, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 399–405 | Cite as

Michael Polanyi and the politics of science studies

Mary Jo Nye: Michael Polanyi and his generation: Origins of the social construction of science. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2011, 428pp, $45.00 HB, $30.00 PB
  • Charles Thorpe
Essay Review

Tacit knowledge is today a key concept in history and sociology of science and, primarily because of the significance of this concept, Michael Polanyi is regarded, alongside other figures such as Ludwig Fleck, Karl Mannheim, Robert K. Merton, and Thomas Kuhn as a forerunner of contemporary social studies of science. And yet, Polanyi’s major book, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (1958), with its invocation of St. Augustine’s idea of knowledge as a “gift of grace,” its Christian existentialism, its conservative moralism, and its often tortuously complex style of reasoning is much less accessible and amenable to increasingly specialized academics than Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Much of Personal Knowledge seems tangential to today’s social studies of science: for example, its moralistic anti-Communism and teleological conception of the evolution of human intelligence as the “awakening of the world” (Polanyi 1962: 405). A view of Polanyi as...


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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