Thesocialconstructionofwhat

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Social construction is one of very many ideas that are bitterly fought over in the American culture wars

construction titles from a library catalog..

Talk of social construction has become common coin, valuable for political activists and familiar to anyone who comes across current debates about race, gender, culture, or science. Why.

For one thing, the idea of social construction has been wonderfully liberating. It reminds us, say, that motherhood and its meanings are not ?xed and inevitable, the consequence of child-bearing and rearing. They are the product of historical events, social forces, and ideology.

Anorexia example. For all their power to liberate, thoseverywords,‘‘socialconstruction,’’ can work like cancerous cells. Once seeded, they replicate out of hand.


Alan Sokal. Science wars.Culture wars.It is the bemused spectators who talk about the ‘‘wars.’’ A great fear of relativism.

What are we afraid of? Plenty. There is the notion that any opinion is as good as any other; if so, won’t relativism license anything at all? Feminists have recently cautioned us about the dangers of this kind of relativism, for it seems to leave no ground for criticizing oppressive ideas (Code 1995). Then historical revisionism.


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Individual people also qualify: at a workshop on teenage pregnancy, the overworked director of a Roman Catholic welfare agency said: ‘‘And I myself am, of course, a social construct; each of us is.


Social construction work is critical of the status quo. Social construc- tionists about X tend to hold that: (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. Very often they go further, and urge that: (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.


thinking about feminist uses of construction ideas. Undoubtedly the most influential social construction doctrines have had to do with gender.

one very popular site for social construction analyses: ‘‘the self.’’

English word ‘‘self’’ works better as a suffix (herself) and a prefix (self-importance) than as a substantive

We have to accept a situation in which many scholars contentedly dis- cuss the self.


The history of modern philosophy containsmanydiscussionsthatcan induce talk about constructing the self. All of them (to foreshadow a theme developed in the next chapter) go back to Kant, and his visions of the way in which both the moral realm and the framework for the material realm are constructed

the self as being constructed in a social matrix.This suggests a genuine distinction in which some constructions of the self are social, and some are no

The point of saying social construct is to contrast it with individualist

.... Such pictures invite us to think that first there are individual ‘‘selves,’’ and then there are societies.

in the present state of affairs, the atomistic self is taken for granted; it appears to be inevitable.

six grades of constructionism. Historical Ironic Reformist Unmasking Rebellious Revolutionary