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The Institute for Emancipatory Constructionism

April 14, 2009

I have spent the last few days revising the website which contains the general framework I use as a sociologist and in my autistic advocacy. After some reflection, I concluded that the site’s previous name, The Structurization Institute and the associated structurization theory, did not adequately convey my approach to the majority of visitors. However, the twin references I have made in the new title, The Institute for Emancipatory Constructionism, will be immediately evident to most sociologists and, no doubt, to many academics in related fields and to a variety of informed readers in general.

Let me break it down: First, the term, emancipatory was initially used by Max Horkheimer, one of the members in the Frankfurt school (a group of German social scientists), to describe an approach to the social sciences, called critical theory, which advocated that, in addition to engaging in research, social scientists examine approaches to liberation. These social scientists were substantially Marxian in their orientation, but they freely combined Marxist concepts with those from a variety of other sources, particularly Freudian psychoanalysis. These days, critical theory is used for a variety of perspectives, sometimes unrelated to the Frankfurt school, which include a significant focus on emancipation.

Second, constructionism, short for social constructionism, is a sociological approach which began, largely, with the 1966 book, written by by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality. One of the basic concepts within social constructionism is that knowledge, truth, values, groups, cultures, etc. are all socially relative. They have no reality which is independent from the social contexts in which they orignated.

Finally, to combine emancipation with construction: The idea of social construction, which may seem innocent at first, is actually extraordinarily radical. One of the ways in which political leaders maintain their power is by convincing their publics to accept the exclusive legitimacy of their truth claims, such as former American president George W. Bush’s statements about the war on terror. Well, what if those claims were only language games and linguistic constructions with no objective reality? Then people could organize, reject the constructions of power elites, and formulate entirely different, even emancipatory, constructions.

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