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Encyclopedia > Social construction

A social construction, social construct or social concept is an institutionalized entity or artifact in a social system "invented" or "constructed" by participants in a particular culture or society that exists because people agree to behave as if it exists, or agree to follow certain conventional rules, or behave as if such agreement or rules existed. Institutions are structures and mechanisms of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of two or more individuals. ... A cultural artifact is an man-made object which gives information about the culture of its creator and users. ... Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning to cultivate), generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance. ... Young people interacting within an ethnically diverse society. ... A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted rules, norms, standards or criteria, often taking the form of a custom. ...


Social constructs include such things as games, money, school grades, titles, nationality, governments, universities, corporations and other institutions. More debatable social constructs include language, class, race, gender, religion, science, childhood, sexuality, morality, memory and reality. Tug of war is an easily organized, impromptu game that requires little equipment. ... Economics offers various definitions for money, though it is now commonly defined by the functions attached to any good or token that functions in trade as a medium of exchange, store of value, and unit of account. ... A grade education can mean either a teachers evaluation of a students work or a students level of educational progress, usually one grade per year (often denoted by an ordinal number, such as the 3rd Grade or the 12th Grade). This article is about evaluation of students... A title is a prefix or suffix added to a persons name to signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. ... In English usage, nationality is the legal relationship between a person and a country. ... For a list of universities around the world, see Lists of colleges and universities Representation of a university class, 1350s. ... Corporate redirects here. ... Institutions are structures and mechanisms of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of two or more individuals. ... Social class refers to the hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups in societies or cultures. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... The gender symbols used to denote a male or female organism. ... Part of a scientific laboratory at the University of Cologne. ... Childhood (song) Childhood is a broad term usually applied to the phase of development in humans between infancy and adulthood. ... This article is about the issues and phenomena pertaining to human sexual function and behavior. ... It has been suggested that Moral reflex be merged into this article or section. ... For other uses, see Memory (disambiguation). ... This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims. ...


Social constructionism is a school of thought that attempts, to varying degrees, to analyze seemingly natural and given phenomena in terms of social constructs. Connotations of such analysis may seem to include made-up, accidental, arbitrary, and unreal, though this is rarely what social constructionists who use the term have in mind, for, according to most social constructionists, social constructions are very much real - they are a part of, or sometimes the entirety of, lived reality. Indeed, they have an ontological status in society as substantial as the ontological status of brute facts. Social constructionism or social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge based on Hegels ideas, and developed by Durkheim at the turn of the century. ... In philosophy, ontology (from the Greek , genitive : of being (part. ... Brute facts are opposed to institutional facts, in that they do not require the context of an institution to occur. ...


Social constructions must be seen in an institutional context, as arising from the institutionalisation of patterns of interaction and meaning in society leading to a construction of social institutions and institutionalized perspectives and understandings.

Contents

The term "social construction"

The first book with "social construction" in its title was Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality, first published in 1966. Since then, the term found its way into the mainstream of the social sciences. Peter Ludwig Berger (born March 17, 1929) is an American sociologist well known for his work The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (New York, 1966). ... Thomas Luckmann (b. ... The book The Social Construction of Reality was a classic text in the sociology of knowledge written by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann and published in 1966. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...


The central concept of Berger and Luckmann's Social Construction of Reality is that actors interacting together in a social system form, over time, typifications or mental representations of each other's actions, and that these typifications eventually become habitualised into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relation to each other. When these reciprocal roles are made available to other members of society to enter into and play out, the typified reciprocal interactions are said to be institutionalised. In the process of this institutionalisation, meaning is embedded and institutionalised into individuals and society - knowledge and people's conception of (and therefore belief regarding) what reality is becomes embedded into the institutional fabric and structure of society, and social reality is therefore said to be socially constructed. For further discussion of key concepts related to social construction, see social constructionism and deconstruction. Social constructionism or social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge based on Hegels ideas, and developed by Durkheim at the turn of the century. ... In contemporary philosophy and social sciences, the term deconstruction denotes a process by which the texts and languages of (particularly) Western philosophy appear to shift and complicate in meaning when read in light of the assumptions they suggest about and absences they reveal within themselves. ...


In articulating the term 'social construction' it is also relevant to note the distinction made between institutional facts and brute facts. Institutional facts, such as 'this piece of paper issued by the government is a ten dollar bill' are 'facts' only in the context of specific social institutions (in the above case, the institution of money). Institutional facts are socially constructed, while 'brute' facts are not ontologically dependent on social institutions. Brute facts are opposed to institutional facts, in that they do not require the context of an institution to occur. ... Brute facts are opposed to institutional facts, in that they do not require the context of an institution to occur. ...


Philosopher and historian of science Ian Hacking (1999, pp. 24-25) argued that there are few, if any, "universal constructionists". That is, few people would say for example that the sun or DNA are in and of themselves socially constructed and exist only by virtue of that social construction. Rather, our mental representations of objects in the physical world are socially constructed, and our social relationships to and interactions with those objects are socially constructed. The social sphere, however, is different, as important social realities (for example money) may exist by virtue of their social construction by people over time. Ian Hacking, CC (born 1936) in Vancouver is a philosopher operating in the fields of philosophy of science and philosophy of language. ...


Another key point raised by Hacking (1999, p. 18) is that the term 'social construction' is also used where its usage isn't meaningful. As an example, he relates that Rom Harré's publisher insisted that Harré change the title of one of his works from The Social Production of Emotions to The Social Construction of the Emotions since more copies would sell under the new title. "Social construction" may also sometimes be used primarily to make friends or enemies; as Hacking (1999, p. vii) says, "The phrase has become code. If you use it favorably, you deem yourself rather radical. If you trash the phrase, you declare that you are rational, reasonable, and respectable". Horace Romano Harré (born 1927 in New Zealand), known widely as Rom, is a distinguished philosopher and psychologist // He graduated in mathematics and physics and he afterwards lectured at the University of Punjab, India. ...


Examples of social constructs

Gender, sex, and feminism

Especially with the advent of second-wave feminism, it has become fairly common to distinguish biological sex from gender, claiming along the way that there is no inherent connection between the two.[citation needed] In more recent years, some social constructionists have asserted that gender is entirely a social construct.[citation needed] One possible explanation for this state of affairs is that the differences between the genders exist because they are created by society, and are not biological.[citation needed] Second-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity which began during the mid- 1960s. ...


Biological sex, too, has been subjected to the critical eye of social constructionists, especially when viewed in terms of an exclusive either/or, male/female dichotomy. Queer theorists note that transsexual and intersexed people seem not to fit into this mode of categorization, and note attempts by medical doctors throughout the 20th century to force such people into the male/female construct, as in the case of the "John/Joan" medical intervention. Social constructionists argue that there are more factors involved in determining whether one experiences oneself as "a man" or "a woman" than the outer appearance of the genitalia and the socialization process that asserts that a child is "a boy who will grow up to be a man" or "a girl who will grow up to be a woman." Societies, individuals living in communities, often construct a masculine or feminine identity for a child, or at least attempt to do so, solely on the basis of the appearance of their external genitalia. This article or section is not written in the formal tone expected of an encyclopedia article. ... A transsexual (sometimes transexual) person establishes a permanent identity with the opposite gender to their assigned (usually at birth) sex. ... An intersexual is a person (or individual of any unisexual species) who is born with genitalia and/or secondary sexual characteristics of indeterminate sex, or which combine features of both sexes. ...


One revealing inadvertent experiment occurred several decades ago. Identical twins were brought in by appointment to be circumcised. The regular surgeon was not present that day and the physician who actually performed the first circumcision used electrical cauterization (intended to stop bleeding) in such an unskilled way that the entire penis was burned to a crisp. Fortunately he did not proceed to operate on the second twin. The parents sought some way of creating a way forward for a boy without a penis. They consulted with Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins University who had been studying cases of intersexuality. He was convinced by the evidence that some individuals who were biologically of one sex but were raised as though they belonged to the opposite sex due to the ambiguous nature of their genital organs could be quite successful in life even with this transposition of sexual identity. He overgeneralized these results to conclude, at that time in his career, that any child could be raised as a member of the opposite sex if two conditions were maintained: (1) deciding the putative sex of the child as early as possible and never creating an ambiguity by trying to change the child's sexual designation, and (2) maintaining the socialization processes exactly as they would normally be for a child of that sex. If the genitalia of the child were obviously ambiguous that fact would create social dissonance when other children discovered that their playmate was "a girl with a penis" or "a boy with a vagina," so the advice was always to "surgically assign" the individual to the desired sex. When the parents of "John/Joan" consulted with Money, he advised them that there was no way to provide the child with a functioning penis so he could never live the reproductive life of a male, therefore it would be better to turn the child into a girl because in that guise the child could carry on a relatively normal life as an adult. According to John Colapinto's book on this unintentional experiment, Money's theory failed. All the way along little "Joan" gave indications of regarding "herself" as a boy. Strong measures were taken to try to coerce her into accepting a feminine gender identity and gender role, but she became more and more resistant, discovered what had been done, and insisted on surgical reassignment so he could live as the young man he knew himself to be.[1] More information on this tragic inadvertent experiment can be found at David Reimer. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... A bagpiper in Scottish military clan-uniform. ... David Reimer (August 22, 1965 – May 5, 2004) was a Canadian man who was born as a mentally and biologically healthy boy, but was sexually reassigned and raised as a girl in an attempt to improve his life after his penis was inadvertently destroyed during circumcision. ...


This experiment could never have been undertaken intentionally as to do so would have been a gross violation of professional ethics. After the fact, many people criticized Dr. Money for having offered a solution that he believed would work but which was, in its own way, as inept as the original botched circumcision.


The results of this unintended experiment showed that although gender identities are always constructed for children (and involve elements as subtle as whether the pelvis is unconsciously thrust forward or tucked back to elements as open as brassieres for even pre-pubescent girls[citation needed])these gender identities are constructed on a biological basis. The biological basis, however, is not solely composed of the external genitalia, or even the external and internal genitalia, but also on whether the brain of the individual was masculinized by the presence of sufficient quantities of androgen at a critical period or periods during gestation. When a community tries to insist that a child take on a certain gender identity and act out a certain gender role on the sole basis of what the community members can judge from the child's external genitalia, that construct can fail because it can meet strong resistance based on the child's interior awareness of self and interior awareness of what he or she is. Transgender people have more and more advocated that children born with ambiguous genitalia be given the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they want changes made to their genitalia, and that the decision not be taken before the individual is old enough to understand all dimensions of the decision.


Perhaps surprisingly, most transsexuals themselves tend to be very conservative on gender issues and see themselves as mistakes or anomalies of biology rather than deconstructors of the gender paradigm. For many, if not most, transsexuals, the gender reassignment is rather about "correcting a biological issue" to conform to the phenotype of the biological sex rather than manifestation of gender variety. This viewpoint may have some biological basis: the dutch studies of 1995 and 2000 ([1]) show a sexually dimorphic nucleus (BSTc in brain hypothalamus) is similar to that of the opposite sex on transsexuals. Look up Transsexualism in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Sex reassignment surgery (SRS) includes the surgical procedures by which a persons physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are changed to that of the other sex. ...


Social constructions, as revealed in the case of gender identity and gender role, turns out to be based on a core of fact and a surrounding layer of conventions that may have biological relevance but are not necessarily compliant to biology. For instance, some societies make kilts or sarongs the appropriate clothing for men while other societies may ridicule men for wearing anything that even resembles a skirt. Likewise, "Kari" is a male name in Finnish language, but female in English language Finnish ( ) is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland (92%[2] as mother tongue) and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ...


Games

One kind of fairy chess.
One kind of fairy chess.

There is little argument as to whether or not games are social constructs. They exist entirely because of a set of rules or social conventions which the players, and the spectators, agree to work within. To take one example, each piece in chess may move only in certain patterns – the bishop may move only diagonally, the knight only in an 'L' shape, etc. There is, of course, no physical property the pieces possess that prevents them from moving otherwise, nor is it impossible for any other reason to move, say, a pawn two spaces backward instead of the usual one space forward. It is only a set of social conventions – the rules of chess – and our agreement to abide by those rules which prevents us from doing so. The conventional nature of these rules is brought into high relief in fairy chess. Image File history File links Glinski_Chess_Setup. ... Image File history File links Glinski_Chess_Setup. ... A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted rules, norms, standards or criteria, often taking the form of a custom. ... Chess is an abstract strategy board game for two players that is played both recreationally and competitively. ... A chess variant is any game derived from or related to chess. ...


In a similar vein, Stanley Fish (Fish 1996) has suggested that the baseball's "balls and strikes" are social constructions (Hacking 1999, pp. 29-31). Stanley Fish (born 1938) is a prominent American literary theorist and legal scholar. ...


Anatomy of a social construct

Linguist Steven Pinker (2002, p. 202) writes that "some categories really are social constructions: they exist only because people tacitly agree to act as if they exist." Both Hacking and Pinker agree that the sorts of objects indicated here can be described as part of what John Searle calls "social reality". In particular, they are, in Searle's terms, ontologically subjective but epistemologically objective. Informally, they require human practices to sustain their existence, but they have an effect that is (basically) universally agreed upon. The disagreement lies in whether this category should be called "socially constructed". Hacking (1997) argues that it should not. Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a prominent American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and popular science writer known for his spirited and wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. ... In philosophy, an object is a thing, an entity, or a being. ... John Rogers Searle (born July 31, 1932) is Mills Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, and is noted for contributions to the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and consciousness, on the characteristics of socially constructed versus physical realities, and on practical reason. ...


Contemporary developments

Berger and Luckmann's work on social construction has been extended by major sociological theorists of the late twentieth century, for example in Pierre Bourdieu's genetic structuralism, Anthony Giddens's theory of structuration and Roy Bhaskar, Margaret Archer and Tony Lawson's Critical Realist Transformational Model of Social Activity (TMSA). See structure and agency for a discussion of further developments in contemporary social science theory consistent with the concept of social construction. Pierre Bourdieu (August 1, 1930 – January 23, 2002) was an acclaimed French sociologist whose work employed methods drawn from a wide range of disciplines, from philosophy and literary theory to sociology and anthropology. ... Anthony Giddens in 2000. ... The Theory of Structuration, proposed by Anthony Giddens (1984) in The Constitution of Society, (mentioned also in Central Problems of Social Theory, 1977) is an attempt to reconcile theoretical dichotomies of social systems such as agency/structure, subjective/objective, and micro/macro perspectives, which consider individuals as either acted upon... Roy A. Bhaskar (born 1944) is a British philosopher, most closely associated with the philosophical movement of Critical Realism. ... Margaret Archer is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK, since 1973. ... The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ...


A further contemporary perspective on social construction worth examining is philosopher John Searle's book The Construction of Social Reality - the title constituting a deliberate reference to Berger and Luckmann's landmark 1966 work.


Meanwhile, the notion of social construction has continued to feature prominently in the social sciences and in the 'culture wars'.


Government Laws

Moral laws can also be argued to be defined by social construction. In this physical world, there is nothing keeping people from killing one another except that as a society, it is seen as unacceptable. However, when put in context of punishment, the death penalty may be seen by some as an acceptable form of punishment. These social constructs seem to overlap each other and can be seen as contradictory. But since we have defined government as having the authority to create and enforce rules, then the death penalty is socially acceptable to some.


See also

A community usually refers to a group of people who interact and share certain things as a group, but it can refer to various collections of living things sharing an environment, plant or animal. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Idealism is an approach to philosophical enquiry that asserts that everything we experience is of a mental nature. ... Institutionalization is a term used to describe both the treatment of, and damage caused to, vulnerable human beings by the oppressive or corrupt application of inflexible systems of social, medical, or legal controls by publicly owned or not-for-profit organisations originally created for beneficial purposes and intents. ... To internalize is to put something inside of borders where it did not originally belong. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The Ego and Its Own (German: Der Einzige und sein Eigentum; also translated as The Individual and His Property; a literal translation would read The Sole One and His Property) is the main work by German philosopher Max Stirner, published in 1844. ... Postmodernism is an idea that has been extremely controversial and difficult to define among scholars, intellectuals, and historians, because the term implies to many that the modern historical period has passed. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims. ... Social constructionism or social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge based on Hegels ideas, and developed by Durkheim at the turn of the century. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ...

References

  1. ^ Colapinto, John (2000). As nature made him: The boy who was raised as a girl. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-092959-6.
  • Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann: The Social Construction of Reality. New York: Doubleday, 1966.
  • John Searle (1995) The Construction of Social Reality
  • Ian Hacking (1999). The Social Construction of What?. Harvard University Press: 2001.
  • Ian Hacking (1997). John Searle's building blocks. History of the Human Sciences.
  • Steven Pinker (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human nature. Viking Penguin.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Social constructionism Summary (3827 words)
Socially constructed reality is seen as an ongoing, dynamic process; reality is re-produced by people acting on their interpretations and their knowledge of it.
Within social constructionist thought, a social construction (social construct) is an idea which may appear to be natural and obvious to those who accept it, but in reality is an invention or artifact of a particular culture or society.
Social constructionism is dialectically opposed to essentialism, the belief that there are defining transhistorical essences independent of conscious beings that determine the categorical structure of reality.
Social construction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1112 words)
A social construction, or social construct or a social concept is an invention or artifact of a particular culture or society which exists solely because people agree to behave as if it exists, or agree to follow certain conventional rules.
Social constructionism is a school of thought that attempts, to varying degrees, to analyze seemingly natural and given phenomena in terms of social constructs.
The point, social constructionists argue, is that the very necessity of forcing these people into our scheme of sex categorization shows that this scheme cannot be a matter of biological fact, but must instead be a social construction.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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