Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1996
In the late stages of contemporary society the so-called moral sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) have but a fluctuating market value; they have to try, as best as they possibly can, to follow the more fortunate natural sciences whose practical value is beyond question. (Max Horkheimer, 1937: pp. 247-8)
2 To cite just one characteristic example for such propriety, Emile Durkheim (1978: p. 44) cautions that a young science should not be overly ambitious, 'and it enjoys greater credibility among scientific minds when it presents itself with greater modesty'. Durkheim's note of caution is, of course, a qualified appeal because he restricts the need for modesty to the early stages of the development of social science. As a result, Durkheim advances a somewhat comforting view which, in the meantime, is widely shared among contemporary social scientists.
3 In a concise and insightful appendix to their study, Scott and Shore discern the major distinguishing features of knowledge for action and of knowledge for under- standing based on the different intellectual and organizational contingencies of the world of action and scholarship. As a matter of fact, this discussion of the different forms of knowledge constitutes, I believe, perhaps the most useful part of the entire book. It is here that Scott and Shore, for example, point out that 'to the policy-maker, increased knowledge may actually confuse the issue' (1979: p. 225) but also that the very genesis, nature and function of knowledge in, and for, the social science community invariably differs from the kind of knowledge functional in, and for, public policy, at least as praticed in contemporary institutions of public life in modern society.
4 For the social scientist, Schelsky promises 'one of the most exciting intellectual and social developments of the coming decades, perhaps the coming century, will be how these doctrines of salvation and their needs for power will attempt to become dominant in advanced industrial society, how they will, in a cancerous manner, attempt to subvert and to destroy the existing rational institutions of modern society.' (p. 76)
5 For the purposes of this review essay, we will not focus on Schelsky's lengthy and polemical attempt to theoretically and empirically justify his idea that we are indeed witnessing the emergence of a new class made up of meaning-producers and legitimators; and that it is engaged in a class struggle with those employed in the production of commodities in industrial society. Suffice to say that Schelsky argues that all of the essential characteristics of the traditional conception of class apply to the social formation of the Reflexionselite.
6 The term Herrschaftswissen, perhaps first introduced to sociology and explicated in some detail by Scheler (1960: pp. 60-9), is, of course, similar in its general meaning to the notion of knowledge generated by what Jurgen Habermas (1971: p. 308) has called a technical cognitive interest.
7 It follows that the frequently deplored cognitive diversity of contemporary sociology is, from the point of view that Schelsky advances, rather immaterial. The disputes and debates within the discipline resemble that as a kind of religious warfare. Yet what unites sociologists, despite these internal intellectual conflicts, is their general de-emphasis of the individual and the stress it instead places on the collectivity and the influece of the collective formations on individuals.
FURNER, Mary O.(1975) Advocacy and Objectivity: A Crises in the Professionalization of American Social Science, 1865- 1905. Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press.
HABERMAS, Jurgen (1971) Knowledge and Human Interest. Boston: Beacon.
HORKHEIMER, Max (1937) 'Traditionelle und kritische Theorie', Zeitschrift fuer Sozialforschung, vol. 6, pp. 247-248. [Author's translation; the translation found in Max Horkheimer, Critical Theory (New York: Seabury Press, l972, p. 191) is inaccurate].
HOROWITZ, Irving L. (1995) 'Searching for enemies', Society, vol. 33, p. 42.
SCHELER, Max (1960)  Die Wissensformen und die Gesellschaft. Bern: Francke.
SCHELSKY, Helmut (1975) Die Arbeit tun die anderen. Klassenkampf und Priesterherrschaft der Intellektuellen, Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.
SCOTT, Robert A. and SHORE, Arnold R. (1979) Why Sociology Does Not Apply: A Study of the Use of Sociology in Public Policy. New York: Elsevier.