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Is social constructionism, itself socially constructed?

Following my previous article, on unconscious bias, can we say that social constructionism, is itself socially constructed? If the claims social construction makes for itself are true, then the answer must be ‘yes’. Foisted on its own petard, indeed?


Nigel Pocock


What of this darling of so many supposedly liberal social planners, an alleged tabula rasa, onto which anything can be written?

One of the most profound (and simple) contradictions in the social constructionism edifice (however true this is, and in part, much of it is true to social reality) is the bizarre head-in-the-sand dichotomy between the brain and body to which social constructionism is wedded. The body is hereditable, as the evidence is plain for all to see. The brain, at least in terms of its epiphenomenon, the mind, is somehow not! Somehow? Of course, this is not made explicit, or it would undermine social constructionism at its very foundation.

How then, can a person with a black skin, that is clearly hereditable, not have a brain that is equally hereditable?

Could it really be possible that the brain, as much a biological organism as the body, is exempt from heredity? Such a claim seems ridiculous, a political, and not a biological claim.

This not to support racism. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. For, if there are ethnic and racial differences between population groups, then these need to be addressed, not in terms of the racist legitimations of white supremacists, but by an egalitarian justice that might even be a form of positive discrimination, at least until the scales of equality of opportunity are truly being realised.

The statistics for the ex-confederate states of the southern US show a consistent pattern of social dysfunction on every possible measure, as Profs Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their excellent classic treatment of inequality (“The spirit level”), have shown.

These figures were re-run by the present writer, and a pattern emerged in which the nearer he Mississippi Delta, the more pronounced the dysfunction.

That this follows the dominance and localism of the slave plantations and slavery in the historical past, cannot be an accident.

This social pattern has been transmitted, together with its epigenetic footprint of increased health deficits, and the dynamic in which action and attitude reinforce each other, a psychosocial truism. In this stressful dynamic, chemicals are released which attach themselves to the cells containing the genome, thereby inhibiting (or facilitating) gene expression.

Not only this, but the health deficits thereby created, are transmissible down the family line.

The impact of this transmission is potentially enormous, and where a society is mutually reinforcing and living out this vicious and destructive cycle, the impact on the brain is huge. Social construction plays its part in the ideology of slavery, but is translated into an epigenetic form.

To overstate the impact of social constructionism can potentially make for tyranny, as a Khmer Rouge slogan had it: ‘Only the newborn baby is spotless’ and Mao wrote:

“A blank sheet of paper has no blotches, and so the newest and most beautiful words can be written on it…” Leading to a third of a nation’s population being killed (Pol Pot) and 65,000,000 deaths (Mao).

Of course, it might be remarked, that genocide (and scientific incompetence) is an admission of the failure of reprogramming a population in line with a social reconstructionist ideology.

An open society must beware of its enemies if it wants to remain ‘open’! Weak absolutism and restorative justice need to take a lead, if both good science is to be practiced, and social healing achieved.

Let us expose politically-motivated social constructionism in those areas where, posing as ‘tolerant’, it is really the reverse. For ‘tolerance’ means learning to cope with opposing views in discussion and peer-review, not by eliminating them through laws.

Social construction therefore needs to fearlessly expose itself to the bright lights of critique, as itself socially constructed.

Let us beware of the current tendency towards a new ‘purity’ in which intolerant liberalism imposes laws to control every micro-aggression, in the belief that that the tabula rasa can be re-written in its own intolerant, closed and unimaginative image.

What kind of liberalism is this?

(Photos: Pixabay)

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