Historically and currently, the relationship between power and knowledge has been strained and complex, to say the least. Recently, “modernism” – which has constructed systems of knowledge around truth-claims about social reality – has come into critique by “post-modernism” – that these systems have been created through the operation of privilege and power, resulting in an unjust and inequitable social reality that brings modernism’s remarkable advances to only an elite minority. Post-modernism, however, has reacted to an extreme position, asserting that all knowledge is grounded in power dynamics, that knowledge is oppression, that no truth-claims are more valid than others. Instead of a solution, post-modernism has replaced all thought with endless critique.
Perhaps the following premises can help:
1) Human comprehension is limited, human perspective is diverse, and social reality is complex and multifaceted.
2) Science and religion, two systems of knowledge and practice, yield partial and tentative, though valid, insights into this reality.
3) Over time, through a reflective learning process, humanity can judge the relative validity these insights (or truth-claims) against the goal of advancing civilization.
This is a consultative, evolving, and adaptive approach to knowledge. It can be protected from oppressive uses of power by a) drawing in any and all diverse insights and perspectives, experiences and reflections, and constructive criticism from all people, and b) being guided by spiritual principles such as oneness, justice, interdependence, compassion, honesty, cooperation, etc.
This approach resolves the tension of knowledge and power, currently taking form as the crisis of modernism and post-modernism. More importantly, it empowers humanity to take charge of its own destiny and the advance of civilization through the generation and application of knowledge.