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

  • Nico Stehr - University of British Columbia, Canada

June 2001 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
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 interaction and new perspectives on identity, practice and association. This penetrating book slices through the cliches and blind alleys of discussions around the knowledge society to reveal the tendons of contemporary change. Written with insight and panache the book explains the momentous nature of the changes associated with the knowledge society.

 
Introduction
 
Excursus
Fragility

 
 
PART ONE: THE TEXTURE OF MODERN SOCIETIES
 
The Nation State
 
Functional Differentiation
 
Rationalizing the Irrational
 
Traditional and Modern Societies
 
The Extension of Social Conduct
 
PART TWO: KNOWLEDGE SOCIETIES
 
The Emergence of Knowledge Societies
 
The Society of Societies
 
PART THREE: KNOWLEDGE ABOUT KNOWLEDGE
 
Knowledge as a Capacity for Action
 
Culture and Knowledge
 
From Capacities to Realization
 
Incremental Knowledge
 
Knowledge and Information
 
Limits of Power and Knowledge
 
Excursus
Forms of Capital

 
 
PART FOUR: FUSION THROUGH DISSOLUTION
 
The Disappearance of Human Agency
 
A Surplus of Social Manipulation
 
Excursus
Herrshaft kraft Wissen

 
 
PART FIVE: FRAGILE SOCIAL STRUCTURES
 
The World of Post-Industrial Societies
 
Collective and Individual Capacities to Act
 
PART SIX: GOVERNING KNOWLEDGE SOCIETIES
 
The Stalled Society
 
The Politics of Knowledge Societies
 
Political Action and Knowledgeability
 
PART SEVEN: FRAGMENTATION AND HOMOGENIZATION OF SOCIAL LIFE
 
The Advent of Mass Societies
 
The Globalization of the World
 
Globalization in Historical Times
 
The Divisions of the World
 
The Reconfiguration of the Globe
 
PART EIGHT: POLICING KNOWLEDGE
 
Knowledge Politics
 
Regulating Knowledge
 
The Social Control of Knowledge Claims in Science
 
The Societal Regulation of Knowledge
 
The Virchow-Haeckel Controversy
 
The Public and Science
 
The Developments of Social Controls
 
Knowledge Hierarchies and Monopolies
 
PART NINE: EMANCIPATION AND KNOWLEDGE
 
The Knowledge/Power Axis
 
The New Risks of Knowledge
 
Modern Social Movements
 
Excursus
Knowing and Risks

 
 
PART TEN: KNOWLEDGE, UNCERTAINTY AND CONTINGENCY
 
Prospects or What Remains Open

This is a very exhaustive book and a good read on a complex and highly relevant topic. Unfortunately, it needs a bit of updating and, hence, I can not recommend it to my students but will have to refer to the more recent scientific discussion published in journals.
Was this book updated with recent scientific findings and theories, I would certainly recommend it for adoption.

Ms Kristina Weissmueller
Department of Economics & Busins Admin, University of Hamburg
November 29, 2016

The book cover a great deal of very interesting historical ground and offers a wide sociological analysis of change in society. I passed it to some students on our undergraduate programme for their views too These students reported they felt it was at too high a level. So while we are not adopting it at this programme, I will be considering it for a soon to be delivered MSc programme.

Mr Ian Michael McGonagle
Health , Lincoln University
November 23, 2015

This is an exceptional book which provides, as other Stehr's books, a clear and, at the same time, profound analysis of important developments in sociology of knowledge and how it is used by diffferent institutions.
It offers an enriching perspective on the role of knowledge, which appears to be always in transitions.

Dr Frederico Matos
Social Policy and Education, Birkbeck College
February 13, 2013

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