Social constructionism | Society and Culture | MCAT | Khan Academy


I’m sure everyone has thought
at some time, is this real? But the important question
is what makes something real? Most of the time the things
we experience in this world are just constructs. We have opinions
about everything, and we experience the
world through that lens. Social constructionism
is a theory that knowledge and many
aspects of the world around us are not real in
and of themselves. They only exist
because we give them reality through
social agreement. Things like nations,
books, even money don’t exist in the
absence of human society. Nations are groups
of people who happen to share a language or history. Books are paper with scribbles. And money is just pieces
of paper and metal that have no value other than
what we have assigned them. The concept of the
self can be considered a social construct, too. Our identity is
created by interactions with other people
and our reactions to the expectations of society. There are two threads of social
constructionism, the weak and the strong. Weak social constructionism
proposes that social constructs are dependent on
brute facts, which are the most basic
and fundamental and don’t rely on
any other facts. Brute facts are kind of
difficult to understand because it is so strange to
think about something that can’t be explained
by something else. So for example, take
the computer screen you’re looking at. Your screen works because of
changing voltages and bits of metal, which can be
explained by movements of subatomic particles, which
are made from quarks, so on and so forth. None of those are brute facts. The brute fact is
what explains quarks or what explains the
explanation of quarks. Those brute facts are separate
from institutional facts which are created by
social conventions and do rely on other facts. So for example, money
depends on the paper that we have given value. Strong social constructionism,
on the other hand, states that the whole of
reality is dependent on language and social habits,
that all knowledge is a social construct, and
that there are no brute facts. So it would say that we
created the idea of quarks and everything we
use to explain it. There are no facts
that just exist. The main criticism to
social constructionism is that it doesn’t consider the
effect of natural phenomenon on society. And, at least for strong
social constructionism, it even has difficulty
explaining those phenomena because they don’t depend
on human speed or action. Strong social constructionism
only explains reality through the thoughts
of humans, not by using fundamental
brute facts.

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