The Professional Quest for Truth

A Social Theory of Science and Knowledge

By Stephan Fuchs

Subjects: Social Institutions
Series: SUNY series in Science, Technology, and Society
Paperback : 9780791409244, 272 pages, July 1992
Hardcover : 9780791409237, 272 pages, July 1992

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Table of contents

List of Figures


by Randall Collins

Chapter 1: Toward a Theory of Scientific Organizations

Chapter 2: The New Sociology of Science: Philosophical and Sociological Backgrounds

Epistemological Critique

The Issues of Relativism and Reflexivity

The Strong Program: Entering the Black Box of Scientific Rationality

Chapter 3: Microsocial Studies of Science: The Empirical Evidence


Controversies and Closures


Textual Agents

Nontextual Agents



Chapter 4: How Social are Social Studies of Science

The Idiosyncratic Nature of Scientific Production

The Social Dynamics of Fact Production

Mundane and Scientific Knowledge

Controversies as Normal Accidents

Chapter 5: The Technological Paradigm in Organizational Theory

Woodward's Structural Types of Technology and Organization

Perrow's Early Comparative Framework for Organization Analysis

Thompson's Technological Interdependence Types

Perrow's Later Comparative Framework for Organization Analysis

Lawrence and Lorsch's Environmental Model of Organizational Structure

Control Theory

Current Debates in Organizational Theory

Chapter 6: Some Comparative Observations on Science and the Professions

Task Uncertainty and Stratification

Mutual Dependence and Professional Workstyles

Science and Art: An Organizational Comparison

Organizational Control in Modern Literature

The Postmodern Equation of Science and Literature

Chapter 7: A Theory of Scientific Production

Resource Concentration

Reputational Autonomy

Mutual Dependence, Heterogeneity, and Coordination Problems

Size, Competition, and Change





Task Uncertainty

Bureaucratization of Control

Chapter 8: Hermeneutics as Deprofessionalization

The Interpretive Paradigm in Sociology

The Paradox of Interpretive Methodology

Hermeneutics as Organizational Structure



Name Index

Subject Index (Compiled by John Herrmann)


This book argues that the power of science as the most respected and authoritative world view is based on its superior material and organizational resources, not on its superior rationality. Fuchs approaches science as a social construct, and utilizing a theory of scientific organizations, he analyzes knowledge production in scientific fields—how they differ in their resources and how these differences affect how science is conducted. The book explains why certain fields produce science and facts, while others engage in hermeneutics and conversation; why certain specialities change through cumulation rather than fragmentation; and why some fields are relativistic while others are positivist in their self-understanding. This general theory of knowledge is applicable not only to science, but to all varieties of professional groups engaged in knowledge production.

Stephan Fuchs is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire, Durham.


"Fuchs shows how scientific activity, revealed in micro-detail, is embedded in particular kinds of organizational contexts; that the research methods and social structures of interaction in scientific communities affect the degree of uncertainty of scientists' activities; and the kind of discourse they engage in.

"Fuchs ends up with both a general theory of the determinants of scientific production, and with a challenge to the current factions in the sociology of ideas and sociology of culture generally." — Randall Collins, University of California, Riverside.