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Social constructionism or the social construction of reality (also social concept) is a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about reality. The theory centers on the notions that human beings rationalize their experience by creating models of the social world and share and reify these models through language.
A social construct or construction concerns 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. In that respect, a social construct as an idea would be widely accepted as natural by the society, but may or may not represent a reality shared by those outside the society, and would be an "invention or of that society."
A major focus of social constructionism is to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the construction of their perceived social reality. It involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, known, and made into tradition by humans.
In terms of background, social constructionism is rooted in "symbolic interactionism" and "phenomenology." With Berger and Luckman's The Social Construction of Reality published in 1966, this concept found its hold. More than four decades later, a sizable number of theory and research pledged 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 theory." The majority of social constructionists abide by the belief that "language does not mirror reality; rather, it constitutes [creates] it."
- (0) In the present state of affairs, X is taken for granted; X appears to be inevitable.
- (1) X need not have existed, or need not be at all as it is. X, or X as it is at present, is not determined by the nature of things; it is not inevitable.
- (2) X is quite bad as it is.
- (3) We would be much better off if X were done away with, or at least radically transformed.
Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality : A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (Anchor, 1967; ).
- Joel Best, Images of Issues: Typifying Contemporary Social Problems, New York: Gruyter, 1989
Ian Hacking, The Social Construction of What? Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999;
John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality. New York: Free Press, 1995; .
Charles Arthur Willard, Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996; .
- Vivien Burr. Social Constructionism, 2nd ed. Routledge 2003]
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
Sal Restivo and Jennifer Croissant, "Social Constructionism in Science and Technology Studies" (Handbook of Constructionist Research, ed. J.A. Holstein & J.F. Gubrium (Guilford, NY 2008, 213–229;
Ellul, Jacques. Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes. Trans. Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner. New York: Knopf, 1965. New York: Random House/ Vintage 1973
Paul Ernest, (1998) Social Constructivism as a Philosophy of Mathematics; Albany, New York: State University of New York Press
Kenneth Gergen, (2009, 2nd edition), An Invitation to Social Construction. Los Angeles: Sage.
- Glasersfeld, Ernst von (1995), Radical Constructivism: A Way of Knowing and Learning. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
- Hibberd, Fiona J. (2005), Unfolding Social Constructionism. New York: Springer.
- André Kukla (2000), Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Science, London: Routledge, ,
- Poerksen, Bernhard (2004), The Certainty of Uncertainty: Dialogues Introducing Constructivism. Exeter: Imprint-Academic.
- Schmidt, Siegfried J. (2007), Histories and Discourses: Rewriting Constructivism. Exeter: Imprint-Acadenic.
Sheila McNamee and Kenneth Gergen (1999). Relational Responsibility: Resources for Sustainable Dialogue. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, Inc. .
Sheila McNamee and Kenneth Gergen (Eds.) (1992). Therapy as Social Construction. London: Sage .
- Lowenthal, P., & Muth, R. (2008). Constructivism. In E. F. Provenzo, Jr. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the social and cultural foundations of education (pp. 177–179). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Paul Boghossian (2006) Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism. Oxford University Press. Online review: http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/25184/?id=8364
- Darin Weinberg. 2014. Contemporary Social Constructionism: Key Themes. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press
- Kitsuse JI, Spector M. Toward a sociology of social problems: Social conditions, value-judgements, and social problems, Social Problems, 20(4) 407-19, 1973
- Mallon, Ron, "Naturalistic Approaches to Social Construction", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
- Metzner, Andreas (1998), Constructions of Environmental Issues in Scientific and Public Discourse, in: Mueller, F.; Leupelt, M. (Eds.): Eco Targets, Goal Functions and Orientors. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York (Springer Publishers) 1998, pp. 171–192
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