I've been thinking a bit about the core argument of social constructionism. Whenever I see the argument being employed, it seems that it means that if something is a social construction, then this thing is not too legitimate. This seems to agree a bit with Hacking here.

I've noticed that I could take the argument itself and write: "The idea of social construction is a social construction. Then the idea of social construction is not too legitimate."

At least for me, this seems to be a logical problem: An instance of the liar's paradox, with the argument eating itself. Is it actually a problem or the argument is built in an ideological framework unbeknownst to me in which this problem could be eliminated?

I know that there are logics that deal with self-reference. But I don't know if the person who created the concept worked with these logics and conscientiously created the concept using it or if he/she didn't see that one could apply the argument to itself.

  • 1
    I do not think that it is an instance of the Liar. The assumption that the concept of "social construction" is itself the product of a certain time and culture and society and ideology and ... does not produce any contradiction. To me it seems plausible (if not plainly true). – Mauro ALLEGRANZA May 15 '16 at 16:45
  • 1
    The issue is reminiscent of the skeptical assertion that "thre are no truth at all". If so, on what ground the skeptic asserts it ? – Mauro ALLEGRANZA May 15 '16 at 16:46

if something is a social construction, then this thing is not too legitimate.

While people no doubt make this type of argument, I don't think this is a good argument. A better argument about social constructions says that people make certain category errors when they treat social constructions as objectively true or concrete entities. For example, it has been established that race is a social construction and not a natural kind of biology (i.e., races are not actually genetic groups). Social constructions are perfectly legitimate when recognized as such, and indeed they have proved extremely useful. There's a reason why social constructions exist and are so prevalent. Some social constructions are useless or even harmful of course; as an overall category they are neutral with respect to utility and morality (not unlike the category of "ideas"). I think the key point from philosophers who are critical of constructions like race and gender is that we are free to do away with them because they are constructions; so if they are harmful, we should do away with them. "Employed person" is also a construction, but it's more useful than it is harmful so no one is terribly concerned with it (except perhaps for some Marxists).

Is social construction a social construction? I think the answer is yes. That means we should be careful to recognize it as such, but it doesn't render the concept illegitimate or useless per se. There may be bad arguments that rely on social construction not being a social construction. A claim that all constructions are bad or useless (similar to your example argument) would be undermining itself. However, consider this not-so-bad argument:

  1. Race is a social construction.
  2. Social constructions are not necessary; they can be done away with.
  3. The concept of race can be done away with. (1,2)
  4. The concept of race is harmful to people.
  5. Harmful ideas should be done away with if they can be.
  6. We should do away with race if we can. (4,5)
  7. We should do away with the concept of race. (3,6)

This argument is perfectly valid and does not depend on social construction not being a social construction.

| improve this answer | |

A social construction manifests into multiple forms of construction. Social means pertaining to society; a society is multiple people that voluntarily bind each other to a contract or are believed to born into a social construct;

this contract lays down multiple structures of living that unify the group. The structures built are: racial, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious. These structures are legal structures that appear to essentialize the human in these social groups to a rigid role; if one defies these laws that one must to adhere to to be a legal racial identity, or ethnic identity, then ostracism occurs; punitivity is seen as the correcting devise to keep one following the law of one's imposed identity.

The construction aspect is a legal idea; it supposedly coheres individuals as one identity so nothing foreign can dismantle the group. It's as if individuals disappear, a mass just appears.

Interestingly, social construction may be seen a product of biological determinism; the social identity is a fixed and innate identity one is born with; it's as if biology, chemistry, physics constructs these social groups; religion believes these identities are God given, morality believes these identity allow for mutual and fluid activity amongst each other without friction.

This is the conservative position.

Social construction is seen as a fluid, individual, purely as an experiential identity. It's as if these identities are not actually objective identifies from the 'real'; these identities stem from the ideal; the ideal changes due to experiences not biological mechanisms such as cells, hearts and lungs. This gives forth a plurality of interpretations of what one identity means not just having different identities. The individual is free to derive their identity from personal experience relative to others within group, but also relative to other social groups; intersectional identities can be formed where different social groups interact to form new experiences that enhance unity not break apart unity.

Social construction is an extremely relative definition depending on whatever school of thought one adheres to. Objectivists will see sociy construction differently from the subjectivist, etc. Is social construction a social construction; depends on who you ask. It could be a synthesis of all perspectives.

| improve this answer | |
  • What do you mean by legal structure? – Era May 18 '16 at 15:39
  • The conservative view lays down a human structure built by codified laws that put legal terms on individuals: white, male, black, woman are legally required identities; people with these identities are confined to obey the statutes and regulations of the given identity imposed. liberally speaking, codified laws are just to recognize identities and protect freedoms despite your dentity. liberalism acknowledges the social identities as experiences not biological and physical properties. Laws recognize the identities but make sure identities do not dictate status. – Sergey May 18 '16 at 15:58
  • I'm not sure how that's relevant to the question. Social constructions existed long before codified laws, almost certainly as far back as pre-agricultural times. Depending on the exact definition, they could be much older. – Era May 18 '16 at 16:38
  • Yes, social construction existed before codified laws; t don't see that codified laws didn't exist before pre-agricultural times; there is no correlation with pre-agricultural times and pre-written laws. Societies prior or after agricultural eras can have codified laws or oral laws. If codified legal systems exist, then customary legal systems enforced social systems; oral tradition, religious beliefs, can cohere individuals together without written laws. It does appear social constructions are social constructions but social constructions can be individually constructed as well. – Sergey May 19 '16 at 0:50
  • 1
    It actually doesn't address my question. Only the last paragraph seems relevant to what I asked. – Billy Rubina May 19 '16 at 13:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.