Part 2 - CH 11: The Constructionist Stance

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CH 11: The Constructionist Stance

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Part 2 - CH 11: The Constructionist Stance
  1. Joel Best
    1. One of the leading practitioners of the social constructionist approach
      1. Reality is socially constructed
        1. When we define some behavior as deviant, we are socially constructing deviance.
          1. Constructionist approach recognizes that people can only understand the world in terms of words and categories that they create and share with one another
    2. THE EMERGENCE OF CONTRUCTIONISM
      1. Contructionism has roots in 2 developments:
        1. FIRST:
          1. The publication by Peter L. Berger & Thomas Luckmann's (1966), "The Social Construction of Reality"
            1. They wrote about the sociology of knowledge-how social life shapes everthing that people know. Introduced the term "social construction".
              1. Soon after, other sociologist were writing about the construction of science, news and other knowledge including deviance.
          2. SECOND:
            1. labeling theory came under attack by the mid 1970s
              1. labeling theory had become the leading approach to studying deviance duting the 1960s
                1. Conflict theorists charged that labeling theory ignored how elites shaped definitions of deviance and socail control policies
                  1. Feminists complained that labeling ignored the victimization of women at the hands of both male offenders and male-dominated social control agencies
                    1. Gay and disability rights activists insisted that homosexuals and the disabled should be viewed as political minorities rather than deviants.
                      1. Mainstream sociologists began challenging labeling theory's claims about the ways social control operated and affected deviants' identities
        2. THE CONSTRUCTIONIST RESPONSE
          1. In response, some sociologist moved away from studying deviance and instead studied the sociology of social problems
            1. Led by John I. Kitsuse (sociologist who helped shape the labeling theory), & Malcolm Spector, published "Constructing Social Problems" (1977) - a book that inspired many sociologists to begin studying how and why particular social problems emerged as topics of public concern
              1. Spector & Kitsuse argued that sociologist ought to redefine social problems as claims that various conditions constituted social problems; therefore, the constructionist approach involved studying claims and those who made them, the claimsmakers
                1. sociologist should study how problems like college drinking and date rape are constructed. how were these problems constructed?
            2. Constructionist approach was flexible which meant that constructionists might criticize some claims as exaggerated, distorted or unfounded but they might also celebrate the efforts of claimsmakers to draw attention to neglected problems
              1. Analyst of social problems construction might concentration various actors: some examined the power of political and economic elites in shaping definitions of social problems; others focused on the role of activists i bringing attention to problems; and still others concentrated on how nedia coverage shaped the public's and policymakers' understanding of problems
              2. important to appreciate that "socially constructed" is not a synonym for erroneous or mistaken.
                1. All knowledge is socially constructed; to say that a social problem is socially constructed is not to imply that it does not exist but rather that it is through social interaction that the problem is assigned particular meanings
              3. THE RETURN OF DEVIANCE
                1. Although constructionists studied the emergence and evolution of many different social problems, much of their work remained focused on deviance
                  1. They studied the construction of rape, child abduction, illicit drugs, family violence and other forms of deviance
                    1. Medicalization - defining deviance as a form of illness requiring medical treatment. Popular contemporary way of constructing deviance. Using medical language like-disease, symptom, therapy used by medical authorities and amateurs
                      1. Medicalization studies closely related to the rise of constructionism
                2. CONSTRUCTIONISM'S DOMAIN
                  1. Social constructionism has become an influential stance for thinking about deviance, particularly for understanding how concerns about partcular forms of deviance emerge and evolve, and for studying how social control agents construct particular acts as deviance and individuals as deviants
                    1. Constructionism emphasizes the role of interpretation, of people assigning meaning, or making sense of the behaviors they classify as deviant
                      1. Can occur at a societal level (mass media drawing attention to new form of deviance & legislature passes a law against it) or it can occur in face-to-face interactions (individual expresses disapproval of another's rule breaking)
                        1. Deviance, like all reality, is constantly being constructed
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