Intriguingly different in approach from conventional works in the same area of inquiry, this study deals with the central problems and concerns of the sociology of knowledge as it has traditionally been conceived of. In other words, it is concerned with the relationship of knowledge, social interests and social structure, and with the various attempts which have been made to analyse the relationship.
Barry Barnes takes the classic writings in the sociology of knowledge – by Marx, Lukács, Weber, Mannheim, Goldmann, Habermas and others – and uses them as resources in coming to grips with what he regards as the currently most interesting and significant questions in this area. This approach reflects one of the principal themes of the book itself. Knowledge, it is argued, is best treated as a resource available to those possessing it. This is the best perspective from which to understand its relationship to action and its historical significance; it is a perspective which avoids the problems of holding that knowledge is derivative, as well as those generated by the view that knowledge is a strong determinant of consciousness. the result is an unusual textbook, particularly valuable when read in conjunction with the original works it discusses.