Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction
- Jonathan Potter - Loughborough University, UK
Discourse Analysis | Social Psychology (General)
How is reality manufactured? The idea of social construction has become a commonplace of much social research, yet precisely what is constructed, and how, and even what constructionism means, is often unclear or taken for granted. In this major work, Jonathan Potter offers a fascinating tour of the central themes raised by these questions.
Representing Reality overviews the different traditions in constructionist thought. Points are illustrated throughout with varied and engaging examples taken from newspaper stories, relationship counselling sessions, accounts of the paranormal, social workers' assessments of violent parents, informal talk between programme makers, political arguments and everyday conversations. Ranging across the social and human sciences, this book provides a lucid introduction to several key strands of work that have overturned the way we think about facts and descriptions, including: the sociology of scientific knowledge; conversation analysis and ethnomethodology; and semiotics, post-structuralism and postmodernism.
Generally interesting approach to the topic, but there is little or no compatibility to historical discussions of "representation": in the discussions led by Lynn Hunt and Robert Charties, "working up representations" and "facts" would not be acceptable viewpoints in discussions. Rather, there is an - admittedly postmodernist - assumption that representation and perception are valuable by themselves. The book works well within its limits. Its main flaw is that it is bound to the constructionist school and does not seem to sufficiently reflect these limits. Nevertheless, Potter's will continue to be a source of inspiration for students of history as well as those of other disciplines.