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Social constructionism is a
theory of knowledge Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, ...

theory of knowledge
in
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the scie ...
and
communication theory A communication theory is a proposed description of communication phenomena, the relationships among them, a storyline describing these relationships, and an argument for these three elements. Communication theory provides a way of talking about ...

communication theory
that examines the development of jointly-constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about
reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only imaginary Imaginary may refer to: * Imaginary (sociology), a concept in sociology * The Imaginary (psychoanalysis), a concept by ...

reality
. The theory centers on the notion that meanings are developed in coordination with others rather than separately within each individual. It has often been characterised as neo-Marxian or also as a neo-Kantian theory, in that social constructionism replaces the transcendental subject with a concept of society that is at the same time descriptive and
normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as bad or undesirable or impermissible. A norm Nor ...
. While some social constructs are obvious, for instance money or the concept of
currency A currency, "in circulation", from la, currens, -entis, literally meaning "running" or "traversing" in the most specific sense is money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed t ...

currency
, in that people have agreed to give it importance/value, others are controversial and hotly debated, such as the
concept of self One's self-concept (also called self-construction, self-identity, self-perspective or self-structure) is a collection of belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the wor ...
/self-identity. This articulates the view that people in society construct ideas or concepts that may not exist without the existence of people or language to validate those concepts. There is weak and strong social constructionism. Weak social constructionism relies on
brute fact In contemporary philosophy, a brute fact is a fact that has no explanation. More narrowly, brute facts may instead be defined as those facts which cannot be explained (as opposed to simply having no explanation). To reject the existence of brute fa ...
s – facts that are not socially constructed, such as, arguably, facts about physical particles – or institutional facts (which are formed from
social conventions A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * ...
). It has been objected that strong social constructionism undermines the foundation of science as the pursuit of objectivity and, as a theory, defies any attempt at falsifying it.


Overview

A social construct or construction is the meaning, notion, or connotation placed on an object or event by a society, and adopted by the inhabitants of that society with respect to how they view or deal with the object or event. Social constructionism posits that phenomena do not have an independent foundation outside the mental and linguistic representation that people develop about them throughout their history, and which becomes their shared
reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only imaginary Imaginary may refer to: * Imaginary (sociology), a concept in sociology * The Imaginary (psychoanalysis), a concept by ...

reality
. From a linguistic viewpoint, social constructionism centres meaning as an internal reference within language (words refer to words, definitions to other definitions) rather than to an external reality.


Origins

In the 16th century,
Michel de Montaigne Image:ArmoiriesMichelDeMontaigne.svg, 270px, The coat of arms of Michel Eyquem, Lord of Montaigne Michel Eyquem de Montaigne ( ; ; 28 February 1533 – 13 September 1592), also known as Lord of Montaigne, was one of the most significant ph ...

Michel de Montaigne
wrote that, "We need to interpret interpretations more than to interpret things." In 1886 or 1887,
Friedrich Nietzsche Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (; or ; 15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, me ...

Friedrich Nietzsche
put it similarly: In his 1922 book ''Public Opinion'',
Walter Lippmann Walter Lippmann (September 23, 1889 – December 14, 1974) was an American writer, reporter and political commentator. With a career spanning 60 years he is famous for being among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War, coining the ter ...
said, "The real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance" between people and their environment. Each person constructs a pseudo-environment that is a subjective, biased, and necessarily abridged mental image of the world, and to a degree, everyone's pseudo-environment is a fiction. People "live in the same world, but they think and feel in different ones." Lippman's "environment" might be called "reality", and his "pseudo-environment" seems equivalent to what today is called "constructed reality". Social constructionism has more recently been rooted in "
symbolic interactionism Symbolic interactionism is a sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial ...
" and "phenomenology". With Berger and Luckmann's
The Social Construction of Reality ''The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge'' is a 1966 book about the sociology of knowledge The sociology of knowledge is the study of the relationship between human thought In their most common sense, ...
published in 1966, this concept found its hold. More than four decades later, much theory and research pledged itself to the basic tenet that people "make their social and cultural worlds at the same time these worlds make them." It is a viewpoint that uproots social processes "simultaneously playful and serious, by which reality is both revealed and concealed, created and destroyed by our activities." It provides a substitute to the "Western intellectual tradition" where the researcher "earnestly seeks certainty in a representation of reality by means of propositions." In social constructionist terms, "taken-for-granted realities" are cultivated from "interactions between and among social agents;" furthermore, reality is not some objective truth "waiting to be uncovered through positivist scientific inquiry." Rather, there can be "multiple realities that compete for truth and legitimacy." Social constructionism understands the "fundamental role of language and communication" and this understanding has "contributed to the linguistic turn" and more recently the "turn to
discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation Conversation is interactive communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy) ...

discourse
theory." The majority of social constructionists abide by the belief that "language does not mirror reality; rather, it constitutes reatesit." A broad definition of social constructionism has its supporters and critics in the organizational sciences. A constructionist approach to various organizational and managerial phenomena appear to be more commonplace and on the rise. Andy Lock and Tom Strong trace some of the fundamental tenets of social constructionism back to the work of the 18th-century Italian political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist
Giambattista Vico Giambattista Vico (born Giovan Battista Vico ; ; 23 June 1668 – 23 January 1744) was an Italian political philosopher and rhetorician, historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest hi ...

Giambattista Vico
. Berger and Luckmann give credit to
Max Scheler Max Ferdinand Scheler (; 22 August 1874 – 19 May 1928) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysic ...
as a large influence as he created the idea of
Sociology of knowledge The sociology of knowledge is the study of the relationship between human thought In their most common sense, the terms thought and thinking refer to conscious cognitive processes that can happen independently of sensory stimulation. Their m ...
which influenced social construction theory. According to Lock and Strong, other influential thinkers whose work has affected the development of social constructionism are:
Edmund Husserl , thesis1_title = Beiträge zur Variationsrechnung (Contributions to the Calculus of Variations) , thesis1_url = https://fedora.phaidra.univie.ac.at/fedora/get/o:58535/bdef:Book/view , thesis1_year = 1883 , thesis2_title ...

Edmund Husserl
,
Alfred Schutz Alfred may refer to: Arts and entertainment *'' Alfred J. Kwak'', Dutch-German-Japanese anime television series * ''Alfred'' (Arne opera), a 1740 masque by Thomas Arne * ''Alfred'' (Dvořák opera), an 1870 opera by Antonín Dvořák *"Alfred ( ...

Alfred Schutz
,
Maurice Merleau-Ponty Maurice Jean Jacques Merleau-Ponty (; 14 March 1908 – 3 May 1961) was a French Phenomenology (philosophy), phenomenological philosopher, strongly influenced by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. The constitution of meaning in human experienc ...

Maurice Merleau-Ponty
,
Martin Heidegger Martin Heidegger (; ; 26 September 188926 May 1976) was a key German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, ...
,
Hans-Georg Gadamer Hans-Georg Gadamer (; ; February 11, 1900 – March 13, 2002) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens o ...

Hans-Georg Gadamer
,
Paul Ricoeur Paul may refer to: *Paul (given name) Paul () is a common masculine given name in countries and ethnicities with a Christian heritage (Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholic Church, Catholicism, Protestantism) and, beyond Europe, ...
,
Jürgen Habermas Jürgen Habermas (, ; ; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, e ...
,
Emmanuel Levinas Emmanuel Levinas (; ; 12 January 1906 – 25 December 1995) was a French philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reaso ...

Emmanuel Levinas
,
Mikhail Bakhtin Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin ( ; rus, Михаи́л Миха́йлович Бахти́н, , mʲɪxɐˈil mʲɪˈxajləvʲɪdʑ bɐxˈtʲin; – 7 March 1975) was a Russian philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The ...
, Valentin Volosinov,
Lev Vygotsky Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (russian: Лев Семёнович Выго́тский, p=vɨˈɡotskʲɪj; be, Леў Сямёнавіч Выго́цкі, p=vɨˈɡotskʲɪj; – June 11, 1934) was a Soviet psychologist A psychologist is a pers ...
,
George Herbert Mead George Herbert Mead (February 27, 1863 – April 26, 1931) was an American philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatists. He is regarded ...

George Herbert Mead
,
Ludwig Wittgenstein Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein ( ; ; 26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian Austrian may refer to: * Austrians, someone from Austria or of Austrian descent ** Someone who is considered an Austrian citizen, see Austrian nationali ...

Ludwig Wittgenstein
,
Gregory Bateson Gregory Bateson (9 May 1904 – 4 July 1980) was an English anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, societies. Social an ...
,
Harold Garfinkel Harold Garfinkel (October 29, 1917 – April 21, 2011) was an American sociologist, ethnomethodologist, and a Professor Emeritus ''Emeritus'' (; female: ''Emerita''), in its current usage, is an adjective used to designate a retired chair, profes ...

Harold Garfinkel
,
Erving Goffman Erving Goffman (11 June 1922 – 19 November 1982) was a Canadian-born sociologist, social psychologist Social psychology is the scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behavior Behavior (American English) or beh ...
,
Anthony Giddens use both this parameter and , birth_date to display the person's date of birth, date of death, and age at death) --> , death_place = , other_names = Tony Giddens , title = Director of the London School of Economics ...
,
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectual An intellectual is a ...

Michel Foucault
,
Ken Gergen Kenneth J. Gergen (born 1935) is an American social psychologist and emeritus professor at Swarthmore College. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts from Yale University (1957) and his PhD from Duke University Duke University is a Private un ...
, Mary Gergen, Rom Harre, and John Shotter.


Applications


Personal construct psychology

Since its appearance in the 1950s, personal construct psychology (PCP) has mainly developed as a constructivist theory of personality and a system of transforming individual
meaning-making In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense sco ...
processes, largely in therapeutic contexts. It was based around the notion of persons as scientists who form and test theories about their worlds. Therefore, it represented one of the first attempts to appreciate the constructive nature of experience and the meaning persons give to their experience. Social constructionism (SC), on the other hand, mainly developed as a form of a critique, aimed to transform the oppressing effects of the social meaning-making processes. Over the years, it has grown into a cluster of different approaches, with no single SC position. However, different approaches under the generic term of SC are loosely linked by some shared assumptions about language, knowledge, and reality. A usual way of thinking about the relationship between PCP and SC is treating them as two separate entities that are similar in some aspects, but also very different in others. This way of conceptualizing this relationship is a logical result of the circumstantial differences of their emergence. In subsequent analyses these differences between PCP and SC were framed around several points of tension, formulated as binary oppositions: personal/social; individualist/relational; agency/structure; constructivist/constructionist. Although some of the most important issues in contemporary psychology are elaborated in these contributions, the polarized positioning also sustained the idea of a separation between PCP and SC, paving the way for only limited opportunities for dialogue between them. Reframing the relationship between PCP and SC may be of use in both the PCP and the SC communities. On one hand, it extends and enriches SC theory and points to benefits of applying the PCP "toolkit" in constructionist therapy and research. On the other hand, the reframing contributes to PCP theory and points to new ways of addressing social construction in therapeutic conversations.


Educational psychology

Like social constructionism,
social constructivism Social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts ( descriptive knowledge), skills (procedural knowledge), or objects (Knowledge by acq ...
states that people work together to construct artifacts. While social constructionism focuses on the artifacts that are created through the social interactions of a group, social constructivism focuses on an individual's learning that takes place because of his or her interactions in a group. Social constructivism has been studied by many educational psychologists, who are concerned with its implications for teaching and learning. For more on the psychological dimensions of social constructivism, see the work of
Ernst von Glasersfeld Ernst von Glasersfeld (March 8, 1917, Munich Munich ( ; german: München ; bar, Minga ) is the capital and most populous city of Bavaria. With a population of 1,558,395 inhabitants as of 31 July 2020, it is the List of cities in Germany b ...
and A. Sullivan Palincsar.


Systemic therapy

Some of the systemic models that use social constructionism include
Narrative Therapy Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy Psychotherapy (also psychological therapy or talking therapy) is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction with adults, to help a person change beha ...
and Solution Focused Therapy


Crime

Potter and Kappeler (1996), in their introduction to ''Constructing Crime: Perspective on Making News And Social Problems'' wrote, "Public opinion and crime facts demonstrate no congruence. The reality of crime in the United States has been subverted to a constructed reality as ephemeral as swamp gas." Criminology has long focussed on why and how society defines criminal behavior and crime in general. While looking at crime through a social constructionism lens, we see evidence to support that criminal acts are a social construct where abnormal or deviant acts become a crime based on the views of society. Another explanation of crime as it relates to social constructionism are individual identity constructs that result in deviant behavior. If someone has constructed the identity of a "madman" or "criminal" for themselves based on a society's definition, it may force them to follow that label, resulting in criminal behavior.


Communication studies

A bibliographic review of social constructionism as used within
communication studies Communication studies or communication science is an academic discipline An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact ...
was published in 2016. It features a good overview of resources from that disciplinary perspective The collection of essays published in Galanes and Leeds-Hurwitz (2009) should also be useful to anyone interested in how social construction actually works during communication. This collection was the result of a conference held in 2006, sponsored by the
National Communication Association The National Communication Association (NCA) is a not-for-profit academic association that serves scholars, teachers, and practitioners in the field of communication. Founded in 1914, NCA advances Communication as the discipline that studies all fo ...
as a Summer institute, entitled "Catching ourselves in the Act: A Collaboration to Enrich our Discipline Through Social Constructionist Approaches." Briefly, the basic assumption of the group was that "individuals jointly construct (create) their understandings of the world and the meanings they give to encounters with others, or various products others create. At the heart of the matter is the assumption that such meanings are constructed ''jointly'', that is, in coordination with others, rather than individually. Thus the term of choice most often is ''social'' construction." At that event, John Stewart in his keynote presentation, suggested it was time to choose a single term among the set then common (social constructionist, social constructivism, social constructivist), and proposed using the simpler form: ''social construction''. Those present at the conference agreed to that use, and so that is the term most often used in this book, and by communication scholars since then. During discussion at the conference, participants developed a common list of principles: *1. Communication is the process through which we construct and reconstruct social worlds. *2. Communication is constitutive; communication makes things. *3. Every action is consequential. *4. We make things together. We construct the social worlds we share with others as relational beings. *5. We perceive many social worlds existing simultaneously, and we continue to shape them. Other people's social worlds may be different from ours. What we inherit is not our identity. *6. No behavior conveys meaning in and of itself. Contexts afford and constrain meanings. *7. Ethical implications and consequences derive from Principles 1-6. A survey of publications in communication relating to social construction in 2009 found that the major topics covered were: identity, language, narratives, organizations, conflict, and media.


History and development


Berger and Luckmann

Constructionism became prominent in the U.S. with Peter L. Berger and
Thomas Luckmann Thomas Luckmann (; October 14, 1927 – May 10, 2016) was an American-Austrian sociologist of Germans, German and Slovenes, Slovene origin who taught mainly in Germany. Born in Jesenice, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Luckmann studied philosophy and lingui ...
's 1966 book, ''
The Social Construction of Reality ''The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge'' is a 1966 book about the sociology of knowledge The sociology of knowledge is the study of the relationship between human thought In their most common sense, ...
''. Berger and Luckmann argue that all knowledge, including the most basic, taken-for-granted
common sense Common sense (often just known as sense) is sound, practical judgment concerning everyday matters, or a basic ability to Perception, perceive, Nous, understand, and Phronesis, judge in a manner that is shared by (i.e. ''common to'') nearly all ...
knowledge of everyday reality, is derived from and maintained by
social interactions In social science, a social relation or social interaction is any relationship between two or more individuals. Social relations derived from agency (sociology), individual agency form the basis of social structure and the basic object for analy ...
. In their model, people interact on the understanding that their perceptions of everyday life are shared with others, and this common knowledge of reality is in turn reinforced by these interations. Since this common sense knowledge is negotiated by people, human
typification Typification is a process of creating standard (''typical'') social construction Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general an ...
s,
sign A sign is an object Object may refer to: General meanings * Object (philosophy), a thing, being, or concept ** Entity, something that is tangible and within the grasp of the senses ** Object (abstract), an object which does not exist at ...
ifications and
institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington Samuel Phillips Huntington (April 18, 1927 – December 24, 2008) was an American political scientist, adviser and academic. He spent more than half a century at Harvard University Ha ...
s come to be presented as part of an objective reality, particularly for future generations who were not involved in the original process of negotiation. For example, as parents negotiate rules for their children to follow, those rules confront the children as externally produced "givens" that they cannot change. Berger and Luckmann's social constructionism has its roots in
phenomenology Phenomenology may refer to: * Empirical research, when used to describe measurement methods in some sciences * An empirical relationship or phenomenological model * Phenomenology (architecture), based on the experience of building materials and the ...
. It links to
Heidegger Martin Heidegger (; ; 26 September 188926 May 1976) was a key German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, ...

Heidegger
and
Edmund Husserl , thesis1_title = Beiträge zur Variationsrechnung (Contributions to the Calculus of Variations) , thesis1_url = https://fedora.phaidra.univie.ac.at/fedora/get/o:58535/bdef:Book/view , thesis1_year = 1883 , thesis2_title ...

Edmund Husserl
through the teaching of
Alfred Schutz Alfred may refer to: Arts and entertainment *'' Alfred J. Kwak'', Dutch-German-Japanese anime television series * ''Alfred'' (Arne opera), a 1740 masque by Thomas Arne * ''Alfred'' (Dvořák opera), an 1870 opera by Antonín Dvořák *"Alfred ( ...

Alfred Schutz
, who was also Berger's PhD adviser.


Narrative turn

During the 1970s and 1980s, social constructionist theory underwent a transformation as constructionist sociologists engaged with the work of
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectual An intellectual is a ...

Michel Foucault
and others as a narrative turn in the social sciences was worked out in practice. This particularly affected the emergent
sociology of science Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of ...
and the growing field of
science and technology studies Science and technology studies (STS) is an interdisciplinary Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity (e.g., a research project). It draws knowledge fr ...
. In particular,
Karin Knorr-Cetina Karin Knorr Cetina (also Karin Knorr-Cetina) (born 19 July 1944 in Graz Graz ( , ; sl, Gradec) is the capital city of the n state of and in Austria after . As of 1 January 2021, it had a population of 331,562 (294,236 of whom had princip ...
,
Bruno Latour Bruno Latour (; ; born 22 June 1947) is a French philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason ...

Bruno Latour
, Barry Barnes,
Steve Woolgar Stephen William Woolgar (born 14 February 1950) is a British sociologist. He has worked closely with Bruno Latour Bruno Latour (; ; born 22 June 1947) is a French philosopher of science, philosopher, anthropology, anthropologist and sociologis ...

Steve Woolgar
, and others used social constructionism to relate what science has typically characterized as objective facts to the processes of social construction, with the goal of showing that human
subjectivity Subjectivity in a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Reality is the sum ...
imposes itself on those facts we take to be objective, not solely the other way around. A particularly provocative title in this line of thought is 's ''Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics''. At the same time, social constructionism shaped studies of technology – the Sofield, especially on the
social construction of technology Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology The word "Social" derives fr ...
, or SCOT, and authors as
Wiebe Bijker Wiebe E. Bijker (born 19 March 1951, Delft) is a Dutch professor Emeritus, former chair of the Department of Social Science and Technology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Early life Bijker's father was an engineer involved in imp ...
,
Trevor Pinch Trevor J. Pinch (born 1 January 1952), is a British sociologist, part-time musician and former chair of the Science and Technology Studies Science and technology studies or science, technology and society studies (STS) are the study of how soci ...
, Maarten van Wesel, etc. Despite its common perception as objective, mathematics is not immune to social constructionist accounts. Sociologists such as
Sal Restivo Sal Restivo (born 1940) is a sociologist/anthropologist. Work Restivo is a leading contributor to science studies and in particular to the sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships ...
and
Randall Collins Randall Collins (born July 29, 1941) is an American sociologist who has been influential in both his teaching and writing. He has taught in many notable universities around the world and his academic works have been translated into various langua ...
, mathematicians including
Reuben Hersh Reuben Hersh (December 9, 1927 – January 3, 2020) was an American mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as qu ...

Reuben Hersh
and Philip J. Davis, and philosophers including Paul Ernest have published social constructionist treatments of mathematics.


Postmodernism

Within the social constructionist strand of postmodernism, the concept of socially constructed reality stresses the ongoing mass-building of
worldview A worldview or world-view is the fundamental cognitive Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual ...

worldview
s by
individual An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity An entity is something that exists as itself, as a subject or as an object, actually or potentially, concretely or abstractly, physically or not. It need not be of material existence. In ...
s in
dialectic Dialectic or dialectics ( grc-gre, διαλεκτική, ''dialektikḗ''; related to dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States Engli ...
al interaction with society at a time. The numerous
realities Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status of things, indicating their existence. In physical Physical ma ...

realities
so formed comprise, according to this view, the imagined worlds of human social existence and activity, gradually crystallized by
habit A habit (or wont as a humorous and formal term) is a routine of behavior Behavior (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of t ...

habit
into institutions propped up by
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

language
conventions, given ongoing legitimacy by
mythology Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the ca ...

mythology
, religion and philosophy, maintained by therapies and
socialization In sociology, socialization is the process of Internalisation (sociology), internalizing the Norm (social), norms and Ideology, ideologies of society. Socialization encompasses both learning and teaching and is thus "the means by which social an ...
, and subjectively internalized by upbringing and education to become part of the
identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression and affiliation * Cultural identity, a person's self-affiliation (or categorization by others ...
of social citizens. In the book ''The Reality of Social Construction'', the British sociologist Dave Elder-Vass places the development of social constructionism as one outcome of the legacy of postmodernism. He writes "Perhaps the most widespread and influential product of this process oming to terms with the legacy of postmodernismis social constructionism, which has been booming ithin the domain of social theorysince the 1980s."Dave Elder-Vass. 2012.''The Reality of Social Construction''. Cambridge University Press, 4


Criticisms

The stronger criticism that can be levelled at social constructionism is that it generally ignores the contribution made by physical and biological sciences or misuses them in social sciences. Most notably, social constructionists assume society as both a descriptive and normative term, thereby failing to provide adequate explanation as to what they mean by society, whether it be an ideological concept or a description of any historically located community. As a theory, social constructionism rejects the influences of biology on behaviour and culture, or suggests that they are unimportant to achieve an understanding of human behaviour, while the scientific consensus is that behaviour is a complex outcome of both biological and cultural influences. Social constructionism has been criticized for having an overly narrow focus on society and culture as a causal factor in human behavior, excluding the influence of innate biological tendencies, by psychologists such as
Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science Popular science (also called pop-science or popsci) is an interpretation of science intended for a general audience. ...

Steven Pinker
in ''
The Blank Slate ''The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature'' is a best-selling 2002 book by the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popu ...
'' as well as by Asian Studies scholar Edward Slingerland in ''What Science Offers the Humanities''.
John Tooby John Tooby (born 1952) is an American anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, societies. Social anthropology, cultural anth ...
and
Leda Cosmides Leda Cosmides (born May 1957) is an American psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting with, and observing, inte ...
used the term " standard social science model" to refer to
social theories Social theories are analytical frameworks, or paradigms, that are used to study and interpret social phenomenon, social phenomena.Seidman, S., 2016. Contested knowledge: Social theory today. John Wiley & Sons. A tool used by social scientists, soc ...
that they believe fail to take into account the evolved properties of the brain. Social constructionism equally denies or downplays to a significant extent the role that meaning and language have for each individual, seeking to configure language as an overall structure rather than a historical instrument used by individuals to communicate their personal experiences of the world. This is particularly the case with cultural studies, where personal and pre-linguistic experiences are disregarded as irrelevant or seen as completely situated and constructed by the socio-economical superstructure. In 1996, to illustrate what he believed to be the intellectual weaknesses of social constructionism and postmodernism, physics professor
Alan Sokal Alan David Sokal (; born January 24, 1955) is a professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University. He works in statistical mechanics and combinatorics. He is a critic of postmodernism, and caused ...

Alan Sokal
submitted an article to the academic journal ''
Social Text ''Social Text'' is an academic journal An academic or scholarly journal is a periodical publication Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simply a periodical) is a category of serial Serial may refer to: Arts, enter ...
'' deliberately written to be incomprehensible but including phrases and jargon typical of the articles published by the journal. The submission, which was published, was an experiment to see if the journal would "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions." In 1999, Sokal, with coauthor Jean Bricmont published the book ''
Fashionable Nonsense ''Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science'' (1998; UK: ''Intellectual Impostures''), first published in French in 1997 as french: Impostures intellectuelles, label=none, is a book by physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont ...
'', which criticized
postmodernism Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or mode of discourse defined by an attitude of philosophical skepticism, skepticism toward what it describes as the meta-narrative, grand narratives and ideology, ideologies of modernism, as well as oppos ...
and social constructionism. Philosopher
Paul Boghossian Paul Artin Boghossian (; born 1957) is an American philosopher. He is Silver Professor of Philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemolog ...
has also written against social constructionism. He follows Ian Hacking's argument that many adopt social constructionism because of its potentially liberating stance: if things are the way that they are only because of our social conventions, as opposed to being so naturally, then it should be possible to change them into how we would rather have them be. He then states that social constructionists argue that we should refrain from making absolute judgements about what is true and instead state that something is true in the light of this or that theory. Countering this, he states: Woolgar and Pawluch argue that constructionists tend to 'ontologically gerrymander' social conditions in and out of their analysis.


See also


References


Further reading


Books

* Boghossian, P. ''Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism''. Oxford University Press, 2006. Online review
Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism
* Berger, P. L. and Luckmann, T., '' The Social Construction of Reality : A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge'' (Anchor, 1967; ). * Best, J. ''Images of Issues: Typifying Contemporary Social Problems'', New York: Gruyter, 1989 * Burr, V. ''Social Constructionism'', 2nd ed. Routledge 2003. * . '' Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes''. Trans. Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner. New York: Knopf, 1965. New York: Random House/ Vintage 1973 * Ernst, P., (1998), Social Constructivism as a Philosophy of Mathematics; Albany, New York: State University of New York Press * Galanes, G. J., & Leeds-Hurwitz, W. (Eds.). ''Socially constructing communication''. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2009. * Gergen, K., ''An Invitation to Social Construction''. Los Angeles: Sage, 2015 (3d edition, first 1999). * Glasersfeld, E. von, ''Radical Constructivism: A Way of Knowing and Learning''. London: RoutledgeFalmer, 1995.* , ''The Social Construction of What?'' Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999; * Hibberd, F. J., Unfolding Social Constructionism. New York: Springer, 2005. * Kukla, A., ''Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Science'', London: Routledge, 2000. , * Lowenthal, P., & Muth, R. Constructivism. In E. F. Provenzo, Jr. (Ed.), ''Encyclopedia of the social and cultural foundations of education'' (pp. 177–179). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008. * and Gergen, K. (Eds.). Therapy as Social Construction. London: Sage, 1992 . * and Gergen, K. ''Relational Responsibility: Resources for Sustainable Dialogue''. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, 2005. . * Penman, R. ''Reconstructing communicating''. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000. * Poerksen, B
The Certainty of Uncertainty: Dialogues Introducing Constructivism
Exeter: Imprint-Academic, 2004. * Restivo, S. and Croissant, J., "Social Constructionism in Science and Technology Studies" (Handbook of Constructionist Research, ed. J.A. Holstein & J.F. Gubrium) Guilford, NY 2008, 213–229; * Schmidt, S. J., ''Histories and Discourses: Rewriting Constructivism''. Exeter: Imprint-Academic, 2007. * , ''The Construction of Social Reality.'' New York: Free Press, 1995; . * Shotter, J. ''Conversational realities: Constructing life through language''. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1993. * Stewart, J., Zediker, K. E., & Witteborn, S. ''Together: Communicating interpersonally – A social construction approach'' (6th ed). Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury, 2005. * Weinberg, D. ''Contemporary Social Constructionism: Key Themes''. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2014. * Willard, C. A., ''Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy'' Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996; . * Wilson, D. S. (2005), "Evolutionary Social Constructivism". In J. Gottshcall and D. S. Wilson, (Eds.), ''The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative.'' Evanston, IL, Northwestern University Press;
Full text


Articles

* Drost, Alexander. "Borders. A Narrative Turn – Reflections on Concepts, Practices and their Communication", in: Olivier Mentz and Tracey McKay (eds.), Unity in Diversity. European Perspectives on Borders and Memories, Berlin 2017, pp. 14–33. * * Mallon, R
"Naturalistic Approaches to Social Construction"
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.). * * Shotter, J., & Gergen, K. J., Social construction: Knowledge, self, others, and continuing the conversation. In S. A. Deetz (Ed.), ''Communication Yearbook, 17'' (pp. 3– 33). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994.


External links

{{DEFAULTSORT:Social Constructionism Communication theory Consensus reality Human behavior Human communication Social concepts Social epistemology Sociology of knowledge Sociological theories