chapter  7
16 Pages

New knowing

Although at first sight research appears to be based on the idea that there is nothing we would not want to know, we now know that is not the case. We have seen there are a number of topics and issues within the boundaries of acceptability, but there are others on the margins and some which the established academic community considers taboo. In addition, we have looked at some of the rational as well as social, cultural and political factors determining what issues are researched. At a time when the world has a desperate need to solve major problems and find a way through what Barnett (2000) describes as super-complexity and uncertainty, and when society is hungry for information, university research, as we have seen, is steeped in dogmatism. Ideas about the nature of knowledge and how we come to know, together with critical questioning of who defines what counts as knowledge and where it is produced, mean that academic research is faced with a crisis waiting to happen. This crisis is eating at its heart. I am not denying much useful work is being done by many dedicated researchers across a broad spectrum of fields of investigation. But, as we have seen, we have moved from a situation where the

philosophical basis of this work, its status as knowledge and its relationship to reality, were assured. We now have no agreed ideas about what truth is, nor how ideas about knowledge relate to ideas about the nature of reality. We used to believe in one self-consistent set of ideas to explain this. But we now know that this was just a belief and we also know that we have no agreed criteria for deciding what would constitute an explanation. In this contested context, the only option new researchers have is to do what many of their more experienced colleagues are doing and deny it is happening.