What are biological existentialism and social constructivism, and how do they relate to or impact understanding gender in organizations?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Biological existentialism represents a paradigm shift in the study of biological organisms in spatial-temporal ecology systems. Whereas the assumption of previous theory holds that spatial-temporal ecology systems (ecosystems) are rigid and stationary while individual species members have genetic plasticity that readily adapts to minute change in the spatial-temporal ecology, biological existentialism holds the reverse to be true. Biological existentialism holds that ecology is non-stationary and plastic while individual species members are genetically rigid and stationary.

Our questions should concern processes as seen from the behaviour of individuals constituting specific species rather than those concerning populations and communities. ... we have to give priority to the existence of the organisms over inferred categories based on derived statistics. Philosophically, we have to adopt what one could call biological existentialism. (R. Hengeveld, Inst. of Forest & Nature)

To reiterate, this is the opposite of previous theory: a rigid and stationary ecosystem with plastic and adaptable genetics of species has shifted to become biologically existential, which is that the existence of biological species is rigid and stationary while ecosystems are non-stationary and plastic. This means that species are forced to move when their niche changes can no longer support their individualistic requirements. Thus, species are ever in spatial movement to find supportive niche ecology causing a continual change in communities within equally changeable, plastic, ecosystems.

Social constructivism is the theory that learning and adaptability come from the interaction of all members of a community and that all members are plastic and adaptable. This results in an interchange of knowledge, social knowledge, and other learning. Thus these two theories seem to be in conflict with each other where applied simultaneously in one community system. While biological existentialism holds that the view must be on individualistic needs and behaviors, social constructivism holds that individual members interconnect, interchange knowledge and depend upon each other.

Social constructivism emphasizes the importance of culture and context in understanding what occurs in society and constructing knowledge based on this understanding. (Beaumie Kim, University of Georgia)

Applying this to gender in organizations, biological existentialism would perceive male and female genders as two separate "species" with two individualistic need requirements. They would thus be seen as being in competition with each other for total resources in the spatial-temporal ecological system. It would be seen that each gender "species" would require it's own niche and that when the dynamic niche altered, species would be forced to move.

On the other hand, social constructivism would see that gender groups would be interconnected and collaborative. They would share knowledge and points of strength to produce new social dynamic with the creation of new socially agreed roles and knowledge. It would see that the remedy for the rigidity of individualistic gender "species" would be interconnection and mutually created social/organizational development. However, perhaps spatial-temporal gender observation supports the theory of species' biological existentialism in which individualistic requirements outweigh community cooperation, thus forcing movement to new supportive ecological systems.

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