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Social Constructionism

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An adequate definition of the term social contructionism doesn’t exist since writers differ in characterising it. The critical reasoning beyond is the radical doubt in the taken-for -granted ways of understanding the world and ourselves where the world we refer us to is not necessary real (Gergen 1985). Except for the general emphasize Hacking (1999) further states that we shouldn’t ask for the meaning but ask for the point. The aim with the paper is thus to understand his statement followed by recognizing the point with a book entitled “the social Construction of the knowledge worker”. Before digging into the reasons for why ask for the point and not the meaning, we need to differentiate the two very diffusively terms; meaning and point. Ask for the meaning means that we ask for what something stands for (www.thefreedictionary.com) and the definition of it (Hacking 1999). Whereas asking for the point refers to something deeper, i.e. the reason behind and the underlying objectives for which isn’t implicitly expressed as we talk about (www.thefreedictionary.com).

Take the master program of Manage knowledge, people and change as an example; the point with the program might be to provide knowledge about this area of work as a preparation for future employments. Asking for the meaning refers more or less to what the program stands for and what the definition of program is. It doesn’t tell what the purpose is but more of explaining it. Hacking therefore means in order to understand the purpose of why we talk about social constructionist is to create awareness and conscious. In terms of questioning the point of understandings of objects, ideas, entities etc. there need to be something we can question about. To explain this Hacking (1999) is using a methodology; social construction of X, categorizing 0,1, 2, 3, where X can be any object or idea. The reasoning goes as follows; 0 = appears to be inevitable, 1= is not inevitable (argument), 2= is quite bad as it is (argument) and 3= should go (argument). This means that if X is 0 then it’s inevitable and necessary, which could be a coffee cup, there’s no point to question the existence of the cup because it is obvious and can hardly make any arguments. The cup is determined by the nature.

If X would rather be 1, then it indicates that something exists not because it’s determined by the nature but brought into existence by social events, history etc. and can therefore not be necessary to exist. Since the idea of gender originates from our history, we can be without it too, which argues that it’s a socially construction. Hackings methods of explaining social construction can further be used to understand the point of a book entitled “The social construction of knowledge worker”. Knowledge is an extremely ambiguous phenomenon, interpreted in many ways, highly dependent on whom to ask. The blur definition of knowledge as X assumes that elements can more or less be added, and therefore there’s no such distinction of how much that can be included or excluded (Alvesson 2009). X fulfils the condition 1. The social constructionist would say that knowledge is constructed from the daily interactions between people (Burr 2003).

Since knowledge is socially constructed, something that’s not inevitable, we can by this also agree that X, (in this case referring to knowledge workers) equals 1 (non inevitable). The term knowledge workers was first explored 1960 even though the kind of work did exist long time before. It’s therefore worth to separate the knowledge worker as a label and the actual work where the idea of the knowledge worker created the label on the object. In essence the term is necessary in order to be able to say if it’s constructed or not, as to say without a label there’s no meaning of construction (Spoelestra, class 2012-09-10). This means that the idea of knowledge worker wasn’t brought into existence until 1960 and can therefore be assessed as constructed. Arguments 2 and 3 might be interesting to consider though knowledge workers as an idea have provoked meanings of how these workers are seen like, act and the assumptions of what their work consists of. The idea might evoke feelings of prestige or high salary, which might be the underlying reason for why people nowadays are more willingly to be associated with it. Whether this is good or bad or even should be diminished can be extended in the category 2 and 3.

The object is usually not interesting since it’s only an object (like the coffee cup). However, in this case the individuals under the idea of the knowledge worker are self- evidently subjective. This because knowledge workers become aware of the classification as a “knowledge worker” and will act and live so as to fit to the classification applied to them. What is constructed is in this case not only the classification of the knowledge worker, but the person behind it that gets reconstructed within the matrix. Because these people will in there self- conscious not only be a person working with knowledge work, but a knowledge worker. The object as X can therefore be argued to fulfil 1. For these reasons the point with this title could be to evoke a sense of awareness of how and why the term knowledge worker are socially constructed.

Also to which extent the label and work can be problematic, the different views on it and whether everything that comes with the idea and object are taken for granted. The point with the book could additionally raise conscious of the blurry connection between knowledge worker as an idea and the individual behind the idea. Hence, in this particularly case the person behind the idea, as an object will be of interest and seen as a construction. If 1 wasn’t fulfilled, there was not point to have that title. Social constructionists question what is taken for granted. To understand the reason for why we imply something as constructed, we should ask for the point and not for the meaning. To facilitate the reasoning of what point to be asked, we can use Hacking’s model to understand if an object or idea is worth assessing. Further findings of the case about the knowledge worker, is that the distinction between the object and idea are even more complex to understand since they both are social constructions.


Alvesson, M. (2004), Knowledge work and Knowledge- intensive firms, New York: Oxford university press. Burr, V. (2003), Social constructionism, 2nd ed, London: Routledge.
Gergen, K. J. (1985), ”The Social Constructionist Movement in Modern Psychology”, American Psychological Association, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 266-275. Hacking, I. (1999), The social construction of what?, ch.1, London: The president and fellows of Harvard college. The free dictionary, (electronic), Search word: point, available: 2012-10-27,
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/point The free dictionary, (electronic), Search word: meaning, available 2012-10-27 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/meaning

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