Market Square

The Knowledge Society

In an early formulation, Nico Stehr details nine key characteristics of what he terms the ‘knowledge society’. Stehr adopts this term in preference to ‘post-industrial’ society because, he argues, industry and manufacturing will always be with us even if they are no longer the dynamic drivers of growth and innovation that they once were.

Accordingly, Stehr argues that “… the advance of science into the life-world and economic production may be described in various terms:

  1. As the penetration of most sphere of social action, including production, by scientific knowledge (‘scientization’);
  2. As the displacement, although by not means the elimination, of other forms of knowledge by scientific knowledge, mediated by the growing [11] stratum of and dependence on experts, advisers and counsellors, and the corresponding institutions based on the deployment of specialised knowledge;
  3. As the emergence of science as an immediately productive force;
  4. As the differentiation of new forms of political action (e.g. science and educational policy);
  5. As the development of a new sector of production (the production of knowledge);
  6. As the change of power structures (technocracy debate);
  7. As the emergence of knowledge as the basis for social inequality and social solidarity;
  8. As the trend to base authority on expertise;
  9. As the shift in the nature of societal conflict from struggles about the allocation of income and divisions of property relations to claims and conflicts about generalised human needs.”




Stehr, Nico Knowledge Societies (London: Sage Publications, 1994) ch. 1.