Knowledge Society, or the Latest Last Chance
Globalization, monetarism, and comprehensive phenomena can be considered new even in historical dimensions. We’re now consequently focusing on the phenomenon of knowledge society, which is also comprehensive, but which is also to be considered totally new. Methodological principles and considerations used at the reconstruction of globalization (and monetarism) apply to this issue too, in a decisive way. From a methodological aspect, a reconstruction and complete design of knowledge society is also a peculiar challenge of theory-making. From this general point of view, there are absolutely no principal or incompatible differences between, say, the great positivistic theory-making of the 19thCentury, and a possible theory of globalization.
Therefore, when making a theory of knowledge society (or globalization, or even monetarism), really definitive science-sociological (wissenssoziologisch) problems are not of a principal, but of a pragmatic kind. These follow mainly from the holistic nature of the issue, which nature is not reductive or one-dimensional holism, but holism and a kind of unity which steps forward from an integration of the infinite richness and complexity of ’reality’, history, present, economy, society. As the theory of knowledge society is a positive theory, this theory – even as a theory – is principally not allowed to overwrite the validity (Gültigkeit) of any actual function, or of any real-causal series. Yet its goal is a comprehensive, holistic theory-making, which also has a valid (gültig) objective and causal reference to the actual operation of these functions, ’actors’, and causal series always leading to one whole causality – a successful theory has to integrate its object functionally, if we like, pragmatically too, which is in our case obviously of a holistic kind. In the case of globalization – staying at this topic already explicated to some extent – a multitude of functional and causal references operate and act; these make up the specific, holistic image of globalization.
From the point of theory-making, here emerges a problem and duty almost on the verge of a paradox. While namely, theory-making is from one side bound to an integrative reconstruction of the principal wholeness of positive functions, interactions, and causal series (as a theory is not being organized to overwrite positivity, to deprive it of all of its rights, but to define comprehensive directions of interpretation); in case of theoretical integration of globalization (or a knowledge society), such huge dimensions of functions, interactions, real-causal series in question is in actual acting position, that integrating them under one comprehensive measure is almost impossible. Even in this extremely complex situation, one can’t by any means choose the method of theory-making of a – now in a metaphoric sense – ’metaphysical’ kind (which would snap out of this situation by theoretically ordinating an actual or virtual operation, function or causal series above all the rest, and bringing all the other operations and functions – at all costs – into a subordinated position to the chosen one).
These are science-theoretical considerations which refer to theory-making concerning the issue of globalization (monetarism, etc.) as well as of knowledge society.
When grounding the theory of knowledge society, we have to set out from a differentiation of the terms of knowledge and information though sharp but by no meanst independent from the process of history. In the course of our train of thought, we have already acquainted this separation more than once, and of course, we still have to acquaint it more thoroughly later, from various aspects. Therefore, now we’re acquainting and analyzing a typology of knowledge society set up by us (in which typology of course, the defining separation of the meanings of knowledge and information plays a role already, in a way that a specified type of knowledge society can also play a role in a given situation, as a specified type of information society, accordingly to the fact, whether the contents of ’knowledge’ or ’information’ run through its system). We need this typology so we can place our theory among the rest of paradigms right away. Concerning the present state of reflection and science, this may have an important role at understanding our intentions.
At the acquaintance of theories about knowledge society, of course, we only emphasize most important features of each group, ones which make identification possible; a detailed analysis of each paradigm can’t be accomplished in this inquiry. According to this, we may distinguish following paradigms:
The thought of post-industrialism has not been bound exclusively to the theory of knowledge society from the beginning. In a broader and more undefined sense, the theory of industrial society and the theory of post-industrialism belonged to new fundamental theories rooting at the end of the 60’s, but more firmly, in the mid 70’s, which sensed the end of the ’re-build’ era which had started in 1945, after World War 2. In a closer sense (but still quite generally and still rather in a negative sense), the paradigm of post-industrialism focused right away on the decline of the specifically industrial society of the progress following 1945, which was percieved as a new era by all representatives of the post-industrial paradigm; it focused on its transformation taking place due to technological progress, international division of labour, and integration, energetical crisis or even international politics. A common characteristic of several different variants of the paradigm, which already points at the direction of knowledge society (before: information society) is the fact that they were all strongly sensitive to the significance of all forms of informatics, and they (of course, each of them in its own way) often preferred to see the subject-matter of post-industrialism – not once at the expense of a row of other significant factors – in phenomena of informatics, information, knowledge, or automatization, and terms like these, which were pointing into the direction of knowledge (and information) society from the beginning. We consider post-industrialism a great new theoretical chance, of which effects exceed even the frames of knowledge society – which are not tight at all, but quite extensive, large, and universal. It’s easy to justify that – not aspiring to entirety in this list – Bell’s, Naisbitt’s, Tofler’s, Stehr’s, or Castels’ concepts of knowledge society are all organic parts and at the same time conclusions of a theory of post-industrialism as well. By being sensitive to the change in character of production, post-industrialism is partly apt to express the new trend of history after 1945, and partly, in its defining respects it straightly intensifies history-philosophical dimensions, as production was to be considered a deep connection of the history of humanity and of Europe’s progress at modern age, an integrating category upon which the network of social life could be built.
2) The Paradigm of Global Communication
This paradigm regards communication – legitimately considered global – as its basic and defining starting point. It acts like this also in a sense that it considers the fact of global communication the only ’hard’ ingredient of the theory; it considers every other measure (thus also structures and functions of knowledge society) being built upon it trivial, tautological, and self-evident, which don’t need any further theoretical examination. Thus we may have the opportunity to describe knowledge society’s universal paradigm of communication as ’e-paradigm’ – namely, e-prefixes multiplying in a rush in common language, follow exactly the same paradigm, inasmuch as they consider one way and view of universal communication a basic fact, and simply build the problem-cycle of knowledge society upon it. Thus, following the trace of the e-paradigm, the newest variant of a not any more articulated paradigm of universal communication is Internet-based global communication, upon which all defining characteristics of this paradigm are being built exactly. According to the author’s views about theory-making, such a partaking of common language in christallizing a paradigm is not an extraordinary phenomenon at all; among great types of theory-making, so-called ’spontaneous’ theory-making occupies an unshakeable position, where there is no author or basic writing, but social discussion and communication fixes the outlines of a new paradigm which also acquires objective validity for the theory later on. Up to these days, an unexceedably exact type of this way of theory-making is Socio-Darwinism.
3)The Paradigm of Social Organization
The following paradigm of knowledge society might be equivalent to the paradigm of information society, with slight changes. If the opportunities provided by informatics are being adapted to usual organization, or re-organization of society, and in networks which are to be developed this way, or in communication, the knowledge element already dominates instead of the information element, this paradigm immediately comes into action. In this reference, this close relation of the information – and the knowledge element is not a coincidence at all, as society-organizing information systems, which might be regarded as channels of an operating knowledge society, were created mainly by strong and progressively-thinking nation states in their plans, and sometimes even in actual fact. If we think of e.g. the communicational network of the international co-operation organizing internet address lists and distributing addresses, at the same time, new dimensions of knowledge society may become apparent to us.
4) The Paradigm of Social Capital
This is the paradigm of interpreting knowledge society, where the author may classify the efforts of his own and his colleagues most of all. This paradigm means a clear commitment to the separation of the terms of information and knowledge, moreover, it’s able to see its own heuristic bases in a specific interpretation of this separation. It sets out from the fact that it’s one defining speciality of the form of the social being of information (later, we’re going to touch upon more than one attempt for its definition) that social use of information has its preliminary conditions in a preliminary distribution of social capital. Therefore, even the informatic revolution of information society is inapt to radical, dimension-altering transformations going back to its roots, as even informatic revolution is unable to alter the fact that abilities to actually use each information are depending on preliminary conditions. But this is not the case about knowledge. Knowledge is a continuity of information, possessing specific signs of organization; a transfer of knowledge through informatic networks is capable of dimension-altering transformations. The access to the continuity of knowledge is not at all depending on preliminary connections of the distribution of social capital as much as in the case of information. Knowledge has the form and quality of capital, yet social expenses of its access reduce radically amid connections of information society, so much that a certain level and magnitude of streaming knowledge on a network even makes the use of the term knowledge society legitimate. This paradigm of knowledge society is based on an adaptable and up-to-date idea of social capital, according to the connections of these days.
5) The Paradigm of Positive Utopia
From the point of theory-making reflection, the paradigm of a positive human utopia also belongs to ’spontaneous’ theories; it has no real basic works, nor relevant authors worth mentioning. But before we might attribute way too abstract, confusingly, or maybe unrationably self-organizing abilities to social discussion and common thinking, we may keep in mind, in what a torrent the paradigm of knowledge – (and before that, information) appeared in front of international publicity, in the world of the media, as a revolution of information, a revolutionary transformation of productive activity; the inner transformation of production in this media-made and mediated reality appeared positively as a revolutionary skip; the switch in the roles of brain and hands also appeared in front of publicity as an actualized utopia, in innumerable cases. The qualitative increase in the speed of streaming and distribution of information occured almost as an apoteosis of the human utopia of creativity; homo informaticus (who only has one flaw: if he doesn’t attend high-level P.E. classes, his back will get bent) appeared as an embodiment of science fiction heroes. We could go on listing examples without an end. The revolution of information (regardless of the fact whether the measure of information or of knowledge was more emphasized) appeared in front of publicity as a sheer and elemental positive utopia, moreover, as an actualized positive utopia – knowledge society was shining as a new smith of a new mankind – thus, so-called spontaneous theory-making is not so much of a result of rationally incomprehensible components after all. Portraying information revolution as a positive human utopia is not to be objected on its own, yet it’s not recommended to regard it as a product of a real analysis. It takes a next (in fact, socio-ontologically motivated) step for a spontaneous paradigm christallizing this way to self-evidently switch to a perfect apology of post-industrial state in the blink of an eye. We would stand up against this apology not only because of a motivation by general considerations, but also because motivated by such ideas, we don’t get any closer to the the social capital – paradigm of knowledge society, but we get further from it.
6) The Paradigm of Negative Utopia
Concerning basic types of theory-making, this variant of interpretation, that may also be called Orwell-Paradigm is also a result of spontaneous theory-making, and in a mirror-reverse manner it also reminds at the positive human utopia paradigm, in a way that it’s not so much of a result of spontaneous social communication, but of a mediated publicity (not considered manipulated).
As the perception of the media gets from information revolution and its position occupied in the transition into the world of post-industrialism, to a new human of a complete positive utopia, the same way, from the same material does this same medial communication reconstruct the outlines of a negative utopia of Orwell’s world. According to this, information society arrives to a sound version of equally negative utopias of police-state and of chaos changing each other. But negative utopia has more partial, more scientic, more relative versions. Thus, an excellent example for this tendency, for more moderately negative utopic paradigm-variants of information-based knowledge – or post-industrial society is the concept of this society’s increasing ungovernability. In this moderately negative utopic paradigm, an often successful strategy of the intellectuals of social sciences played quite a significant role, in the form of presenting some important issues of general interest, which were to be researched, as ’crisis’ – phenomena.
7) The Paradigm of Mediatized Virtuality – Virtual Mediatization
The next great paradigm of knowledge society is the frame of interpretation of mediatized virtuality or virtual mediatization, of which basic concept is that information revolution brings a second, a virtual reality into being, one relying on medial bases, one which also acquires a quasi-ontological status, moreover, as an alternative of a second reality, if we like, it’s an essential manifestation of the ’first’ reality. So, this paradigm acquires a quasi-ontological dimension; it embodies a new reality, a reality ’deeper’, more essential than the original one. The paradigm of medial virtuality belongs more intensely to the sphere of knowledge than to the sphere of information, as virtuality is of a kind of continuity as well; the ’knowledge’ of virtuality is knowledge too, even if it’s new knowledge, of course.
8) The Paradigm of Knowledge-Based Production
An outstanding type of overall theoretical paradigms of knowledge society is the paradigm of knowledge-based production. This type is bound to the post-industrial paradigm by a close logical relationship. As the end of industrial society was reflected in it in a negative way, here a new, now positive version of the relationship between knowledge and production is being formulated; in the duality of the proportion of knowledge operating in production as ’head’, and of the productive ’body’, operating in a spatially and temporally global distance from it. Knowledge-based production as a paradigm is one of the most important outcomes of knowledge society, and one of the most exciting phenomena of the new global structure of the world. The medium-level of the global world is being significantly enriched by the phenomenon of knowledge-based production and chances hiding in it, while center and periphery might acquire even more exclusive significance from the aspect of catching up with the most developed regions of globalization.
9) The Paradigm of Global Governing
It’s clear that in the closest sense, these days this paradigm is yet present only virtually, but it’s easy to see that its conditions concerning technology and attitude are more than evolved. A paradox of a historical dimension is ahead of us. We can closely examine it, whether political will, global consensus-makers can actualize a political and administrative structure which could have been created only by information revolution, and which could carry information – and knowledge society at the same time, outside its function.
Some characteristics of these paradigms shall play a role in our train of thought later on. Therefore, now again, we would refer to a measure essential from the aspect of reflection, that even in our theory based on the difference, moreover opposition of knowledge and information, there’s no Chinese Wall between knowledge and information. This supposed inconsistence has its essential and decisive objective reasons. While namely, revolutionarily new dimensions and specialities of knowledge society are being based upon characteristics of knowledge that differ from those of information, and social references following from this, knowledge and information can both run through the same networks that carry information revolution. All this might be fairly presented by the eight basic paradigms of knowledge society acquainted above, among which we may find not one which may transform from a qualified paradigm of knowledge society to a qualified paradigm of information society, exactly by a modification whether we put carrying of knowledge or of information into the center in a given reference. For example, if information flows through the channels of communicational globalization, it’s a part of information society; if a unit or portion of knowledge flows through them, it’s a qualified paradigm of knowledge society. There’s nothing unexpected about this in a sense that such easy transitions and specially open connections belong to special patterns of action of globalization, and knowledge-, as well as of information society, which are also to be examined theoretically.
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