Sociology of knowledge is the study of social nature and social determination of various forms of knowledge, the mechanisms of its generation, distribution and function in society, lying
at the intersection of sociology and philosophy
. It is characterized by an expansive (in comparison
with the epistemological) interpretation of the term “knowledge”: knowledge includes everything that is considered knowledge in society.
The origins of the sociology of knowledge go back to Marx‘s analysis of ideology. Within the framework of Western Marxism, this line was continued by G. Lucas, M. Horkheimer, G. Marcuse, and others.
E. Durkheim outlined the positivistic version of the sociology of knowledge, which later developed in the studies of the nature of the archaic consciousness (M. Moss, L. Levi-Bruhl, etc.). In the sociology of M. Weber, which relied on some neo-Kantian postulates, the sociology of knowledge includes the analysis of Protestant economic ethics, its role in the emergence of capitalism, as well as its general works on the sociology of religion. The constitution of the sociology of knowledge as a special philosophical and sociological discipline is associated with M. Sheler’s books “Forms of Knowledge and Society” (1926) and K.Manheim’s Ideology and Utopia (1929).
Drawing a distinction between real sociology and the sociology of culture, Scheler understood the sociology of knowledge as part of the sociology of culture. This discipline should show the links of knowledge with the social structure, and not only positive sciences but also everyday knowledge, myths, religion, metaphysics, are among the forms of knowledge included in the sociological analysis. Different forms of knowledge, according to Shelia, are related to the social basis in varying degrees, which is reflected both in their objectivity and in their social dynamics. Already in his early works, Mannheim proposed the task of restructuring epistemology on sociological grounds. He stressed the relational nature of human knowledge, i.e., the constant correlation of knowledge with the social structure, its inevitable “perspective”. In “Ideology and Utopia” he focused on the most socially-determined forms of knowledge – ideologies, utopias, liberal and conservative consciousness.
Branch in the 30-40s from the sociology of knowledge of the sociology of science, sociology of religion, sociology of culture and some other specific disciplines made its status problematic. The central idea of the social determination of knowledge began to be criticized, accused of historicism and relativism. However, in the 70-80s it again began to arouse interest. This is due, first, to the emergence of some historically and sociologically oriented concepts in the postpositivist philosophy of science (T. Kun, M. Polanyi, P. Feyerabend, and others). These concepts allowed the supporters of the sociology of knowledge to more specifically and avoided gross sociology to represent the links of knowledge with the socio-cultural context (the works of M.Malkeai, D.Blura, B.Latura, S.Uolgar, representatives of the Starnberg group of sociologists who developed the concept of the finalization of science, P.). Secondly, within the framework of phenomenological philosophy and sociology the followers of A.Shuts (P.Berger, T.Lukman, etc.) put forward a new program of the sociology of knowledge, in which the central subject of analysis was not theoretical but everyday knowledge, and the traditional model of “social determinism” was replaced by the concept of “social construction of reality”.