Re: explanation of feminist perspective

Devi Jankowicz (
Thu, 27 Mar 97 21:29:34 +0100

Responding to Bob Parks, Gary Blanchard wrote:

>However, it does not follow that because we are free to construe, we can
>just construe any old way we want. Crazy people do that; that's why we
>call them 'crazy.' Effectively communicating (i.e., coordinating) people
>always seek to match their interpretation/construal of a matter up with
>the interpretion/construal of their partner(s)-- hence the oft-repeated
>question/comment: 'know what I mean?'

Weeell; yes, I can see the arguments for a correspondence between one
person's construing and another's; it opens up debate in a
social-constructivist direction (see e.g. Berger and Luckman, 1976, a
reference which I was sort of expecting to see given the direction the
debate on this topic is moving, but no matter).

However, I would argue that we're _not_ primarily in the business of
matching up our constructions with the constructions of another.
Admittedly, that's one common, pre-constructivist definition of whether a
person is to be seen as "crazy" or otherwise; but it raises all the usual
questions about "who is s/he, that other person, to label the first
person "crazy"? What is any social group, to apply such a label; a
question that's sometimes fruitful, but sometimes pointless.

I would argue that questions of "constraints on appropriate construing",
which is the topic of the above quotation, are better resolved not in
terms of the Commonality corollary (which asserts that two people share
psychological processes depending on the extent to which their constructs
are similar) but rather, in terms of the Sociality corollary (which
states that we can effectively relate in a role with respect to another
person to the extent that we can understand the construction process of
the other person).

To regard someone as "crazy" or otherwise is, IMHO, primarily an
expression of the two roles involved. And so, I'd argue that one decides
on the effectiveness or otherwise of another's construing primarily by
recourse to that other person's constructs. This _isn't_ solipsism! The
other has constructs for a particular purpose that s/he defines; and the
question then becomes: "having tried the best I can to understand the
other person's purposes and the constructs the other person has devised
to achieve those purposes, does it appear likely that they are
well-matched, or are they _self_-contradictory? If the latter, I _might_
be justified in regarding the other person as in some way "crazy". It's
got little to do with whether that person's constructs are the same as
mine, since we may share different purposes!

And note: the legitimacy of my ascription of craziness to the other
person will then tend to be resolved in terms of our respective roles:
therapist-client; manager-employee; and, to return to the topic of this
debate, a highly political one IMHO: male-female!

In a nutshell, legitimacy seems better debated in terms of role
relationships (and the related terms: power; equity; specialist
expertise, claimed or otherwise) rather than the personal agendas that
underly an individuals' construction processes.

Kidn regards,

Devi Jankowicz

Berger, P.L. & Luckmann, T., (1976) "The Social Nature of Reality"
Harmondsworth: Penguin.

P.S. Luis Botella's articles in _JCP_ are also very helpful on the
personal/social constructivist interface...