“He who has the bigger stick has the better chance of imposing his definitions of reality.”
~The Social Construction of Reality, p. 127
With any socially constructed universe, whether it is related to the state, religion, or culture, tension will inevitably arise when those with a vested interest in keeping things the same come into conflict with those who desire change. As Berger and Luckmann explain, institutions are characterized by inertia and inflexibility, persisting until “they become ‘problematic’” (p. 135). But those very institutions and the greater social universes they inhabit can and do change, however slowly or swiftly, “by the concrete actions of human beings” (p. 134).
While socially constructed universes can serve as “sheltering canopies” (p. 120) for some, they can marginalize others. Try to keep in mind that these tensions tend to bring about change, often in the form of challenges to the established or traditional way of doing things. Those changes will be welcomed by some and resisted by others.
Below are three examples of institutions facing legitimacy crises. Find examples like these for your own response to the prompt:
1. An elite prep-school with an evolving curriculum:
2. A historically Black inner-city church in the midst of a gentrifying neighborhood:
3. The Supreme Court’s growing legitimacy crisis:
After watching the video and reading the articles answer the following writing prompt in 300+ words:
- Choose a specific existing institution in the United States, such as the police, higher education, the court system, the health care system, the Mormon Church, etc.
- How has that institution been legitimated over time? How has its legitimacy been challenged?
- Who and what are at stake in the conflict between persistence and change?
- Provide details that reveal an understanding of the levels of legitimation (p. 112). Give examples of each level for your chosen institution.