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A philosophical (specifically epistemological) stance in phenomenological sociology in which social realities are seen as the product of sociohistorically situated practices rather than objective facts (compare objectivism). Similarly, social identities are seen as constructed rather than pre-given: making social constructionism an anti-*essentialist stance as well as anti-positivist one. In contrast to realists, constructionists argue that reality is not wholly external to and independent of how we conceptualize the world: our sign systems (especially language) play a major part in the construction of social reality, which cannot be separated from the sign systems in which it is framed. Although a constructionist stance does not necessarily entail a denial of the existence of physical reality, some inflections emphasize more radically the social construction of reality: for instance, perception itself involves codes (see also perceptual codes), and what count as objects, their properties, and their relations vary from language to language (see also linguistic relativism; ontology; Sapir-Whorf hypothesis). Constructionism can be seen as offering an alternative to the binarism involved in polarizing the issue into the objectivism of naive realism versus the radical subjectivism of idealism (see also intersubjectivity). Social constructionists differ from extreme subjectivists in insisting that realities are not limitless and unique to (or definable by) the individual; rather, they are the product of social definitions and as such far from equal in status. Realities are contested, and textual representations (and theories) are thus sites of struggle. Realists often criticize constructionism as extreme relativism or conventionalism—a position from which constructionists frequently distance themselves. See also interpretivism; labelling theory; phenomenology; symbolic interactionism; compare constructivism.

Subjects: Media studies

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