Tuesday, July 22, 2008

the social construction of reality

by peter berger and thomas luckmann 1966

according to wikipedia, this book is known for introducing the terms "social construction"

berger (meaning both authors) decides not to cite theorists from whom he takes his knowledge, only in footnotes (vi)

The intro describes the history of the sociology of knowledge
3-termed by Max Scheler in 1925, german philosopher
4-ohter than germans, ppl regarded it as peripheral at best
-roots come from the "vast accumulation of historical scholarship...of the 19th ce in germany [which was "unparalleled in any other period of intellectual history in the past"]--w/ all the variety of forms of thot". this huge amount of knowledge created teh "vertigo of relativity"
5-so ppl wanted to inestigate "the concrete relationships btwn thot and its historical situations"
-the awareness of the social foundations of values and world views can b found thuought antiquity, but there r 3 intellectual antecedents for this SOK--marx, nietzsche, and the historicist

-from marx, SOK derived its "root proposition--that man's consciousness is determined by his social being" (die fruhschriten 53)
-also got terms of ideology and false consciousness
6-and idea of sub/superstructure, which was unclear but eventually taken generally to mean that there is a relation btwn thot and an "'underlying' reality other than thot"

-Nietzsche's idea of thot as an instrumnt for power and survival, deception and illusion

-historicism's struggle w/ relativity--that "no historical situation could b understood except in its own terms"--could b seen as an emphasis on the social situation of thot

7-the SOK's emphasis, then, on history "also made for its marginality in the milieu of amer sociogy"

-Scheler used "real factors" and "ideal factors" like marx's sub/superstructure--said "real factors" regulate conditions but not the content of "ideal factors"

8-Mannheim's formulation of SOK became known in the English speaking world--he is what ppl gnerally think of SOK
-he believed that society determined the appearance AND content of human ideation, with the exception of math and parts of nat. sciences
-he saw diff levels of ideology--personal, gen., all-encompassing
9-all thot is from a certain position
-and thot "that ideologizing influences, while they could not b eradicated completely, could b mitigated by the sytemic analysis of as many as possible of the varying socilly grounded positions"--the more perspectives on a subject, the cleaner it was---berger says: "this is to b the taks of teh SOK..."
-Mannheim bleived diff social groups vary greatly in their capacity to transcend their own narrow position--he placed hope in the "socially unattached intelligensia," a stratum he believed to b free of class interests

10-Other socios used these two: Robert merton, parsons and c. w. mills (us), but berger says none has added to SOK's theoretical dvlpmnt

12-berger says epistemological ?s are not the realm of sociology--they belong to methodology
13-but "the SOK must concern itself w/ everything that passes for 'knowledge' in society", not just theoretical thot--this is admittedly a larger scope than most others
14-this shift is based on SOK criticism by alfred schutz

15They use durk theory of society, marx dialectical perpective, and construction of social reality thru subjective meanings derive from weber, social psych by G H mead--dialectical

16-they realize that this work is essentially a look at all of sociological theory

-weber pointed out that social facts r real and durk ptd out they are also subjective
-berger asks: how can they be both?

summary of argument from wiki:
The central concept of The Social Construction of Reality is that persons and groups interacting together in a social system form, over time, concepts or mental representations of each other's actions, and that these concepts eventually become habituated into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relation to each other. When these roles are made available to other members of society to enter into and play out, the reciprocal interactions are said to be institutionalised. In the process of this institutionalisation, meaning is embedded in society. Knowledge and people's conception (and belief) of what reality is becomes embedded in the institutional fabric of society. Social reality is therefore said to be socially constructed.

Berger is perhaps best known for his view that social reality is a form of consciousness. Central to Berger's work is the relationship between society and the individual. In his book The Social Construction of Reality, Berger develops a sociological theory: 'Society as Objective Reality and as Subjective Reality'. His analysis of society as subjective reality describes the process by which an individual's conception of reality is produced by his or her interaction with social structures. He writes about how new human concepts or inventions become a part of our reality (a process he calls reification) [2].

His conception of social structure revolving around the importance of language, "the most important sign system of human society," is similar to Hegel's conception of Geist.[3].

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