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Berger and Luckman’s Social Relativity

… the sociological understanding of ‘reality’ and ‘knowledge’ falls somewhere in the middle between that of the man in the street and that of the philosopher.

The man in the street does not ordinarily trouble himself about what is ‘real’ to him and about what he ‘knows’ unless he is stopped short by some sort of problem. He takes his ‘reality’ and his ‘knowledge’ for granted … The sociologist cannot do this… The sociologist is forced by the very logic of his discipline to ask, if nothing else, whether the difference between the two ‘realities’ may not be understood in relation to various differences between the two societies [situations].

Sociological interest in questions of ‘reality’ and ‘knowledge’ is thus initially justified by the fact of their social relativity. What is ‘real’ to a Tibetan monk may not be ‘real’ to an American businessman. The ‘knowledge’ of the criminal differs from the ‘knowledge’ of the criminologist. It follows that specific agglomerations of ‘reality’ and ‘knowledge’ pertain to specific social contexts, and that these relationships will have to be included in an adequate sociological analysis of these contexts. a ‘sociology of knowledge’ will have to deal not only with the empirical variety of ‘knowledge’ in human societies, but also with the processes by which any body of ‘knowledge’ comes to be socially established as ‘reality’.

It is our contention, then, that the sociology of knowledge must concern itself with whatever passes for ‘knowledge’ in a society, regardless of the ultimate validity or invalidity (by whatever criteria) of such ‘knowledge’. And in so far as all human ‘knowledge’ is developed, transmitted and maintained in social situations, the sociology of knowledge must seek to understand the processes by which this is done in such a way that a taken-for-granted ‘reality’ congeals for the man in the street.

In other words, we contend that the sociology of knowledge is concerned with the analysis of the social construction of reality.” 


Source: Berger & Luckmann (1966). The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. (p. 2-3)

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