The Foundations of Social Research

Michael Crotty Chapter Three: Constructionism-The Making of Meaning

The Foundations of Social Research

In the Constructionist View, meaning is not discovered but constructed. The world and the objects in the world are indeterminate. They may be pregnant with potential meaning, but actual meaning emerges only when consciousness engages with them. How can there be meaning without a mind?

The Foundations of Social Research
Tree Would it be a tree, with that same meaning whether anyone knew of its existence or not? What does tree mean in logging town, artist’s settlement, urban slum?

The Foundations of Social Research
  

Humphrey quote, p. 43 Worldstuff, substances, materiality There is a difference between constructing meaning and creating meaning which separates subjectivists from constructionists. The “worldstuff” is the substance out of which we build meaning. We have something to work with.

The Foundations of Social Research
 

The world is ‘always already there.’ The world and the objects in the world may be in and of themselves meaningless; yet they are our partners in the generation of meaning and need to be taken seriously. Objectivity and subjectivity need to be brought together and held together indissolubly.

Foundations of Social Research
  

Intentionality Constructionism mirrors intentionality In Intentionality all mental phenomena are described as having reference to a content, direction toward an object. Consciousness in other words is always consciousness of something.

The Foundations of Social Research

Distinguish ‘purpose’ or ‘intention’ from ‘to tend,’ moving towards, directing oneself to, reaching out into Referentiality, relatedness, directedness, ‘aboutness’ Intentionality is a radical interdependence of subject and the world Subject and object are always united

The Foundations of Social Research

What is the significance of Stanley Fish’s story about his two classes on pp. 45-47?

The Foundations of Social Research

What constructionism drives home unambiguously is that there is no ‘true’ or ‘valid’ interpretation. There are useful interpretations, to be sure. There are liberating forms of interpretation, fulfilling and rewarding ones as well as their opposites, but no ‘true’ or ‘valid’ interpretations.

The Foundations of Social Research

 

What is Theodore Adorno’s concept of ‘exact fantasy’ and why is it important methodologically, especially if one wants to do constructionist based research? See p. 48, par. 2 What is the difference between Denzin & Lincoln’s interpretation of a bricoleur and Crotty’s interpretation of a bricoleur? Why does Crotty argue that Levi-Strauss was actually outlining a constructionist approach rather than a subjectivist approach?

The Foundations of Social Research

In the making of meaning, humans have to contend with the social origin of meaning and its social character. Fish argues that while objects are made rather than discovered, the means by which they are made are social and conventional, These means are institutions which precede us and in which we are already embedded.

The Foundations of Social Research

Fish adds that only by inhabiting these social institutions or being inhabited by them, do we have access to the public and conventional senses that they make. Functioning as ‘a publicly available system of intelligibility,’ these institutions are the source of the interpretive strategies whereby we construct meaning.

The Foundations of Social Research

Clifford Geertz: A system of significant symbols or ‘culture.’ The meaningful symbols that constitute culture are an indispensable guide to human behavior. What does Geertz claim we would be without culture? What then does that say about culture?

The Foundations of Social Research

Why is it best to view culture as the source rather than the outcome of human thought and action? Geertz emphasizes that from the point of view of any particular individual, ‘such symbols are largely given.’ They are already current in the community when the individual is born and remain in circulation with some changes.

The Foundations of Social Research
    

Humans are already born into a world of meaning We enter a social milieu in which a system of intelligibility prevails We inherit a system of significant symbols. It is also not just our thoughts that are constructed for us, but our emotions as well. Social constructionism embraces the whole gambit of meaningful reality. All reality, as meaningful reality, is socially constructed. There is no exception.

The Foundations of Social Research

How does Crotty distinguish between the social construction of social reality as a social constructionist stance and the social construction of all reality as a social constructionist stance, using the example of the chair? Hint: p. 54

The Foundations of Social Research

What does author Ann Oakley mean when she says, “A way of seeing, is a way of not seeing.” Anthony Giddens and the problem of the “double hermeneutic.” What can natural scientists do that social scientists cannot do? Hint: has to do with archimedean point, metalanguage and the notion of tabula rasa

The Foundations of Social Research
 

Constructivism v. constructionism Meaning making activity of the individual mind v. collective generation and transmission of meaning. Constructivism resists the critical spirit while constructionism tends to foster it. How so?

The Foundations of Social Research

Reification: Taking the sense we make of things as the way things are. Potential for tyranny of the familiar Sedimentation: Layers of interpretation get placed on each other like levels of mineral deposit in the formation of rock. Building upon interpretations already in place, we get further and further removed from realities, our sedimented cultural meanings serving as a barrier between us and them (also referred to as imbrication)

The Foundations of Social Research

 

The term ‘constructionism’ and particularly ‘social constructionism’ derives largely from the work of Karl Mannheim and from Berger and Luckmann Critical origins in Hegel and Marx Phenomenology Brentano, Husserl, Heidegger (next chapter)

The Foundations of Social Research

American Pragmatism

William James, John Dewey, Charles Sanders Pierce Optimistic and progressive in terms of compromise Pragmatism accused of being too accommodating and not critical enough.

The Foundations of Social Research

George Herbert Mead
   

Father of symbolic interactionism Pragmatism in sociological attire Every person is a social construction We come to be persons in and out of interaction with our society. Emphasis on intersubjectivity, interaction, community and communication, in and out of which we come to be persons and to live as persons.

The Foundations of Social Research

What does it mean for our research to be constructivist and constructionist? What implications does being constructionist/constructivist hold? How do we do this research? What methods might we use or not use?

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.