The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge


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Berger and Thomas Luckmann examine how knowledge forms and how it is preserved and altered within a society. Unlike earlier theorists and philosophers, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Berger , Thomas Luckmann. Unlike earlier theorists and philosophers, Berger and Luckmann go beyond intellectual history and focus on commonsense, everyday knowledge—the proverbs, morals, values, and beliefs shared among ordinary people.

When first published in , this systematic, theoretical treatise introduced the term social construction ,effectively creating a new thought and transforming Western philosophy. The Foundations of Knowledge in Everyday Life. Society as Objective Reality. Society as Subjective Reality. The Social Construction of Reality is an orthodox text that discusses the individual identity structure, socialization and influence of social prowess. The text is based on the sociology of knowledge wherein there is a profound affiliation between human thought and the social framework within which it arises.

With this, the knowledge obtained and the ensuing social institutions forms an objective reality which makes it possible for a reality to exist separately of our subjectivity. Man is a social product. Social institutions promote habitualization within the limitations of human life. It constructs a stable background wherein the life of the individual is routine. This in turn relieves the stress and frees the individual from making decisions for themselves. This is where the idea that man is a social product.

The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge

The social institutions — created by humans — takes control and becomes the dogma of men themselves. The symbolic universes are a set of circumstances that endeavors in creating an institutionalized structure that is acceptable for humans. It gives the explanations for why things happen the way they do, why people act the way they do. We see the world as unchangeable, always constant. This is because from the moment we were born, we have been socialized to believe the limitations that the predetermined social institutions taught us.

The socialization originated from our family, the church, friends, teachers, even the people we see fleetingly. In other words, the society had us become institutionalized. May 30, Rui Coelho rated it it was amazing. A very good introduction to constructivist perspectives on the social. It anticipates some of Foucault's and Goffman's theories, among others.

This work deserves way more recognition. Aug 31, Adam rated it really liked it Shelves: Berger's Social Construction of Reality is a thorough and concise expression of a lot of things I'd already learned or intuited about the topic. This is a nice thing to have, cementing a lot of thoughts in place and confirming that I had indeed understood the concepts accurately. And Berger's writing is nowhere near as impenetrable and arcane as I'd expected it would be. His style is a bit ornate, using unusual phrasings and word variants, but it's all straightforward enough to parse on a first Berger's Social Construction of Reality is a thorough and concise expression of a lot of things I'd already learned or intuited about the topic.

His style is a bit ornate, using unusual phrasings and word variants, but it's all straightforward enough to parse on a first pass. On the other hand, his examples are largely disappointing. Berger wrote this in the 's; a lot of its ideas were around even earlier. I grew up in a world suffused with fiction exploring implications of Berger's thesis, from Borges and Philip K. Dick to Wade Davis and Barry Lopez.


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I've seen tons of explorations and examples of Berger's ideas by writers far more creative than him. It's no surprise his thought experiments fall a bit flat. But it's not just that they're boring or don't take ideas to interesting places; this isn't really the place for that. It's that they often are quite unhelpful at just explaining the ideas, or distract from his thesis in some way. He often cites gender as an example, which, while it is a social construct, is certainly too complex and debated to be used as an introductory example from any point of view.

Perhaps it is true that, at one point, people were so credulous and straightforward about their concepts of reality, but these days post-modernism and irony have suffused our culture so fundamentally that it raises eyebrows to speculate on individuals who take their own ideas about the world so seriously, who completely lack even the concept that other ways of doing things exist, on issues that are relatively apolitical. Berger does make mention of the fact that his decentralized, relativist ideas about culture and reality are a result of the proliferation of worldviews in our rapidly globalizing and industrializing world.

The introduction of many worldviews that function side by side without serious friction or disfunction undermines the primacy of one's own worldview. I had for some reason expected Berger to focus more on ontology, essentially to the application of sociology of knowledge to scientific realism. Instead, Berger essentially takes a provisional level of realism for granted.

He assumes the existence of the world, including humans as biological entities with some fixed properties that distinguish them from other animals the nexus between evolutionary biology and culture is super interesting and one I'm sure is becoming better-studied now, and by holding it as a constant Berger makes the biggest oversimplification of the book. Probably not a bad choice given his goals, though and posits culture as a product of that interaction, unique to each society and sub-society. Culture then affects both humans and the world and the three have a complex mutual interaction ever since, one that is quite difficult to exactly decipher.

The point is, Berger's question is not about the ontological status of reality, but rather about the formation, evolution, and maintenance of worldviews and identity groups. For all its inadequacies, Social Construction of Reality is probably the best simple introduction to post-modernism I've come across yet.

It focuses on the material, cultural underpinnings and consequences of what are often framed as philosophical debates and problems, driving home the contingency of our arguments and identities in historical and biographical circumstance. It emphasizes that reality is on every level created and maintained by repeated enactments by individuals. It also illustrates quite saliently the literal ubiquity of tropes and narratives in every facet of life.

It would be fun to teach this book, pulling from the post-modern literary corpus for more interesting and well-executed examples.

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Definitely recommended for anyone looking to get a better understanding of post-modernism, relativism, or just a theoretical framework for how culture works. Mar 25, Sunny rated it really liked it Shelves: Here are some of the interesting points the book raised: It spoke about the actions say of 2 married people that come together to form one co-mingled set of actions which eventually start to form a subculture in itself. This is well and good until the couple have children and so now they are dealing with potentially 4 different cultures.

The culture that the mother brings to the table. Both mother and father come to this stage in their lives with predefined modus operandi, after all, they were bought up in a certain way by their parents and they turned out fine individually so why should they not bring that child up in the way they recognise and remember they were bought up themselves?

The individual's character precipitates from a process in which he is recognised by the world and those around him. Other's impressions of you go to form you but you are not formed as a result of those impressions alone. Aug 11, Seth Pierce rated it really liked it.

While verbose and redundant at times, this is a fascinating look at how humans create the cultural structures that produce reality and identity. While it is easy to detect some cynicism at times regarding objective reality, the authors do a decent job of presenting the material--even if they occasionally make sweeping statements that may not be true. Dec 10, Libby rated it it was amazing. I read this back in my junior year of high school along with several others by the author, but my mind comes back to it again and again.

It is both an insightful and a readable exploration of how society builds plausibility structures and colors our perception of reality. Jul 30, Gordon rated it it was amazing.

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The rumors are true. A damn fine piece of work. Mar 20, Jonas Erne rated it really liked it. Kein einfaches Unterfangen, wie ich immer wieder feststellen muss. Postman schreibt zu den Sozialwissenschaften: Es gibt keine Postulate oder Voraussetzungen, in denen sie verankert sind. Sie sind an eine Zeit und eine Konstellation gebunden und vor allem an die kulturellen Vorurteile des Forschers.

So kann man zwar sagen: Der Mensch hat eine Natur. Der Mensch macht seine Natur — oder, noch einfacher: Der Mensch produziert sich selbst. Halten wir hier kurz inne. Festzuhalten ist aber, dass die Dialektik von Einzelnem und Gesellschaft zu kurz greift. Ich kann die Sequenzen meiner Lebenszeit mit denen der Seinen abstimmen. Dabei interpretieren wir 'Heil' — mit angemessenen Verbeugungen vor den Theologen, die mit jenem Satz etwas anderes im Sinn hatten — als das erfolgreiche Zustandekommen der Konversion.

Hier nun kommt die Gemeinde ins Spiel. Ich habe das Buch gerne gelesen und war erstaunt, dass es recht gut lesbar ist. Apr 23, Jesse James rated it it was amazing. How do we know what is real and what is not? And who gets to construct this reality?


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  8. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann addressed these and many other questions about reality, and did so through a sociological lens, rather than using approaches better suited to philosophy 1 or theology. Their treatise on reality has great implications for knowledge management systems of organization, but, more importantly, they describe how it is that reality is a social phenomenon.

    In this, the What is reality? In this, they also bring to bear on the questions of reality and sociology a certain kind of perspective, precisely that of phenomenology. A phenomenological approach to sociology is not so much a specific field as much as it is a style or way of thinking. Berger and Luckmann use this new approach to describe the process of creating and maintaining reality. They describe this process to occur simultaneously at both an individual and societal level. Berger and Luckmann are careful to explain that habitualization comes before institutionalization.

    Institutionalization, according to Berger and Luckmann, only happens in the social world, where two or more individuals are connected together. Any action that is repeated frequently becomes cast into a pattern, which can then be reproduced with an economy of effort and which, ipso facto, is apprehended by its performer as that pattern. Habitualization further implies that the action in question may be performed again in the future in the same manner and with the same economical effort.

    This is true of non-social as well as of social activity. Put differently, any such typification is an institution. What must be stressed is the reciprocity of institutional typifications and typicality of not only the actions but also the actors in institutions. The typifications of habitualized actions that constitute institutions are always shared ones. However, as Berger and Luckmann describe, the connection between habitualization and institutionalization is far from that simple.

    To institutionalize the habitualized lives of connected people requires two more essential components: Two random people from two distinct and disconnected cultures who meet for the first time are not creating an institution. It is the strangeness between each other that must be converted to familiarity that then creates the possibility of institutionalization; but even familiarity, achieved over time, and creating a history, does not create an institution. In addition to that shared history there must be some kind of an established system of social control and cohesion.

    Two people diametrically opposed to one another with constantly changing behaviours that follow no pattern or routine are subject to no social control, even if the pattern is itself randomness since the connected people have no control over randomness because randomness is neither predictable or controllable. Generally, all actions repeated once or more tend to be habitualized to some degree, just as all actions observed by another necessarily involve some typification on his part.

    The Social Construction of Reality

    However, for the kind of reciprocal typification just described to occur there must be a continuing social situation in which the habitualized actions of two or more individuals interlock. I will just mention two. Their habitualization would have an absolutely profound effect on the start of the movement.

    Additionally, I must also examine the lives of those involved with the movement in the decades since it began. Their habits and lived reality did, in concert with the habits and lived reality of their colleagues and other members of their sociological context of Toronto, have a direct and indelible influence on the development of the movement.

    Second, it is essential that I take the institutionalized social control of Youth Unlimited seriously because it determines where the organization would go amidst the various possible directions that it could have taken, such as the ways other organizations went which have a shared history. Both of these points are captured in a single quote: Reciprocal typifications of actions are built up in the course of a shared history.

    Sociological Readings - The Social Construction of Reality

    They cannot be created instantaneously. Institutions always have a history, of which they are the products. It is impossible to understand an institution adequately without an understanding of the historical process in which it was produced. Institutions also, by the very fact of their existence, control human conduct by setting up predefined patterns of conduct, which channel it in one direction as against the many other directions that would theoretically be possible. Reality is defined as a quality appertaining to phenomena that we recognize as having independent of our own volition, while knowledge is defined as the certainty that phenomena are real and that they possess specific characteristics.

    Knowledge is the accumulated and passed on understanding of reality for societies.

    The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge by Peter L. Berger

    This part of the book deals with the concept of everyday knowledge. This knowledge enables us to understand here and now realities. In the words of Berger and Luckmann: Within the frame of reference of sociology as an empirical science it is possible to take this reality as given, to take as data particular phenomena arising within it, without further inquiring about the foundations of this reality, which is a philosophical task.

    It presents an interesting observation of consciousness. Everyday reality is postulated as best reality, or the kind of reality that is most accessible since it is pervasive. It is structured spatially and temporally. To Berger and Luckmann, temporality is intrinsic to consciousness. Reality of everyday life is shared with others.

    In face to face situations, there is the greatest room to share information. Berger and Luckmann describe a continuum of social interaction in which the social part of everyday reality varies towards anonymity as we move farther from here and now. It is postulated that along this continuum language becomes the repository for vast accumulations of meanings and experiences for individuals and societies. Berger and Luckmann suggest that language originates in and has primary reference to everyday life.

    It has objectivity, and subjectivity hence the split of two sections on reality. Objectivity forces social interactions into patterns and typifies the experiences. Language bridges different zones of reality and integrates them into a meaningful reality, which includes spatial, temporal, and social variations. The variations and individual experiences, along with the depth of sharing or withholding information and knowledge, constitute the subjectivity of reality.

    Sep 27, Jeremy Garber rated it liked it Shelves: Berger and Luckmann provide a theoretical sketch of how knowledge works in society — not theoretical knowledge, and not philosophical knowledge, but knowledge in general. Although our reality is arbitrarily created by human interaction, it becomes very real in social institutions, part Berger and Luckmann provide a theoretical sketch of how knowledge works in society — not theoretical knowledge, and not philosophical knowledge, but knowledge in general.

    Although our reality is arbitrarily created by human interaction, it becomes very real in social institutions, particularly as we are emotionally introduced to that world in our childhood. The authors are quite clear in placing themselves in a particular history of thinking about knowledge in sociology. Philosophers and laypeople alike may find themselves not quite happy or find the book not quite useful. Professional religious theorists may find this work particularly fruitful as an alternative theoretical starting point, especially given the statement in the conclusion of the book: This is not an easy read by any means,as it was aimed at stimulating academic discussion in the sixties and as such some of the theories are explained in a very convoluted and academic manner.

    Thankfully the authors recognised the importance of communicating their views to a wider public and provided alternative explanations and numerous and often off beat humorous examples to elucidate the theories under discussion. The book,as I see it,attempts to explain how far human interaction affects the This is not an easy read by any means,as it was aimed at stimulating academic discussion in the sixties and as such some of the theories are explained in a very convoluted and academic manner. The book,as I see it,attempts to explain how far human interaction affects the reality we perceive and the behaviour we exhibit towards it.

    The methods that are employed to coerce us to be complicit with these 'symbolic universes' are examined as well as the pitfalls that such artificial human constructs produce. Oct 11, Katy added it. I'm reading this for a class at school like all the other books on my currently-reading shelf and it is painful. I don't fully understand it until we have discussed it in class but it is full of ideas that I've never come across before and that change the way I think about knowledge and reality. The language is definitely from the 's though, apparently the only people who think about such things are men.

    Almost finished with the class almost as painful as the book and the more we d I'm reading this for a class at school like all the other books on my currently-reading shelf and it is painful. Almost finished with the class almost as painful as the book and the more we discussed this in class and applied it to real-life, the more I understood it.

    The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
    The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
    The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
    The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
    The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
    The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
    The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge

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