Lynne Rienner Publishers Logo

What Is Constructionism? Navigating Its Use in Sociology

Scott R. Harris
What Is Constructionism? Navigating Its Use in Sociology
ISBN: 978-1-58826-727-6
2010/169 pages/LC: 2009031199
Social Problems, Social Constructions

"[A] short gem of a book.... The organization is admirable, the writing is lucid, and the argument discerning and promising for a reconceptualized constructionism."—Karla B. Hackstaff, Contemporary Sociology

"Performs the valuable service of introducing and clarifying the approach for students or those new to this influential way of thinking."—Choice

"Clearly and compellingly written.… This is a fine overview of different approaches to constructionism. Unlike so many theorists, Harris is kind to his reader, aiming to inform, not to obfuscate.  He is to be congratulated for his effort."—Jaber Gubrium, University of Missouri


Winner of the SSSI Charles Horton Cooley Award!

Has constructionism become a victim of its own success? Scott Harris argues that, as more scholars adopt the approach, its key concepts are being used in differing and even contradictory ways—thus undercutting the vitality of its application as a research tool. To help clear the waters, he critically examines current debates and delivers a powerful call to launch a renewed constructionism.

Harris traces how constructionism has evolved into two distinct perspectives—interpretative and objective—as he delves into timely topics such as social inequality, marital equality, and family diversity. He also evaluates each perspective's strengths, as well as its unique contributions. Sharpened definitions of the goals and vocabulary of both schools of thought, he demonstrates, give us a more lucid understanding of the pressing social issues of our time.


Scott R. Harris is associate professor of sociology at Saint Louis University. His books include The Meanings of Marital Equality and Stargazing: Celebrity, Fame, and Social Interaction.


  • Introduction.
  • Constructing Minds.
  • Managing Emotions.
  • Family Diversity.
  • Creating Equal Marriages.
  • Producing Social Inequality.
  • Conclusion.