Review Essay: Social Constructivism, Hermeneutics, and the Sociology of Knowledge


  • Bernt Schnettler



methodology, methods, theory, social sciences, Hermeneutic Sociology of Knowledge


One of the unique characteristics of German interpretative social research is its combination of the sociology of knowledge with hermeneutics. The "Hermeneutic Sociology of Knowledge" is grounded in a tradition clearly shaped by a Central European conception of the social sciences as philosophically-founded and, at the same time, dedicated to empirical research. WEBER's work is undoubtedly the important starting point for this line of theory, that received its phenomenological basis from SCHÜTZ and its profile of a sociology of knowledge from BERGER and LUCKMANN. The aim of this model of sociology is the reconstruction of the "social constructions of reality." The common view of all authors included in this anthology is that "pure" theorizing detached from empirical analysis lacks epistemological logic. Therefore, they are justifiably skeptical of all efforts to develop an a-historical general sociological theory. The contributions are intended to further reflection on the epistemological bases of the social sciences and progress in developing the methodological base and methods of social research. The editors emphasize that a "Hermeneutic Sociology of Knowledge" is to be understood as involving methodical skepticism regarding all forms of "positive knowledge." It aims at the "disenchantment of the social constructions of reality," and this includes criticism of the "constructs of sociologists" by sociologists themselves. The conception and practice of science as a collaborative task as realized by the "Hermeneutic Sociology of Knowledge" seems to be a very adequate contemporary way of working in the social sciences. The advantage of this line of thought, its inner pluralism, its interest in and willingness to cooperate with other theoretical traditions and ability to focus on the nonsense that can motivate social actions constitute undeniable advantages of this conception of social research and theorizing. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs020416


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Author Biography

Bernt Schnettler

Bernt SCHNETTLER, M.A., born 1967, studied sociology and psychology at the University of Konstanz, philosophy and Spanish in Madrid and presently teaches at the University of Konstanz (Germany) and the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland). Main research interests: sociology of religious experiences, sociology of organizations, interpretative methods of social research.



How to Cite

Schnettler, B. (2002). Review Essay: Social Constructivism, Hermeneutics, and the Sociology of Knowledge. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(4).



Methodology and Methods