This series of blog postings will begin to focus on some deeper thinking about the concept of knowledges. It’s time that I shared some of my readings in what can loosely be described as the sociology of knowledge. As far as I can tell at the moment, the sociologists who specialize in that branch, refer to knowledge in the singular. Perhaps we can do something about that?

There is no better place to start than with Berger and Luckmann’s 1966 classic, The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Apart from different imprints in different countries at around the same time, Berger and Luckmann do not seem to have produced a second edition, so it stands as one of the great publications on this topic. Their work can lead us in many directions…post-modernism, constructionism, the sociology of knowledge…and perhaps elsewhere. 

Berger and Luckmann were not the first to discuss this. That honour resides with the German writers of the 1920s, and the exploration of those will come much later. However, it’s probably true to say that the 1966 book helped to popularize the theory that the taken-for-granted which guides how we journey through this world is actually a socially constructeed reality.  Here is one of my favourite quotes from Berger and Luckmann:

A social stock of knowledge is constituted, which is transmitted from generation to generation and which is available to the individual in everyday life. I live in the commonsense world of everyday life equipped with specific bodies of knowledge. What is more, I know that others share at least part of this knowledge and they know that I know this. My interaction with others in everyday life is, therefore, constantly affected by our common participation in the available social stock of knowledge (p.41).

Surely, if they were to write their book today, Berger and Luckmann would recognize the plurality of those “specific bodies of knowledge” and hence the multiplicity of our social stock of knowledges?