How is reality really manufactured? The idea of social construction has become a commonplace part of much social research, yet precisely what is constructed, how it is constructed, and what constructionism means are often left unclear or taken for granted. In this major work, Jonathan Potter explores the central themes raised by these questions. Representing Reality explores the different traditions in constructivist thought--including sociology of scientific knowledge; conversation analysis and ethnomethodology; and semiotics, poststructuralism, and postmodernism--to provide a lucid introduction to several key strands of work that have overturned the way we think about facts and descriptions. Potter illustrates his points throughout with varied and engaging examples taken from newspaper stories, relationship counseling sessions, accounts of paranormal events, social workers' assessments of violent parents, informal talk between program organizers, political arguments, and everyday conversations.
Representing Reality offers the student and scholar in social psychology, rhetoric and discourse, and related fields a critical introduction to constructivism.
Social Studies of Science
Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis
Semiology - Post-Structuralism - Postmodernism
Discourse and Construction
Interests and Category Entitlements
Working Up Representations
`Since the publication of Potter & Wetherell's influential Discourse and Social Psychology, which laid the ground-plan for their version of discourse analysis, work has continued apace... As a progress report, the present text provides a valuable up-date, summarizing the main lines of development and usefully pulling together material heretofore only available from a disparate range of sources... As an introduction to this type of analysis, this is an admirable book which can be recommended to students with confidence, and is likely also to become an indispensable source of reference for those researching fact construction' - Discourse & Society
`Potter leaves the reader wanting more-which is a pretty good place to leave a reader' - Language in Society
Generally interesting approach to the topic, but there is little or no compatibility to historical discussions of "representation": in the discussions led by Lynn Hunt and Robert Charties, "working up representations" and "facts" would not be acceptable viewpoints in discussions. Rather, there is an - admittedly postmodernist - assumption that representation and perception are valuable by themselves. The book works well within its limits. Its main flaw is that it is bound to the constructionist school and does not seem to sufficiently reflect these limits. Nevertheless, Potter's will continue to be a source of inspiration for students of history as well as those of other disciplines.
Dr Christian Kuhn
Institut fuer Geschichte, Otto Friedrich University of Bamberg
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