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The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  3,295 ratings  ·  163 reviews
Called the "fifth-most important sociological book of the 20th century" by the International Sociological Association, this groundbreaking study of knowledge introduces the concept of "social construction" into the social sciences for the first time. In it, Berger and Luckmann reformulate the task of the sociological subdicipline that, since Max Scheler, has been known as ...more
Paperback, 1st edition, 240 pages
Published 1967 by Anchor (first published 1966)
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Tyler
Apr 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Tyler by: Various Reviews
Political thought since the Enlightenment has turned largely on an apparent opposition between society and the individual. From this has emerged a libertarian argument that society and social facts are actually meaningless notions. Philosophy has largely lost interest in the question with the advent of positivism, yet positivism is itself a contentious proposition.

The validity of the idea of “society” has been taken up in two books with maddeningly similar titles. The first, The Construction of
...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
This book will say that culture is reality and is created by our typifying the institutions and its agents that we have subjectively made into objective reality through reifying what we are socialized into believing through the facticity (thrownness) of our existential reality and we re-litigate our past selves through our current understanding, or in other words the authors unconvincingly argue we don’t exist in a Bayesian world and they will say that we have no prior expectations except for th ...more
Ricky
Aug 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I like this:

...I am conscious of the world as consisting of multiple realities. As I move from one reality to another, I experience the transition as a kind of shock. This shock is to be understood as caused by the shift in attentiveness that the transition entails. Waking up from a dream illustrates this shift most simply (p. 21).


This reminds me of a passage from Pedro Calderon de la Barca's Life is a Dream


Dreams are rough copies of the waking soul
Yet uncorrected of the higher Will,
So that men
...more
Colin
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of the first books that really opened my eyes to epistemology and the sociology of knowledge. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the social construction of knowledge and reality.
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Ok, I agree our understanding of reality is mediated through our language and social relations. Besides our direct sensory info, much of knowledge comes through these sources so yes they are socially constructed and influence our view of the world. I think that is what Berger is saying. You would have to go pretty far down the metaphysical rabbit hole to actually imagine we create the world through some kind of collective social fiat. I don't believe that. I don't think most people mean that wh ...more
Gale
Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann define reality as “a phenomenon that we recognize as having a being independent of our own volition.” However, it is evident that humans themselves create their own form of realities and eventually have extreme belief that their realities are actually real. Then, how objective can our reality be if we cannot avoid bias?

Society is a human product. “Man’s relationship to his environment is characterized by world-openness.” Humans are species who are moldable within
...more
Jake
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
There is a myriad of sensory data hitting you all the time. Whether it be sounds, colors, feelings, emotions etc. Basically, things happen. And then you tag on either a word or an explanation. These words or explanations arise from the people around you.

But it is more than just your words and explanations. Your opinions, views, mentalities , and goals also stem from the people/ institutions that you interact with.
Where do these come from?

This ranges from the media, governments, schools, frien
...more
Rui Coelho
May 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A very good introduction to constructivist perspectives on the social. It anticipates some of Foucault's and Goffman's theories, among others. This work deserves way more recognition.
Griffin Wilson
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this to be a most excellent work -- in fact, I will be adding it to my 'favorites' because I liked it so much.

I discovered this work through a YouTube philosophy channel that I frequent (video linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UpSo...). I was intrigued, especially after I realized that this was one of the most influential works in sociology written in the 20th century.

Philosophers have often asked "What is real?," "Can we know ultimate reality?," or "What is reality made of?"
...more
T
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Decent thesis, slightly overbearing with the use of technical terms. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, want to know "How is it possible that subjective meanings become objective facilities?" (30). The authors then answer this through a kind of heterodox mix of existential-symbolic interactionist-structuralist blend, which uses these sociological schools to get at one simple point, namely that everything is socially constructed. The authors want to get beyond language, to the "real", the pre-theo ...more
Adam
Berger's Social Construction of Reality is a thorough and concise expression of a lot of things I'd already learned or intuited about the topic. This is a nice thing to have, cementing a lot of thoughts in place and confirming that I had indeed understood the concepts accurately. And Berger's writing is nowhere near as impenetrable and arcane as I'd expected it would be. His style is a bit ornate, using unusual phrasings and word variants, but it's all straightforward enough to parse on a first ...more
Nati S
I wanted to read this book because I wanted to find out the extent to which certain notions, which we take for granted, are socially constructed. More specifically, I wanted to find out the extent to which gender was socially constructed.

If you think of psychology as the software of the mind, then sociology of knowledge would be the the foundations on which such software runs, i.e. the hardware. Sociology of knowledge attempts to answer questions that have to do with the way we view reality. Su
...more
Tom
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best from my college years. Mind opening.
Sunny
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
In places I thought this book was mind-blowingly good in that I totally 100% agreed with some of its references to culture and how our thought and language in particular goes about moulding the reality around us and, by repetition, the culture we begin to form both as individuals and then as amalgamations of these individual cultures. In other places I totally didn’t have a scooby dooby doo what the book was on about and found myself skipping and whizzing through it. Here are some of the interes ...more
S.
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
That was pretty tough. Good thing Berger and Luckmann are excellent guides through a very theoretical and thought provoking work.

Put simply, Berger and Luckmann posit that social reality is no more than a human construction. From the moment we wake up and begin to reorient with our surroundings (e.g. I am "Scott", I am a "student"), we engage in sense making procedures to make the social world seem "real" and "objective". This is not only an individual process: entire institutions exist to maint
...more
Jan D
Oct 15, 2018 rated it liked it
This was very interesting, but hard to read. I liked that it provided some very interesting, coherent ideas of what “reality” is for people and how it is “build”. For this, it introduces some key concepts like objectification, externalization, internalization and reification. Good for understanding the concepts was the use of examples.
Nevertheless, the language was very abstract and it seems that some basic knowledge in the terminology of marxism as well as A. Schütz’s phenomenology would have
...more
Katy
Oct 11, 2008 added it
I'm reading this for a class at school (like all the other books on my currently-reading shelf) and it is painful. I don't fully understand it until we have discussed it in class but it is full of ideas that I've never come across before and that change the way I think about knowledge and reality. The language is definitely from the 1960's though, apparently the only people who think about such things are men.

Update:
Almost finished with the class (almost as painful as the book) and the more we d
...more
Andrew
Jan 12, 2013 added it
Shelves: sociology
From what I understand, this is a central text of 20th Century sociology, and really the book that introduced social constructionism to the general public, which, of course, is one of the most abused and misunderstood and unfairly maligned and unreasonably exalted concepts of 20th Century thought in general.

And, for those of us who have come of intellectual age in an American scene permeated with social constructionism and its innumerable offshoots, it makes a lot of sense, in the same bluff way
...more
Seth Pierce
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
While verbose and redundant at times, this is a fascinating look at how humans create the cultural structures that produce reality and identity. While it is easy to detect some cynicism at times regarding objective reality, the authors do a decent job of presenting the material--even if they occasionally make sweeping statements that may not be true.

Libby
Dec 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I read this back in my junior year of high school along with several others by the author, but my mind comes back to it again and again. It is both an insightful and a readable exploration of how society builds plausibility structures and colors our perception of reality.
Gordon
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Wow. The rumors are true. A damn fine piece of work.
Blue Morse
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
“The sociology of knowledge understands human reality as socially constructed reality ... this object is society as part of a human world, made by men, inhabited by men, and, in turn, making men, in an ongoing historical process.”

Another words, man’s perception of reality is entirely built by society. While the authors do not deny the existence of absolute truth or objective reality (not to be confused with their confusing use of the term “objective reality”), their thesis intentionally ignores
...more
Brian Thorson
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Berger and Luckmann provide an overview of the the dialectical interplay between individuals, the world, and the construction of society that results. They accomplish by presenting what is largely common sense disguised with within complex, specialized language.

Their claims include:
- Man is a product of society, accomplished through primary and secondary socializations
- Society is a product of man
- Institutionalization is a means of controlling chaos
- As knowledge becomes more dispersed and spec
...more
Thomas
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting treatise on knowledge, how it is imparted, learned, and perceived. Useful in my job working in mental health. Also useful for discussing/arguing the misuse of vocabulary in discussions. Check it out.
Jesse James
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What is reality? How do we know what is real and what is not? And who gets to construct this reality? Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann addressed these and many other questions about reality, and did so through a sociological lens, rather than using approaches better suited to philosophy (1) or theology. Their treatise on reality has great implications for knowledge management systems of organization, but, more importantly, they describe how it is that reality is a social phenomenon. In this, the ...more
Rodney Harvill
For the record, I am an engineer and not a sociologist. For this reason, my review comes from the perspective of a layman relative to this field of study. My general impression is that this book is more sociological theory and methodology rather than application to a specific situation; hence, it is exceedingly abstruse and a difficult read.

Although I read this book out of curiosity regarding its thesis of reality as a product of society, I admittedly was concerned that it might go so far as to
...more
Steven Peterson
Sep 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The book begins with the defining statement of its thesis (page 1): "The basic contentions of the argument of this book are implicit in its title, namely, that reality is socially constructed. . . ." The essence of this: our understanding of what is "real" is something that comes from our living in a social world. That social world is a major part of defining what "reality" is.

The book is not necessarily an easy read. But the authors' argument is important and the reader will be rewarded by "to
...more
Jeremy Garber
Berger and Luckmann provide a theoretical sketch of how knowledge works in society – not theoretical knowledge, and not philosophical knowledge, but knowledge in general. They outline how humans are born into a particular world, characterized by their face-to-face interactions and their everyday conversations – these interactions and conversations are the “real world” to all of us. Although our reality is arbitrarily created by human interaction, it becomes very real in social institutions, part ...more
Nicholas
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
This is not an easy read by any means,as it was aimed at stimulating academic discussion in the sixties and as such some of the theories are explained in a very convoluted and academic manner. Thankfully the authors recognised the importance of communicating their views to a wider public and provided alternative explanations and numerous and often off beat humorous examples to elucidate the theories under discussion.
The book,as I see it,attempts to explain how far human interaction affects the
...more
Rego Hemia
Jun 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
A sociologist's book on epistemology. While not everyone I share the ideas with agrees with them, most everyone agrees that this book provides some of the most useful tools for identifying different ways of thinking about reality that they've ever seen. I'm rereading the book now, so I'll likely further expand on this once I'm through, but I can't recommend it enough as a source of valuable intro- and extro- spection about the world that we create through our understanding.
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Peter L. Berger is an internationally renowned sociologist, and the founder of Boston University's Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs. He was born in Vienna and came to the U.S. in his late teens. He has a master's degree and a doctorate from the New School for Social Research in New York. After two years in the United States Army, he taught at the University of Georgia and the Univ ...more

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