The Reality of Social Construction

The Reality of Social Construction

'Social construction' is a central metaphor in contemporary social science, yet it is used and understood in widely divergent and indeed conflicting ways by different thinkers. Most commonly, it is seen as radically opposed to realist social theory. Dave Elder-Vass argues that social scientists should be both realists and social constructionists, and that coherent versions of these ways of thinking are entirely compatible with each other. This book seeks to transform prevailing understandings of the relationship between realism and constructionism. It offers a thorough ontological analysis of the phenomena of language, discourse, culture, and knowledge, and shows how this justifies a realist version of social constructionism. In doing so, however, it also develops an analysis of these phenomena that is significant in its own right.


"In his typically clear and engaging style, Dave Elder-Vass here articulates an important new position in social theory, one offering to reconcile realism and social constructionism. With many insightful commentaries along the way about such thinkers as Archer, Searle, and Saussure, The Reality of Social Construction is not only a theoretical advance but an apt choice for courses in social theory. - Douglas V. Porpora, Professor of Sociology, Drexel University

"Social constructionism is an influential approach in social science that easily runs off the rails, but critical realism keeps our thinking on track. Dave Elder-Vass’s account of social constructionism makes a valuable contribution to the growing body of critical realist theorizing of social life. A must-read for anyone sorting out the promise and pitfalls of social constructionist social science." - Christian Smith, author of What Is a Person? Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up (2010)