Social constructionism

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Social constructionism holds that all knowledge (including social roles, common sense) and thus reality itself is socially constructed to various degrees.[1] One distinguishes strong and weak social constructionism, referring to which extent something is merely a construct rather than objective truth. Even the RationalWiki admits that the social constructionist view is silly in its extreme form.[2] As such, social constructionism borders John Locke's view of human nature being a blank slate that is arbitrarily malleable. Hence, it falls toward the nurture end of the spectrum in the nature and nurture debate. Much of the New Left and anti-incels are radical social constructionists, and hence simply dismiss arguments made by incels on grounds of evolutionary psychology or biology.

Social constructionism was developed in the 1960s by Berger and Luckmann, and later further developed somewhat in adjacency with the Frankfurt School for example Foucault. Berger saw an ongoing construction of new realities and "religions" as result of modernity and liberalization, departing from the traditional roles prescribed by religions. In Berger's words, departure from traditions was causing a "homelessness of the mind". Berger also lamented that parents decide reality for the next generation by institutionalizing their knowledge in shape of rules and norms, that are "opaque" to the child generation and bereaves them the participation in rule creation to some extent.[3] From there onward the philosophy became sillier over time and increasingly prescriptive rather than descriptive, e.g. with Andrew Pickering's article on "Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics".

Social constructionism borrows from Kantianism constructionism, however Kant believed that categorical organisation in the mind which was more naturally constructed rather than socially constructed.[4] In the time of their writing, Berger and Luckmann were not criticized as dismissing possible non-natural origins of thought, but rather ignoring them. Social constructionism was rebranded a number of times, e.g. as postmodernism, a philosophy which is extremely skeptical of overarching narratives and sometimes even intrinsic reality.

Scientific consensus[edit | edit source]

Scientific consensus rejects any hard-line nature vs. nuture stance, including Lockianism, strong and weak social constructionism, and biological essentialism. Human behaviour is mostly biologically rather than socially determined, e.g. humans have cross-culturally the same facial expressions for the most part. But obviously, humans are also malleable to some extent, e.g. humans become smarter attending to school, but their potential is largely predetermined. Scientific theories like mathematics are thought to be objectively true, independent of culture.

Example of social constructionism found to incel forums[edit | edit source]

Social constructionism can be seen in the anti-incels/incels polarization, where firmly entrenched memes and roles create a split over time and define each others actions within forums. The social roles of modern blackpill and anti-incel forums become codified almost to the point of subcultural, not traditionally moral, and quasi-religious activity. These social roles all groups form then define those groups over time as well as the causes they claim to represent.

I.e. the roles that anti-incels and incels are largely constructed through an ideological war, which is admittedly kinda obvious provided these are very complex, high level, culture-dependent behaviors, not the ones that one would expect to find across many cultures. The more simple behaviors are, the more likely they can be found across many cultures, the more likely they are immutable part of human nature.

Critique[edit | edit source]

Modern critique of social constructionism is primarily aimed at the more silly, extreme views that arose in the 1970 and 1980 with the rise of political correctness, but also at the very roots of it, though not necessary Berger and Luckmann, but rather the Frankfurt School which is thought to have had an indirect influence at first and later a direct one.

The New Left have adopted radical social constructionist views that gender, race, beauty, class, hierarchy, disability, even the scientific method, are predominantly socially constructed rather than biological or objectively true, seemingly largely driven by political correctness. A famous critic of blank slatery and political correctness is Steven Pinker. Furthermore, they also argue that regardless of human origin of knowledge, most human behaviour should be individually determined (which Berger and Luckmann actually argued is not possible!).

Opponents of the New Left, such as Jordan Peterson, believe social constructionism itself to be philosophically rooted in a Marxist resentful pessimism that aforementioned perceived "social constructions" would be the roots of most evil, invented by powerful evil people as a means of oppression. Such quasi-Marxist beliefs are thought to be driven by a tremendous conviction of moral superiority and a naive expectation that by e.g. breaking down gender roles, one can achieve a more harmonious society, even utopia.[5][6] Some suggested this philosophy has been pushed to actually destabilize society and elicit a Marxist revolution.

Traditionalists like Peterson claim contrary to the new left, that culturally evolved social norms and traditions, what Berger named institutionalized knowledge, are to large extent actually valuable, e.g. relieve the individual from having to figure out the uncountably many ways of making mistakes on its own, and instead drawing on a wealth of prior experience.

Social constructivism and postmodernism have generally been criticized for providing ideological foundations for cranks and pretentious people.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]