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Socially Constructed Reality

In this essay, metaphysical construction of reality by social interactions will be examined. Through this inspection the idea of social construct and the approach to essentialism will be elaborated in a critical approach. Theory of social construction proposes that some phenomena arise from the social interaction that puts forth information about the phenomena (Berger, 1967). What is common between the essentialist approach and the social constructions is that the ideas shaping lives through their applications to the phenomena and the concepts seem to be concretely united. Hence, inspection of socially constructed reality can be appealed to a criticism of essentialism in this sense. Social production and reproduction of ideas regarding the forms or the categories of the phenomena shape the subjectivity of people in a sense that recreates the world in numerous bipolar or multipolar categories. Bipolar categories are the subcategories of a category that are defined by distinct properties that are assigned to them, and multipolar categories are more than two categories that are defined through their distinct properties, similar to the bipolar categories (Ryle, 1960). In this way, ideas constructed through social interactions shaping subjectivities also construct the standards for these categories. Thus, embalming the phenomena in certain categories result in reproduction of the categorical standards (Galbin, 1996). In this way, critics of social constructions deconstruct their contemporary theories that determine society in certain ways reflecting on their relativity and how they reproduce themselves in a circular fashion.

Patil, Ram. (n. d.). Society is a Burden, Individuality is a Freedom. [Oil Painting].
Figure 1. Patil, Ram. (n. d.). Society is a Burden, Individuality is a Freedom. [Oil Painting].

Firstly, social construction is the construction of reality through social assents in the subjectivities. In this way, a social construct is a conceptual determination of phenomenon by collective adoption of definitions as the identity of the phenomena. When a community agrees upon a definition of a phenomenon, the abstraction of that phenomenon is socially constructed (Searle, 1997). Definitions of phenomena are put forth through the inquiries regarding the properties and the relations that the phenomenon under inspection encapsulates. These inquiries may include any induction, deduction, or scientific study (Hacking, 2000). To express and predicate the outcomes of the inquiry, the concepts are determined that reflect the properties and relations. This conceptual determination makes up the building blocks of any theoretical knowledge or any inquiry towards the information regarding a phenomenon (Searle, 1997) as these steps of the inquiries are common factors of any epistemological inquiries. On the other hand, these conceptually determined definitions are reproduced as they are presented to a community. The reproduction of the process of determination of definitions occurs even if the construction is accepted or not, because understanding of the conceptualization requires a reproduction of the inquiry (Berger, 1967). Social construction occurs if the inquiry is adopted by a community. Therefore, collective adoption of conceptually defined determinations makes up the social constructions. The remarkable property of the social constructions is that as the social constructions are built upon the observation of the phenomena as objective reality, they also shape the world according to the understanding they propose because the adopted propositions shape the actions and interactions of the community by which they are adopted (Thomasson, 2003). Therefore, social constructs while claiming to be representing the phenomenal reflections of objective reality, they also create a will to make the world in the shape they propose (Berger, 1967).


To be able to understand the attributions of identities an inspection of essentialism in a similar sense could be applied. Essentialism adopts the approach that the objects or phenomena have their forms or ideas as their attributions, hence the properties and the relations of the objects and phenomena are intrinsic to the entities as a part of objective reality. Thus, an essentialist approach proposes that the properties of the entities are concrete definitions of them which could be obtained by logical deductions of the properties and relations via observation (Cartwright, 1968). In this way, theory of social construction indicates that majorly adopted constructions do not constitute the knowledge about the entities themselves or of their objective reality. The difference between essentialism and social construction is that the root of knowledge regarding phenomena is social adoption for constructivism (Berger, 1967), while for essentialism it is the nature of the reality itself (Cartwright, 1968). In this sense, essentialism could be criticized in a way that logical deductions proposed by society or logical deductions themselves do not necessarily involve the objective reality. The logical process that proposes an explanation to the objective reality of the entities could be regarded as a narrative that is put forth according to the adoptions of certain assumptions. These assumptions could be described in the following schema as phenomenon x has so and so properties which are intrinsic to its nature and is distinct from other phenomenon by its nature as described (Hacking, 2000). Therefore, the following categorization put forth by the social adoption does not necessarily entail the proposed assumptions. The narrative that is proposed by the conceptual determination of definitions creates the social adoption to work in a way that the subjective realities of the individuals being shaped accordingly (Strazzoni, 2015). This approach of social constructionism towards different phenomena or entities undermines the narrative that is proposed by the social adoption that enforces society to behave or perpetuate in a certain way (Searle, 1997).

Beck. (n. d.). Society. [Oil Painting].
Figure 2. Beck. (n. d.). Society. [Oil Painting].

The reflections of these narratives that are proposed by social adoptions are more visible in social issues. The concepts of race, gender, state, money, poverty work by dividing the society into various polar categories. Therefore, the image of different categories is shaped accordingly. For instance, according to the theory of social construction the image of women as the subject of domestic labour is the outcome of the constructed category of genders and labour division between different sexes (Ásta, 2018). Social adoption polarizes different abstractions as gender with different properties and relations as one being superior and the other being less capable so that the narrative that is proposed proceeds with the subjects of that narrative who reproduced and adopted the proposition (Beauvoir, 2011). Also, an example of multipolarization could be observed for ethnicity and race. According to the theorists, social construction of different races and the narrative of the construction as assigning polar properties that define different categories polarize and make the subjects of the narrative and different categories behave in a way that proceeds the narrative resulting in discriminatory behaviour or a deep gap between access to resources (Ásta, 2018). Theory of social constructionism could be criticized as dissociating the scientific knowledge about objective reality by a misuse of the information as a root of polarization in the intersection of natural sciences and social sciences (Sokal, 1999). However, a thought experiment on the encounter of different communities and different social constructs that adopt different narratives could reveal that different social constructs could be unaware of the categorizations of each other or could be conflicting with the adopted categorizations (Turner, 2006). In this sense, the determinant role of social constructs in the objective reality of the phenomena vanishes because a phenomenon observed and determined to be in a certain way does not need to be in that way or may not be existing at all because it is an abstraction and may not refer to the objective reality. The conflict of social adoptions leads to this conclusion because different polarizations produce intersections of different subcategories, so that the former subcategories do not apply to the newly arising categories and necessitate abstraction from former abstractions, that are farther away from objective reality even if the categories are accepted as the reflections of objective reality.

Matisse, Henri. (1910). Dance. [Oil Painting].
Figure 3. Matisse, Henri. (1910). Dance. [Oil Painting].

To conclude, social reality is constructed through the metaphysical narratives of categorization and polarization of the categories by assigning properties. This social construction is created by adoption of the narratives by a community. The narrative produces its subjects by reproducing the logical processes in the minds and proceeds in this way. Thus, social construction necessitated reproductions of mentality and adoption of the narrative by a community. Social construction theory proposes that social constructs that are produced and reproduced shape the world in the way that the construct proposes by producing subjectivities of the narrative. The subjectification generates polar structures that define the relations and properties of these categories. Therefore, the narrative determines the world by subjectification and polarization. Narratives determining society in a way that they produce and reproduce advantage and disadvantage for the determined categories result in the experience of individuals being encapsulated within the narratives as the subjects of these categories. Subjectification of the individuals turn the individuals into automated machines that reflect to their experiences in expected ways of the socially constructed narratives, rather than alternative ways that their individuality could initiate. These alternative ways reflect themselves as stuckness between the predetermined paths of expressions. Though this type of expression of alternative ways seems as the liberation points of their own, they also reflect the intoleration and impatience of the predetermined narratives that enforce the individuals into certain paths through certain initiations. However, individuals that are able to create their paths can express themselves more freely so that the alternative way can find its voice, which embraces differences.

Bibliographical References

Ásta. (2018). Categories We Live By: The Construction of Sex, Gender, Race, and Other Social Categories 10.1093/oso/9780190256791.001.0001.


Beauvoir, D. S., Borde, C., & Malovany-Chevallier, S. (2011). The Second Sex (1st ed.). Vintage.


Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1967). The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Anchor.


Galbin, A. (1996). An introduction to social constructionism. Choice Reviews Online, 33(05), 33–3018. https://doi.org/10.5860/choice.33-3018


Hacking, I. (2000). The Social Construction of What? (Revised). Harvard University Press.


Ryle, G. (1960) Dilemmas, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Searle, J. R. (1997). The Construction of Social Reality (Illustrated). Free Press.


Sokal, A., & Bricmont, J. (1999). Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science. New York: Picador. ISBN978-0-312-20407-5.


Strazzoni, Andrea (2015). "Introduction. Subjectivity and Individuality: Two Strands in Early Modern Philosophy". Societate Si Politica. 9 – via ProQuest.


Thomasson, A. L. (2003). Foundations for a Social Ontology. ProtoSociology, 18, 269–290. doi:10.5840/protosociology200318/199


Turner, J. H. (2006). Sociology. Retrieved from https://books.google.com.tr/books?id=90vMAAAACAAJ

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