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Boundary-Work and the Demarcation of Science from Non-Science: Strains and Interests in Professional Ideologies of Scientists

Thomas F. Gieryn
American Sociological Review
Vol. 48, No. 6 (Dec., 1983), pp. 781-795
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095325
Page Count: 15
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Boundary-Work and the Demarcation of Science from Non-Science: Strains and Interests in Professional Ideologies of Scientists
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Abstract

The demarcation of science from other intellectual activities-long an analytic problem for philosophers and sociologists-is here examined as a practical problem for scientists. Construction of a boundary between science and varieties of non-science is useful for scientists' pursuit of professional goals: acquisition of intellectual authority and career opportunities; denial of these resources to "pseudoscientists"; and protection of the autonomy of scientific research from political interference. "Boundary-work" describes an ideological style found in scientists' attempts to create a public image for science by contrasting it favorably to non-scientific intellectual or technical activities. Alternative sets of characteristics available for ideological attribution to science reflect ambivalences or strains within the institution: science can be made to look empirical or theoretical, pure or applied. However, selection of one or another description depends on which characteristics best achieve the demarcation in a way that justifies scientists' claims to authority or resources. Thus, "science" is no single thing: its boundaries are drawn and redrawn inflexible, historically changing and sometimes ambiguous ways.

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