The Relevance of Causal Social Construction
Keywords:social construction, causal constructionism, constitutive constructionism, silencing, stereotype threat
Social constructionist claims are surprising and interesting when they entail that presumably natural kinds are in fact socially constructed. The claims are interesting because of their theoretical and political importance. Authors like Díaz-León argue that constitutive social construction is more relevant for achieving social justice than causal social construction. This paper challenges this claim. Assuming there are socially salient groups that are discriminated against, the paper presents a dilemma: if there were no constitutively constructed social kinds, the causes of the discrimination of existing social groups would have to be addressed, and understanding causal social construction would be relevant to achieve social justice. On the other hand, not all possible constitutively socially constructed kinds are actual social kinds. If an existing social group is constitutively constructed as a social kind K, the fact that it actually exists as a K has social causes. Again, causal social construction is relevant. The paper argues that (i) for any actual social kind X, if X is constitutively socially constructed as K, then it is also causally socially constructed; and (ii) causal social construction is at least as relevant as constitutive social construction for concerns of social justice. For illustration, I draw upon two phenomena that are presumed to contribute towards the discrimination of women: (i) the poor performance effects of stereotype threat, and (ii) the silencing effects of gendered language use.
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