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Towards Social Constructionism Understanding our social lives

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Title: Towards Social Constructionism Understanding our social lives


1
Towards Social ConstructionismUnderstanding our
social lives
  • Sociological and Psychological Theory as Applied
    to Social Work

Douglas McCarrick
2
Towards Social ConstructionismUnderstanding our
social lives
  • Putting social perspectives in context
  • Considering role theory
  • Examining deviance
  • Considering labelling theory
  • Introducing discourse

3
Social perspectives
  • Perspective I The individual
  • Psychology the study of the mind the study
    of human behaviour
  • Perspective II Society
  • Sociology - the study of social structures,
    organisations and institutions
  • Social construction we are born into certain
    situations and as individuals of particular
    sexes, ethnic groups, classes, etc.

Perspective III Micro- sociology/social
psychology
4
Social perspectives
Perspective III Individuals in social
interactions Role theory Deviance Labelling Mor
al Panics
5
Individuality
  • How do we think of ourselves?
  • How do others think about us?
  • George Herbert Mead (1934)
  • Having a self means we can think of ourselves as
    objects we have the ability to reflect on our
    own mental processes.
  • We learn about ourselves and the social world
    through socialisation

The notion of self The notion of reflexivity
6
Symbolic interactionism
  • Symbolic interactionism describes the peculiar
    and distinctive character of interaction as it
    takes place between human beings.
  • The peculiarity consists in the fact human beings
    interpret or define each others actions
    instead of merely reacting to each others
    actions. Their response is not made directly to
    the actions of one another but instead is based
    on the meaning which they attach to such symbols.

7
Symbolic interactionism Role theory
  • A successful social encounter requires people to
    understand who they are and how they ought to
    act in relations to others. They need to
    negotiate the definition of the situation.
  • Role conflict is possible.
  • There are typifications people draw on to make
    their everyday interactions smooth and
    predictable.
  • Roles are sets of behaviour with socially agreed
    functions and accepted codes of norms
  • Roles exist independently of the people who play
    them

8
Individuality and interaction
  • How do we think of ourselves?
  • How do others think about us?
  • Goffman (1959)
  • Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
  • Stigma
  • Discredited and discreditable identities
  • Image management

9
Labelling theory
  • Some groups are more likely to become discredited
    than others.
  • incidence or prevalence are not objective
    statistics are socially constructed and not to be
    trusted.
  • Labelling usually involved crude stereotypes
    being applied by agents of social control
    (police, teachers, etc)
  • What is normality and who decides?

10
Deviance and Labelling Becker 1936
  • ..social groups create deviance by creating the
    rules whose infraction constitutes deviance, and
    by applying these rules to particular people and
    labelling them as outsiders

The deviant is one to whom that label has been
successfully applied deviant behaviour is
behaviour people so label.
11
Summary deviance and labelling theory
  • Deviants are not different to normal people.
  • People in society are not labelled as deviant
    because of some innate characteristic like bad
    genes or bad socialisation.
  • They are labelled according to the symbolic
    interpretations of those supposed characteristics
    by other people.
  • Deviance is a social, not individual,
    characteristic.
  • Some groups are more likely to be labelled than
    others.
  • Labelling theory is not concerned with the causes
    of behaviour.

12
Moral panic
  • a condition, episode, person or group of persons
    (who) become defined as a threat to societal
    values and interests.
  • Folk Devils and Moral Panics Cohen S (1972)
  • Groups are picked out for special treatment
  • They are given a particular identity
  • There is an amplification of deviance
  • Hall (1978)

13
Folk devils Moral panics
Mods Rockers Muggers Welfare scroungers Economic
migrants Too posh to push! Rage!
Fury! berserk riot animals Epidemic
swamping Uproar! Blame - condemn Breakdown
of the family
14
Amplification of deviance
Event reported / Issue comes to fore Reported
dramatically Police respond People report more
incidents Police statistics rise Statistics
reported
MORAL PA N I C
15
  • More moral panics will be generated and.. other
    folk devils will be created.. because our society
    will continue to generate problems for some of
    its members.. and then condemn whatever solution
    these groups find.
  • Cohen, 1972204

Folk devils...
16
Limitations of role theory and labelling
  • Goffman seems to imagine we live in a world where
    people wait to be critical.
  • Role theory over-simplifies social interaction.
  • Labelling romaticises the deviant. Deviants come
    across as passive victims, the underdog.
  • Labelling disregards the origins of deviant
    behaviour
  • Labelling doesnt deal with the issues of power
    and interest which shape laws and rules.

17
Modernism - Postmoderism
  • Modernism
  • Enlightenment belief that human beings could be
    free and improve their condition through
    rationality and progress
  • Postmodernism
  • The Enlightenment focus on universal common bonds
    is flawed. Society is characterised by difference
    rather than totality.
  • It is relativist. There are different ways of
    knowing. There is no universal truth, no
    reality and can be universal progress. There is
    change rather than progress.

18
Discourse
  • Discourse
  • We operate with a common set of assumptions about
    the nature of reality. They provide the basis for
    our conscious knowledge.
  • Foucault calls these shared sets of ideas
    discourses

19
Discourse
As we think about discourse - there are questions
as to how a particular view becomes the dominant
view, how some truths become accepted whose
voices are heard and whose are silent.
The media, wittingly or unwittingly, reproduce
the definitions of the powerful. Eldridge,
199765
20
Ways of thinking about society
It isnt just the position a person is born to
things change it is also how that person is
construed by society.
  • Social construction
  • The social structure shapes our individual
    biographies our choices are limited by
    upbringing, location, sex, ethnicity, income, etc.
  • Social constructionism
  • How we are perceived by society, how our actions
    are construed and the interpretation of the
    events with which we are involved are all
    produced by a process of discourse. Ideas are
    also socially constructed

Symbolic interactionism has to take into account
power structures in society and power in
discourse.
21
Understanding social lifeSummary
  • Activity summarise the main elements of the
    session
  • Which ideas do you think will be most useful to
    you in your social work practice?

22
Booklist
  • Becker H 1963 Outsiders studies in the sociology
    of deviance New York, Anchor
  • Cohen S 1972 Folk Devils and Moral Panics London,
    MacGibbon Kee
  • Eldridge J 1997 The Mass Media and Power in
    Modern Britain Oxford University Press
  • Hall S et al 1978 Policing the Crisis London,
    Macmillan
  • Goffman E 1959 The Presentation of Self in
    Everyday Life New York, Anchor
  • Mead GH 1934 Mind, Self and Society Chicago,
    Chicago University Press

23
Symbolic interactionStudent activity
  • Blumer
  • People react to things on the basis of the
    meaning they have for them
  • These meaning are derived from social interaction
    with people
  • The meanings are handled through the
    interpretative process of the person dealing with
    the thing he or she encounters
  • Consider possible differences people might have
    in their responses to the following
  • A swastika
  • A beggar in the street
  • A gay couple
  • The Union Jack
  • A run-down inner city housing estate

24
IndividualityStudent activity
  • George Herbert Mead (1934)
  • The self - Having a self means we can think of
    ourselves as objects
  • Reflexivity -we have the ability to reflect on
    our own mental processes
  • How important do you think self-awareness is in
    social work?
  • How important is it for social workers to monitor
    their own feelings and reactions?.

25
Labelling theoryStudent activity
  • Some groups are more likely to become discredited
    than others.
  • Labelling usually involved crude stereotypes
    being applied by agents of social control
    (police, teachers, etc)
  • Have you had any experiences of individuals or
    groups being labelled?
  • How did the labelling operate?
  • Apply these ideas to the individuals in the case
    study.
  • Which of them is likely to be labelled? Why?
  • Who will do the labelling and on what authority?
  • What ideas of normality underpin the labelling?
    What are the consequences for those labelled?

26
Moral panicStudent activity
  • Consider the issue of paedophilia.
  • What are your views on the subject? How have they
    been informed?
  • How has the phenomenon of paedophilia been
    reported?
  • How might the social reaction to paedophilia be
    seen to conform to the model of a moral panic?
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