Fuller, Steve. Knowledge management foundations. Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002. 279 p. ISBN 0-7506-7365-6. £18.95.
I was genuinely surprised to see Steve Fuller's name on the cover of a book about 'knowledge management', but, having read the book, I no longer find it surprising. The author uses his broad understanding of history, philosophy, sociology of science and, above all, political economy to analyse the roots and consequences of 'km'. The book bears no resemblance to the usual shallow and pompous literature on the subject and nor will one find many "guru" names in the reference list. Nevertheless, the ideas and essence of this literature are seen through the eyes of a thinker who takes 'km' back to where it belongs: research and education. In fact, 'km' is treated as a reflection of deep social changes within these two fields, their changing role and functions as well as attitudes towards them. The key concept of knowledge is analysed in an historical perspective and in the perspectives of scientists, economists, and knowledge managers. Its perception as a public good or as a 'positional good' changes one's whole view of knowledge-related processes. Many more perspectives that reveal different aspects of knowledge in different historical periods and situations are presented in the book.
The text is transparently organised in four chapters. The first looks into the effect that the knowledge management concept has on the production of scientific knowledge. The second deals with the economic, philosophical and legal aspects of knowledge. In the third, one finds a fine study of how information technology and its applications impact upon our understanding of knowledge. In the fourth, Fuller suggests a civic republican theory of governance for knowledge production and transfer as an optimal (=optimistic) foundation for science and education policy. Each chapter is supplied with individual contents that gives a clear picture of the issues addressed.
There is an extensive annex about the peer-review process, which I read with interest as a member of editorial boards, reviewer and reviewed, as well as a person involved in research on publishing. That was a healthy exercise and a reminder that critical thinking should be applied to every area of one's (i.e. my) activity.
The book demands full attention and a rather wide (and not entirely superficial) acquaintance with concepts from economics, political science, sociology, law, and management. On the other hand, the style is attractive and 'reader friendly'. A lively and sharp wit is pulsing behind each paragraph.
I would predict that many 'knowledge managers' might be deeply disappointed by the book, as it does not address any of the immediate management problems in business or public organisations with promises of cure. Most probably, some will reject it as entirely irrelevant to their practice (and that might be true). But I would recommend every university library serving business administration or management (especially knowledge management) departments to buy it by all means in a hope (most probably futile) that 'km' will gain its proper place and status among other disciplines and distance itself from charlatan approaches and other nonsense.
How to cite this review
Maceviciute, E. (2003) Review of: Fuller, Steve. Knowledge management foundations>. Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002. Turku (Åbo): Åbo Akademi University Press, 2002 Information Research, 8(2), review no. 080 [Available at: http://informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs080.html]