Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Limits of Social Constructionism



The sociology of knowledge is a heterogeneous set of theories which generally focuses on the social origins of meaning. Strong arguments, epitomized by Durkheim's late work, have hypothesized that the very concepts our minds use to structure experience are constructed through social processes. This view has come under attack from theorists influenced by recent work in developmental psychology that has demonstrated some awareness of these categories in pre-socialized infants. However, further studies have shown that the innate abilities infants display differ in systematic and theoretically significant ways from adults' explicit knowledge. This paper moves beyond the constructionist/nativist dichotomy by outlining the complex relationships between innate intelligence and explicit knowledge. I end by suggesting that there are four, distinct ways the social world influences thought- facilitation, division, specification, and construction.