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    Expert Knowledge in the Social Sciences

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    Although access to knowledge has increased over the past 40-50 years, our ability to make choices and take significant decisions had decreased.

    How has expert knowledge changed? & Who are the experts who can now guide us in our choices and decisions? Consider the usefulness of one or more of these theories "knowledge society, consumer society and the risk society.

    Discuss with reference to medical knowledge.

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    Solution Preview

    Dear Student,
    Recently I created a solution re:risk society & I adapted it into your solution. I believe that it is very important for you to take on what risk society means so that you can place it when understanding what knowledge in the social sciences is about. Good luck!

    OTA 105878

    Knowledge & the Social Sciences

    Smith (2004) in his book 'Social Science in Question' urges us to think of knowledge as a social construction rather than something given in order for us to put that particular knowledge in context --- identifying the institutions & textual conditions where it makes sense. Knowledge in the social sciences is a social construct, a creation of valued meaning by experience, learning & observation. Knowledge therefore is a social product & is situated in its social history & in time. How we make sense of knowledge is largely based on the theoretical approaches we use to make sense of it and when we try to arrive at new discoveries or interpretations of a social phenomenon. Here, knowledge systems & theoretical systems come into play. Understand that what we know of reality and of the world is our 'interpretation' of what is right before our very eyes. We construct these interpretation based on the knowledge we are taught. In the Academia for instance, knowledge is taken forward by revolutionary thinking. This revolutionary thinking however is based on the body of knowledge that is already established by generations of academicians without which new discoveries or an area of development is impossible.
    Let us take for instance Stephen Hawking & Einstein's Physics. They built upon the initial work of Michael Faraday on Cathode Rays & the 'black body'. Max Planck built on Faraday's work to explain the way light behaves in his work on photoelectric effect furthered later on in 1926 by Albert Einstein when he postulated that light itself consists of individual 'quanta' or photons. Einstein however saw the lack of deterministic qualities of quantum mechanics as problematic as it did not explain particular behaviour of the objects of his study. His discontent at the possibilities of quantum mechanics lead him to postulate the Study of Relativity & the now groundbreaking equation E=MC2. All these though would not have been possible had Sir Isaac Newton not established the equation for gravity which became important in the foundations of linear physics.
    In the creation of knowledge even in the Natural Sciences, universal theories or scientific laws while applicable 'universally' is only applicable based on certain conditions in which expected behaviour based on the tenets of the law falls through. For instance, Newton's equation on gravity, levity & speed is universal on Earth but not in Space or on the surface of the moon. While Natural Scientists & scientific breakthroughs in medicine on earth move on to better understanding of our planet's physical world, it is situated within our realm and only according to the capacity of that knowledge used to understand the world to explore the possibilities. What happens when knowledge cannot explain reality anymore? According to Thomas Kuhn, we undergo a gestalt or paradigm shift. There are many interpretations of paradigms - they could be a particular school of thought, an explanation by which we will base knowledge shift & development. Expert systems according to British Sociologist Anthony Giddens have come a long way since the age of Industrialization. Increasingly, our globalized world has become dependent on the 'mechanization' of particular aspects of running our lives that at times we take for granted the complicated manner by which expert systems like governments, Schools, the Internet, Aeronautics & medical science work because ours is a society in which expert systems are part of the fabric of. This according to Giddens is not a bad thing.
    Now, let's go back to Kuhn's paradigm shift. Understand that a body of knowledge based on a particular ...

    Solution Summary

    The solution discusses various viewpoints in the development of expert knowledge as well as various schools of thought that have emerged in the Social Sciences through the years. It takes into account various sources written by expert social scientists & theories that looks into and answers the questions - 'What is Expert Knowledge?', 'Why is expert Knowledge significant to society?', 'Who are these so-called 'experts' that by virtue of their knowledge can 'guide' society in making a better society?'

    While the focus of expert knowledge is in the field of social sciences and brings about theories by Giddens, Beck and provides a 'historic look' at the development of scientific knowledge, it also refers to medical knowledge and answers what 'Risk Society' means from a sociological viewpoint.