A “Satisfying” Theory of Social Knowledge

  • Raymond Boudon
Conference paper


Although we live no more in a era of strong ideologies, we observe currently a host of local ideologies. I mean that on all kinds of subjects we observe that people believe in false, fragile and sometimes socially and politically dangerous ideas. Some examples can be drawn from the French scene. Some decades ago, educational equality was a big subject. Sociologists noted that selection procedures were not socially neutral. Those better in mathematics were also from a higher social origin. They then came to the theory that in order to become socially neutral mathematics should be taught in the most abstract fashion, along the lines developed by the Bourbaki group. A sociologist convinced a mathematician; the two convinced enlightened political men. A catastrophe resulted. The parents were unable to help the children. As the help of intuition was eliminated from the so-called “new mathematics”, they were perceived as harder than before. The only outcome was a general decrease of the level of pupils in mathematics. Why did people believe in such a theory? Why do people believe that restricting the weekly official time of labor to 35 hours as it was decided recently by a law voted by the French parliament should decrease unemployment? Why were methadone programs adopted in France much later than in Switzerland or the Netherlands with the effect that Aids developed more rapidly? Why does the neo marxist view appears again that the market is the source of all evils, that the rates of interests are an instrument of social domination?


Social Knowledge Strong Reason Union Leader Methadone Program Political Decision Maker 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raymond Boudon
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut des Sciences Humaines AppliquésUniversité de Paris “Sorbonne”Paris(F)

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