A critique of the knowledge as production thesis

Michael A. Peters
Vol 3, Number 2, p.61
Michael Matthews and Kevin Harris have recently advanced a Marxist epistemology which trades heavily on an analogy with commodity production in Capital. In this paper I am concerned to examine the Marxist conception of knowledge as theoretic production from within the Marxist tradition; encouraged by Matthews’ and Harris’ avowed catholicity that I might be able to bring to bear on the discussion an opposing viewpoint which may, in true dialectical fashion, result in a strong synthesis. In this paper, first, I shall concentrate on Matthews’ interpretation, briefly recounting his version of the knowledge as production thesis. Second, relate this interpretation to Althusser’s, in order to bring out some of the essential features of the Althusserian position and thus provide a wider context for examining Matthews’ claims. Third, I advance and consider a number of criticisms raised against the Althusserian position. Most of these originate with the inherent anti-humanism and idealism of the knowledge as production thesis. Finally, I make some moves towards a reconciliation of structuralism and humanism as they have surfaced in the related educational literature.