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Debate Guide: Social constructionism

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Social constructionism refers to a theory or method of sociological analysis that challenges the foundations of mainly metaphysical, imagined concepts and investigates/retraces the social processes by which they were established as "objective" truths.

Its lay alternative can be characterised as the reasoned assertion that certain phenomena exist only "in the eye of the beholder", or more accurately "according to their culture or upbringing".

Caution

There is plenty of research you can do on the social constructionist standpoint, both in its philosophical underpinnings and how it is received in the wider public debate. However, as a note of caution, there are merits and also, absurd extremes to which this method of analysis can be pursued. For example, there exist many observable patterns and trends in our world, which are almost entirely biologically/naturistically determined, but do rely on social processes to give them meaning. This nuance can often get lost in translation, where a constructionist standpoint is invoked in a debate.

Application

The use of deconstructive techniques of "textual" or "literary" criticism, whether overtly or by proxy of folk principles such as "in the eye of the beholder" has been central to the struggles and eventual emancipation of many groups, as it should be to sexual minorities including adults and minors who seek mutual affection (see the work of Gayle Rubin).

Example

Those, who in response to the "sexual traumas" or "delinquency" of young people, call for tougher legislation or stricter indoctrination and monitoring, are just adding fuel to the fire they started.

We have constructed a dogmatic and esoteric matrix of moral teachings and behaviour-consequence dynamics by reinforcing those very values we are now turning to again. I would also add that many of these individuals are financially dependent upon the very harms they are causing, much like the troubled teen industry or repressed memory shrinks. Those who follow said moral-realist social dictates are blind to the harm they are causing, much like the parent who responds to their underachieving and volatile child by simply beating them even more. By supporting legislation against 'risky' behaviour, professionals, the public and their representatives reinforce moral preconceptions against acts that carry no burden of intrinsic harm. A better understanding of social causation and criminalisation may inform the passing of legislation against demonstrable harms and not "indecent" acts that are deemed a priori to be "wrong".

See also

External links