social construction of reality

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social construction of reality

a formulation employed within some areas of sociology to emphasize the way in which social institutions and social life generally is socially produced rather than naturally given or determined.

At one level the claim is almost trivial, since our knowledge about ourselves, and about the social as well as the natural world, is mediated by CULTURE, and so is necessarily 'social’ in origin. A specific emphasis on the social construction of reality is often made, however, to offset Durkheimian (see DURKHEIM) notions of society as a pregiven reality, consisting of constraining social facts (see SOCIAL FACTS AS THINGS) to which individuals are subject. The 'social constructionist’view, originating with THOMAS and members of the CHICAGO SCHOOL, was to emphasize instead the way in which the social world was continually reinvented (produced) by individuals, rather than as something which simply confronted them.

In reality, any simple DUALISM of individual selves (see SELF) and society is unsustainable. Society cannot exist without acting selves; in turn, the self is a product of society (see MEAD, COOLEY, STRUCTURE AND AGENCY, STRUCTURATION THEORY). Berger and Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality (1697) – the text which first systematically introduced the concept of'social construction’ into sociology – is an early exploration of these themes. Since then the conception of 'social construction’ has become much more widespread, e.g. in the study of DEVIANCE, especially LABELLING THEORY.

Some of the most wide-ranging debates and developments in terms of a social constructionist perspective have come when issues of ONTOLOGY are raised. This is especially the case where social reality might appear determined by the nature of physical realities such as bodies, diseases, or the natural world. Challenges to such assumptions have been forthcoming from theorists such as FOUCAULT for whom the BODY itself is seen as a product of particular discursive practices rather than biology (see SOCIOLOGY OF THE BODY); diseases can be reconceptualized as shifting modes of social response rather than an organic disruption (White, 1991; Bury, 1986; Nicolson and McLaughlin, 1987); and scientific knowledge can be analysed as the result of negotiations about the meaning of phenomena (see SOCIOLOGY OF SCIENCE) in which the rules about theoretical consistency, experimental adequacy and dissemination of information are flexibly interpreted according to a varying agenda of interests (see Mulkay, 1979).

References in periodicals archive ?
(1995) An Introduction to Social Constructionism. London: Routledge
Orientations to social constructionism: Relationally responsive social constructionism and its implications for knowledge and learning.
Social constructionism is a theoretical movement concerned with the ways knowledge is historically located and inserted in cultural and values practices (Burr, 2015; Camargo-Borges & Rasera, 2013).
The instrument to construct the research corpus was a semistructured interview script, which explored: the contact history with social constructionism; how the constructionist contributions are used in clinical practice; and challenges and potentials faced in the practice based on the use of these ideas.
Additionally, counselors must understand concepts associated with the epistemology of postmodernism and the theory of social constructionism.
This ultimately supports social constructionism, wherein differing performances of masculine ideals are permitted and/or encouraged within varying social contexts.
Rom Harre considers the study of discourse as a topic of study in its own right and as a key concept in social constructionism leading psychology to a second cognitive revolution (Harre & Gillett, 1994; Harre & van Langenhove, 1999).
Therefore, distinguishing people as discrete entities worthy of study in their own right remains vital--even when incorporating social constructionism's critical insight that the personal has too often been privileged at the expense of the social in Western psychology.
Weinberg, Darin, Contemporary Social Constructionism: Key Themes.
Careful to first warn that by itself "the emphasis on discourse in social constructionism empties out the corporal experiences of disability," (72) Russell extends the argument: balancing the physical, the textual, and the social body.