This book reformulates the sociological subdiscipline known as the sociology of knowledge. Knowledge is presented as more than ideology, including as well false consciousness, propaganda, science and art.
In my dissertation, I argue that the enterprise of corrective justice requires answering questions about what is unjust and how we ought to set and pursue corrective justice goals. To answer these questions in a way that will allow us to correct for the persistent and entrenched injustices which result from processes of stratification in our society, I’ll put forward a two-tiered social contract theory, which will allow us to approach these questions in a way that will capture the (...) agreement we can have and allow us to structure the persistent disagreement that we cannot and ought not avoid. In the first tier—the cooperative position—the parties know only that they’re in what I’m calling the ten circumstances of cooperation—the circumstances in which modern cooperation takes place. These circumstances includes the social complexity and opacity inherent in complex cooperative arrangements which have epistemic effects on our social cognition in ways that make our view of our social arrangements at best partial, and work to obscure important features of our social reality, especially those affecting those at the bottom of our stratified social relations. This tier generates four cooperative ideals—proficient rationality, democratic equality, social understanding, and dignity—that function as a theory of justice which can gain an overlapping consensus in society but still allow for meaningful disagreement to take place. In the second tier—the corrective position—the parties have access to the circumstances of cooperation, four cooperative ideals, and a general and specific domination contract. These domination contracts model how stratified social relations operate to constrain people within social systems, including the ways that people think about those systems. I argue that the parties would affirm a principle of corrective justice as involving coalitions of differently-situated actors working together over time to dismantle unjust mechanisms, and five desiderata for applying that principle to circumstances as we confront them. They would do so because that is the only way to overcome the practical and epistemic barriers put in place by the domination contracts. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to bring recent work on metaphysical grounding to bear on the phenomenon of socialconstruction. It is argued that grounding can be used to analyze socialconstruction and that the grounding framework is helpful for articulating various claims and commitments of social constructionists, especially about social identities, e.g., gender and race. The paper also responds to a number of objections that have been leveled against the application of grounding (...) to socialconstruction from Elizabeth Barnes, Mari Mikkola, and Jessica Wilson. (shrink)
Legal norms are an invention. This paper advances a proposal about what kind of invention they are. The proposal is that legal norms derive from rules which specify role functions in a legal system. Legal rules attach to agents in virtue of their status within the system in which the rules operate. The point of legal rules or a legal system is to solve to large scale coordination problems, specifically the problem of organizing social and economic life among a (...) group of people and their successors, though not every legal rule pertains to a coordination problem. The framework for thinking about legal norms that I describe is a framework for thinking about institutions and policies more generally. The idea is to show that legal norms are a species of institutional norm. There are two central ideas. The first is the idea of a role in an institution. The second is the idea of proxy agency. Proxy agency involves one agent or group acting under the authorization of another agent or group (perhaps subsuming it) in a way that makes the actions of the proxy count as actions (under a description) of the individual or group for which it is a proxy. We get the characteristic structure of a legal system by conceiving of an institutional group, itself conceived of as a set of interlocking roles realized in individuals, as having one or more roles for proxy agents who are authorized by the group to make policy for the group. The set of rules governing the basic constitution of the group and spelling out the powers of the policy proxies determine fundamental norms for the group with specific role responsibilities attaching to particular positions in institutional arrangements. The policies determine further norms whose force derives from the fundamental norms. We must then say some further things to distinguish institutions and policies which we wish to designate as legal. (shrink)
In The SocialConstruction of Sexuality, Steven Seidman investigates the political and social consequences of privileging certain sexual practices and identities while stigmatizing others. Addressing a range of topics from gay and lesbian identities to sex work, Seidman delves into issues of social control that inform popular beliefs and moral standards. The new Third Edition features three new chapters that focus on the changing cultures of intimacy, the promise and perils of cyber intimacies, and youth struggles (...) to negotiate independence and intimate solidarity. (shrink)
This book provides an original and provocative combination of ethnomethodological analysis and the concepts of linguistic philosophy with a breadth and clarity unusual in this field of writing. It is designed to be read by sociologists, psychologists and philosophers and concerns itself with the contributions of Wittgenstein, defending the claim for his relevance to the human sciences. However, this book goes some way beyond the usual limitations of such interdisciplinary works by outlining some empirical applications of ideas derived from the (...) Wittgenstein tradition. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: Constructivist Studies of Science and Technology The Origin and Development of the SocialConstruction of Technology The SocialConstruction of Technology as a Heuristics for Research Some Philosophical Questions Technology and Ideas Conceptual Issues Logic and Epistemological Issues Ethical Issues Issues of Political Philosophy Religious Issues References and Further Reading.
In this collection of previously published essays, Sally Haslanger draws on insights from feminist and critical race theory and on the resources of contemporary analytic philosophy to develop the idea that gender and race are positions ...
If—as many scholars aver—gender is not a biological but rather a social fact, then how is it possible for someone assigned to the category Man at birth at some point later to feel or otherwise experience a personal (as contrasted with social) reality as a woman? If gender is social, how could a statement of the form “I feel like a woman” be true for such a person? This paper aims to defuse the apparent tension, by articulating (...) an account of the construction of oneself-as-gendered (which we may refer to as a gender token), within the wider context of socialconstruction. The aim is to illuminate the differences between constructions of gender tokens, on the one hand, and the social constructions of gender types (known just as gender), on the other. Illuminating both as constructions, but of distinct origins and requiring differential degrees of social collaboration, defuses the tension. (shrink)
Feminist metaphysics is guided by the insight that gender is socially constructed, yet the metaphysics behind socialconstruction remains obscure. Barnes and Mikkola charge that current metaphysical frameworks—including my grounding framework—are hostile to feminist metaphysics. I argue that not only is a grounding framework hospitable to feminist metaphysics, but also that a grounding framework can help shed light on the metaphysics behind socialconstruction. By treating socialconstruction claims as grounding claims, the feminist metaphysician (...) and the social ontologist both gain a way to integrate socialconstruction claims into a general metaphysics, while accounting for the inferential connections between socialconstruction and attendant notions such as dependence and explanation. So I conclude that a grounding framework can be helpful for feminist metaphysics and social ontology. (shrink)
Socialconstruction theorists face a certain challenge to the effect that they confuse the epistemic and the metaphysical: surely our conceptions of something are influenced by social practices, but that doesn't show that the nature of the thing in question is so influenced. In this paper I take up this challenge and offer a general framework to support the claim that a human kind is socially constructed, when this is understood as a metaphysical claim and as a (...) part of a social constructionist debunking project. I give reasons for thinking that a conferralist framework is better equipped to capture the social constructionist intuition than rival accounts of social properties, such as a constitution account and a response-dependence account, and that this framework helps to diagnose what is at stake in the debate between the social constructionists and their opponents. The conferralist framework offered here should be welcomed by social constructionists looking for firm foundations for their claims, and for anyone else interested in the debate over the socialconstruction of human kinds. (shrink)
The goal of this paper is to make headway on a metaphysics of socialconstruction. In recent work, I’ve argued that socialconstruction should be understood in terms of metaphysical grounding. However, I agree with grounding skeptics like Wilson that bare claims about what grounds what are insufficient for capturing, with fine enough grain, metaphysical dependence structures. To that end, I develop a view on which the socialconstruction of human social kinds is (...) a kind of realization relation. Social kinds, I argue, are multiply realizable kinds. I depart from the Wilson by further arguing that an appeal to grounding is not otiose when it comes to socialconstruction. Socialconstruction, I claim, belongs to the “big-G” Grounding genus, but it is the specific “small-g” relation of realization at work in cases of human kind socialconstruction. (shrink)
Social constructionist claims are surprising and interesting when they entail that presumably natural kinds are in fact socially constructed. The claims are interesting because of their theoretical and political importance. Authors like Díaz-León argue that constitutive socialconstruction is more relevant for achieving social justice than causal socialconstruction. This paper challenges this claim. Assuming there are socially salient groups that are discriminated against, the paper presents a dilemma: if there were no constitutively constructed (...)social kinds, the causes of the discrimination of existing social groups would have to be addressed, and understanding causal socialconstruction would be relevant to achieve social justice. On the other hand, not all possible constitutively socially constructed kinds are actual social kinds. If an existing social group is constitutively constructed as a social kind K, the fact that it actually exists as a K has social causes. Again, causal socialconstruction is relevant. The paper argues that (i) for any actual social kind X, if X is constitutively socially constructed as K, then it is also causally socially constructed; and (ii) causal socialconstruction is at least as relevant as constitutive socialconstruction for concerns of social justice. For illustration, I draw upon two phenomena that are presumed to contribute towards the discrimination of women: (i) the poor performance effects of stereotype threat, and (ii) the silencing effects of gendered language use. (shrink)
'Socialconstruction' is a central metaphor in contemporary social science, yet it is used and understood in widely divergent and indeed conflicting ways by different thinkers. Most commonly, it is seen as radically opposed to realist social theory. Dave Elder-Vass argues that social scientists should be both realists and social constructionists and that coherent versions of these ways of thinking are entirely compatible with each other. This book seeks to transform prevailing understandings of the (...) relationship between realism and constructionism. It offers a thorough ontological analysis of the phenomena of language, discourse, culture and knowledge, and shows how this justifies a realist version of social constructionism. In doing so, however, it also develops an analysis of these phenomena that is significant in its own right. (shrink)
This illuminating book explores the theme of social constructionism in legal theory. It questions just how much freedom and power social groups really have to construct and reconstruct law. Michael Giudice takes a nuanced approach to analyse what is true and what is false in the view that law is socially constructed. He draws on accounts of European Union law as well as Indigenous legal orders in North America to demonstrate the contingency of particular concepts of law. Utilising (...) evidence from a range of social and natural sciences, he also considers how law may have a naturally necessary core. The book concludes that while law would not exist without beliefs, intentions, and practices, it must always exist as a social rule, declaration, or directive; much, but not all, of law is socially constructed. This book will be a valuable resource for academics and students of law and philosophy as well as researchers interested in the intersections between analytical legal theory, socio-legal studies, and empirical legal studies. (shrink)
Stereotypes of socialconstruction suggest that the existence of social constructs is accidental and that such constructs have arbitrary and subjective features. In this paper, I explore a conception of socialconstruction according to which it consists in the collective imposition of function onto reality and show that, according to this conception, these stereotypes are incorrect. In particular, I argue that the collective imposition of function onto reality is typically non-accidental and that the products of (...) such imposition frequently have non-arbitrary and objective features. These conclusions are interesting in and of themselves since they debunk important aspects of our socially constructed conception of socialconstruction. Yet, additionally, they have important implications for the viability of mathematical social constructivism since resistance to such constructivism is frequently grounded in the observation that mathematics is non-accidental, non-arbitrary, and objective. As a secondary focus, I explore these implications in this paper. (shrink)
This paper outlines, from a sociological and social psychological perspective, a theoretical framework with which to define and analyse consciousness, emphasizing the importance of language, collective representations, conceptions of self, and self-reflectivity in understanding human consciousness. It argues that the shape and feel of consciousness is heavily social, and this is no less true of our experience of collective consciousness than it is of our experience of individual consciousness. The paper is divided into two parts. Part One argues (...) that the problem of consciousness can be approached fruitfully by beginning with human group and collective phenomena: community, language, language-based communication, institutional and cultural arrangements, collective representations, self-conceptions, and self-referentiality. A collective is understood as a group or population of individuals that possesses or develops collective representations of itself: its values and goals, its structure and modes of operating, its strategies, developments, strengths and weaknesses, etc. Collective reflectivity emerges as a function of an organization or group producing and making use of collective representations of the self in its discussions, critical reflections, and planning. A collective monitors its activities, achievements and failures, and reflects on itself as a defined and on-going collective being. In this perspective, human consciousness is understood as a type of reflective activity: observing, monitoring, judging and re-orienting and re-organizing self; considering what characterizes the self, what self perceives, judges, could do, should do . The reflectivity is encoded in language and developed in conversations about collective selves. Part Two of the paper applies the framework to analysing the individual experience of consciousness, self-representation, self-reference, self-reflectivity and self-development. (shrink)
What is socialconstruction? This essay offers a survey of the various ways in which something could be socially constructed and then addresses briefly the questions whether social constructionism involves an untenable anti-realism and what, if anything, unifies all socialconstruction claims.
The “culture wars” include debates about the “socialconstruction” of X, where X includes, but is not limited to, quarks, the child viewer of television, and Zulu nationalism. Ian Hacking, with his usual erudition and style, analyzes the nature of “socialconstruction” and uncovers the political and philosophical issues that drive these debates. Unlike most of the books associated with these “wars,” Hacking's book is not polemical, but rather attempts to understand the nature of the conflict (...) without taking up sides. (shrink)
One influential view is that at least some putatively natural human kinds are actually social constructions, understood as some real kind of thing that is produced or sustained by our social and conceptual practices. Category constructionists share two commitments: they hold that human category terms like “race” and “sex” and “homosexuality” and “perversion” actually refer to constructed categories, and they hold that these categories are widely but mistakenly taken to be natural kinds. But it is far from clear (...) that these two commitments are consistent. The sort of mismatch between belief and underlying nature constructionists’ suppose is often taken to indicate a failure of reference. Reliance on a causal-historical account of reference allows the preservation of reference, but unfortunately, constructionists' appropriation of causal historical accounts of reference is beset by difficulties that do not attend natural kind theorists’ appeals to such accounts. Here, I set out these difficulties, but argue that they can be answered, allowing terms for apparently natural human kinds refer to some sort of socialconstruction about which there is massive error. (shrink)
Although scholarship in the socialconstruction of technology has contributed much to illuminating technological development, most work using this theoretical approach is committed to an agency-centered approach. SCOT scholars have made only limited contributions to illustrating the influence of social structures. In this article, the authors argue for the importance of structural concepts to understanding technological development. They summarize the SCOT conceptual framework defined by Trevor Pinch and Wiebe Bijker and survey some of the methodological and explanatory (...) difficulties that arise with their approach. Then the authors present concepts from organizational sociology and political economy that illuminate structural influences in shaping phenomena of interest to SCOT scholars. These structural concepts can be applied to the study of the design, development, and transformation of technology. The authors conclude that the limited amount of scholarship on structural factors in the social shaping of technological development presents numerous opportunities for research. (shrink)
Julian Cole argues that mathematical domains are the products of socialconstruction. This view has an initial appeal in that it seems to salvage much that is good about traditional platonistic realism without taking on the ontological baggage. However, it also has problems. After a brief sketch of social constructivist theories and Cole’s philosophy of mathematics, I evaluate the arguments in favor of social constructivism. I also discuss two substantial problems with the theory. I argue that (...) unless and until social constructivists can address the two concerns, we have reason to be skeptical about social constructivism in the philosophy of mathematics. (shrink)
This article considers the socialconstruction of mental toughness in line with prevailing social attitudes towards success and dominance in elite sport. Critical attention is drawn to the research literature which has sought to conceptualise mental toughness and the idealistic rhetoric and metaphor with which it has done so. The concept of mental toughness currently reflects an elitist ideal, constructed along the lines of the romantic narrative of the ‘Hollywood hero’ athlete. In contrast, the mental and moral (...) virtues which should form the basis of mental toughness are often neglected when an athlete ‘fails’. Currently, mental toughness exists as a characteristic used to describe successful athletes and is only applied in hindsight. Finally, we recommend that the morally problematic association of mental toughness (within the media, society, and the research community) with ultimate success needs to be removed in order to rescue the concept from the elitist discourses which currently surround and suffocate it. (shrink)
Sally Haslanger is Ford Professor of Philosophy and Women's and Gender Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a leading contemporary feminist philosopher. She has worked on analytic metaphysics, epistemology, and ancient philosophy. Her areas of interest are social and political philosophy, feminist theory, and critical race theory. Her 2012 book, Resisting Reality: SocialConstruction and Social Critique, collects papers published over the course of twenty years that link work in contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy (...) of language with social and political issues concerning gender, race, and the family. It was awarded the 2014 Joseph B. Gittler Prize for “outstanding scholarly contribution in the field of the philosophy of one or more of the social sciences.” In this interview, done in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we discuss her ideas on social practices, social structure, and structural explanation. We also delve into her debunking project of elucidating the notion of ideology in a way that links it with contemporary work in epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind, and to do justice to the materiality of social practices and social structures. (shrink)
The Eurozone crisis has brought the imperative of democratic autonomy within the EU to the forefront, a concern at the core of demoicratic theory. The article seeks to move the scholarship on demoicratic theory a step further by exploring what we call the socialconstruction of demoicratic reality. While the EU’s legal-institutional infrastructure may imperfectly approximate a demoicratic structure, we need ask to what extent the ‘bare bones’ demoicratic character of a polity can actually be grounded in a (...) full-flesh social construct that is or could be acted out in the democratic experience and the self-awareness of its peoples. Ultimately, such an enquiry should help us understand whether a polity like the EU is actually and potentially a stable or unstable political form. We develop a consistent theory of popular sovereignty drawing on John Searle and HLA Hart to conceive the constitutionalised people as a social fact and the sovereignty of the people as a status ascribed to the people. We use this construction of demoicratic reality as a conceptual framework to understand the possibility of popular sovereignty being exercised concurrently by several rather than just one dêmos. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the target article “Who Conceives of Society?” by Ernst von Glasersfeld. Excerpt: Von Glasersfeld claims that socialization arises from drives, interests, purposes, and inclinations . These are all functions of intelligence, and none of these is a social phenomenon. The concept of society, he claims, “has to be formed by each individual by means of generalization from his or her own experiences” . This sort of methodological individualism views the individual as a natural kind and (...) society as an artificial construction. In the wake of the new sociology of science, which has demonstrated the dangers of trying to distinguish immutable facts from our descriptions of the world, methodological individualism is doubly problematic. It violates the fundamental perspective that drives sociology, and it ignores the empirical results of the new sociology of science. (shrink)
How does cultural knowledge shape the development of human minds and, conversely, what kind of species-specific social-cognitive mechanisms have evolved to support the intergenerational reproduction of cultural knowledge? We critically examine current theories proposing a human-specific drive to identify with and imitate conspecifics as the evolutionary mechanism underlying cultural learning. We summarize new data demonstrating the selective interpretive nature of imitative learning in 14-month-olds and argue that the predictive scope of existing imitative learning models is either too broad or (...) too narrow to account for these findings. We outline our alternative theory of a human-specific adaptation for ‘pedagogy’, a communicative system of mutual design specialized for the fast and efficient transfer of new and relevant cultural knowledge from knowledgeable to ignorant conspecifics. We show the central role that innately specified ostensive-communicative triggering cues and learner-directed manner of knowledge manifestations play in constraining and guiding selective imitation of relevant cultural knowledge that is both new and cognitively opaque to the naive learner. (shrink)
Social “construction,” “constructionism” and “constructivism” are terms in wide use in the humanities and social sciences, and are applied to a diverse range of objects including the emotions, gender, race, sex, homo- and hetero-sexuality, mental illness, technology, quarks, facts, reality, and truth. This sort of terminology plays a number of different roles in different discourses, only some of which are philosophically interesting, and fewer of which admit of a “naturalistic” approach—an approach that treats science as a central (...) and successful (if sometimes fallible) source of knowledge about the world. If there is any core idea of social constructionism, it is that some object or objects are caused or controlled by social or cultural factors rather than natural factors, and if there is any core motivation of such research, it is the aim of showing that such objects are or were under our control: they could be, or might have been, otherwise. (shrink)
This article proposes "equality" as a topic for interactionist research. By drawing on the perspectives of Herbert Blumer, Alfred Schutz, and Harold Garfinkel, an attempt is made to lay the theoretical groundwork for studying the interpretive and experiential aspects of equality. Blumer's fundamental premises of symbolic interactionism, Schutz's analysis of relevance and typification, and Garfinkel's treatment of reflexivity and indexicality are explicated and applied to the subject of equality. I then draw upon the moral theory of John Dewey to suggest (...) the positive role that interactionist theory and research might play in the resolution of problematic situations that are framed in terms of equality. Collectively, the complementary aspects of Blumer's, Schutz's, Garfinkel's, and Dewey's thought are used to justify and launch a program of research on a neglected yet important topic: the socialconstruction of equality in everyday life. (shrink)
In the social constructionist literature, little has been said about what it means for social factors to cause X in such a way that X would count as causally socially constructed. In this paper, I argue that being caused by social factors – and thus being causally socially constructed – is best defined in terms of a contrastive counterfactual notion of causation. Unlike some plausible alternatives, this definition captures what is at stake in actual social constructionist (...) debates. It makes transparent which factors the truth of a causal constructionist claim may depend on. By doing so, it sheds light on what the disagreements over whether X is causally socially constructed may turn on. It also helps us to see under which condition the claim that X is socially causally constructed is compatible with the claim that X is caused by biological factors. (shrink)
Both gender and the law are significant determinants of health and well-being. Here, we put forward evidence to unpack the relationship between gender and outcomes in health and well-being, and explore how legal determinants interact and intersect with gender norms to amplify or reduce health inequities across populations. The paper explores the similarities between legal and health systems in their response to gender—both systems portray gender neutrality but would be better described as gender-blind. We conclude with a set of recommendations (...) to address both law and gender in implementing the work of the Lancet Commission on the legal determinants of health to improve health outcomes for all, irrespective of gender. (shrink)