Re: Social Constructionism
Tue, 2 Jun 1998 15:31:52 -0400

Hello All:

The question about the capacity to meld constructivism and social
constructionism is an important one, in my view. I find myself in
agreement with Charles Smith, who wrote:

>Individuals have personal constructs, but they are framed in social terms.
>Individuals validate these constructs using social meanings. So pcp has to
>recognise the social dimension. On the other hand, there isn't a social
>meaning that isn't generated by individuals (to validate their constructs)
>and being construed by individuals.

And especially when he wrote:

>Don't sit on the fence. Dismantle it.
>Don't put a foot in each camp. Reorganise them into a single camp around
>wherever you want to put your feet.

I disagree with statements made by others that social constructionists
need to adopt PCP methodologies, or that social constructionist methodology
is weak. As powerful as grid technology is, grids are often used to
extract meaning systems of individuals in an interview context. This is
good, but it is not the same as examining the rich meanings that are
produced in actual on-line social dialogue using language. Discourse
analysis is a rich and often sophisticated process that is not inferior
to PCP technin his attempt to relate PCP to social constructionism,
Charles noted that person have personal constructs, but that these are
framed in social terms. This is nice, but it makes the personal appear to
exist prior to the social. Individuals have the constructs, they are
merely expressed or represented in a social language. I would argue that
the very constructs we construct are _formed_ in part through dialogue
and, in part, using cultural meanings communicated in language.

In my view, the trick to resolving the constructivist/social
constructionist schism is in the idea that there is no necessary dualism
between the individual and the social. Although self and other exist
as _distinct systems_, their psychological processes cannot function
independent of each other. A social constructivist psychonlogy would
need to address the question of how individual and society make each
other up (as Shweder has maintained), not how one has priority over the

Mike Mascolo