Society’s Construction of RealityMany times sociologists speak about the “socialconstruction of reality” and are never truly understood. In this essay I will try to explain what they mean.
Renowned social analyst W.I. Thomas once made this statement: “If men define a situation as real, it is real in its consequences.” What Thomas is stating is that man, his actions and reactions shape reality.
This statement holds truth in it. It can be said that we as people change the world through our ideals and our actions. Our ideals foster developmental changes in society, while our actions foster equal if not greater reactions which changes the way society functions.
Society is composed of “norms” and “sanctions.” Norms are rules which mandate which things people should or should not do, say, or think in different situations(from: Sociology An Introduction). Norms are both written and non-written. The more flexible non-written norms are called “folkways.” These unspoken social rules know as folkways are usually ideas or habits that society has developed overtime and which are done as almost a second nature.
An example of this would be to say “thank you” after you have received something or praying before going to sleep as a child. Written norms such as laws are usually rigidly unyielding, these norms are called “mores”. The violation of these mores are unthinkable and therefore are enforced by some form of punitive measure. These measures are examples of a “sanctions”. Sanctions are the punishments or rewards that a society has placed on norms to discourage and encourage people from breaking the precedents that the norms had set(from: Sociology An Introduction) . There are two forms of sanctions, formal and informal. “Formal sanctions are official, public rewards and punishment…” (from: Sociology An Introduction) such as a noble peace prize or a life sentence for a murder conviction.
“Informal sanctions are unofficial, sometimes subtle or even unconscious checks on everyday behavior…”(from: Sociology An Introduction) such as looks and gestures that show approval or disapproval (Ex: smile or a threatening look). When these sanctions are ignored we then get people who violate our norms either mores or folkways. These people are called deviants.
Deviance is a violation of social rules, it occurs when someone breaches a society’s or a group’s widely held values and norms (from: Sociology An Introduction). Though all crime is considered deviant behavior all deviant behavior is not criminal. While some actions such as murder and rape is punishable others such as getting tattoos and dying your hair green an not. Both are out of the norm for social behavior. Both are deviant. Deviance I s also relative.
There is no action that is actually right or wrong it all depends on which society’s rules are you adhering to. For example you may find yourself in a society that accepts human sacrifice as apart of their culture and then sees hair coloring as a heinous offences. Deviance all depends “social views.” The term “social views” encompasses various concepts, they include the following: symbolism, vales, beliefs, technology, and language. These five words are the main concepts of the topic of social views. Each are equally important .
With a better understanding of each you then receive a clearer understanding of social views. The first concept that I will explain is symbolism. “A symbol is an image, object, or sound that can express or evoke meaning” (from: Sociology An Introduction). A good example would be the American flag, it symbolizes patriotism.
The next concept is values. Values are various shared standards of what is right, desirable, and respectable(from: Sociology An Introduction). Values can vary immensely, from society to society, culture to culture, and family to family. Belief is the next concept that I am explaining.
“Beliefs are shared ideas about how the world operates” (from: Sociology An Introduction). Some examples of belief are: religion, legends/mythology, superstition, and science. Technology is one of the more important concepts. “Technology is a body of practical knowledge and equipment for enhancing the effectiveness of human labor and altering the environment for human use”(from: Sociology An Introduction).
Technology has been an important tool in human development and social and cultural defusion. Through the advancements of today’s multimedia technology we are able to send information from one part of the world to another using powerful satellites within seconds creating a more closely knitted global society, a global village. Lastly there is language.
“Language is a shared set of spoken an written symbols and rules for combining those symbols in meaningful ways”(from: Sociology An Introduction). The renowned linguist Wittgenstein had made the statement once that “limits of our language are the limits of our world”. This statement means that if we don’t incorporate a concept into our language than it probably not anything that is important in our culture / society.
The concept of people manifesting their reality could easily be proven to be true. The importance of this information because if understand that what we do changes the world , after this is realized we can go about changing it for the better. Bibliography: