对卡尔马克思，马克斯韦伯和ÉmileDurkheim的早期理论工作以及来自世界各地的许多其他哲学家和学者的社会功能以及知识和知识的影响存在兴趣，但该子领域开始凝结为匈牙利社会学家卡尔曼海姆于1936年出版了“意识形态与乌托邦”。曼海姆系统地摒弃了客观学术知识的观念，并提出了一个人的知识观点本质上与一个人的社会地位相关联的观点。他认为，真理只是存在于关系中的东西，因为思想发生在社会背景中，并且嵌入在思维主体的价值观和社会地位中。他写道：“意识形态研究的任务，试图摆脱价值判断，就是要理解每个个体观点的狭隘性以及这些独特态度在整个社会过程中的相互作用。”通过明确说明在这些观察中，曼海姆以这种方式刺激了一个世纪的理论化和研究，并有效地建立了知识社会学。同时写作，记者和政治活动家安东尼奥·葛兰西为该子领域做出了非常重要的贡献。对于知识分子及其在复制统治阶级权力和统治中的作用，葛兰西认为，客观性主张是政治主张，而知识分子虽然通常被认为是自主思想家，却产生了反映其阶级立场的知识。鉴于大多数人来自或渴望统治阶级，葛兰西认为知识分子是通过思想和常识维持统治的关键，并写道：“知识分子是主导群体的’代表’，行使社会霸权和政治的下属功能法国社会理论家米歇尔福柯在二十世纪后期对知识社会学作出了重大贡献。他的大部分着作都集中在医学和监狱等机构在产生人们知识方面的作用，特别是那些被认为是“离经叛道”的人。福柯理论化了制度产生话语的方式，这种话语用来创造主体和客体类别。社会等级。这些类别及其构成的等级制度来自并重现社会权力结构。他断言，通过创建类别来代表他人是一种权力形式。福柯认为，任何知识都不是中立的，它都与权力联系在一起，因此是政治性的。 1978年，美国巴勒斯坦批评理论家和后殖民学者爱德华赛义德发表了“东方主义”。这本书是关于学术制度与殖民主义，身份和种族主义的权力动态之间的关系。西方帝国成员用过的历史文本，信件和新闻说明了他们如何有效地创造了“东方”作为知识范畴。他将“东方主义”或学习“东方”的实践界定为“处理东方的企业机构 – 通过对其进行陈述，授权观察，描述，通过教导，解决它来处理它。对它的统治：简而言之，东方主义作为西方主义，重组和对东方拥有权威的风格。“赛义德认为，东方主义和”东方“的概念是创造西方主体和身份的基础，与东方其他人并列，被认为在智力，生活方式，社会组织方面具有优势，因此有权获得统治和资源。这项工作强调了塑造和复制知识的权力结构，并且仍然被广泛传授并适用于理解当今全球东西方和南北之间的关系。知识社会学史上其他有影响力的学者包括Marcel Mauss，Max Scheler，AlfredSchütz，Edmund Husserl，Robert K. Merton，Peter L. Berger和Thomas Luckmann（现实社会建构）。
Interest in the social function and implications of knowledge and knowing exist in the early theoretical work of Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Émile Durkheim, as well as that of many other philosophers and scholars from around the world, but the subfield began to congeal as such after Karl Mannheim, a Hungarian sociologist, published Ideology and Utopia in 1936. Mannheim systematically tore down the idea of objective academic knowledge and advanced the idea that one’s intellectual point of view is inherently connected to one’s social position. He argued that truth is something that only exists relationally, because thought occurs in a social context, and is embedded in the values and social position of the thinking subject. He wrote, “The task of the study of ideology, which tries to be free from value-judgments, is to understand the narrowness of each individual point of view and the interplay between these distinctive attitudes in the total social process.” By plainly stating these observations, Mannheim spurred a century of theorizing and research in this vein, and effectively founded the sociology of knowledge. Writing simultaneously, journalist and political activist Antonio Gramsci made very important contributions to the subfield. Of intellectuals and their role in reproducing the power and domination of the ruling class, Gramsci argued that claims of objectivity are politically loaded claims and that intellectuals, though typically considered autonomous thinkers, produced knowledge reflective of their class positions. Given that most came from or aspired to the ruling class, Gramsci viewed intellectuals as key to the maintenance of rule through ideas and common sense, and wrote, “The intellectuals are the dominant group’s ‘deputies’ exercising the subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government.” French social theorist Michel Foucault made significant contributions to the sociology of knowledge in the late twentieth century. Much of his writing focused on the role of institutions, like medicine and prison, in producing knowledge about people, especially those considered “deviant.” Foucault theorized the way institutions produce discourses that are used to create subject and object categories that place people within a social hierarchy. These categories and the hierarchies they compose emerge from and reproduce social structures of power. He asserted that to represent others through the creation of categories is a form of power. Foucault maintained that no knowledge is neutral, it is all tied to power and is thus political. In 1978, Edward Said, a Palestinian American critical theorist and postcolonial scholar, published Orientalism. This book is about the relationships between the academic institution and the power dynamics of colonialism, identity, and racism. Said used historical texts, letters, and news accounts of members of Western empires to show how they effectively created “the Orient” as a category of knowledge. He defined “Orientalism,” or the practice of studying “the Orient,” as “the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient—dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing view of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.” Said argued that Orientalism and the concept of “the Orient” were fundamental to the creation of a Western subject and identity, juxtaposed against the Oriental other, that was framed as superior in intellect, ways of life, social organization, and thus, entitled to rule and resources. This work emphasized the power structures that shape and are reproduced by knowledge and is still widely taught and applicable in understanding relationships between the global East and West and North and South today. Other influential scholars in the history of the sociology of knowledge include Marcel Mauss, Max Scheler, Alfred Schütz, Edmund Husserl, Robert K. Merton, and Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann (The Social Construction of Reality).