Community of practice theory is inherently a social theory. As such it is distinct
from more individualist accounts of human behavior, such as mainstream economics.
Consequently, community of practice theory and economics favor different accounts
of knowledge. Taking a community of practice perspective, this paper challenges
economists' attempts to reduce knowledge to information held by individuals
and to reject tacit knowledge as mere uncodified explicit knowledge. The essay
argues that Polanyi's notion of a tacit dimension affected numerous disciplines
(including economics) because it addressed aspects of learning and identity
that conventional social sciences overlooked. The paper situates knowledge,
identity, and learning within communities and points to ethical and epistemic
entailments of community practice. So doing it attempts to limit, rather than
expand, the scope of community of practice analysis and to stress the difference,
rather than the commonalities, between this and other apparently congenial forms
of social analysis.
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