‘Is Increasing Knowledge Making Life More Worrying and Uncertain in Contemporary Society?’

Topics: Anxiety, Sociology, Society Pages: 5 (1450 words) Published: October 14, 2008
‘Is increasing knowledge making life more worrying and uncertain in contemporary society?’

Knowledge is shaped by human beings living in society. It adds value to any activity and enables people to make informed choices and everyday decisions. Knowledge is part of a social construction and is particularly important in contemporary societies. The current condition of knowledge in contemporary society could be interpreted as a result of cultural changes. There is an ever increasing quest for knowledge which has led to an increase in the amount of existential anxiety. The search for and the accumulation of facts always make apparent new unknowns, new questions which have to be approached; the unanswered questions make men anxious. This essay will establish the extent to which knowledge is increasing and discover whether it is this factor that is causing uncertainty in society.

Knowledge and information are vital components of the formation of any society because every society is formed around some shared concepts. In some societies ‘knowledge is the motor for social, economic, cultural and political development and change’. (Woodward, Goldblatt and McFall, 2004, p. 120) A term used to describe this importance is ‘the knowledge society’. Knowledge has always been important in society, with traditional societies prioritising seniority, age and established knowledge. The more modern societies are creating new knowledge centring on science and technology, with an importance on professional knowledge and new ideas.

Today's people are far more knowledgeable than those who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. The distinct difference is that these days’ people have more freedom to express their thoughts and ideas and they have more access to sources of knowledge. In this age of information people seem to have no choice but to become more knowledgeable, regardless of whether they want to or not. Worries and uncertainty in society have been increasing due to the greater access of information as people feel the more they know, the more they have to worry about.

The advancement in technology and media coverage generates a huge source of knowledge. However this can be seen as a threat to cultural expression, as world media is becoming controlled by only a handful of large corporations. With such a small elite controlling the mass media and therefore a huge percentage of the information spread, a limited and dominant group is mediating messages.

This development has enabled people to become more aware of rising crime levels and highlights the fact that we have moved away from living in a ‘golden age’ where life once was predictable. Older members of society often talk of the ‘good old days’ when people had more respect for others and there was no fear in life. It was a predictable time when people were able to live in a settled and established community, when people were able to ‘leave their doors unlocked’ without worrying about intruders. (Introductory Chapter DD100, p.11)

It is apparent that society has become both frightened and fascinated by crime, and its portrayal through newspapers and television programmes appears to have a dramatic effect on society. The media does cover crime more now than in the past, and this coverage has shifted towards more serious and violent crimes. Worldwide events are presented to us as they are taking place, in newspapers and on television screens in our homes. News of crises, fears and panics are broadcast which suggests that across the world change is alarmingly out of control. It provides people with fear for their own economic security in the wake of global economic change. Even the value of money in our pockets is dependent on fluctuations in global financial markets. It is evident that these threats are now characterised as an everyday threat rather than one-off disturbances, as they more commonly were in the past.

A threat such as crime is socially constructed and only...

References: • The Open University (2004) DD100 An Introduction to the Social Sciences: Understanding Social Change, A globalizing world? Culture, economics, politics. Edited by David Held. Milton Keynes, The Open University.
• The Open University (2004) DD100 An Introduction to the Social Sciences: Understanding Social Change, Knowledge and the social sciences: theory, method, practise. Edited by David Goldblatt. Milton Keynes, The Open University.
• Mooney, G., Kelly, B., Goldblatt, D. and Hughes, G. (2004) DD100 Introductory Chapter. Tales of Fear and Fascination: The Crime Problem in the Contemporary UK, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
• The Open University (2004) DD100 An Introduction to the Social Sciences: Understanding Social Change, DD100 Questioning identity: gender, class, ethnicity, edited by Kath Woodward. Milton Keynes, The Open University.
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