Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes
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The crucial claim of social constructivism is that a sociological analysis of science and scientific knowledge is fruitful and reveals the social nature of science. The development of scientific knowledge is seen to be determined by social forces, essentially contingent and independent of rational methods, and analyzable in terms of causal processes of belief formation. There are three main social constructivist approaches. The Edinburgh school of the sociology of science maintains that it is not only the development but also the content of scientific theories that is determined by social factors. The leading idea of the actor-network theory is that scientific knowledge is an effect of established relations between objects, animals, and humans engaged in scientific practices. Social constructivism about the social is an intentionalist program of social ontology trying to clarify how social entities like social groups and institutions are constructed. The article discusses the historical background of social constructivism and the three approaches mentioned above in some detail.
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