8a / PROFESSIONS, EXPERTISE AND THE KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY

2 – 6 May 2011        Send to printer


Conference organizers

Nico Stehr, Zeppelin University, Germany
Thomas Brante, Lund University, Sweden
Helmut Willke, Zeppelin University, Germany


Conference description:

“The professions have never been more important to the well-being of society. Professional knowledge and expertise are at the core of contemporary society. How such professional expertise is developed, how it is deployed, by whom it is deployed and for what ends are among the most pressing issues facing all modern nations” (Sullivan).

The “knowledge society” has evolved the increasing amount of new ideas and rapid changes in science, technology, organization, economy and culture. It is promoted by a particular social stratum or ‘complex’ (Parsons) of scientists and professionals, whose task is to develop and take responsibility for new knowledge. This stratum now comprises 20% of the workforce in most industrialized countries. The professionals have key positions in promoting discovery, innovation and development, and in the distribution and implementation of knowledge; the practitioners of expertise are the agents and carriers of knowledge society. Hence, it is not possible to understand modern social development without understanding the functions and driving forces behind this stratum of professions and experts.

This conference seeks to explore the contemporary knowledge strata. In doing so, we take up several themes. First, we focus on the relationships between new modes of governance and the development of new expertise and knowledge groups. Modern knowledge-driven societies require innovations to make technological and organizational systems more effective in regional and global competition. How are newer professions and scientists able to adjust to or influence these new kinds of demands? A second theme pertains to the new forms of governance of professionals and scientific groups, in which layers of organizational experts – ‘the Administration’- are separated off from occupational professionals and act as mediators between policy makers, economic stake-holders, and professional practitioners. This theme highlights both the advantages (more effective, more instrumental, practice?) and disadvantages (new dilemmas and ambivalences in the professional fields?) of scientific-professional practice. A third theme concerns the role of the knowledge stratum in ensuring or undermining social stability. The point of departure here is the oft-cited contradiction between expert elites and democratic governance. This theme reassesses this conventional wisdom: Are there forms of organization that can transcend the contradiction between elite expertise and the needs of democracy? A fourth theme concerns relationships between science, expert knowledge and professional practice, and the internal relations within the complex of knowledge practitioners. Professional practice can be understood the application of science within specific fields (health, law, technology, etc) where field is understood in the broader sense of Bourdieu. How has the development of new professions, generated by the enormous expansion of university programs and rapid technological developments, affected the professional complex in a broader sense? Can we still talk about professionals as a specific social stratum, or should we rather focus on discerning fragmented, stratified layers within the stratum of experts and professions?

The conference is open to social scientists, STS-scholars, and philosophers of science interested in the topic. There will be specially invited keynote speakers who will highlight the themes outlined above. The conference is also a graduate course, that is, students are welcome to participate and can present their own research. Actively participating students will qualify to receive ECTS points, transferrable to their own universities.

Speakers:

Marian Adolf, Zeppelin University, Germany

Thomas Brante, Lund University, Sweden

Christine Holst, University of Oslo, Norway

Eva Johnsson, Lund University, Sweden

Anders Molander, Oslo University, Norway

Gunnar Olofsson, Linnaeus University, Sweden

Karin Anna Petersen, University of Bergen, Norway

Ole Sending, University of Oslo, Norway

Lennart Svensson, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Nico Stehr, Zeppelin University, Germany

Helmut Willke, Zeppelin Unibersity. Germany


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