Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The social construction of Santa Claus

I was preparing some deep soul-searching post about god and atheism and how the concept of god is real even if god isn't, but then found this much more thorough exploration of essentially the same issue (h/t LG&M):
The first thing to point out is that a social constructionist would not necessarily consider the existence of Santa Claus to be the same thing as the existence of a man in a red suit who flies around the world in one evening in a sleigh pulled by eight or nine flying reindeer and delivers toys to all of the good children of the world. Perhaps physicists are so literal when it comes to social actors, but we social constructionists tend to have a broader view on the subject. Indeed, for us, an actor exists inasmuch as and insofar as action is legitimately performed in its name. It is the massive set of activities carried out in the name of the state -- invoking state authority, done on the state's behalf -- that provides the evidence for the state's existence, as well as concretely instantiating the actor "the state" from moment to moment. Contra some IR constructivists (like Alex Wendt), it's not like there's some essential stateness lying around somewhere from which state acts emanate; rather, there are a series of actions performed in the state's name, actions that -- if successfully legitimated -- give rise to the effect of a solid object called "the state". It's not center first, action second; it's action first, appearance of a center second.
So, Santa is at least as real as the State. Merry Fucking Christmas.

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