Social Construction

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A social construction or social construct is any institutionalized entity or artifact in a social system "invented" or "constructed" by participants in a particular culture or society that exists because people agree to behave as if it exists or follow certain conventional rules. One example of a social construct is social status.

Social constructionism is a school of thought which deals with detecting and analyzing social constructions.

Emile Durkheim first theorized about social construction in his anthropological work on collective behavior, but did not coin the term. The first book with "social construction" in its title was Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality, first published in 1966. Since then, the term found its way into the mainstream of the social sciences.

The central idea of Berger and Luckmann's Social Construction of Reality was that actors interacting together form, over time, typifications or mental representations of each other's actions, and that these typifications eventually become habitualized into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relation to each other. When these reciprocal roles become routinized, the typified reciprocal interactions are said to be institutionalized. In the process of this institutionalization, meaning is embedded and institutionalized into individuals and society - knowledge and people's conception of (and therefore belief regarding) what reality 'is' becomes embedded into the institutional fabric and structure of society, and social reality is therefore said to be socially constructed. For further discussion of key concepts related to social construction, see social constructionism and deconstruction.

Pinker (2002, p. 202) writes that "some categories really are social constructions: they exist only because people tacitly agree to act as if they exist." He goes on to say, however: "But, that does not mean that all conceptual categories are socially constructed"...
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