Berger And Luckmann's View That Reality Is Socially Constructed

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Daniel Haynes K1015437 Contemporary Social Theory

Outline and critically assess Berger and Luckmann’s view that reality is socially constructed.

Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann delve into detail about the view that reality is socially constructed. The social construction of reality is about the social construction of knowledge. It is a work of systematic theoretical reasoning. The authors argument is that “Reality is socially constructed and that the sociology of knowledge must analyse the process in which this occurs. The key terms they use are 'Reality and 'Knowledge', terms that are not only current in everyday speech but that behind them have a long History of Philosophical enquiry”. (P. Berger, T. Luckmann, 1966, PG 7). They put forward the idea that are realities are formed by our societal cultures. “For example what is real to an English Doctor might not be real to an American Businessman. “ (P. Berger, T. Luckmann, 1966, PG 8). The author argues that reality is a social phenomenon, shaped by institutions that come about through social interaction. The book can be argued to forget about the idea of 'Human nature', thus meaning to forget about things that are genetically inherited and part of all of us, such as personality and motives. The book expresses the essential features by which relationships become typified. The authors discuss society as objective reality and society as subjective reality. They express the view that social institutions are humanly constructed and not biologically given.

“The man in the street does not ordinarily trouble himself by what is real, he takes his reality and knowledge for granted. The Sociologist cannot do this if only because of his systematic awareness of the fact that men in the street take quite different realities for granted between one society and another. The Sociologist is forced to ask whether the difference between the two realities may not be understood in relation to various differences between the two societies.” (P. Berger, T. Luckmann, 1966, PG 9). Berger and Luckmann aim to give an analytical view of how a sociologist should study reality in different societies. They put forward the view that a persons reality can be different from one society to the other. Gordon Kelly offers an overview of Berger and Luckmann's work and states that “the individual is born into an ongoing social world and its is the context of a particular social reality that he achieves and maintains his identity”. (G. Kelly, 1983, PG 50). Berger and Luckmann focus there social reality on 'man' “there can be no social reality apart from man” (P. Berger, 1967, PG 3). Man is seen to be engaged in the never ending changing cycle of creating the objective reality socially and in turn internalizing these very created realities as there own subjectively.

Karl Marx is referred to in the book by Berger and Luckmann and his work can be inter related with Berger and Luckmann's view that reality is socially constructed. “It is from Marx that the sociology of knowledge derived its root preposition” (P. Berger, T. Luckmann, 1966, PG 5.) Marx main focus throughout his years of work were on class struggle. Berger and Luckmann's view that reality is a social phenomena shaped by institutions can be directly related to Marx work on societal structure. When referring to Marx, Berger and Luckmann do not disagree with his thinking but instead offer an analytical overview of how his theory can be used to help shape their own. It can be argued that Marx would have agreed with there view that reality is socially constructed because of the objective nature of society. The viewpoint that they seem to share is that people are institutionalised into accepting how society functions.

Sociologists Swidler and Arditi published a piece of work in 1994 called the new sociology of knowledge. They refer back to Mannheim's older sociology of Knowledge saying “The older sociology of