Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman, The Social Construction of Reality.

Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1967.

Berger and Luckman explore how men and societies strive for a coherent universal worldview or “symbolic universe,” embodying it in language, culture, arts, gestures of daily life (I.3), and then in institutions and social roles (75). In a well-developed symbolic universe, formation has an important role and occurs primarily in the interaction between parent and child. Children find their identity within a symbolic universe and in relation to those who accept the symbolic universe: “subjective identity . . . is dependent upon the individual’s relations with significant others . . . Identity is ultimately legitimated by placing it within the context of a symbolic universe. Mythologically speaking, the individual’s ‘real’ name is the one given to him by his god” (100). Identity formation begins with imitating the social roles of elders, primarily parents. In this “identification with significant others the child becomes capable of identifying himself . . . the self is a reflected entity . . . the child learns that he is what he is called” (132). This identification is an on-going process; no human is ever able to stand apart from all human relationships and claim some identity (150-151). Thus, the most important way to maintain a symbolic universe and our identity within it is by continual communal conversation (150-158).

Berger’s book makes no kind of theological / metaphysical judgment; it merely points out that where the phenomenon above has been disrupted, we begin to question our identity (171). The section on honor is especially insightful.

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