Home Concepts Organizational Theory Professional Coaching, Plato’s Cave and the Sociology of Knowledge

Professional Coaching, Plato’s Cave and the Sociology of Knowledge

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Static Constructivism

While dynamic objectivism has proved to be challenging for many philosophers, scientists and other thought leaders, social constructivism has offered Western thought an even greater challenge (Berger and Luckmann, 1966). Advocates of social constructivism believe that we construct our own social realities, based in large part on societal inventions—the traditions and needs of culture and the social-economic context in which we find ourselves. There are no universal truths or principles, nor are there any global models of justice or order that can be applied in all settings, at all times, with all people. While this constructivist perspective on the sociology of knowledge is often considered a product of late 20th century thought (at least in the Western world) the early versions of social constructivism can be traced back to the anthropology and sociology of the early 20th century. Reports from these disciplines documented radically different perspectives operating in many nonwestern societies and cultures regarding the nature of reality and ways in which members of diverse communities view themselves and their interpersonal and group relationships.

This initial version of constructivism is essentially static, for these social constructions are based on deeply rooted beliefs and assumptions of specific societies and cultures. There are widely divergent communities that espouse their own unique ways of knowing. These communities may consist of people who are living together or people who are working together. Organizations like St. Vincent DePaul create their own culture and their own constructions of reality. This is particularly the case when an organization (such as St. Vincent DePaul) has existed for many years–and has been a source of much needed human services. Specific ways of knowing are based on and reinforced by the community and do not allow for significant divergence among those living in the community. Furthermore, while these ways of knowing may themselves change over time and in differing situations, such changes are gradual and often not noticed for many years.

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