In “The Social Construction of Reality,” by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, the authors performed a sociological analysis of the reality of everyday life. The goal of the article was to analyze everyday life not in a scientific way, but in an empirical fashion. An empirical analysis was wanted most likely because the authors wanted to observe and analyze the everyday life from the multiple perspectives that it exists in, and not just from a completely scientific and logical viewpoint.
Right at the beginning of the article, the authors defined everyday life as the reality that is subjectively interpreted by men. Essentially, everyday life is whatever is meaningful and important to a person, and how they live through that everyday life with their different viewpoints. So, then, everyday life is actually reality; a being that is omnipresent, always there. The notion of everyday life being reality causes the authors to point out that everyday life is taken for granted by the members of society, and all else who experiences reality.
When something is always around, people start to lose their awareness of its presence. So, if people were to lose their awareness, or take for granted, everyday life, like the authors suggested, then how can the definition of everyday life being everything that is meaningful and subjective still stand? Everyday life and reality can be subjective as long as personal bias and interest is involved concerning certain events, but not always meaningful.
Perhaps, that is why the authors called everyday life a particular phenomenon that cannot be further inquired about without questioning the foundations of reality and evoking philosophy. However, what does make the reality of everyday life both subjective and meaningful is the authors’ next point: consciousness. The authors believe that reality, which consists of everything having to do with everyday life, is altered and affected by the processes of consciousness. The different processes of consciousness essentially order everything in reality into a structured form.
Thus, different events and experiences in reality are given different meanings and levels of importance. Of course, the meanings and levels of importance differs depending on whose “reality” it is. For instance, using the authors’ example of being bitten by a dog, one shifts the level of importance of each factor that is influenced by that same event, which in this case, is being bitten by a dog. Is the memory of the event more meaningful, or is it the feeling of fear that is associated with the memory? The authors called this organization the various layers of experience.
The various layers of meaning and experience helps to show the different spheres of reality, as mentioned in the article. The different spheres of reality was best described by the authors as a shift of consciousness; like shifting from the dream world to the waking world. With the dream example, it shows how a person’s level of attention and eye for detail changes and reshapes itself based upon the world with which he entered. Another way to explain the different spheres of reality would reiterate the authors’ previously stated point that reality is structural, temporal, and subjective.
One shifts to a different sphere of reality based upon his personal need to, and by which the timing and place it is needed to be done with, or in. Each person’s own world, or reality, is governed by those people, and they can refuse to go into what the authors calls ‘zones’ if they wished to do so. Meaning, they do not have to look at anything from a different viewpoint, which would be shifting their sphere of consciousness, because they have no interest whatsoever in the new viewpoint, experience, or way of thinking.
The person only keeps his sphere of reality focused on what is happening directly to him. Despite the fact that changing spheres of reality is not always wanted, it is a guaranteed event based on by what the authors mentioned as the reality of everyday life being intersubjective. Everyday life being intersubjective not only brings the focus from one person to multiple, but also highlights the fact that the world, this reality, is shared with others, The shared reality is unavoidable, and eventually one person’s reality will intersect with another’s; their goals, ideals, and wants will virtually become one.
At that point in time when everything intersects, many things like their feelings, facial expressions, attitude, and opinions, will also be shared. The authors pointed this out by stating that their here and now became the other person’s too. Even though their meanings and views of the world do not till share an imminent reality. The overlapping realities leads to the idea of commutations. A commutation is when one thing or person is put in the place of another’s. The definition of commutation can apply to the perspectives of two people’s realities being switched.
Both their perspectives and their realities overlap. The overlapping perspectives transforms the idea that was touched and hinted upon at the beginning of the article that everyday life is defined by people as a group. Society also functions in a similar way by which groups of people define everyday life, reality, and what is important together, as a single unit. One last major idea of the authors’ that should be mentioned is how people tend to create schemes for people, especially during face-to-face social interactions.
The schemes that were mentioned within the article bear a striking resemblance to the social constructions of society, such as race. For instance, the authors stated that in a conversation they characterized the other person as a man, European, et cetera. So, the authors now suggest that the reality of everyday life is also organizes people within schemas that are used to help describe a person and define their personality, even without prior knowledge to that person. Obviously, this judgement introduces all sorts of rrors and misinterpretations into not only conversations, but in reality also; the everyday life.
People start to assume things about others that are not necessarily true. The authors touch upon the dangers of this type of thin-slicing by calling it a “typification” of social interaction that becomes more anonymous and distant the more it is brought away from face to face situations. The previous statement can be interpreted to mean that “typifications” of certain groups of people introduces more chances for error in the judgement of someone’s qualities with the less intimately known the person is.
In face-to-face situations where people are more intimate, or close to each other, the less the bad generalizations are made. Overall, it seems as if the social construction of realty is the construction of society itself. The construction of reality overlaps with multiple of the characteristics of a society. For example, there are many people living subjectively in their own “realities,” and when the individuals interact with each other, they have a shift in consciousness to the point where their realities combine, and their personal meanings of what everyday life is starts to overlap.
Society can be seen as groups of people who came together and organized themselves based on their interests, and ideas of what is important in everyone’s everyday life. Also, the “typifications,” exist as social constructions, such as race and class, which also exists to organize people. Everything that was part of the main points of the article by Berger and Luckmann illustrates society and its social structure. This illustration seems to be true as the authors stated that “social structure is an essential element of the reality of everyday life,” (Berger and Luckmann 27).