SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY AND KNOWLEDGE

SOCIAL_CONSTRUCTION

What is social construction and what is its relevance?  The core understanding and idea is to say or state that facts, knowledge, theories, sciences, structures and institutions would not have existed if they were not produced. Ian Hacking in his work, The Social Construction of What? (1999) refers to social construction as ‘the talk often applied not only to worldly items   – things, kinds and facts – but to our beliefs about them’.  InSocial construction of Technological Systems (STS), the term ‘social construction’ has been adopted from Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann’sThe Social Construction of Reality (1966), an essay on the sociology of knowledge.  Berger and Luckmann emphasises on the construction of reality where the institutions and structures come to exist because of people’s actions and attitudes.

The central notion of social construction of reality is how people shape partly their reality to themselves and others through interaction and life experiences. The conceptions of individuals through interaction and beliefs get embedded in the society. Reality therefore gets socially constructed in accordance to peoples’ backgrounds. It means that a person is a product of social world where he realizes the knowledge about the society and implies or tries to comprehend it to his own reality.

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For example, transgender in most countries do not conform to the traditional gender identity because society constructed reality in that manner. But the existence of the scientific knowledge of transgender encouraged gender studies such as women and queer studies to emphasize on the physical embodiment in sexual and gender identity. Through these studies, activist, lawyers, funders in support of transgender emerged. Support towards people who are transgender has been growing though it varies from countries. This example showcases the inevitable product of social force. For transgenders and their supporters, their reality would be that transgender too belong in the society without any judgement or discrimination. Certain people on the other hand might still be against the notion of transgender in accordance to their own beliefs or backgrounds. Knowledge will be constructed, but reality differs to people as depicted in the knowledge of transgender case. Hence construction of social reality can be subjective and intersubjective.

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References

Berger, Peter L. and Thomas Luckmann (1966) The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. pp 3

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