TRAMES 1, 2, 1998

Mikko Lagerspetz. A constructsionist approach to social problems in an east-west comparative setting

Estonian Institute of Humanities


The article discusses experiences arising from a comparative study on the prevalence and perception of social problems in six countries and regions around the Baltic Sea. During the study process the original theoretical framework - the constructionist approach to social problems Ė has had to be reconsidered. This approach treats social problems discourse as consisting of claims-making activities by individuals or groups. In its strict form it does not allow for the analysis of the values, interests and social conditions underlying the claims. During the study of the formerly socialist countries it became particularly clear that these restrictions of the approach are not plausible; the same also applies when Western Europe is studied. Instead, elements of a new approach are suggested, based on Bergerís and Luckmannís theory of the social construction of reality, and on Gramsciís theory of the formation of revolutionary consciousness. Common sense is proposed as a central concept in the analysis.

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