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Session Overview
RS12_04a_P: Key Topics in the Sociology of Knowledge I: Historical Perspectives on Sociology
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
9:00am - 10:30am

Session Chair: Bernt Schnettler, Universität Bayreuth
Location: PD.4.36
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: D, Level: 4.

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Ludwik Fleck – European and World Pioneer in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge

Mariusz Zemlo

Catholic University of Lublin, Poland

During my presentation I would like to take the opportunity to present the main ideas associated with the works of Ludwik Fleck thanks to which we can acknowledge him as a European and world pioneer in the Sociology of Knowledge.

Ludwik Fleck (1896-1961) - a physician and microbiologist; carried out research into venereal diseases. Aside from conducting empirical studies he also gave a lot of meta-theoretical consideration to the development of medical science, as a result of which he inspired an intriguing discussion in the field of science studies and sociology of knowledge in general, and moreover a discussion concerning the conditions of scientific knowledge in particular.

The core of Fleck’s deliberations that are connected with the sociology of knowledge concentrate around three guiding themes: diachronic terms of knowledge, synchronous conditions of knowledge and paradigm. Understanding the process requires taking into consideration the historical perspective. It decides about elements such as: a) terminology, b) ideas, c) ways of looking at problems, d) the methods and means of research, e) solutions, explanations, generalisations, classifications, theories, etc.

Synchronous conditions of cognition are contained in the statement that scientific knowledge is not an act of individual consciousness, but the result of social action. Every attempt at intellectually tackling the problem is connected with reaching out to what is social and done in an aura of social tension.

Another crucial feature of Fleck’s scientific legacy is the paradigm. It is characterised as a specific thought style that - says the scientist - by means of ”harmony of illusions” keeps solid, impenetrable structures.

During this presentation, these three key elements will be discussed in detail.

Sociology of Knowledge in the Lvov-Warsaw School (Szkoła Lwowsko-Warszawska)

Arkadiusz Jablonski

Catholic University of Lublin, Poland

The main aim of this paper is to analyze the findings of Lvov-Warsaw School relevant to the issues of the sociology of knowledge. I will try to show that even though this school is philosophical one, however, many issues are important for the sociology of knowledge. Collective achievement of the Lvov-Warsaw Schools representatives was the conviction metaphilosophical on how science should be cultivated. Formulated thesis in these investigations not found greater use in twentieth-century sociological research, but they are important from the point of view of contemporary of science and technology studies within the framework of the so-called non-classical sociology of knowledge. However, empirical studies undertaken on the work of the scientific too easily lead to relativism and subjectivism (collectivism). Relativism is associated with a too simplistic understanding of truth and rejection of the classical concept of truth for a pragmatic and deflationary conception of truth. Subjectivism (collectivism) is due to the treatment of products of knowledge and a lack of distinguishing between content of knowledge and object of knowledge, as well as, the lack of distinguishing between unstable mental products and durable psychophysical products. I will try to show the relationships between ways of interpreting these concepts in the Lvov-Warsaw School, and as a result of these analyzes are presented differences in contemporary sociology of knowledge between constructivism and critical realism.

‘Post Marx’: the reception of Hannah Arendt in Italy and in Germany after 1989

Barbara Grüning

University of Bologna, Italy

Hannah Arendt was a German-born Jewish political theorist, emigrated in the USA in 1940 because of the Jewish persecution in the Nazi Germany. Although in the fifties and sixties some of her works were strongly criticized and despite in the seventies and eighties her notoriety declined as a consequence of the hegemony of marxist theories, after 1989 she became an intellectual icon at international level. However, her consecration process in the transnational public space does not account for how her works and theories have been appropriated within specific national contexts.

The work moves then from the tension between the global circulation of Arendt’s ideas and their uses in two countries, Germany and Italy, that shared similar historical experiences, pivotal in Arendt’s political and philosophical reflection. Object of the comparison are the genesis and (social and symbolic) structures of the disciplinary fields where Arendt has been received, paying particular attention to their epistemological and institutional boundaries. The conceptual framework of the analysis is the Bourdieu’s field theory and his studies on the consecration of (public) intellectuals. The analysis is based on quantitative (works on Arendt and quotations of Arendt in handbooks) and qualitative (semi-structured interviews with Arendt's expert) data, collected for the period from 1945 to 2015. Aim of the paper is to distinguish analytically between the ‘public success’ Arendt reached in the German and in Italian public spheres and her canonization in some disciplinary fields. I will finally argue that the different reception of Arendt depends chiefly on the prestige of her main mediators and on the different legitimization’s criteria of public intellectuals which rule the different German and Italian fields of knowledge.

Is it possible to read history of sociology as history of receptions?

Mehmet Ali Akyurt

Istanbul University, Turkey

There has been an increasing interest in new ways of grasping history of sociology since the 1960s, as seen in collections of Tiryakian, Lepenies, Dayé and Moebius. As a result of the general orientation from an abstract, pure scientific, isolating and intellectual approach toward a concrete, institutional, contextual, relational and sociological one, history of sociology seems more like sum of scientific networks rather than an aggregate of abstract theories or a simple “history of thoughts”. Even if there are certain continuities in the historiography of sociology, such as focusing on sociologists/classics, theories/schools of thought, and national traditions, it is obvious that these “old” focuses are no longer handled from old points of view. Parallel to this transition, memories, biographies, book reviews, dairies, memoirs of and correspondence between sociologists become new research objects. This also widens the scope of history of sociology, and new units of analysis come forward such as membership to schools and circles, institutional and generational identities, socio-cultural and political background. The attempt to read history of sociology as a history of receptions (Rezeptionsgeschichte) is a great example for this shift. According to this relational and sociological approach, a generic and universal reading regarding a specific sociologist, school of sociology or national tradition has to be replaced by a multitude of viewpoints stemming from diverse locations in time and space. Instances for this research program would be Max Weber’s reception in France, Chicago School’s reception in Germany or German sociology’s reception in America in certain periods. Moving from previous attempts, this paper aims to question possibility of reading history of sociology based on diverging or converging receptions stemming from various contexts.

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