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What are we producing knowledge for?

Orme, J. (2006) What are we producing knowledge for? Journal of Social Policy and Social Work, 2. pp. 196-208.

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This paper explores the imperatives for undertaking research for the purposes of knowledge production in social work. This is particularly important in an era where we are producing more and more information, but this does not necessarily contribute to knowledge and understanding, but is often driven by other agendas. In this context of increasing information it is apparent that there has been little or no strategic direction for this to contribute to knowledge production. Such assertions suggest a distinction between knowledge and information. They also beg the question of whether there should be ‘strategic direction’ or whether knowledge should be produced for the sake of knowing. The paper draws on theories of knowledge to explore knowledge production in and for social work. Drawing on Foucault’s premise that knowledge is produced out of antagonism it suggests that there are a number of competing imperatives for producing knowledge, or more accurately, undertaking research, producing evidence and/or information. These are deliberately polarised as negative and positive imperatives to explore the phenomena of knowledge production. Of course these polarizations are false dichotomies, but drawing on Foucault’s archaeological approach it could be argued that rearranging disparate elements of knowledge production may give different perspectives of knowledge production (Chambon, 1999).