksthemselvesaffect what will be retained in the culture. Hedemonstratedthat political upheavalsstrong- ly influenced whether works entered the French literary canon, and that whether a book was likely to be preserved as a "great work" depended on whether its author waspart of a cohort youngenoughto keep the workalive

until a newgeneration could rediscover it. Lang&Lang(1990), in an analysis

of the reputations of English etchers, point out that survivors whopreserve,

chancesfor renown.

memory.Schudson(1992) has carefully

(as whennew scandals are dubbed"


the morethoroughlyit is retained in

catalog, and promotean artist’s

workgreatly increase its

Barbara Hermstein Smith (1983) argues somewhatpolemically



enters the literary

Tompkins(1985) has shownhowHawthorne’s work was systematically

moted by those whose status claims he embodied, and Tuchman& Fortin

canon dependson the interests

of those whocontrol it.


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(1984) have examinedthe effects of gender on literary reputation. Haskell (1976) for art and Griswold(1986) for theater have examinedsocial conditions

that lead to revivals or rediscoveries of objects fromthe artistic corpus. Gds-

wold’s systematic exploration of whyspecific

genres of English renaissance

plays resonated with the social dilemmasof later centuries is echoed in

Schwartzet al’s (1986) analysis of the revival of Masadain Jewish collective memory.

Hareven (1979) has suggested that

basic demographicstructurenwhether

children have living parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents to pass on

firsthand accountsof the past--will affect the possibilities

ory. HowardSchumanand collaborators (Schuman & Scott 1989, Schuman

& Rieger 1992a,b) have used open-ended survey questions about important events and changesduring the past 50 years to explore relationships between generation and the events that stand out in memory(they find that adolescence and early adulthoodare a formative period for historical memory,as Mannheim [1952 (1928)] hypothesized) and betweensuch memoriesand other attitudes.

of historical mem-

Whilethe factors

shaping collective

memoryhave been most clearly


ified for art worlds, others have examinedhoworganizations preserve and retrieve memory(Powel11986)and howwhole societies remember(Connerton

1989).Thesestudies raise the tantalizing possibility that similar researchcould


institutional factors influence whichwork by philosophers, economists, or physicists will be disseminated, preserved, or madecanonical.

be done on knowledge more narrowly conceived,

asking howstructural


Newmodelsof howsocial organization influences ideas are at the heart of the new sociology of knowledge. A major pioneer has been David Zaret (1985,

1989, 1991, 1992). The Heavenly Contract (1985)

argued that


change in English Puritanism derived from organizational "pressures" and intellectual "precedents." Challengesto the authority of Puritan clerics led them to develop "covenant theology" which refocussed ministers’ authority

on helping laypersons monitortheir inner lives rather than on seeking radical reforms which wouldput Puritan clerics in open conflict with the Anglican church. Covenanttheology madesalvation a predictable outcomeof a covenant

betweenGodand man. It drew on intellectual precedents, such as

knowledgeof the mutual obligations commercialcontracts entailed, to make its ideas plausible to lay listeners. Zaret (1989, 1991, 1992)extends these ideas, arguing that liberal-democratic ideology emergedin seventeenth-century Englandas "a collective response to the problemof contested authority" (1989:165), Sectarian conflict and reli- giously inspired radicalism following the triumphof Puritanismin the English


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Civil Warprovidedthe "episodiccontext"that boreupon"ideologicalproduc- ers." Liberalideologysubstitutedreligious toleration for efforts to build a

religion for sectarian doctrinal commit- English proponentsof liberal-democratic

theoryandof natural religion wereloosely linkedby"networksof friendship,

patronage, and formal organizations" and that

intellectual precedentsfor the newideology"(p. 65). Afocusonproblemsof authorityin contextsthat directly affect ideological producerscontainsthe seedsof a powerful,generalapproachto the sociology of knowledge.Totake authorityfirst: It seemsreasonableto believethat the

"GodlyCommonwealth"and natural ments.Zaret showsalso that the

they shared "access to the

authoritativenessof knowledgeis groundedin patterns of social authority. To haveauthoritativeknowledgeis to havean institution, group,or personwhich cansettle disputesand establish truth. Swidler(1979:118-30)observedthat alternative schoolsthat renouncedauthority hadto dispensewith right and wronganswersto intellectual questions.Arditi (1994)has traced broadtrans- formationsin theories of mannersin eighteenth-centuryEnglandto a shift in the structure of authority withinwhichsocial elites operated.Walzer(1973) notedthat sixteenth-centuryEnglishPuritanismappealedto "sociologically competent"elites anxiousaboutchallengesto their authority. Martin(1993) speculatesthat the authoritativenessof any belief systemdependsultimately onthe authorityof personsandthat a group’sauthoritystructure affects its epistemologicalassumptions. Thepost-Kuhnian(1970)sociologyof science, particularly comparisons organizationalpracticesacrossacademicdisciplines, suggeststhat the coher- enceof intellectual "paradigms"is related(whetheras causeor effect) to the extentof hierarchyandcoordinationin the social organizationof variousfields (Lodahl&Gordon1972, Hargens1988, Levitt &Nass1989, Konrad&Pfeffer 1990). Indeed, Crane(1976)and Kuhn(1969)havesuggestedthat what tinguishessciencefromothercultural enterprisessuchas art or religionis its institutional autonomy,andparticularly its relatively autonomouscontrolover its ownrewardsystem,in contrast to the dependenceof the arts andreligion on lay audiencesand powerfulpatrons. Wuthnow(1987, 1989)has emphasized that the growingauthoritativenessof seventeenth-andeighteenth-centurysci-

ence dependedonits acquiring a single, secure sourceof patronagein

nationstate. Whilethis is not the place to reviewthe broadspectrumof workin the sociologyof science,newresearchonscientific practice andscientific work organization(Knorr-Cetina1981, Latour &Woolgar1979, Latour 1987)be- gins to link substantivefeatures of scientific knowledgeto scientific work organization. Gerson(1993), for example,has analyzedthe organizational dynamicsinvolvedin the "segmentation,""intersection," and "legitimation" of lines of scientific work.Gumport(1990, 1991), examiningthe case


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feminist scholarship, explores hownewacademicfields are created and legit- imated. Star (1989) analyzes the basis for the simultaneous "plasticity" and "coherence"of scientific theories. "Successfulscientific theories reflect com- mitmentsto workpractices that are not easily changed. This does not occur

as the result of someself-propelling quality of ideas, but rather as the conse- quence of commitmentsto training programs, technologies, standards, and vocabularies[whichare] difficult to disentangle or dismantle" (p. 22).

Theselines and others to


organizes knowledge-producingcommunities.Star (1989:116) asks how

of workin the sociology of science convergewith workby Zaret

suggest that knowledgederives manyof its

features from the


knowledgecoheres without a central authority,

observingthat mul-


localized practices and findings are "joined across sites and


formedto certainty

at larger scales of organization."


Latour &

Woolgar,andothers observethat the actual practices of scientific laboratories are highly local and that they undergoextremesimplification and reification before they are constituted as scientific fact, this picture of a localized, nego- tiated order mustbe balanced against the forces promotinghierarchy and order

within scientific

fellowships, and prestige mean

that even though scientific

social organization forces themto act as if someideas are better than others, someproblemsand problemsolutions moreimportant then others, and so forth. Thus the manufacture of scientific certainty maywell be a product of such central activities as departmentsdeciding whomto hire, fellowship committees assessing research proposals, and youngscientists seeking groundsfor select- ing problems. Aunifying hierarchy amongideas is built into the structures

that allocate academicrewards,even whilelocal variations in the routines that organize scientific workmakedissensus both possible and invisible. Thetheoretical focus on authority relations is just one exampleof a broader

movementin the sociology of knowledge toward attention

organizational contexts in which knowledgeproducers work. Robert Darnton’s work on The Business of Enlightenment (1979) and on the consequences royal censorship in Old RegimeFrance (1982) demonstrates howthe contexts

in whichculture is producedand distributed affect its

Important workin the sociology of religion (Butler 1990, Finke &Stark 1992, Warner1993)provides evidence that, at least for America,religious partici- pation maybe better explained by "supply"--that is, whatreligious providers offer--than by "demand"--that is, independent changes in religious needs or aspirations. The"production of culture" perspective 0aeterson 1976), developedin the

in the general sociology of knowledge.

Wuthnow’s(1989) ambitious work suggests that

communities.Theunequal distribution

of academicrewards



such as employment,career mobility, salaries,

communitieslack unified authority,

to the specific



study of the arts,

is nowbearing fruit

broad economicchanges and

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changesin class structure influence ideas throughthe institutions that organize culture production. For example,political bodies independent of traditional landowningclasses incubated and defended Reformationreforms (pp. 81-82); state patronage created the public sphere whichwas the seedbedof Enlight- enmentthought; and Europeansocialism was more successful where liberal parties were too weakto competefor workingclass support. Critics (Calhoun 1992, Gould1992) have challenged someof Wutlmow’shistorical arguments, but his workis pathbreakingin two respects: first, he distinguishes several stages in the process by which any newideology emerges: "processes of

ideological production, of selection


tutional settings of knowledgeproduction to the content

of ideas. Anintriguing question is what institutional supports makeplausible the authoritative, universal rationality characteristic of modemthought. BothWeb- er (1958 [190~-1905]) and Durkheim(1965 [1912]) explored this question. Weberargued that Calvinismspurred rationalization in all spheres of life, including modemscience (Merton 1970 [1929], Cohen1990). Durkheimar- guedthat the developmentof an increasingly universal world society madeit possible for ideas to take universal form, to claim a universalized truth. Wuthnow’s(1989) analysis of Enlightenment discourse gives empirical substance to such a Durkheimianclaim by suggesting that the "dispersed, overlapping,yet segmentedcharacter of social relations" (p. 320) in the eigh-

teenth-century public sphere contributed to distancing public roles from per- sonal lives for Enlightenmentfigures and also to emphasizinguniversal argu- mentand abstract generalization (pp. 342-343ff). Universalismalso "fit well with the increasing levels of communication,trade, and diplomacythat were creating a stronger sense amongeducated elites of Europe as a single, or


and of in-

(p. 538). Second,Communitiesof Discourselinks the insti-

and form of bodies

potentially single cultural

shrining rationality

effort to transcend divisive religious andpolitical conflict. AsWuthnow(1989:

343) puts it:

to Rousseauweredirecting strong criticism at the parochial passions that had caused muchof the seventeenth century to be dominated by war and were siding with the voice of tolerance and peace."

zone" (p. 343). Zaret (1989) makesclear that

as the objective groundof public debate waspart of an

"In trumpetingthe general over the particular, writers fromLocke

Recent work on global culture

also suggests reappropdating Merton’s

(1957) distinction between locals and cosmopolitans (Hannerz1990). Scat- tered evidence suggests that those whomust regularly deal with an imperso- nal, distant cultural world organized by abstract principles such as individualism or rationality construct knowledgedifferently than do those located socially andintellectually in moreparochial settings (see Lerner1958, Horton 1971, Bernstein 1975, Roof 1978, Hewitt 1989). Deemphasizinglocal

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or regional variations,

strandardization, pointingout that modernnation states, despite differing internal needsanddifferent histories, havetendedto adoptsimilar educational systemsandschoolcurricula. Severalscholars(Moore1966,Meyer1980,Thomaset al 1987,Featherstone

1990)discuss the intellectual consequencesof a global culture. Robertson (1992)sketchesthe concretehistorical turning points in the formationof

globalculture, suchas the creationof globalcompetitions(Nobelprizes, the

Olympics),agreementon worldtime, and the near-universaladoptionof

Gregoriancalendar.Theseinternationalintellectual agreementsin effect insti- tutionalize and makereal the universal authority of the rational to which

Durkheimreferred (and indeedDurkbeimwroteduring the period [1870-1920] in which,accordingto Robertson,these importantelementsof a globalculture

wereinstitutionalized).If wetakefor grantedthat a minuteis really a minute, or a metera meter, or that wereally can knowwhattime it is in Tokyoor

AddisAbaba,the apparent objectivity of the worldweinhabit institutionalizedglobalculture.

Benavotet al (1991) stress increasing global


rests on an


Thecontemporarysociology of knowledgehas been deeply concernedwith power(Ortner 1984, Lamont&Wuthnow1990), especially the workof Michel Foucault.Despitedifficulties in interpretingFoucault’swork,his fundamental insightsmaybe putsimply:First, historicaleras differ not onlyin whatpeople think, but in whatis thinkable. Foucault(1973)has written of changes "epistemes"--notsimplysystemsof classification, but the logic in termsof whichthese classificationsare constructed.Differentepistemesare character- ized by discrete rules of separationand associationamongthingsmsimilarity throughresemblancein the classical age andbycausal associationin the age of reason. Second,for Foucault (1965, 1977, 1980), poweris embodied practicesor techniqueswhichhavetheir ownhistories (Mann1986).Foucault’s "genealogical"methodtraces historical transformationsin techniquesof pow- er, rather thanseekingcausal links betweenformsof powerand other social formations. Third, for Foucault(1977,1978,1980),techniquesof powerare also, si- multaneously,formsof knowledge.So, for example,the monasticpractice of confessionmadereal correspondingformsof knowledge,suchas the varieties of sin or techniquesfor recognizingand recountingthese, just as the ability of asylumsto confineandsegregatethe mentallyill enactpsychiatricknowl- edgeof diagnosisand cure. Studiesof suchinstitutions as prisons, mental hospitals, or clinics showhowinstitutional practicesmakecategoriesof knowl- edgereal. "Dividingpractices" suchas thoseof modernpsychiatrydefine the

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characteristics by whichthe normalmaybe recognizedand separatedfromthe "deviant";practicesof "objectification,"suchas the academicdisciplines, turn aspects of humanlife into objects of analysis; andother practices, suchas psychotherapyor self-labeling, create "subjects" whodefine andcategorize


Newformsof knowledgealso create newsites wherepowercan be applied (and whereresistance canform). Only,for example,whenindividualsare seen as endowedwithcomplex,interiorized psychescan a battle ensueoverwhether to liberate or repressunconsciousdrives.


has nowbecomealmost commonplaceto argue that newcategories of

personsare createdhistorically (see Hacking1986).Foucault’s argumentshave stimulatedvariedworkonhowinstitutional practicesgroundsystemsof knowl- edge. Forexample,the modemstate’s needto define andcontrol populations

led to newstatistical

ing 1982, Rabinow1989, Woolf1989). Hacking(1990) has traced the con- catenationof intellectual andpractical problems--theuse of mortalitydata to calculateprofits fromgovernmentsale of annuitiesor the useof socialstatistics to characterize nations--whichby the nineteenthcenturyhad transformeda causallydeterministworldinto a probabilisticone. Theacademicdisciplines havecomeunderscrutiny for the waystheir basic theories and methodsreflect larger structures of power(MacKenzie1981). Talal Asad(19"/3)has egploredhowthe British empire’spractice of indirect rule led British anthropologyto discoverautonomoustraditions and stable,

functionalinstitutions amongnative peoples.(Wenotethat the Frenchpractice of direct rule, withits project of makingnatives into Frenchmen,led French anthropologyto be preoccupiedwiththe structure, andparticularlythe capacity for rationality, of "prmifivethought.")Alongwithothers (Clifford &Marcus 1986),Asad(1986)has arguedthat the basic intellectual andmethodological presuppositionsof anthropologyare permeatedby the unequalpowerof col- onizerand colonized. Variationin the authoritativenessandcentrality of knowledgeacrosssoci- eties raises broadtheoreticalissuesin the sociologyof knowledge.Particularly fascinatingis the contrast betweenFrance,onthe onehand,and Englandand the UnitedStates, onthe other. First, onecannotethat BourdieuandFoucault, the contemporarytheorists whohavedrawnthe strongest links betweenknowl- edgeand power,are both French.Their workseemsto resonate with that of their Frenchforebear, Durkheim,in stressing the overwhelmingpowerof society vis ~t vis its members.Second,as MieheleLarnont(1987)has pointed out in examiningthe career of JacquesDen-lda,intellectuals havea more centralcultural role andplayto a broaderpublicthandoacademicintellectuals in the UnitedStates.In a fascinatingstudy,Priscilla Clark(1987)pointsto the distinctivenessof Frenchliterary culture,the centralrole intellectualsplayin

techniquesandnewwaysof categorizingpersons(Hack-

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Frenchlife, and someof the infrastructure, such as governmentpatronage, that supports French writers (see Clark &Clark 1977). Thereare persistent differences in the intellectual directions of Frenchversus Anglo-Americanintellectual life (see Wuthnow1989). Enlightenment skepti- cism took an abstract, radical form in France while remaining staunchly em-

piricist in England(Krieger 1970). Payer (1988) offers rich anecdotal evidence that contemporaryFrench medical research and practice privilege theory over empirical findings, while British physicians accept only the most narrowly drawn empirical claims. Lamont(1992) finds that membersof the French

middle class makemuchsharper and more hierarchical than equivalent Americansdo.



Afocus on institutional

authority can account for both the intellectual


intellectual cultures. Onecan begin by noting the very different histories of

the core institutions

those in England. The AcademieFrancaise, founded in 1635, was the first

several academiesestablished

and culture.

wereappointed for life and received substantial stipends. Their primary task

was to formalize the rules of the French language, to maintain its "purity," and to develop it for the arts and the sciences. TheAcademicawardedliterary

prizes and directed the flow of other governmentsinecures, thus guaranteeing that elite approval of literary workwouldprovide financial rewards even in the face of commercialfailure. The Pads Academyof Sciences, founded in

and the relative



of French versus Anglo-American

supported knowledgeproduction in France versus

by the French state


to enhance French science

"Les Immortels,"

Its eight members(shortly expandedto forty),

1666, had fifteen

memberswhogave scientific

advice to the royal adminis-

tration, becoming"France’s acknowledgedarbiter of scientific and technolog- ical activity" (Hahn1971:21). The Royal Society of London, chartered by the British Crownin 1662,

received no royal financial


in Englandwas based on

support and thus becamea prestigious gathering

of leisured


gentlemen whoconducted experiments and shared the results

work. Thus intellectual



shared observation and mutual exchange of ideas amonga cultivated

while in France knowledgewas groundedin a hierarchical tual authority.


system of intellec-

It is instructive to contrast the histories of the first great nationaldictionades

produced in France versus

membersimmediately set about producing an authoritative dictionary of the

French language, beginning the work in 1639 and completing it

major English dictionary waited a hundred years until SamuelJohnson, be-

those in England. The French Academy’sforty


1694. A

tween 1746 and 1755, sponsored by a group of commercial publishers


sold subscriptions to finance the venture, single-handedlywrote his Dictionary of the English Language,aided only by a few helpers paid fromhis ownpocket

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and by friends wholoaned the manybooksfrom whichhe extracted illustrative quotations (Bate 1975:240-60). Thus even in its conception of language, Frenchpractice created an authoritative codification of "pure" French, while Johnson’s Englishdictionary offered an individual rendition of the best English usage. Progress in the newsociology of knowledgehas comeespecially from what wemightcall the "middle"level of analysis. Focussingneither on large-scale forces like class or the capitalist economy,nor on influences such as the

interests of individual actors, recent theoretical and em-

intellectual milieu or

pirical workhas explored howauthority, power,and practices within institu- tions shape knowledge.




Theconcernwithpowerhastakena secondformintheworkofPierreBourdieu




ofthcFrench(1984).Reminiscentof Wcber’s(1968[1920])analysisofstatus groupcompetition(Collins1975),Bourdicu(1984,Bourdieu& Passcron1977) hasexaminedhowstatusgroupsbenefitfromhavingtheknowledgethey posscssdcfincdasvaluedor legitimateknowledge. Bourdieu’sworkc×tcndsthesociologyof knowledgein severalrcspects (dcspitcsomecriticismsof hisempiricalclaims--Lamont& Larrcau1988, Licbcrson1992:6-7).First,throughhisconceptof the"habitus,"Bourdicu (1977,1984)treatsformal,academicknowledgeas similarto otherkinds socialknowlcdgcmlcssknowledgcof thcworldthanknowlcdgcof howto operatewithinit.Heextendssocialknowledgemoredeeplyintotheperson, c×amininglearnedhabitsofusingandinhabitingspace,thebody,andtime. By focussingon "practice"(Bourdieu1977,Bourdicu& Wacquant1992), treatsknowledge,includingthevaluedknowledgeof academiaor of the culturalelite,asanembodiedsetofskillsandhabitsthatpeopleusewithmore or lessdc×tcritytoachievestrategicadvantage.Butthatsameknowledge rcproduccsthelargersystemofsocialdistinctionsandsocialhierarchieswithin whosetermspeopleactivelymaneuver. At thesametime,Bourdicu(1969,sccRinger1990)hasarguedthatall knowledgeislocatedwithinlarger"intellectualfields"sothatthemeaningof knowledgedependsonitsrelationto thefieldas a whole.Thus"orthodox" and"heterodox"positionsexistinrelationtoa fieldof intellectualpower relations.~ntcllectualfieldsare,inturn,embeddedinlarger"culturalfields"; bothorthodoxandheterodoxpositionssharetaken-for-granted"doxa." In Distinction(1984),Bourdicuexaminestheinternalized"taste"people

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Meyer(1977), Bourdieuemphasizesthe larger lessons conveyedby a hierar- chical, stratified systemof education, rather than simplythe relatively advan-

social milieus use to makesocial andcultural distinctions. Like

taged or disadvantagedposition of particular social groupswithin it. Class or status groupadvantage, captured by Bourdieu’s(1984) term "cultural capital,"

is not simply accumulatedcultural cultural capital includes the taste,

confidence,and familiarity that allows the


Rather, like economiccapital,

culturally advantagedto reap a higher return on cultural investments than do those whobegin with less. In a brilliant Americanization of Bourdieu’s arguments, DiMaggio(1987) examinesthe sourceof distinctions amongartistic genres. Heargues that social groups invent and maintain boundedcultural genres in order to communicate status group membershipin face-to-face interaction (Collins 1981). DiMaggio (1992) has analyzedthe historical process of creating "institutions with the powerto establish authoritatively the value of different formsof culture: in effect to create and to defendthe boundariesamongvarying kinds of aesthetic products and practices" (p. 21). DiMaggio(1982) has shownhownine- teenth-century Boston elites constructed the distinction between high and popular culture by founding organizations that could monopolizecultural objects (a high-culture repertoire), sacralize high culture (in distinct spaces with an awe-filled atmosphere),and legitimate the high-culture/popular-culture distinction. Related workby Levine(1988) traces the complexnineteenth-cen- tury process of boundingoffhigh from popular culture. Beisel (1992) analyzes the active effort by nineteenth-century Americanreformersto construct a moral boundarybetweenliterature and obscenity.

Asthe workcollected

in Lamont&Foumier (1992) suggests, distinctions

are often drawnto reinforce social inequalities. Schwartz(1981) considers deeperissue at the intersection of the cognitive andthe social: whydo vertical classifications universally connote social and moralinequality? Pointing out

that the original Durkheimianattempt to root social classifications in social structures is circular (Durkheim& Mauss1963 [1903]), Schwartzlooks to the

universal dependenceof children on larger, of "vertical classification."

morepowerfuladults for the source

Zerubavel (1991) catalogs

the varied

ways in which humanbeings make

distinctions in everydaylife. In Terra Cognita (1992) he traces the complex process through which European knowledge of the newworld was reconfig-

ured as people attempted to integrate newexperiences into established

tive structures. A big gap nonetheless remains betweencognitive and social accounts of the wayspeople form and maintain boundaries. Goffman’s(1974,


1983) later

workmovedtoward a formal analysis of the wayscognitive frames

have thus far made

less use than they might of workby social psychologists on howpeople make

boundand organize social interactions.

But sociologists

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and use social categories. Baron&Pfeffer (1993:14)note that social categories

"can be readily induced and need not rely on

distinctions. Thesocial psychologicalliterature is replete with studies invoking

strong group identification

slightest and most transitory experimental manipulations (Kramer &Brewer

1984)." Theynote further that "[o]rganizations are certainly very muchin the businessof creating categories, suchas departments,ranks, and job titles" (see Baron 1986, Lansberg 1989). Boundariesof race, nationality, and religion are of special interest because they appear as naturalized, primordial categories even whenthey are clearly socially constituted (Barth 1969, Calhoun1993). Fredrickson (1981) has scribed howdifferent systems of racial categories developedin the United States and South Africa. Anthropologists like AbnerCohen(1969; 1974) have shownhowgroups sharpen ethnic and religious boundaries as they moveinto neweconomicniches. Olzak (1992) has used ecological argumentsto account for heightenedethnic groupconflict. Researchershave shownhowlarger organizational actors influence the form of cognitive categories and social boundaries. Sexual boundariesare accentu-

permanent or ascriptive

even with only the

and intergroup polarization,

ated whenpolitical

Following Aries (1962), historians have suggested that heightened gender

leaders seek to tighten group boundaries (Davies 1982).

boundaries early

in the modernperiod (Laqueur 1990) were part of a general

Europeanprocess of social segregation, drawing sharper distinctions among classes and ages as well as between the sexes (see Farge & Davis 1993). Cornell (1988) has examinedhowAmericanIndians cameto define themselves as tribes in response to the Americanstate’s insistence on negotiating only with tribal groups. Montejano(1987) has analyzed howracial divisions crys- tallized in twentieth-century Texas, reinforcing an understanding of racial categories as dynamicand historically contingent(Omi&Winant1986). One of the most powerful waysof categorizing persons in the contemporaryword

is that of national citizenship. Brubaker(1992:1) contrasts the Frenchunder- standings of nationhoodand citizenship ("state-centered and assimilationist") with those of Germany("volk-centered amddifferentialist"), tracing the his- todcal sources of these differences. Sahlins (1989) has examinednational boundaries, looking at howthe hardening of national boundaries affected the identity and experience of frontier populations, while Watldns (1991) has

documentedthe increasing articulation havior.

betweennation and demographicbe-

Oneof the mostambitious attempts to think about boundaries in fresh ways

as actors in a system,

competingto define and establish

academicknowledgesystem allows a profession to defend its jurisdiction, in

is Abbott (1988). Abbot conceptualizes professions

exclusive control over jurisdictions.


part by moreclearly defining its borders (p. 56). Whenprofessions attempt

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raid others’ jurisdictions, they developintellectual strategies, suchas abstrac- tion or reduction, to subsumeor displace the knowledgeclaims of their rivals

(pp. 98-108). Thus jurisdictional claims

linked (see Gieryn et al 1985, Halpern 1992). Gieryn (1983) has shown, example,that scientists demarcatescience fromnonsciencedifferently in dif- ferent circumstancesto justify claims for authority, autonomy,and resources. Power,knowledge,and boundaries are brought together in newwaysin two

recent literatures,

Whilethe topic of postmodernismis muchtoo large to be addressed here (see Arditi 1993), in essence postmodernistsargue that a new"order of things" has emergedin which the traditional categories that separated kinds of knowl- edge--or that separated truth fromfiction, high frompopular culture, and the sacred from the profane--no longer hold. Baudrillard’s (1983, 1988) postulate of a newhyperrealitycreated not as a representationof alreadyexisting realities but from the power of signs themselves and DonnaHaraway’s(1991) argu- ments for the embeddednessof cybernetics in every aspect of social reality today provide examples of such arguments. Themotif of the constituted subject suggested by Foucault has been devel- oped along independent lines by contemporaryfeminists. In somewaysthese developmentscan be seen as a return to earlier concerns of the sociology of knowledge,in particular Mannheim’s(1936) efforts to find a correlation be-

tweenideas and their location within the social structure. For feminist theorists, however,differences in ideas are not consequencesof the different "interests" of social groups, but of the differential effects of powerin the constitution of

subjects. Feminists (Haraway1991)have criticized Foucault for

recognize differences in the wayspowerpenetrates people belonging to dif- ferent social categories (gender, race, sexual preference), thereby constituting subjects differently, including the generation of gendered, or raeialized, "knowledges." For them, the constitution of "difference" has to be madea fundamental element of analysis, along with the always partial and situated nature of knowledge.

forms, which

provide an interesting

cially shapedor determined.First are "standpointtheories," like those of Marx, Mannheim,and other pioneers in the sociology of knowledge.Feminist schol- ars (Smith 1979, Hartsock 1987, Collins 1990) argue that the oppressed, those excluded from power, have a unique vantage point from which to un- derstand aspects of the worldthat maybe invisible to dominantgroups.

between men’s and women’sways

and knowledgeframes are intimately

those of "postmodernism"and "feminist epistemology."

his failure

The search for a feminist

epistemology has taken several


of the varied waysknowledgemaybe so-

Oneexplanation of putative


of knowingtraces

these differences

to childhood experience (Chodorow1978,

Benjamin1988). If

girls differentiate

less fromtheir mothersthan boys do and

womenremain enmeshedwith their

mothers or their


they are less

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likely to experiencethemselvesas separatefromthe things they study(sub- jeet-objeet distinction, see Keller1983),to use modesof thoughtthat sharply

separateor disaggregatewhatis studied (anal)tie reasoning),or to organize knowledgehierarchically(deductivereasoning).Arelated positionis a variant of argumentslinkingknowledgeto authority structures: If menare vestedwith social authority, then authoritative knowledgeis "whatmenhaveto say" and it "carr[ies] forwardthe interests and perspectivesof men"(Smith1987:18). If womenare responsiblefor the private, relational aspectsof social life and are excludedfrompublicsystemsof authority,theyare less likely to participate in whatis currentlytakento be universal,analytic, objectiveknowledge.These argumentsfocus less on womenas knowersthan on the purported maleness of modernscience. DorothySmith(1987), EvelynFoxKeller (1985), others (Schiebinger1993)havearguedthat the modernsciences werespecif- ically constructedas maleenterprises, accruingprestige andpowerfrommale styles of thought.In this way,manyrecentexplorationsof feministepistemol-

ogytranscendthe distinction betweenold and newsociologies of

by analyzing both howwomen’sknowledgediffers systematically fromthat of men(althoughmostof this workis speculativerather than empirical)and howthe verynature of whatis takento be knowledgeis shapedbymalegender


(Flax 1983).


There has also been a resurgence of workon informal knowledge(Geertz 1983), that is, the knowledgeordinary people developto deal with their everydaylives (Gramsci1971).Whethersuchliterature is properlysociology of knowledge,or whetherit belongswithina broadenedsociologyof culture

a sociologyof consciousnessremainsto be seen. But at least someworks


are of interest here becausetheyexaminehowordinarypeopleactually take upand use (or reject) the knowledgegeneratedfor themby elites (Gamson 1992,Swidler1995).Billig (1987,1992)analyzesthe intellectual structure ordinary thinking and the uses peoplemakeof popular culture. Riessman (1990)has examinedhowpeopleconstructnarratives of their lives. Thesociology of formal and informal knowledgehas converged,partly throughthe workof the newcultural historians whohavedrawnexplicit links betweenfolk knowledgeand high culture (Greenblatt1988,Hunt1989,Muker- jee &Schudson1991), and partly becauseof intellectual innovations,like attentionto "discursivefields" whichallowscholarsto discoverlarger organ- izing principles withinpopularformsof knowledge. Theemphasison "practice" in cultural studies (Ortner 1984)has had salutary effect in makingexplicit the problemof howideas becomeplausible to those whohold them. WilliamSewell, Jr. (1992)has madean important

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Annual Reviews


contribution by clarifying howpeople reproducesocial structures by acting on

the cultural

cultural schemasare "capable of being transposed or extendedmeansthat the resource consequencesof the enactmentof cultural schemasis never entirely predictable. A joke told to a new audience, an invcstmcnt madein a new market, an offer of marriage madeto a newpatrilinc, a cavalry attack made on a newterrain, a crop planted in a newlycleared field or in a familiar field in a newspringmtheeffect of these actions on the resources of the actors is never quite certain" (p. 18). Just as cultural schemasprovide the bases for practices that reproducestructures, so Sewellhas shownin earlier work(1974) howthe plausibility of a new ideology--in this case, socialism amongthe workers of nineteenth-century Marseille--depends upon existing social and cultural arrangementsthat makethe ideology seemenactable in practice (see


"schemas"embeddedin the world they inhabit.

The fact



Little of the workreviewedhere explicitly locates itself

knowledge.Despite diverse disciplines,

however,these literatures

allow at least


in the sociology of and substantive foci,

somepreliminary conclusions. First,

social authority shapes the authoritativeness of knowledge,affecting both the


knowledgecan effectively claim and the formsthat knowledgeclaims

take (see

Asad1993). Second, distinctions,

social and intellectual,

are made

alonglines ef social differentiation, particularly hierarchical ones. Third, shifts

in the mediathroughwhichknowledgeis transmitted, especially the transition to print, have dramaticeffects on the entire organization of knowledgesystems. Fourth, to explain whynewknowledgeemergesand to account for the social

effects of ideas, scholars need to pay careful attention to factors that directly

affect the institutions

analysis of howthe social location of actors affects their knowledgemust account for the constitution of actors themselves. Sixth, knowledgeand power

are intimately related becausepowerallows people to enact realities that make their knowledgeplausible.

and actors that produceand distribute knowledge.Fifth,

The newsociology of knowledge,not yet a unified field,

does not have a

single problematic around whichdebates revolve. Nonetheless, there are op-


brought together here converge and diverge.

"authoritativeness" of different kinds of knowledgeraises manyquestions, amongthem for whomand to what extent officially approvedforms of knowl- edge really do have authority. Hoggart (1957) argued manyyears ago that English working-classculture remainedpredominantlyoral into the twentieth century, and Whitehead’s(1974) study of occultism suggests widespread re-

for fruitful

research along the manylines wherethe literatures

For example, the issue of the

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jection of the authority of modemscience. Butthis raises the question of what


persons actually share it7 Or, like medievalCatholicism, are forms of knowl-

edge authoritative

because they define public discourse, whatever people maythink privately?

Anddo the officially

even of heretics and dissenters? If social authority structures knowledge,it

importantto ask precisely what

about authority influences either the form or content of knowledge.Laitin (1986), for example, has madea strong case that British colonial rule had enduring effects in Nigeria, making"ancestral village" a central political identity while deemphasizingthe political significance of religion. But how precisely did British rule privilege village identity, and whydid this identity remain salient in post-colonial Nigerian polities? Moregenerally, is it an authority’s control over specific incentives and sanctions, or rather control over central symbols that anchors systems of knowledge?Or do authorities influence knowledgethroughtheir control over the institutions of intellectual

meansfor knowledgeto be "authoritative."



necessary that most lay-

accept them?Or

the claims

because established political



forms of knowledgestructure


life? Howdo conflicts betweenpolitical and intellectual poweraffect the structure of knowledge? Similar questions can be asked about howsocial inequalities structure cat- egorical distinctions. Mostintriguing is howsocial categories becomenatural- ized. Is it only, as Foucault claims, becausepowerfulinstitutions enact dis-

tinctions that they cometo appearincontrovertibly real? Or can classifications crystallize on morepurely cognitive or interactionist grounds?Andunder what circumstances do distinctions remain hazy?

These questions and others


them--about howmedia of intellectual

transmission structure knowledgeor howdiffering standpoints influence def- initions of whatconstitutes knowledge--suggestthat researchers wouldbenefit from greater awarenessof the cumulative gains being madein the sociology of knowledge.Such awarenessmight stimulate explicit attention to the con- cepts and causal modelsthat underlie particular historical or comparative arguments.


Wewould like


to thank Elizabeth A. Armstrongand Ricardo Samuel for

Armstrong, Paul DiMaggio,Claude Fi-

research assistance.


scher, Jeff Manza,John Martin and an anonymousreviewer provided valuable commentsand advice.

AnyAnnualRevlcwchapter,as well~sanyarticlecitedin anAnnualReviewchapter, I mybepurchasedfromtheAnnualReviewsPreprlntsandReprintsservice.


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The Cheese

and the

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