Skip to comments.Social Construction of Reality and emancipatory Theory: A Comparative Analysis
Posted on 11/15/2006 4:45:04 AM PST by kriztine rosales-viray
Social Construction of Reality Theory and Emancipatory Theory: A Comparative Analysis By Kriztine Rosales-Viray
Social Construction of Reality Theory (SCR) and Emancipatory Theory have strenuously influenced the way twentieth century scholars perceive things that surround them. The SCR of P. Berger and T. Luckmann, since it was introduced in the book Social Construction of Reality published in 1967, has made enormous impact upon the fields of Sociology and Social Sciences. Likewise, Klaus Krippendorfs Emancipatory Theory has its own effect on the way contemporary theorists formulate their critics a and analyses. This paper tries to inquire whether there are points of similarities and differences between the mentioned theories. Hence the problem: Is there any relationship between SCR and Emancipatory Theories? Thus, this paper tries to explore both theories.
B. The Social Construction of Reality
Social Construction of Reality of Berger and Luckmann is concerned not with any kind of knowledge being discussed in epistemology but with the knowledge of everyday life, as understood by Berger and Luckmann, is the kind of knowledge which enables us to know where we are, what we are doing, who we are, where we are going, how we are going to get there, what time it is, etc. This knowledge constitutes the knowledge of everything that concerns the individual, fellowmen and their relationships within the society. Further, Berger and Luckmann tries to come up with a theory which would explain how a certain body of knowledge comes to be established as reality. Henceforth, the object of their analyses is the reality of everyday life. This is what makes this theory more sociological than philosophical. Berger and Luckmann specifically claim that reality is socially constructed. Each individual is born into a world where others have a strong sense of what the reality of this world is-a sense which they have learned from their parents/teachers/guardians/friends, etc. This collective sense about reality is gradually transmitted to the individual as he maintains an intimate relationship with consociates, contemporaries, predecessors and successors. [Consociates are those whom one has interacted with in face-to-face situations. Contemporaries are those whom merely by hearsay.] Thus, as one enters in to an intimate conversation with others in the society, he starts to inhabit the reality which everybody in the society commonly holds true. In face-to-face situation and conversation, the players use different objects to manifest their subjectivity such as language, signs, and material objects. These objects are utilized by individual player to externalized their thoughts and inner impressions about reality (externalization) and when all these impressions are collected from among all members of the community, society is produced. This process will proceed to Objectivation, where society becomes an objective reality. And finally, the process of Internalization slips in, where the individual absorbs the constructed reality and hence he becomes just a product of the social interaction. These are the basic moments in the process of reality construction, to reiterate: Externalization, Objectivation and Internalization. Thus, both Berger and Luckmann argue that society is shared. This argument leads them to conclude that there are shared definitions of reality (ideologies) as there are established patterns of acting and routines.
C. Klaus Krippendorfs Emancipatory Theory
Krippendorfs Emancipatory Theory tries to formulate a certain kind of ethics which would (1) prevent social pathologies from arising, (2) help to overcome social pathologies that may have arisen elsewhere and (3) formulate a system of thought and action which does not constitute a pathology by itself. Pathology. As a parenthetical discussion, pathology means abnormality. When Krippendorf says social pathology, he means abnormality in the society. Jurgen Habermas, a writer who was preceded by Krippendorf, first used the term pathology in the field of sociology. Krippendorf explains his version of social pathology by means of two concepts: Normative Notion and Reflective Notion. Kippendorf says normative notion is most common and least problematic. This is understood as a deviation from something collectively desirable. Reflective notion of pathology is psychological and cognitive in nature. This means that this pathology resides on the individual. A feeling of incompetence, or a loss of authenticity, identity, or meaning characterizes it. Further, Krippendorf claims: A social pathology becomes one of communication when it is moreover constituted in language, in the interactive use of discourse the latter is my main concern. It is to be understood that Krippendorfs major concern is a certain kind of social pathology which might have arisen from the interactive discourses among the members of the society and the system. These discourses become possible through and by the use of language. Emancipatory Theory seeks to free the society from social pathology be it normative or reflective. A Social pathology presupposes entrapment. Entrapment is when the individual is trapped within the fabrics of reality constructions, collective beliefs, social attitudes, habits of thoughts and actions. There are three conditions of this entrapment, especially reflective notion of pathology: (1) The first requirement of a trap or being trapped is a closed-system; (2) The second requirement for some situation to be called a trap is that the closed-system is or at least certain of its constituents are demonstrably non-viable, incorrect, invalid, untenable, the source of stress and pain, etc; and (3) The third requirement for a system to be trap is that certain of its constituents prevent examination of the systems non-viability. Position. Krippendorf does not discount the importance of observers standpoint or the position from which a system is viewed and considered pathological. There are two positions that Krippendorf assumes: (1) position from within a pathological reality construction; and (2) position from without. Krippendorf states that: a trap cannot be recognized as such (or as pathological) from a position within the system. On the contrary, one can recognize this trap from outside position. Further, he says: taking a position as either outside or inside a system is decisive for whether a pathology is or is not recognizable as such. Oppression. Oppression is a concept which explains someones disablement or burden. This concept is evident in a pathological society. Meaning, the oppression there is, the greater the pathology. Krippendorf tries to give importance to the position of the observer on this respect. Accordingly, oppression is most effective and recognizable from the perspective of the outside observer, whereas it is less pathological for those who are themselves from within. Krippendorf quotes: For an outside observer, oppression always appears to be most effective Indeed, while oppressed people rarely have problems acknowledging their misery and pain, but they also deny themselves the ability to change what always seems to be hopeless situation. Henceforth, those oppressed never exert efforts to alter, change, transform or liberate their society from pathologies. It is incumbent to know for those who are within the system to get out and try to shift position from within to without. This is what Krippendorf suggests. Power. He takes power as synonymous with physics power. Krippendor claims that there is such thing as metaphor of power. There are numerous social scientists who share Krippendorfs position. Many have adopted physical metaphors of power. Further, Krippendorf makes a clear explanation of the relationship between power and Language/Communication. In a society, power usually lies in social relationships. Relationships become possible and obvious through language. Krippendorf maintains that power individuals become such not because they are born such or power is inherent to them but they become powerful because others, majority, comply with their statements of policies. Thus, it is clear that in emanicipatory theory, power is communicated. Moreover, then, Krippendorf goes on to say: effective communication becomes the purposeful communication of power. He further argues: Communication is deemed most influential where least resisted and when communication has succeeded, power is assumed to have flown from the sender to a receiver. Entrapment in Power. According to Krippendorf:
The notion of power as an attritute of the agents of ommunication is common, familiar and obvious. .The indication that this reality construction might be a trap is that it is so obviously true from within. Nearly every change can be explained as a consequence of where the power to cause it resides. Power can be used to explain why preachers are successful, why he mass media dominate everyones life and why some parents beat up their children. That the bases of power may differ from case to case is secondary to the general idea. Such explanations leave no doubt that power exists and runs its course from the few and powerful to many and weak, from the creative communicators to the passive audiences. Major Contention. Krippendorf suggests that scholars of human communication, who ought to be particularly cognizant of what language does and aware of alternative discourses available, must have an ethical responsibility to develop reality constructions and propose theories that can not only be verified by scientific criteria but also support the emancipation from pathological reality construction wherever they arise and whenever they can be recognized as such.
D. Points of Similarities and Differences There are corresponding points of convergences and divergences between these theories. Convergences. (1) Both theories regard language and communication as important instruments and tools of social construction. They both assume that societies are products of interactive discourses among those within. In Social Construction Theory, processes of social construction are all dependent upon face-to-face situations. And Emancipation Theory assumes that scholars do have the duty or ethical responsibility to develop a social construction but not as limited as SCR. (2) Both theories look at social realities as objective and verifiable. In SCR, the means and verification may either be scientific (objective) and reflective (internal means). The same is true with Emancipatory Theory, social realities can be verified whether viable or not depending upon the position observers take. (3) Both theories value socialization. Meanings, symbols, beliefs, and institutions are defined through a process called socialization. In SCR, the process does not only stop on socialization but it goes up to the process of reflection (internalization), where man can produce himself. On the other hand, Emancipatory goes beyond socialization and goes up to emancipate the society from pathologies. (4) They both consider power to be a major in ingredient of social construction. Divergences. (1) SCR is limited in describing social realities as they are constructed, whereas Emancipatory seeks out to emancipate the constructed society from all social pathologies that have arisen. This only goes to show that Emancipatory theory promises to prevent and destroy pathologies and never to absorb them as SCR does. (2) In SCR, human being or individual forgets his own authorship of the human world because of the process of internalization, whereas Emancipatory allows the individual to shift positions from within to without. This changing of position in Emancipatory theory gives the individual a chance to look things in different perspectives. In viewing things from outside position, the individual realizes his role in the social construction and therefore may never forget his contribution to the production of the social world.
(I can only assume you publish seeking criticism. Well, you are certainly going to get it here...)
And she will not suffer from a lack of it...if anyone reads this.
Thank you for reminding us why Universities suck.
I think you have some issues with coherent writing, probably because of a misspent youth. As a contribution to your essay, I'll give it a quick edit. My edits in parenthesis.
("This paper tries" is used in consecutive sentences in your opening paragraph--Repetitive)
(The)Social Construction of Reality (theory, argument,)of Berger and Luckmann is (not)concerned (delete not) with any (form of? theoretical?--delete kind of) of knowledge being discussed in epistemology
(this sentence becomes a run-on sentence here and goes downhill quickly since the second 'is' in the sentence doesn't relate clearly to any noun. I'd suggest breaking this up into separate sentences for clarity)
(delete- but with)(Instead,) the knowledge of everyday life, as understood by Berger and Luckmann, is the kind of knowledge which enables us to know where we are, what we are doing, who we are, where we are going, how we are going to get there, what time it is, etc.
(The paragraph break in long passages to indicate different ideas is your friend. Learn to use it)
"Contemporaries are those whom merely by hearsay." (Whom what--merely by hearsay?)
(I really don't have time for more, but I truly hope you will someday achieve the knowledge that will enable you to know where you are, what you are doing, who you are, where you are going, how you are going to get there, and what time it is. Meanwhile you need an editor or a professor who believes in grade inflation)
Klaus Krippendorf needs to learn how to make paragraphs.