The Structures of Knowledge and Crisis of the Modern World-System
Economic changes and political changes which emerged with the modern capitalist world-economy were accompanied in the sociocultural domain by changes in the structures of knowledge. These included the hierarchical separation of the realm of facts from that of values, institutionalized as a division between the sciences and the humanities. The social sciences responded to contradictions inherent in this structure over the nineteenth century in producing knowledge on which policy decisions could be based.
The problems of the contemporary period indicate we are in a long-term, structural crisis. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches through which social analysts and observers alike seek to understand the world. Since the 1960s, developments in the field of knowledge, especially two movements—complexity studies in the natural sciences and cultural studies in the humanities—have contested the naturalized, essentialist boundaries separating the sciences, the social sciences and the humanities.
The primary rationale for this work is to recognize the inseparable whole composed of the material structures of the world and the structures of knowledge that govern what actions may be deemed legitimate and effective. Knowledge Matters discusses what actions will actually be undertaken by social agents, and what such an approach means for an analysis of the present situation in terms of imagining and evaluating possible futures.