C. Postmodern Constructionists
In both the sociological and psychological literature, social constructionism resonates with postmodernism, discourse analysis, and narrative theory, in particular with the affirmative or reconstructive offshoots of postmodernism, such as constitutive theory in criminology with its emphasis on “replacement discourse” (Henry & Milovanovic, 1996).
Postmodernism involves a process of deconstruction of the truth claims of others, which is designed to expose their assumptions and their arbitrariness to prevent closure and certainty. It challenges all power and authority that is based on claims to superior or privileged knowledge. The deconstructive critique is designed to resurrect and celebrate silenced voices of the marginalized to reveal the presence of multiple realities, voices, and worlds as part of a multiplicity of resistances to the hegemony of others’ claims to truth.
Affirmative postmodernism is based on the assumptions of social constructionism in that reconstruction is also possible through replacement discourse (Henry & Milovanovic, 1996). Such postmodernist constructionism believes that viewing a socially constructed world through deconstruction affords the possibility of reconstructing that world. Interestingly, this perspective has developed in applied disciplines such as psychotherapy (Parry & Doan, 1994; Rosen & Kuehlwein, 1996) and criminology (Henry & Milovanovic, 1996, 1999), where some form of intervention has been deemed necessary to transform the present harmful social constructions. Indeed, in criminology, Henry and Milovanovic’s (1996, 1999) constitutive theory seeks to deconstruct harmful discourses of domination through the reconstructive process of replacement discourse, not least by actively engaging the mass media’s construction of what constitutes crime and harm and what counts as the criminal justice system’s response.
Postmodernist constructionism emphasizes contingency rather than certainty (Butler, 1992), and it takes into account the reflexivity issue raised by ethnomethodology. As Kegan (1994) wrote, what emerges is “a theory that is mindful of the tendency of any intellectual system to reify itself ” and instead “to assume its incompleteness and to seek out contradiction by which to nourish the ongoing process of its reconstruction” (pp. 329–330). For Rosen (1996), “Reconstructive postmodernism goes beyond the differentiation of the anti-modernists’ stance toward the reintegration of modernism into a transformative way of knowing” (p. 42). Thus, postmodernist constructionism is a humanistic form of social science that seeks not only to reflexively understand the way humans constitute their world and are constituted by it but also to use that knowledge to help them transform it into a better place.