The comments on this previous post resulted in my doing a bit of quick research (methodology: googling) on how often the terms “constructivism” and “constructionism” get used in relation to certain theorists and theoretical terms.

Here are the results. I’ve put the “winning” terms in bold:

Berger Luckmann + constructionism 147,000 / + constructivism 43,000
Foucault + constructionism 112,000 / constructivism 284,000
Derrida + constructionism 103,000 / constructivism 389,000
postmodernism + constructionism 174,000 / constructivism 595,000
Latour + constructionism 19,000 / + constructivism 70,000
Piaget + constructionism 68,000 / constructivism 177,000
Gabo + constructionism 2,000 / constructivism 78,000
Tatlin + constructionism 689 / constructivism 40,000

(Note: The latter two are intended to check the “truthiness” of the others, since Gabo & Tatlin are almost never, to my knowledge, called “constructionists.”)

According to Google, then, Berger & Luckmann are the constructiONists, while Foucault, Derrida, Piaget, the “postmodernists” (whoever they are, though by outsiders’ accounts they often include Foucault and Derrida) *and* the artists are all constructiVists.

In Google Scholar, on the other hand — which provides a much more scholarly sample — the results are a little less clear for a few of the figures:

Berger Luckmann + constructionism 18,000 / + constructivism 4120
Foucault + constructionism 16,400 / + constructivism 13,900 (a reversal!)
Derrida + constructionism 6180 / + constructivism 7160
postmodernism + constructionism 18,300 / + constructivism 20,400
Latour + constructionism 4330 / + constructivism 6640
Piaget + constructionism 5900 / + constructivism 20,400
Gabo + constructionism 42 / + constructivism 704
Tatlin + constructionism 28 / + constructivism 983

The implication of the Foucault, Derrida, and postmodernism figures would seem to be that scholars (i.e. Google Scholar) use “constructivism” and “constructionism” almost interchangeably for the so-called “postmodernists,” while the term “constructivism” is the one that has caught on more popularly (i.e., in Google).

The Latour figures need some further contextualization: they are skewed by the fact that he published an article entitled “The Promises of Constructivism” — in which he uses the term “constructionism” interchangeably with (but less frequently than) “constructivism” (but if the article title is cited somewhere, you wouldn’t know that).

In the article Latour makes precisely the argument that I made in my last post: he argues against a strictly social constructivism and for a more generalized constructivism that has to do with the building of a “common world” from which (among other things) humans and non-humans cannot be separated.

In Latour’s terms, a “construction” (though he’s not wedded to the word and prefers the term “composition”) designates

something which a) has not always been around, b) which is of humble origin, c) which is composed of heterogeneous parts, d) which was never fully under the control of its makers, e) which could have failed to come into existence, f) which now provides occasions as well as obligations, g) which needs for this reason to be protected and maintained if it is to continue to exist.

In typically Latourian (tongue-somewhat-in-cheek) fashion, he ends by proposing the following test:

When you hear that something you cherish is a ‘construction’, your first reaction is (check the right circle):
o to take a gun
o to seize a hammer
o to erect a scaffold

Answer: If you checked the first, then you are a fundamentalist ready to anihiliate those who appeal to the destruction of what remains strong only if it is unconstructed by human hands ; if you ticked the second, then you are a deconstructionist who sees construction as a proof of weakness in a building that should be pressed to ruins in order to give way to a better and firmer structure untouched by human hands ; if you checked the third, then you are a constructivist, or, better, a compositionist engaged at once in the task of maintaining and nurturing those fragile habitations ; if you ticked them all, then you are hopelessly muddled.

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Related posts:

  1. For a moratorium on “constructivism”