Social Constructivism is a theory that cuts across a number of social science and humanities disciplines. Its fundamental claim is that certain aspects of social reality are not mind-independent. In International Relations, constructivists, including Alexander Wendt, claim that states acquire their identity and interests through their mutually-constitutive relationship with each other. Social reality,then, is what we make of it. John Searle, on the other hand, argues that the existence of things like money and house are epistemologically relative.

What confuses me is that some constructivists, including Searle, oppose relativism. Searle even wrote that "ought" statements can be derived from an "is" statement. My questions then are: Does constructivism really tolerate moral and social relativism? Do the definition and claims of constructivism differ in every discipline?

  • There is a difference between social constructivism as a theory in humanities and the philosophical position (although it is often blurred). Philosophical social constructivism (or constructionism) is the position that there is no "objective" basis for our concepts and facts, and they are constructs different in different cultures, none better than another. But even without that someone, like Searle, can admit that some of our conceptions are social constructs, see Naturalistic Approaches to Social Construction. – Conifold Nov 13 '17 at 20:15

I do not think that Searle will agree on labelling with "Social constructivism" his theory about Social relaity.

According to Ian Hacking, Searle's book The Construction of Social Reality (1995), is not a social construction book at all. For sure, Searle is not a relativist.

You can see: Barry Smith (editor), John Searle, Cambridge UP (2003), page 18:

As Searle argues so convincingly in the second half of Construction, and against what is propounded by sundry postmodernists and social constructionists, it could not be that the world consists of institutional facts all the way down, with no brute reality to serve as their foundation.

You can see: Ian Hacking, The Social Construction of What ?, Harvard UP (1999).

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