The social construction of what?

Chap. 1: Why ask what? By Ian Hacking
Constructivism has a liberating effect since it remarks that ideas like 'motherhood' are the product of social events. There is no need for denying objective reality in order to embrace constructivist theses.1 For example, one can state that the classification 'woman refugee' and the matrix within its works (institutions, advocates, lawyers, proceedings) are socially constructed, but not the individual who is a refugee. However, one can argue that these classification and matrix can change the individual or the individual themselves changed “in virtue of what they believe about themselves. I hace called this phenomenon the looping effect of human kinds” (p. 34). Several types of constructivism can be distinguished regarding the level of commitment in order to change what is asserted to be not natural or essential but socially constructed : historical (neutral) – ironical (it is how it is) – reformist/unmasking – rebellious – revolutionary. Hacking distinguished between what can be said to be constructed: • Objects: things that are in the world, from quarks to gender. Some of them can by ontologically subjective (in the sense that without humans it would not exist, e. g. rent) and at the same time be epistemologically objective (e. g. your monthly rent is 800 pounds) Ideas: conceptions, beliefs, theories... They are also objects in their extension (the idea of woman refugee vis a vis the group of woman refugees. Elevator words: words that are used to say something about the word (reality, knowledge, facts, thuth)

• •

'Constructionists tend to maintain that classifications are not determined by how the world is, but are convenient ways in which to represent it... facts are the consequences of ways in which we represent the world.' (p. 33)

1 Even Berger and Luckman mean with their “social construction of reality” not to the objects themselves. What they state is that “the experience of the world as other is constituted for each of us in social setting”.

2 .

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