Social constructionism is the process of creating social constructs.
When we break down the two words:
- Social – Relating to the interaction of two or more people; and
- Construct – To make or form something by combining parts.
A social construct, is therefore something that is made, formed or created by the interaction of two or more people.
A social construct, or imagined order is a network of co-operation between humans that can only exist when one or more humans agree they do.
What Are Social Constructs?
Examples of social constructs govern every area of our lives, from the minute we are born. The main constructs that significantly influence our lives include:
- Nations and countries – Are created by imaginary lines that define the land on one side of the line as one country and the land on the other as another country. Your “nationality” and all the imagined cultural beliefs and ideas that go along with it, are determined by which side of the line you are born on. Without humans agreeing on these imaginary lines, countries would not exist.
- Race – Your race is defined by a combination of physical characteristics such as your skin colour, hair, facial and physical features that humans deem to make superior or inferior to one another. Without humans categorising and comparing different human features, there would be no race issues and we would just all exist as we are.
- Gender – Your physical body determines whether you are male and female, and depending on the differing beliefs about what this means, may significantly influence what is acceptable or legal for you to do with your body – including the way you dress, the work you do, the roles you can fill in society, and how and who you can have sex with. While our bodies may be male or female, without humans creating ideas and rules about what is right or wrong for males and females, gender issues do not exist, and everyone is free to do whatever they want with their bodies.
- Language – Language is a series of verbal sounds, or written squiggles placed together in certain ways to represent the way humans communicate their thoughts, ideas and experience in the world. Without humans to agree on language and the communication of our thoughts, ideas and experiences do not exist.
- Money – Money is the representation of a certain value in an object such as paper or metal. There is no intrinsic value in the object itself, but the meaning that humans apply to the object gives it a certain value that we can exchange. Without humans to agree that the value of paper or metal changes when something is printed on it, or when numbers appear in what we agree is a bank account, money does not exist.
- Organisations and Institutions – We give authority to political parties and governments, monarchies, and institutions such as law enforcement, education, defence, the workforce, and people come together and agree to behave in certain ways to maintain these imagined orders. They are not tangible, and without the collective agreement of humans to let them make decisions for us, they do not exist and we are free to make our own decisions.
- Authority – By giving people within organisations and institutions status, a title, a uniform or a badge, we also give these individuals permission to hold power and authority over each of us, and make decisions about how we live our lives. Without humans to reinforce and give meaning to titles, status uniforms or badges, authority does not exist, and we are all free to live as we choose, without restrictions.
- Self/ Identity – In response to imagined orders and expectations of society and interactions with other people that we are exposed to from the day we are born, comes a unique set of ideas, beliefs and myths about who we are and what the world is. They are imposed upon us day after day until they become our truth, and reality about our self. Without humans imposing their beliefs about who a child “should” or could be, we would each grow to discover the truth of who we are.
These are only some of the social constructs that impact every aspect and decision in our lives.
Other social constructs include: organised religion, education systems, political systems, legal systems, financial and economic systems, business, consumerism, employment… and the list goes on.
All systems of human categorisation are social constructs. All of them. Ever.
Weak and Strong Social Constructionism
There are weak and strong social constructs.
Weak social constructionism relies on:
- Brute facts (objective) – The most fundamental facts that cannot be explained. Brute facts are the objective or natural states of being that have no explanation and exist whether humans believe them or not – such as what makes up an atom, or gravity, or night and day.
- Institutional facts (objective) – Use other facts to make them a fact and rely on a human agreement to exist.
Strong social constructionism relies on the fact that there are no brute facts or objectivity and says that all knowledge is dependent on language and social agreement. Humans have created the idea of everything that exists in an attempt to explain it. Therefore all the concepts and ideas we use to explain everything are subjective because the explanation and knowledge only exist in that form through the thoughts of humans, not brute facts.
Generally – Regardless of the names and meanings humans create to make meaning, some things will go on whether human beings are here or not to experience or explain them, and some things that will not exist if human beings are not here. At the simplest level:
- Natural orders (objective) – Are what exists regardless of human beings being present to define or observe them; and
- Social constructs or imagined orders (subjective) – Are what does NOT exist without human beings collectively creating and agreeing on them.
Reality or Illusion?
The social norms that sustain social constructs and imagined orders are based purely on shared thoughts, beliefs, ideas and myths. So what makes something real?
If we include what we can feel, see, taste, touch, and hear then we consider it real, tangible and existing in our current physical experience.
But there are ideas and knowledge that seem “real” to many and yet cannot be felt, seen, tasted, touched or heard – they are abstract and intangible concepts that do not exist by themselves in the physical but are reinforced by other physical aspects.
An example of this is an organisation or institution which becomes real when it is supported by other things including:
- Physical objects – The construction of castles and palaces for the monarchy to live in, or schools for children to attend, or uniforms, badges and weapons for police or military are physical objects that we give meaning to that reinforce the original ideas of monarchy, an education system and law enforcement. These items mean nothing without the agreed meaning of the social constructs that humans create.
- Behaviour – The collective behaviour that many adhere to reinforces the agreed existence of an organisation or institution. Bowing and kneeling to a person on a throne reinforce the monarchy and a hierarchy, parents sending children to school because the government says you have to reinforces a compulsory education system, or allowing police to take people into custody reinforces an imagined authority.
When we participate in creating physical objects or engage in behaviour that keeps a social construct in existence, we are saying that we agree and this is OK.
The problem is, most human beings do not realise they have a choice.
A New Reality
It is possible to create a new, collective reality that works better than what we have.
Natural order – Is something natural or divine that cannot be disputed or changed and exists whether humans are here or believe it or not. There are non-negotiable features of the world, but we can only describe and conceptualise them through language and systems of categorisation that is essentially arbitrary – so, even though we name them to understand, they still exist.
Social construct or imagined orders – are not real and only exist because humans collectively agree to accept them and give them validity. Social constructs affect the world because humans take them as real and true.
The thing is, human beings have made up every social construct, so we can choose to decide if they are working or not. And we get to decide to change them to something different if we want to.
Only, the biggest social construct of all is the belief and myth that the world is the way it is – and most humans collectively agree and behave in a way that supports this.
This is the biggest lie you have been told.
But the world does not have to be this way…
For many people, the current social Constructs of the world do not support the wellbeing of the human species, the planet, or other species on the planet.
By understanding this, there is an opportunity to say no, and to change the social constructs from what they are to what supports the health and wellbeing of all.
To understand what new social constructs can support the wellbeing of all, we must go back to consider what is NOT socially constructed, and the natural order of those things.
Natural Order – What is NOT Socially Constructed?
What is NOT Socially Constructed is everything that exists independent of human beings.
It includes the existence of the Universe, solar systems, planets and planet Earth.
It includes the light and dark of the sun and shade, the oceans, landmasses, and plant and animal species upon the Earth. It includes the complex and interconnected ecosystems that support the phenomenon of life.
To find the truth of who and what we are, we must re-connect to the natural orders and live aligned with the cycles of the seasons, the months, the weeks and the days.
We must learn to live gently on the surface of the Earth and integrate with the growth cycles of plants and animals, rather than clearing it to build socially constructed cities that support the socially constructed institutions of economic growth that keep us trapped in socially constructed office cubicles working socially constructed jobs that just support the whole socially constructed cycle over and over.
To discover the truth of who you are, you must choose first to see the social constructs that do not serve the true you, and then step away and construct that which does.
It is only then, that you can truly start to see things for what they are.
The choice is yours.
Yours, Liz Watt