The Fragility of Modern Societies: Knowledge and Risk in the Information Age

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"This book argues that knowledge is now central to the modern economy and its productive processes. It is also essential for social relations, social cohesion and conflict resolution. We have moved from a society based around heavy commodities to symbolic goods, from situated markets to non-place-specific locations, from machines to software and from things to ideas. These changes produce new forms of social interactions and new perspectives on identity, practice and association."--BOOK JACKET.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761953487
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications
  • Publication date: 6/25/2001
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.76 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Nico Stehr is Senior Research Fellow, Sustainable Development Research Institute, University of British Columbia, Canada

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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
Introduction 1
1 The Texture of Modern Societies 9
The Nation-state 9
Functional Differentiation 11
Rationalizing the Irrational 14
Traditional and Modern Societies 16
The Extension of Social Conduct 18
2 Knowledge Societies 19
The Emergence of Knowledge Societies 20
The Society of Societies 24
3 Knowledge about Knowledge 31
Knowledge as a Capacity for Action 35
Culture and Knowledge 36
From Capacities to Realization 38
Incremental Knowledge 39
Knowledge and Information 41
Limits to the Power of Knowledge 45
4 Fusion through Dissolution 53
The Disappearance of Human Agency 54
A Surplus of Social Manipulation 55
Moral Indifference, Power and Science 58
5 Fragile Social Structures 64
The World of Post-industrial Societies 65
Collective and Individual Capacities to Act 67
6 Governing Knowledge Societies 71
The Stalled Society 75
The Politics of Knowledge Societies 81
Political Action and Knowledgeability 90
7 Fragmentation and Homogenization of Social Life 93
The Advent of Mass Societies 93
The Globalization of the World 97
Globalization in Historical Times 101
The Divisions of the World 104
The Reconfiguration of the Globe 109
8 Policing Knowledge 112
Knowledge Politics 113
Regulating Knowledge 114
The Social Control of Knowledge Claims in Science 116
The Societal Regulation of Knowledge 117
The Virchow-Haeckel Controversy 119
The Public and Science 123
The Developments of Social Controls 124
Knowledge Hierarchies and Monopolies 126
9 Emancipation and Knowledge 132
The Knowledge/Power Axis 133
The New Risks of Knowledge 137
Modern Social Movements 140
Criticism of the Formal Concept of Risk 144
On the Difference between Decision-makers and those Affected by Risks of Decisions 145
The Return of Uncertainty in Society 146
Risk of Decision in the Context of Fragile Knowledge 148
10 Knowledge, Uncertainty and Contingency 150
Prospects or what Remains Open 151
Statistical Appendix 156
Notes 159
Bibliography 189
Subject Index 213
Name Index 216
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