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Tublin, S. (1996). A Constructive Challange to Psychoanalysis: A review ofAn Introduction to Social Constructionism by Dr. Vivien Burr. London: Routledge, 1995. 198 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 32:480-486.

(1996). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 32:480-486

A Constructive Challange to Psychoanalysis: A review ofAn Introduction to Social Constructionism by Dr. Vivien Burr. London: Routledge, 1995. 198 pp.

Review by:
Steven Tublin, Ph.D.

Social constructionism, the theoretical orientation presented in Dr. Vivien Burr's small book, emerges in part from the postmodern movement. It is a broad approach to knowledge that embraces ambiguity and multiple perspectives while rejecting the search for absolute truths that characterized much intellectual life since the Enlightenment. Influen-

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tial in the social sciences and humanities, social constructionism underlies a number of “radical and critical alternatives,” in Burr's terms (p. 1), to established paradigms in those fields. It shares ground with the philosophical tradition of hermeneutics, a position more familiar to psychoanalytic readers who have seen corresponding ideas—e.g., the use of narrative in building an understanding of patients, the ambiguity of knowledge in the psychoanalytic encounter—gain wide following in recent theory. Not surprisingly, then, some of the central features of social constructionism are compatible with recent developments in psychoanalysis, particularly as it is evolving in relational theory. Social constructionism diverges from these more familiar ideas in the critical approach it takes toward specific social practices, arrangements, and institutions. The edifice of psychoanalysis is not exempt from this analysis, and a social constructionist critique challenges a number of its prized constructs.

Social constructionism, first and foremost, argues that the ways we see and understand the world are,

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