restricted access 8. Problematics in the Internationalization of Social Science Knowledge (1991)
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163 My objective in this essay is to develop a statement of those conditions that facilitate and those that obstruct the internationalization of social science knowledge. The topic merits investigation, if for no other reason than that the internationalization of culture of all forms is an increasingly visible and salient phenomenon in our time. The process is evident at many levels: • The spread of science and technology, fueled by the intensity of international economic competition • The diffusion of ideologies, notably those of democracy and modernization • The growth of common norms associated with growing economic and political interdependence • The growing flow of persons through migration and tourism • The diffusion of culture, especially popular culture, through the expanded international system of the media, especially television 8 Problematics in the Internationalization of Social Science Knowledge (1991) From Current Sociology 39, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 21–46. 164 l a t e r e x p l o r a t i o n s From this list I select the internationalization of social knowledge, that special type of culture that involves theory, empirical claims, and lore about culture, society, and the person. My topic, thus identified, seems simple enough, but several of its terms are sufficiently vague and complex that they demand an initial set of distinctions and specifications. three orienting clarifications First Clarification: Facets of Knowledge I distinguish among three aspects of knowledge—research, training, and learning—and the content and quality of knowledge. Research refers to the formal creation and codification of knowledge. Considered analytically, this activity is not attached to any special kind of social structure; knowledge has been created and solidified informally, for example, in peasant agriculture and traditional crafts, and chroniclers and historians have accumulated facts and lore about societies for many centuries. Since the development of formal scholarship and scienti fic research, however, research tends to be lodged and carried out in libraries, institutes, universities, academies, laboratories, and field stations. Much research is also carried out in institutions not dedicated primarily to that activity—for example, businesses and government agencies. Teaching and learning refer mainly to the transmission, exchange, and critical evaluation of knowledge in a setting involving teacher and student or trainer and trainee. Again, much of this transpires in informal contexts, such as the family, and in apprenticeship and other occupational settings. Modern society, however, has created a wide range of specialized institutions devoted primarily to teaching and learning—schools, academies, colleges, and universities. In this essay I will consider mainly this formal infrastructure for research and for teaching-learning—that is, academic arrangements in their international aspects. Even there, however, it is not clear that the distinction between research and teaching-learning is a completely clear one. Much research transpires in the context of a teaching -learning setting (for example, the work of postgraduate research assistants and student laboratory assistants), and the conduct of research p r o b l e m a t i c s o f i n t e r n a t i o n a l i z a t i o n 165 certainly involves the transmission and exchange of knowledge on a continuous basis. I will also focus on the actual content and quality of that cultural product called knowledge, and, in particular the degree and ways in which that product becomes internationalized. By content and quality I refer, among other things, to the metatheoretical assumptions and theoretical organization of knowledge: the substance of knowledge as summarized in assertions , propositions, generalizations, factual statements, explanations, and interpretations; and the methodologies (rules and procedures) by which knowledge is generated, assessed, and critically evaluated. I will give greatest attention to these aspects of knowledge. (By way of a final parenthesis, it should be acknowledged that there is always a mutual influence between the content and quality of knowledge on the one hand, and the infrastructure and processes of research and teaching-learning on the other.) Second Clarification: The Many Meanings of Internationalization One of the characteristics of the English language—and others—is that a noun is thought to be denotative, to refer to a definite thing. As often as not, however, it is difficult to locate that thing empirically, and, furthermore , with usage a noun comes to refer not to one but to many things. Such is the case with the noun internationalization when applied to knowledge. The term is a relatively new one, but it has already accumulated a...


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