Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Knowledge, Experience, and Ruling

Knowledge, Experience, and Ruling: Studies in the Social Organization of Knowledge

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 288
  • Book Info
    Knowledge, Experience, and Ruling
    Book Description:

    This tribute to Smith's empowering contribution as a thinker and teacher reveals how empirical studies can illuminate concepts usually presented in the abstract. As the first compilation of applications of Smith's methodology, this is a landmark work in the developing field of the social organization of knowledge.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5750-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    James Louis Heap

    The essays collected here are a tribute to the power, influence, value, and wisdom of the work of Dorothy E. Smith: scholar, activist, friend, and guide.

    When I arrived on the campus of the University of British Columbia in 1969 I heard from my fellow students that I ought to take at least one course from Dorothy Smith. I did. Three times. The course was titled ‘Interpretive Procedures,’ and it introduced us to Max Weber, Alfred Schutz, Harold Garfinkel, and Dorothy Smith. Some of us taped and transcribed seminars, relistened to the tapes, reread the transcripts, all with the (always...

  4. Contributors
    (pp. xvii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-17)

    One spring evening in 1977, at the University of British Columbia, about a hundred women sat around on the carpeted floor of the art gallery in the Student Union Building. It was International Women’s Week. The women were gathered from the new and struggling Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies Program at UBC, from community-based women’s groups striving to build a broad, independent women’s movement, and from a variety of left-wing political formations where women were only beginning to make their voices heard. The occasion was a public lecture by Professor Dorothy Smith entitled ‘Feminism and Marxism’ and eventually published with the subtitle...

  6. Accessing Treatments: Managing the AIDS Epidemic in Ontario
    (pp. 18-34)

    For more than a decade I have been involved as a political activist working with individuals who stand outside ruling regimes that seek to manage society. From this outsider location, it is not possible to comprehend how that management works. The administrative apparatus remains opaque. This is a serious handicap for people who would change how their world is informed, ordered, and governed. I have been active in the gay rights movement in Toronto for some time and, recently, involved with AIDS ACTION NOW! (AAN!), a community-based, political-action group, concerned to improve access to treatment for people who are either...

  7. Multiculturalism as Ideology: A Textual Analysis
    (pp. 35-48)

    Since the 1970s multiculturalism has become a fact of life in Canadian society. Debates around multiculturalism range from the liberal perspective that the federal policy of multiculturalism is inadequate to address Canadian diversity, to the ultra-conservative perspective (such as that held by the Reform Party of Canada) that the policy has disrupted Canadian unity. Much scholarly literature on the subject is devoted to a critique or reconceptualization of the policy.² For all intents and purposes, multiculturalism is a taken-for-granted social fact; that it was invented out of the bureaucratic and ruling relations of Canadian society has been eclipsed.

    This essay...

  8. Beyond the Ruling Category to What Actually Happens: Notes on James Mill’s Historiography in The History of British India
    (pp. 49-64)

    The concept of tradition is always with us, even though, and perhaps because, we live in North America or Europe, coded as the West. Associated with certain parts of the world, their peoples and cultures, characterizing them as ‘others’ not ‘us,’ tradition and its conceptual satellites appear in an automatic gesture of comprehending and creating difference. Tradition serves as an interpretive and constructive device, providing a discursive staple for newspapers and television, scholarly texts, feminism and fashion magazines, development policies, and UN sanctioned bombing of Iraq. Sections of the world, variously called ‘the East,’ ‘the South,’ or ‘the third world,’...

  9. Violence and the Relations of Ruling: Lessons from the Battered Women’s Movement
    (pp. 65-79)

    In Vancouver in the late 1970s I worked on a multi-agency task force aimed at providing information, coordinating services, and pressuring government to recognize and respond to the emerging problem of ‘family violence.’ On this task force, as elsewhere, women’s movement groups working with battered women often found themselves in opposition to the generalized approach to ‘family violence’ put forward by professionals from institutions and agencies. As the issue was made more visible by community level organizing all over the country, feminists within the federal government organized a national consultation of women’s groups working in the area of wife battering...

  10. The Textual Practices of Sexual Rule: Sexual Policing and Gay Men
    (pp. 80-95)

    To construct the standpoint taken up in this essay I begin with a few experiences by gay men of official discourse and regulation in Canadian history that will be returned to later. When Axel Otto Olson, a gay man, gave testimony to the Royal Commission on Criminal Sexual Psychopaths in 1956 about his experiences of blackmail and police harassment, he was consistently interrupted and reference to his testimony was left out of the commission’s report. In 1966 Everett Klippert, who had been convicted of a series of charges of ‘gross indecency’ for sex with other males, was ‘stunned’ when he...

  11. Beginning in the Standpoint of Women: An Investigation of the Gap between Cholas and ‘Women in Peru’
    (pp. 96-107)

    This essay¹ demonstrates the distinctive shift in feminist sociology from a focus on women as a research topic to a methodology which begins where women are socially located and explores how their worlds come into being for them. The standpoint of women centres an inquiry in the lives of actual women and moves out from there to the forces which shape women’s experiences and consciousness, yet spiral beyond any one moment in their lives. As developed by Dorothy Smith, it is a powerful methodological tool with which to investigate the extended relations of gender, race, and class as they converge...

  12. Mothering, Schooling, and Children’s Development
    (pp. 108-121)

    When my children were in school, I was often called to meet with their teachers. Sometimes I asked about their reading or printing. Other times I was asked if I read to my children at night, if they were given responsibility for household chores, if they watched too much television. Usually, the answer was yes, even though the definition of ‘too much’ was unexplored. Sometimes I understood the relationship between the teachers’ questions or my questions and my children’s progression through schooling. Other times, I resented the intrusion and wondered what their questions had to do with caring for my...

  13. Corporate Wives: Gendered Education of Their Children
    (pp. 122-134)

    Japanese major corporations recruit young people fresh from universities as future managerial and professional staff, but do so in a distinctive manner. These recruits must follow a standard Japanese educational patternculminating in a degree from a ‘good’ Japanese university. Without this very specific educational basis, there is little chance of entering the labour force with a good corporate job. This presents a serious problem for children of corporate employees who live and work abroad. Many studies indicate that one of the major causes of the increased reluctance towards overseas assignment among corporate employees is the education of their children...

  14. What’s Health Got to Do with It? Class, Gender, and Teachers’ Work
    (pp. 135-148)

    The formal role of schools is to foster the social and intellectual development of children. Its formal curriculum comprises a range of subject areas, including health. However, although schools are mandated toteachhealth, on the surface at least they are not organizationally warranted or structured todohealth. The official elementary school curriculum is not meant to address tired children, undernourished children, children with abscessed teeth, children with colds or chapped hands, or children living under conditions of stress caused by poverty and deprivation. Yet the real life of teaching young childrenisabout such matters. In the course...

  15. Compulsory Heterosexuality: Schools and Lesbian Students
    (pp. 149-163)

    This essay sketches schooling processes that shape the problems faced by lesbian adolescents within the Ontario school system. In describing the experiences of these lesbian adolescents, the essay provides an analysis of the social relations of schooling which shape and determine these experiences. What everyday activities in schools shape a young lesbian’s experiences of gaining cognizance of her sexual orientation, of coming out, of marginalization and vulnerability, of even contemplating suicide?² Given current debates about the quality of education, what can be said of how the quality of life in schools is structured for young lesbians?

    In 1990 I interviewed...

  16. ‘These Things Just Happen’: Talk, Text, and Curriculum Reform
    (pp. 164-180)

    This essay is about the deep malaise affecting teachers in the educational reforms of the past two decades. It focuses in particular on the introduction of competency-based curriculum which has been widely billed as a means to make educational goals more explicit, instructional methods more effective, and educational institutions more accountable. These measures have been embraced by enthusiastic reformers across the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. But wherever they appear, they have been at the centre of conflict.²

    The details of my story come from a competency-based reform process in the community colleges of British Columbia in the...

  17. Activating the Photographic Text
    (pp. 181-192)

    It would be difficult to get through an ordinary day without encountering a photographic image. Still or moving, the products of photographic technology – television, photographs, cinema – have come to figure prominently in discourses of information, entertainment, and persuasion, and they are an indispensable feature of what Dorothy Smith calls the text-mediated relations of ruling (Smith 1990a).

    This social organization of photographic representation can be empirically investigated. I have been exploring an approach to the study of still photographs which is founded in Smith’s innovative sociology and draws on ethnomethodology and the semiology of the Bakhtin Circle. Unlike traditional...

  18. Downgrading Clerical Work in a Textually Mediated Labour Process
    (pp. 193-208)

    A growing literature exists linking gender and skill categories as these are socially and interactionally constructed; for example, see Cynthia Cockburn’s (1985)Machinery of Dominance: Women, Men, and Technical Know-how. This research tends to focus directly on the attribution of skill and on the presence or absence of socially recognized sets of skills in the workplace. Authors who focus on women’s work in the clerical field have taken up the social construction of skill in relation to comparable work or pay equity, for example, Acker (1989) and Glenn and Feldberg (1983). However, they do not have a sustained focus on...

  19. The Power of Being Professional
    (pp. 209-220)

    To do social work is to engage in socially organized practices of power: the power to investigate, to assess, to produce authorized accounts, to present case ‘facts,’ and to intervene in people’s lives. The exercise of such power, although having its dramatic moments – such as the apprehension of a child – is also realized through more subtle and less visible moments of practice. This essay seeks to explore the subtle uses of power which are realized through the textual or documentary practices of professional accounts.¹ The proficient use of documents and texts in the form of legislation, policy manuals,...

  20. Teaching Accountability: What Counts as Nursing Education?
    (pp. 221-233)

    Nursing education is currently coming under intense scrutiny from within the profession. Long-standing doubts about the salience of behaviourist curriculum approaches are surfacing. This essay makes a contribution to such critiques and may help nursing educators make sense of some of their own misgivings about nursing education. It directs readers’ attention to the increased attention being given to nurses’accountabilityand to training for such accountability. Nursespractiseaccountability by following procedures for making their work known and knowable to others in documents, that is, meeting their ‘formal obligation to disclose’ (Lewis and Batey 1982: 12). Special skills are required...

  21. Rendering the Site Developable: Texts and Local Government Decision Making in Land Use Planning
    (pp. 234-248)

    When people are concerned about changes taking place in the physical environment around them and want to have some say in development decisions, they encounter and are drawn into standard official planning processes. Land use planning is a complicated set of activities and relations within which developers propose plans, agencies and municipalities approve them, and interested and affected citizens are invited and required to participate in the process. This set of relations is not well understood. It is especially difficult for citizens wanting to intervene in ongoing planning processes to grasp how they work. Planning processes rely on the accomplishment...

  22. Literacy, Experience, Power
    (pp. 249-262)

    This essay develops an analysis of the organization of literacies in our society, from the perspective of adult literacy work. It develops the analysis using the method of the social organization of knowledge, and, like other studies written from feminist, gay, and working-class perspectives, proceeds from outside the ruling institutions, and recognizes language and documents as entrées to inquiry into them. The essay is, in part, an effort to come to terms with some years’ experience teaching literacy and writing for literacy students. It also reflects many hours of conversation and debate with literacy workers and others interested in the...

  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-282)
  24. Index
    (pp. 283-288)