I would like to know what do these two terms (society based knowledge and knowledge based society) mean and what is the difference between them? And also what does it mean that we are moving from KBS to SBK?

I only managed to find some info about KBS which, from what I understand, means that society relies on people's knowledge to drive the economy. But I am not sure if I got it right.

Thank you.

Edit: I saw these terms in an article but i still don't understand the concept, why should we move from KBS to STB and what it actually means:

'Students do not think that education should be merely an effort to find a job in the labor market (a very popular cliché, which absolutely does not take into account that the labor market is changing) and that the university is supposed to create adaptable and flexible robots; but they believe that education brings other values, not only for them personally, but also for society as a whole. I do not know if they were inspired by Václav Bělohradský, who promoted that a knowledge-based society (also one of the popular clichés, even sadder because it is very much in conflict with the promoted reality) should rather be replaced by society based knowledge - post-industrial society must define the form of education differently. The knowledge and skills that students now acquire will shape society for a long time. We should really start thinking about what this society really needs from education.'

  • 4
    It would be helpful if you linked wherever-it-is you saw this distinction made. I could (of course) answer the question generally, but without knowing the original context my general answer might stray a good ways away from helpful. Aug 6, 2019 at 22:13
  • @TedWrigley Thank you, I added part of an article in the post
    – Lauren Sin
    Aug 7, 2019 at 12:18
  • 1
    Please edit this to give a full citation for that quote. Aug 7, 2019 at 12:31

1 Answer 1


Working off the included quote — it would be better to have a link to the source, as always — I think the distinction whoever-it-is is reaching for has to do with the purpose of knowledge in society.

There is an old, old dispute in the philosophy of education about the intent (I almost want to say direction or vector) of education. Put succinctly, the dichotomy is this:

  • Is education meant to create graduates who are useful and beneficial to society, or...
  • Is education meant to advance the interests, capabilities, and development of the student?

To a certain extent, and within certain contexts, these two approaches dovetail. Clearly people who train in many different professions provide benefits for society and profit personally (at least financially) in exchange for those offered benefits. No one wants to deny a surgeon a high income because surgery is a benefit we all want when and if we need it. But more often these two approaches conflict with each other. For example, there have been many complaints in the academic literature (going back at least to the 1950s) that public education is less focused on producing bright, well-rounded students and more focused on producing obedient, disciplined, skilled members of the workforce. It's a socioeconomic move: businesses in a capitalist society need skilled, competent workers, but want to avoid 'troublemakers' (meaning people who think too much about their life condition). This leads to the 'Knowledge-Based Society' rubric, where knowledge is rendered completely technical: only knowledge that has an express use in society, and an express financial imperative, is considered valuable.

'Society-based knowledge', by contrast, would be a form of education that encourages broad thinking about the impact of knowledge within society. We don't focus education on the maximal production of personal profit, we focus it on maximal understanding of social context. To highlight the difference, think about chemical engineers. Many industrial corporations need chemical engineers to design, run, and work in chemical plants, producing all sort of products. However, such companies do not want engineers who will think too much about the environmentally destructive aspects of such production; they want engineers who will do their job and take their paycheck and ignore the consequences. But as much as corporations might want (and profit from) skilled worker-drones, that is not necessarily the best outcome for society as a whole. Society-based knowledge would improve the outcome for society by increasing the breadth of perspective of employees at a distinct cost to the command-control hierarchy of corporations.

Like a lot of European philosophy, this has roots in Marxism, specifically in the "worker's class consciousness" idea. The intent is to use education to get people to see outside their narrowly defined role as a worker and find common ground with other members of society. The ultimate goal is to put an end to that 'worker-drone' mentality — in which people develop a narrowly defined technical skill-set without exercising their cognitive abilities outside of it — and create more rounded people who will act in more socially conscious ways.

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