On The Autonomy of Pure Science: The Construction and Maintenance of Barriers between Scientific Establishments and Popular Culture

  • R. G. A. Dolby
Part of the Sociology of the Sciences a Yearbook book series (SOSC, volume 6)


Modern science has grown into a large-scale and complex activity. In an age of increasing bureaucracy and specialization, the knowledge construction industry is also bureaucratized and segmented. The intellectual divisions within science and between science and comparable activities, now hallowed by tradition, have become locked into the institutions of science, to be exploited by the relevant interest groups. Cognitive boundaries have thus been turned into social barriers. When these barriers were being built up, they could be justified in terms of a convergence of the cognitive requirements of efficient knowledge production and the social advantage they conferred upon insiders. The arguments can conveniently be encapsulated in terms of the notion of expertise. In pure science, the more expert an individual is on a topic, the more he can be trusted as an authority. Expertise is acquired through specialist training, association with other experts and by making recognized contributions to knowledge relevant to the topic in question. The institutionalization of knowledge advancement particularly involves organizing the activity of individuals high in hierarchies of expertise. Any contribution to knowledge is ideally directed to those who can best appreciate it, that is, to those who are most expert. And contributions from those who are most expert are the most readily appreciated.


Scientific Establishment Popular Culture Biological Theory Popular Science Pure Science 
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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. G. A. Dolby
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Kent at CanterburyUK

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