2BA Group B: Deconstructing Social Constructionism

Image is open source from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaffolding

A nice image of some scaffolding, which is what the builders do when they start building. Social Constructionism uses the metaphor of building but obviously it is not a physical structure we are talking about. It is a social structure, or even more flaky, a social image or label of a social problem. Another metaphor is borrowed from the art world: framing social problems a certain way.

As students in this seminar you are being asked to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the social constructionism idea as defined in the piece by Lister(2010).

First up, you need to read the piece to be clear what social constructionism is and isn’t. To be more exact you need to be aware of ‘varieties of social constructionism’.

As usual I think its more valuable if I leave you here with a series of questions which can help organise your essay and your thoughts. A rather obvious structure is suggested in the guise of a page roughly on what social constructionism is; a page of advantages and a page on disadvantages but it may be you want to experiment and take things your own ways.

But now for those questions…..

What is the difference between a realist perception of poverty and a social constructionist perception?

What is the difference between strong and weak versions of social constructionism?

Why is labelling apparently so central to any social construction? Is it merely social labelling?

If there is a debate about a social problem (poverty say), what advantages does the social constructivist approach bring to our understanding of that approach over say a realist researcher which merely presents facts about poverty?

Should we not challenge biased socially constructed accounts of social problems (e.g. the poor are to blame for their own situation) with the reality of facts which should speak for themselves?

Or should researchers explore other alternative social constructions, or should they content themselves with exposing any biased social construction? Does Lister have anything to say on that?

What is the link between Social Constructionism and ideology…..and how does ‘common sense’ play an important role in ideological social constructions?

Lister on page 151 begins a discussion on ‘discursive power’ and ‘resistence’. What is meant by this? To what extent could social constructive approaches be useful in uncovering discursive power? Might it also be useful as means of tracking discourses of resistance?

How did the researchers Bacchi, Clarke, Smith use the social constructivist approach? Can you find examples from each of their work which show advantages for the approach and disadvantages?



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