IPT Book Reviews

Title: Social Construction of What  Positive Review
Author: Ian Hacking
Publisher: The Haworth Press, Inc., 1999

Harvard University Press
79 Garden Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-1423
(800) 448-2242
Hardcover: $29.95

Anyone who gets pleasure out of incendiary verbal jousting can get it immediately by bringing up social construction of reality and science.  There is possibly no more polarized dispute with the possible exception of recovered memories of child sexual abuse.  Most often a fight about this contentious debate is well-entrenched people lobbing mortar shells at each other with little or no resolution or common ground.  This book tries to get out of that impasse.

The author studiously avoids presenting either side as winner or loser.  Instead, he seeks to present what either side says that can be separated from the debate and reasonably considered.  It is a valiant and courageous effort and to some extent he succeeds.  As a scientist I tended to have little or no time for social constructionism.  After reading this book, I can at least say that I could talk more rationally to an advocate of social constructionism or postmodern thought.  I think I could find an initial ground for agreement in recognizing the role that personal subjective factors play in the conduct of science.

This is a good book and many can benefit from a careful and thoughtful reading of it.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies.

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