Социальные проблемы с конструкционистской точки зрения
This article, an entry in the Social Science Encyclopedia of 2004, describes the essence of the constructionist approach to studying social problems and traces the lively theoretical debates at the heart of it. The shift in using constructionist methods to study social problems was seen to take place in the 1970’s and resulted in a rejection of objectivist theories about the feasibility of measuring the social world in a straightforward, quantitative fashion akin to measuring the amount of water in a cup. However, given that social problems are constantly in the process of being defined and redefined, it has become popular to prefer constructionist methods. This often means focusing not on the actual social conditions but on the ‘claim-making’ dialogue on how to deal with social problems. This allows us to move away from a series of disparate objectivist studies of ‘conditions’ linked only by their negative tendencies, toward the development of a holistic research approach, directed towards the study of the meanings people give to these social phenomenon. This has resulted in an enormous amount of empirical data being generated on a whole range of social issues. There do remain theoretical arguments over what form of constructionism should be embraced. This has brought divisions over how ‘strict’ constructionism can be and what is truly ‘knowable’ in the social world. The author underlines the positions of the participants in this debate that has been provoked by the rise of social constructionism to increasing dominance. Despite these debates, social constructionism remains a vigorous discipline capable of very productive results and one of the preferred methods for studying social problems.