The Social Construction of Reality – Summary Notes

The Social Construction of Reality

Part 1: The Reality of Everyday Life

The basic purpose is to sociologically analyze the concept of reality, but the understanding reality is quite the task. The approach to understanding reality should be through common sense as reality is available to the members of the society who possess common sense. However, that common sense may well be influenced by the philosophies and theoretical constructions of others which eventually would influence the idea of reality in one’s mind. The purpose of this study is not to engage in the philosophical aspects of life but to understand the reality of everyday life which is affected by intrinsic factors and provides subjectivity in this coherent world of mankind.

Sociologists aim to understand the realities of life by just the means of sociology to simplify things, but that is not always possible as the realities of man are shaped by their own actions and thoughts; hence it becomes a necessity to study various factors as to understand the true reality of man. The major concern for a sociological analysis is the analysis of the philosophical problem, this problem needs to be taken into account as it is too big of a factor to not consider. The proposal says that they make this is a starting point for the analysis; the phenomenological analysis is the best bet as it shall explain the foundations of the knowledge in everyday life. It is “empirical” but not “scientific” to understand the nature of the empirical sciences. The phenomenological analysis refrains from considering any hypothesis, whereas common sense as takes some hypotheses or predictions into account. In order to make predictions about reality, it would be easier to predict the outcomes of realities based on the phenomenological brackets.

Consciousness is always intentional, one can experience multiple realities and consciousness is the evidence of it. The dreams and general days of human life show a transition of what reality may seem like in different dimensions as different objects appeal to the conscious state in different aspects. One can have different approaches to reality too depending on the state of the conscious self. The reality one experiences every day is the reality par excellence and has the highest amount of tension as it is experienced in a state where the individual is wide awake and attentive. There is a proper synchronized pattern to the various events and objects of the realities of life, also one adapts to this pattern in order to survive in the reality of the real world.

The “here and now” concept deals with the realissimum of the consciousness as they govern the interactions of everyday life which govern the realities of life. The reality of everyday life is that it is shared in comparison to the dreams of an individual as to where they are alone. This makes all the difference, as in the real world one has to interact with their reality and survive in it. There are two major sectors to the approach to reality in one’s life, namely problematic and unproblematic. One has to enter the other in any scenario in life as that is what shapes the reality of an individual. If one enters the problematic scenario then one needs to take their skill set of the unproblematic sector to fix the problems in the problematic sector. The shifts, in reality, are very important, take the perfect example of a movie theater, the curtain being drawn and opened is the explanation of a shift in reality. When the movie starts one shift to another reality (the one shown on the screen) and when the curtain closes one return to the original. One should never forget, that various dimensions of realities exist as there are people like scientists, psychics, etc. who also reside in the society with their own sense of reality. The reality of everyday life is governed by the concepts of spatiality and temporality, giving rise to the essentiality of time in a given reality. There is a subjective body clock present in each individual whom ensures that time flows smoothly through all and regarding that, they always maintain their individuality in everyday reality.

Also Read: Psychology in Everyday Life

Part 2: Social Interaction in Everyday Life

The reality of everyday life is shared amongst others, but the question still remains about the possibility of differentiation amongst the several modes of experience. The most important experience is believed to be the face to face interaction and all other cases are merely derivatives of it. It is said so as the face to face interaction enables an efficient way of reciprocation of feelings hence it is also said that no other form of social relating can reproduce the amount of emotions. The realities in a face-to-face interaction are synced as the two people are in the same reality and their only focus is each other, hence communication becomes so easy. In a face to face situation, the other is fully real and is part of the overall reality. The interaction may be observed as mirror responses of attitudes towards each other. For instance, if a person is showing a rude emotion, then the individual in conversation with them would respond by being rude. It can be easily understood that the interaction is based on the judgment of a person towards the individual through which the conversation with them can be done; one perceives a conversation with the other in a manner of how they perceive each other. Hence, these interactions are very pre-planned and go about in the same manner.

The degree of anonymity holds tremendous importance in the factor of interacting on an everyday basis. As discussed earlier, perceptions play a major role in the governing of the process of interactions as the thought of interaction would always lead to some major assumptions before interacting. One would assume that the person would have a British accent hence making the process of interaction a pre-planned procedure. The duration of the interaction is also important for instance, take two situations; a person meets his newspaper supplier and wife every day. The duration of interaction between the man and wife would be far greater than the duration of interaction between the man and his newspaper supplier.

Social Structure may be seen as the sum of the interactions that one has with their “inner circle” and the interactions with individuals who are anonymous to us. These interactions build us and are very essential for the survival of a human. One might even call them the essential elements required for the reality of everyday life.

Part 3: Language and Knowledge of Everyday Life

Objectivation leads to subjectivity in human interaction, basically, every action or object holds meaning to it. For instance, if one is asleep and someone tries and when they wake up they find a knife stuck on the wall then that means that they had been attacked. The object being the “knife” signifies that an attempt was made on the life of a person; it is interesting to note that through the object one can identify the emotion of the person. The attempt by the individual would identify as a sentiment of anger towards the sleeping individual. These objects surround the entirety of humankind and hence reality becomes impossible without their existence.

Detachability is another factor which comes into play as it forms the basis of understanding the signs. For instance, if one performs in the theatre, they are expected to set forth an emotion for their personality to portray for the others. This emotion is very temporary as the individual doesn’t mean this but is simply being ordered to act like that; this is an instance where the interaction between the individual and audience may be different. Hence, detachment from this emotion is necessary and is a rule of nature as the individual never becomes that individual in terms of personality.

Language can be seen as a system through which vocal signs may be expressed. Language is an aspect of interactions that develops an understanding between the individuals during a face to face interaction. Although language has its origins from face to face interactions, but it’s not only limited to that. If one talks in the dark, then the individual gets their message through but there is no face to face interaction. Language originates that as per its primary essence in everyday life, but it appears as the reality which is in coherence with the wide awake consciousness of other individuals. It dictates a certain pattern to lives too as it language has rules and regulations to it in order for effective use. For instance, one cannot use the same syntax for the German language as well as the English language. Hence, a pattern is established and maintained. For instance, if a person talks about a fight with their significant other, it becomes a symbol of how everyone fights with their significant other. Every person understands the reaction given to a fight with their significant other; hence it becomes a symbol of that specific emotion.

Also Read: How to Analyse Movies Sociologically: Explained with Examples

Religion, philosophy, art, and science are seen as symbols through their literature which is another form of language. Language also looks to make semantic zones in order to make language differentiate by genders or numbers. Interactions everyday affects the common knowledge of an individual, as by the availability of stock knowledge. This needs to have both the parties interacting to attain the knowledge, for instance if a person is poor, they don’t expect a lavish lifestyle and the rich person knows that they can have a lavish lifestyle. Hence, it is by the participation of both the parties socially that one can bifurcate the levels of the class in society. Life is dominated by pragmatic motives, hence one should know the end goals of things and not be interested in how they function, but they should be able to solve a problem if they notice one. One takes their everyday knowledge for granted as they overestimate their own power to perform these “simple” tasks without batting an eye. All of reality can never be fathomed; these zones are the ones that keep one from doing so. It becomes quite a hefty task for one to understand what to do in every reality. The knowledge of every day is very structured and is filtered through the cases of relevance to one’s life. There is a very unequal distribution of knowledge among society and that is rightly so, one would not express their knowledge about the share market with their doctor as it is completely unnecessary for them to know about it. It is very essential for a person to understand whom they need to talk to and whom they need to avoid in their everyday life, it keeps clarity and helps the individual predict what sort.

Also Read: How to Apply Sociology in Everyday Life


Berger, P. L. and T. Luckmann. 1991. The Social Construction of Reality.London: Penguin
Books, pp. 31-62.

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Kartik is studying BA in International Relations at Amity and Dropped out of engineering from NIT Hamirpur and he lived in over 5 different countries.