The author of this book takes the reader on a journey through the social production of scientific knowledge in modern society. This journey proceeds simultaneously at several levels. At one level, we travel with the author as he visits selected disciplines across the full range of scientific activity. We move with him from the offices of a physics department to the research stations of radio astronomy. We linger in the laboratories of biochemistry before seeking out health economists giving assistance to the medical community. After each trip, we return to the realm of sociology with a new understanding of that discipline's place in the wider scheme of intellectual endeavour. At a second level, we move from one to another basic feature of the culture of science.
We examine in turn, the social structure of a university department, the overall pattern of scientific growth, the relationship between norms and ideology, the nature of scientific consensus, the practical usefulness of science, philosophical thought and scientific practice, theory choice, experimental replication, social science and social control, science and the women's movement, and the contribution of science to the future of human society. At a third level, the book depicts the author's pilgrimage in search of a state of intellectual grace which he comes to know is mythical, yet which he cannot entirely abandon. We follow him on his quest, beginning with the standard procedures of interpretative sociology, passing through the strict disciplines of discourse analysis and finally accepting the textual challenge of unconventional literary forms. In the process, we move from the constraints of the customary empiricist monologue to the delights, and temptations of dialogue, parody and a general sense of analytical playfulness.