Knowledge is power

Reading some more Michael W. Apple this morning in The Sociology of Education (edited by Stephen J. Ball), I came across this particularly pithy John Fiske quote, from Reading the Popular (Boston: Allen and Unwin):

Knowledge is never neutral, it never exists in an empiricist, objective relationship to the real. Knowledge is power, and the circulation of knowledge is part of the social distribution of power. The discursive power to construct a common-sense reality that can be inserted into cultural and political life is central in the social relationship of power. The power of knowledge has to struggle to exert itself in two dimensions. The first is to control the “real”, to reduce reality to the knowable, which entails producing it as a discursive construct whose arbitrariness and inadequacy are disguised as far as possible. The second struggle is to have this discursively (and therefore sociopolitically) constructed reality accepted as truth by those whose interests may not necessarily by served by accepting it. Discursive power involves a struggle both to construct (a sense of) reality and to circulate that reality as widely and smoothly as possible throughout society. (1987, Boston: Allen and Unwin, pp. 149-150)

That’s why we need to be careful about what we and other people say about, for example, education and the workforce, or learning to code: these discourses reflect and contribute to a sociopolitical ‘struggle’ over education (and our world more broadly), its purposes, practices and outcomes. Do we want to participate in the construction of a particular ‘reality’ or resist it?

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