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Usable Social Science$
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Neil J. Smelser and Bob Adamson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780520273566

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520273566.001.0001

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The Production of Knowledge in the Social Sciences

The Production of Knowledge in the Social Sciences

(p.315) 10 The Production of Knowledge in the Social Sciences
Usable Social Science

Neil J. Smelser

John S. Reed

University of California Press

This final chapter is an “answer” to chapter 9 in that it examines social-science providers with an eye to locating influences on the usability of the knowledge produced. Academic institutions, mainly universities, sometimes stress usability, but pursue other goals as well—the approximation of scientific theory and methods, which are not always usable in other contexts; the attainment of personal career; and the pursuit of increasingly specialized and fragmented subfields, with the result that knowledge can become correspondingly arcane. Academics often compete with each other, and departments and disciplines become correspondingly status-ridden and prone to sectarian conflict. The authors specify numerous levels of knowledge that can inform actors’ orientations and decisions fruitfully. Finally, they assess the roles and limitations of knowledge produced by independent experts and extra-academic institutions such as think tanks, commercial consulting firms, and learned societies.

Keywords:   academic disciplines, academic competition, academic sectarianism, commercial consultant firms, diversity of usable knowledge, expert consultation, learned societies

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