The Social Construction of Reality

This was one of the first books I read at Aberdeen. It is by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann The Social Construction of Reality: a treatise in the sociology of knowledge. I always remember it as summing up for me the socially constructed nature of reality. If there is one book that sums up the core meaning of the symbolic interactionist message then this book is it. Published in 1966 I recently bought a 1972 reprint of it. The original publication has not been revised since it was first published in 1966.

It is very phenomenological in its message. It was published a year before Garfinkel’s book Studies in Ethnomethodology (1967), so it draws heavily on the work of Schutz.

There is a useful discussion of that sums up the key aspect of ethnomethodology, here: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/ethnomethodology.htm. This is the core of the argument that positivist sociologists has completely misunderstood:

“Ethnomethodologists are highly critical of other branches of sociology. They argue that conventional sociologists have misunderstood the nature of social reality. They have treated the social world as if it has an objective reality that is independent of member’s accounts and interpretation. Thus they have regarded aspects of the social world such as suicide and crime as facts with an existence of their own. They have then attempted to provide explanations for these facts.” (my emphasis, added)

Working in a field such as housing and urban research this is a misconception that I have often come across. If any one statement sums up what symbolic interaction contributes to understanding society the above statement will be it.

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