Edited by Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen and David Jacobson
Chapter 14: Worshipping at the Shrine of the Knowledge-based Society?
James Wickham INTRODUCTION For European policy-makers, it now seems to be axiomatic that we live in a ‘knowledge-based society’ (KBS), or if we do not, we are about to do so. The term functions as a description of contemporary reality, as a prediction of where we are about to go, and even as a prescription of where we should go. Furthermore, the term implies that, although the direction is apparently inevitable, failure to adapt now to this oncoming wave of the future would be reprehensible. As such the term shares many features with other over-arching accounts of social reality (information society, globalization, and the like). This chapter does not attempt a full-scale deconstruction of the concept of the KBS. Instead it begins by examining key texts by social scientists which each found a readership and inﬂuence beyond the academy, and each of which posits a particular relationship between ‘knowledge’ and social structure. A key political use of the term today is to argue for enhanced expenditure on research and development, and interwoven with this, for the ‘reform’ of European higher education along explicitly American lines. Accordingly the second part of the chapter points to some problems of ‘excellence’ in US education which European attempts to emulate that system ignore. The third part of the chapter explores another crucial part of the KBS thesis, the notion of the ‘learning organization’; it suggests that this is at variance with some developments that appear to be occurring in vocational education and which...
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