The Buddhology Blog

Social Constructionism

buddhology Jan 06, 2024

Social constructionism is a term used in sociology, social ontology, and communication theory. The term can serve somewhat different functions in each field, however, the foundation of this theoretical framework suggests various facets of social reality—such as concepts, beliefs, norms, and values—are formed through continuous interactions and negotiations among society's members, rather than empirical observation of physical reality. The theory of social constructionism posits that much of what individuals perceive as 'reality' is actually the outcome of a dynamic process of construction influenced by social conventions and structures.

Unlike phenomena that are innately determined or biologically predetermined, these social constructs are collectively formulated, sustained, and shaped by the social contexts in which they exist. These constructs significantly impact both the behavior and perceptions of individuals, often being internalized based on cultural narratives, whether or not these are empirically verifiable. In this two-way process of reality construction, individuals not only interpret and assimilate information through their social relations but also contribute to shaping existing societal narratives.

Examples of social constructs range widely, encompassing the assigned value of money, conceptions of concept of self/self-identity, beauty standards, gender, language, race, ethnicity, social class, social hierarchy, nationality, religion, social norms, the modern calendar and other units of time, marriage, education, citizenship, stereotypes, femininity and masculinity, social institutions, and even the idea of 'social construct' itself. These constructs are not universal truths but are flexible entities that can vary dramatically across different cultures and societies. They arise from collaborative consensus and are shaped and maintained through collective human interactions, cultural practices, and shared beliefs. This articulates the view that people in society construct ideas or concepts that may not exist without the existence of people or language to validate those concepts, meaning without a society these constructs would cease to exist. - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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