Epistemological, Social, and Political Conundrums in Social Constructionism

  • Carl Ratner Institute for Cultural Research and Education
Keywords: critical realism, validity, philosophy of science, subjectivism, community, social fragmentation

Abstract

This article critiques the central premise of social constructionism, namely that groups of people freely construct beliefs about things and that beliefs are "local truths" which must be honored by outsiders and cannot be evaluated by external criteria. I argue that eliminating truth claims makes all beliefs arbitrary and eliminates the very notion of error. This leads to accepting what are in fact false and dangerous beliefs. It also leads to dogmatic cults of divergent social groups maintaining any belief system they want, and rejecting in principle all criticism or need improvement. The resulting social fragmentation prevents mutual understanding and communication. While social constructionism claims to be radically anti-modernist, i.e., anti-capitalist, the social fragmentation and uncritical thinking it promotes, exactly reflect the practices of capitalists who work for their own self-interests, disregard community concerns, and dismiss factual evidence about capitalism's negative effects on the environment, health, and society. I propose that real community and understanding require an acceptance of "modernist" scientific principles that can critique harmful practices and design social reform. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs060142

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Author Biography

Carl Ratner, Institute for Cultural Research and Education
Carl RATNER (http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs/beirat/ratner-e.htm) works on qualitative methodology and cultural psychology. His new book "Cultural psychology: A perspective on psychological functioning and social reform," will be published by Erlbaum in Nov. 2005.
Published
2006-01-31
Section
FQS Interviews

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