As Gergen unfolds, in his own personal style, the ideas of dialogue, co-action and relationship one finds oneself relating to the book in the most engaging way. The book is inspiring for both the newcomer and the experienced pursuer of knowledge-making in constructionist terms. Thalia Dragonas University of Athens, Greece Ken Gergen has taken all that is good in his second edition of the definitive Invitation to Social Construction, updated it, and made it even smarter. There is no more vibrant and engaging launch point for understanding contemporary social constructionism. Jonathan Potter Loughborough University The author succeeds in introducing the reader into social construction.
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He had three brothers, one of whom is David Gergen , the prominent political analyst. After completing public schooling, he attended Yale University. Graduating in , he subsequently became an officer in the U.
He then returned to graduate school at Duke University, where he received his PhD in psychology in His dissertation advisor was Edward E. In , Gergen took a position as chair of the Department of Psychology at Swarthmore College , a position he held for ten years.
After his retirement emeritus in , he took the position of Senior Research Professor. At Swarthmore, he spearheaded the development of the academic concentration in interpretation theory. In an attempt to link his academic work to societal practices, he collaborated with colleagues to create the Taos Institute in He now serves as the president of the institute.
Gergen is married to Mary M. Gergen, professor emeritus at Penn State University , and a major contributor to feminist psychology and performance inquiry. She is the author of over 50 articles and is the co-author with Ken Gergen of books on social construction, and performative social science. In the article, he argues that while empirical research attempts to establish general laws or principles, the empirical support is always derived from historically situated observations.
Yet, because patterns of human action undergo continuous change, support for any principle may wax or wane over time. Further, the scientific knowledge the laws and principles of social interaction are variable over time, and that the scientific knowledge generated by social psychologists actually influences the phenomena it is meant to passively describe.
For example, studying obedience to authority may reduce the likelihood of obedience. He argued therefore that social psychology was not fundamentally a cumulative science, but was effectively engaged in the recording and transformation of cultural life. Combining these ideas with developments in literary and critical theory, along with the history of science, Gergen went on to develop a radical view of socially constructed knowledge.
This view was proposed as a successor project to what Gergen considered an inherently flawed positivist conception of knowledge. It is from relationships that humans derive their conceptions of what is real, rational, and good. From this perspective, scientific theories, like all other reality posits, should not be assessed in terms of truth, but in terms of pragmatic outcomes. Such assessments are inevitably wedded to values, and thus all science is morally and politically weighted in implication.
As he saw it, this same form of assessment also applies to social constructionist theory. The question is not its accuracy, but its potentials for humankind. In one form or another, this work is concerned with transforming social life.
For the most part, his preferred direction of change is toward more collaborative and participatory relationships. Additionally, he has been concerned with fostering a " relational " view of the self, where the "traditional emphasis on the individual mind is replaced by a concern with the relational processes from which rationality and morality emerge. It also attempts to answer charges of moral relativism with a non-foundational morality of collaborative practice, and to outline a way to bring science together with concerns for the sacred.
He also served as a co-founder of the journals, Theory and Psychology, and Qualitative Inquiry in Psychology he also founded. Notable concepts[ edit ] Concepts that Gergen has written about include: Enlightenment effects. The moral and political effects on cultural behavior of disseminating scientific knowledge. Realities and Relationships Cycle of progressive infirmity: With the dissemination of information about categories of mental illness , people come to see themselves in these terms.
As a result, they seek help from the mental health professions , which are in turn, expanded in numbers. With the expansion of the mental health industry, new diagnostic categories are developed and disseminated. The society becomes progressively infirmed. Realities and Relationships Multiphrenia: The condition, largely attributed to technologies that increase social contact, of being simultaneously drawn in multiple and conflicting directions.
The Saturated Self Pregression. To unsettle the modernist value placed on progress, the proposal that for every change that is effected in societal life, the repercussions will unsettle multiple conditions that people define as positive.
The Saturated Self Positive aging: As an alternative to the pervasive view of aging as decline deficit discourse , it is possible to discover and construct myriad ways of creating later life as a period of unparalleled growth and enrichment. First and second order morality: All collaborative relationships will be about some understanding of the good.
With multiple groups proclaiming their own good, the stage is set for interminable conflict. Second order morality is achieved through practices that bring otherwise embattled groups into a condition of positive collaboration. Relational Being Transformative dialogue: Forms of dialogic practice that dissolve the barriers of meaning separating otherwise conflicted parties. Relational Being Co-action.
All human intelligibility emerges not from individual actors but through co-action. Relational Being Multi-being. What is commonly viewed as the individual subject is the common intersection of multiple relationships. Relational Being Future forming research. In a world of increasingly rapid change, research focused on what is currently the case rapidly loses relevance.
As a result, research should shift its emphasis to creating the future. Action research is illustrative. Awards[ edit ] Gergen has received research grants from the National Science Foundation , the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft , and the Barra Foundation. Gergen received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Graduate School of Duke University in , and in was listed as amount the 50 most influential living psychologists in the world The Best Schools.
He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation , the Fulbright Foundation , and the Alexander Humboldt foundation. Bibliography[ edit ] Books selected Toward transformation in social knowledge. New York: Springer-Verlag, Second Edition, London: Sage, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum , edited with M.
Kenneth J. Gergen
An Invitation to Social Construction