Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Social constructionism is a school of thought introduced into sociology by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann with their 1966 book on The Social Construction of Reality. The interest of social constructionism is to discover the ways that individuals and groups create their perceived reality. As an approach, it involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, and made into tradition by humans. Their focus is on the description of the institutions, the actions, and so on, not on analyzing causes and effects. Socially constructed reality is seen as an on-going dynamic process; reality is re-produced by people acting on their interpretation and their knowledge of it. It can be seen here that social construction describes subjective, rather than objective, reality - that is, reality as we can perceive it rather than reality as it is, separate from our perceptions.
In the sociology of science, Karin Knorr Cetina and Bruno Latour use the ideas of social constructionism to relate supposedly objective facts to processes of social construction to show that human subjectivity imposes itself on those facts we take to be objective, not the other way around.
Social constructionism can be seen as a source of the postmodern movement, and has been influential in the field of cultural studies. Some have attributed the rise of cultural studies (the cultural turn) to social constructionism.
A clear example of social constructionist thought is, following Sigmund Freud and Emile Durkheim, religion. Religion is seen as a socially constructed concept, the basis for which is rooted in either our psyche (Freud) or man's need to see some purpose in life or worship a higher presence. One of the key theorists of social constructionism, Peter L. Berger, wrote an entire book exploring the social construction of religion, The Sacred Canopy.
- Contrast with: Essentialism
- epistemology -- ethnomethodology -- phenomenology -- social construction -- radical constructionism -- sociology of knowledge -- symbolic interactionism -- computational sociology
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