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Vivien Burr’s Social Constructionism is a valuable contribution to understanding the part society and culture inescapably has in the formation of the subject. Indeed, one can no longer afford to overlook the impact society has on who we are as psychological beings.

Burr begins by reminding us that, as an approach to the social sciences constructionism draws its influence from a number of disciplines, including philosophy, sociology and linguistics, making it in my view a fascinating, if not a compulsory subject for Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Social Constructionism may be regarded as belonging to the era of Post-modermisn because it adopts a critical stance towards taken-for-granted knowledge. For example, is the distinction between men and women simply based on a biological fact, or is it rather that gender is a social construction?

In a way similar to sociology, all understanding is claimed by social constructionism to be historically and culturally determined. We look at and make sense of things relative to where we stand in time and its associated culture. Todays’s critics of Freud, to take an example, have no serious legitimate ground for their arguments, no matter what they are. The time between Freud’s work and today’s advances in human sciences is now so significant as to render it practically beyond any sensible reproach.

Social Constructionism also claims that knowledge is more of a social product than based on objective observations of the world. Truth is constructed within discourses people produce and exchange in a social context (Cf. my introduction on the Name-of-the-Father).

Social actions interacts with the current knowledge. Constructionism does not separate our actions from the state of our knowledge at the time they take place. It is easy to deduce from this that the Law and Ethics should equally be evolving relative to our present knowledge.

In conclusion, Social Constructionism is inseparable from the Lacanian notion of the big Other and forms a significant part of our unconscious. For we as subjects are very much determined by those social narratives; how could it be otherwise? I would certainly recommend reading Vivien Burr’s book along with M. Sarrup‘s Postmodernism and Post-Structuralism.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (7 Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415317606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415317603


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