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The Politics of Social Knowledge

Spence, Larry D.

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ISBN 10: 0271005211 / ISBN 13: 9780271005218
Published by Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, 1978
Used Condition: Ex-Library, else Very Good Hardcover
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Usual university lib. ownership and discard marks, pocket and bar code sticker to endpaper, spine catalog label. Else clean and well bound text; with minor wear only. In publisher's original binding. Bookseller Inventory # 14651

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Politics of Social Knowledge

Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park

Publication Date: 1978

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition: Ex-Library, else Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: No Jacket

Edition: First Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

The proper task of the social sciences, this book argues, is to understand and control the impact of social and political institutions on human life--not to predict and control human behavior. Such a reorientation must start, in the author's view, with a rejection of the assumptions of traditional Western political thought. Whether or not a reader can agree in full with the argument here, he is sure to find it a stimulating challenge to his own resuppositions.Chief among the assumptions of Western political thought is the unevitability of hierarchy, which in turn assumes the inevitability of widespread social ignorance. The latter assumption flows from a view of the human species as wanting in motivation, character, and intelligence. These assumptions, according to Dr. Spence, have attained the power of myth, in the sense that no facts known or imaginable would be permitted to falsify them or even seriously to modify them. Thus a work-loving, responsible, intelligent person is regarded as an exception to human nature, produced by hierarchical institutions; and a group of cooperating procedures without structured positions of domination is treated as a case of hidden hierarchy.Humankind never ceases its struggle for autonomy, but is thwarted by social ignorance--from Plato's allegory of the cave to the latest research in political socialization--compound the ignorance, because such explanations force the investigator to assert his intellectual (and political) superiority. The weight of evidence from modern psychology is that learned is a self-activated seeking process rather than a passive reception and recording of data. That being so, Kuhn's theory of scientific development wrongly emphasizes dogmatism, with individual creativity as the exception; the emphasis should be reversed. Moreover, Trigant Burrow was right--as are Bateson and Laing--in challenging Freud's view that so-called normal behavior constitutes mental health. Social scientists should teach citizens to free themselves from social deception, no matter how pervasive and accepted.Respect for our intellectual heritage, as the author writes in his preface, 'demands more than the study of the so-called masters; it requires our willingness to philosophize and to create theories just as they did.'

About the Author:

A former newspaperman, Larry D. Spence does research on the impact of bureaucracy on human behavior and perception. He took his Ph.D. in politcal science at the University of California, Berkeley, and teaches political theory at Penn State.

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