What exactly is a ‘Social Construct?’

Contrary to oft held beliefs, ‘social constructs’ aren’t conspiracy theories, imaginary or not real. Social constructs like the existence of the state, the law, national borders, race and cultures are in fact very real because our society by common agreement accepts it as real. They are constituted within these social relationships, outside of which they cannot exist. If these social relationships were different or non-existent, these constructs would be different and/or may not have existed at all.

So let’s look at a few examples (of social constructs), the state, try ignoring your unpaid tax enquiries from the revenue services? Borders, try crossing one without a passport and the proper documentation? Money, you would not think of ignoring your annual wage increases because you were foolhardy enough to believe that such social constructs were all conspiracy theories, imaginary or fairy-tales?

Unlike the other social constructs like the existence of the state, the law, the existence of money and national borders, race and gender represents unique challenges to our society because all of the aforementioned can be changed at a whim, or with sufficient legislative influence. However, race and gender have 100’s of years of an imprimatur on our psyche, our culture, our history and can only be successfully viewed and understood both socio-historically and psycho-historically.

Sally Haslanger, Professor of linguistics and philosophy at MIT, subscribes to the ideas of what she calls ‘critical realism.’ She believes that race and gender are social constructs, yet are real, meaning that it has a direct effect on us, natural, meaning social constructs are part of the ‘natural order’ and objective (meaning its subject to empirical enquiry)…….

(Watch this space)…..