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Social constructivist theory
Primary author: Jeren Miles
Social Constructivism is a theory of knowledge and the acquisition process involved (Serving History, 2010). The social constructivist theory was developed mainly to describe the way in which people come to describe and explain the world in which they live, including themselves (Gergen, 1985).The formation of the social constructivist theory is most often attributed to Jean Piaget. Piaget derived this theory by investigating the evolution of knowledge, though mainly scientific knowledge, by observing and interviewing children about different problems that involved problem solving along with logical reasoning (DeVries, 1997). It was through this research process that he gave birth to the theory of social constructivism.
Social constructivism is supported by an irreducible subjectivity dimension of action by the human (Ruggie, 1998). Max Weber stated that "We are cultural beings, endowed with the capacity and the will to take a deliberate attitude towards the world and to lend it significance" (Dean, 1994). Constructivism is all about the consciousness of humans and its role in the society in which they live. Not only are there identities and interests that are socially constructed by an individual, but they must share the “stage” with many different ideational factors that emanate from the above mentioned human capacity (Ruggie, 1998).
Social Constructivism can be explained more effectively in a study done on the interventions of individuals living with AIDS and dealing with alcoholism. There has been much study that focuses on the individual risk factors of HIV transmission, yet there is a lack of information to explain the spread of HIV and AOD addiction or how the American people view those that are living with HIV and AOD addiction (Patterson & Keefe, 2008). Berger and Luckmann (1966) showed that social construction was made up of three main stages: externalization, objectivation, and internalization. Externalization is the way that people construct a outcome such as the idea of becoming HIV positive could be a side effect of being gay. Objectivation happens with this outcome takes on a reality of its own, but seperate from the people who created them. This can be seen in the idea set for that if a person is gay, then it is sure that they will become HIV positive. Internalization happens by way of socialization, when people take these objective realities and make them part of the everyday consciousness of reality. An example would be taking for granted that becoming HIV positive is directly related to being gay (Patterson & Keefe, 2008). By consequence of this, everyday socially constructed realities are being formed and reconstructed in a process of dialect between individuals as they enteract with each other (Patterson & Keefe, 2008).
Many of constructivist’s forerunners such as neo-functionalism embodied many of the elements that are now recognized as social constructs but did so without conscious thought (Haas, 1964). There was much resistance put up to the constructivist thought process. There was concern for the influence that it might have on the American social as a whole (Little, 1995). Therefore, the term “social constructivism was not used scholarly until about 1989 by Nicholas Onuf in an analytical study (Onuf, 1989). It is vital to mention though, that the term “structuration theory” was used by Glidden years earlier and greatly affected the emerging constructivist theory (Gidden, 1979).
There has been a great increase on the scholarly level in the social constructivist approach. This is due to the fact that this theory allows for the understanding of the analytical and empirical limitations that were set forth by the conventional theories (Ruggie, 1998). These conventional theories have had relatively narrow confines, theoretically speaking, and constructivism seeks to open and expand these confines for a better understanding of societal interaction. Social constructivism is based on basic underlying assumptions: reality, knowledge, and learning (Serving History, 2010). With these bases, we can explain the attitudes and actions that we as individuals learn and retain as knowledge by the society in which we reside.
Dean, M. (1994). " A Social Structure of Many Souls": Moral Regulation, Government, and Self-Formation.
Canadian Journal of Sociology
DeVries, R. (1997). Piaget's Social Theory.
Gergen, K. (1985). The Social Constructivis Movement in Modern Psychology.
Gidden, A. (1979).
The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration .
Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Haas, E. (2001). Does constructivism subsume neo-functionalism?
The social construction of Europe
Little, R. (1995). Neorealism and the English School:: A Methodological, Ontological and Theoretical Reassessment.
European Journal of International Relations
Onuf, N. (1989).
World of our making: rules and rule in social theory and international relations.
Los Angeles: University of South California Press.
Patterson, D., & Keefe, R. (2008). Using Social Construction Theory as a Foundation for Macro-Level Interventions in Communities Impacted by HIV and Addictions.
Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
Ruggie, J. (1998). What Makes the World Hang Together? Neo-utilitarianism and the Social Constructivist Challenge.
Social Constructivist Thoery
. (2010). Retrieved October 31, 2010, from Serving History:
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