(noun) The theory that any entity such as an individual, group, object, or concept has innate and universal qualities.
Example: A person is born gay.
Audio Pronunciation: (es·sen·tial·ism)
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- The essentialist perspective advocates that individuals in categories such as class, ethnicity, gender, or sex share an intrinsic quality that is verifiable through empirical methods (whether currently known or unknown). Furthermore, essentialism focuses on what individuals are, not who they are and individuals are viewed as inherently a certain way and not developing through dynamic social processes.
- Essentialism is contrasted to social constructionism.
- Essentialist ideas can exist within the framework of social constructionism, but social constructionism cannot fit into the framework of essentialism.
- A type of reductionism.
- Also called biological reductionism.
- An (noun) essentialist studies (adjective) essentialistic aspects of society (adverb) essentially to understand its (noun) essentiality or (noun) essentialness.
- “For essentialists, race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, and social class identify significant, empirically verifiable differences among people. From the essentialist perspective, each of the these exist apart from any social processes; they are objective categories of real differences among people” (Rosenblum and Travis 2012:3).
- Word origin of “essentialism” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Ellis, B. D. 2002. The Philosophy of Nature: A Guide to the New Essentialism. Chesham, England: Acumen.
- Fuchs, Stephen. 2005. Against Essentialism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
- Gelman, Susan A. 2005. The Essential Child: Origins Of Essentialism in Everyday Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Oderberg, David S. 2007. Real Essentialism. London: Routledge.
- Smaje, Chris. 2000. Natural Hierarchies: The Historical Sociology of Race and Caste. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Rosenblum, Karen Elaine, and Toni-Michelle Travis. 2012. The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex and Gender, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, and Disability. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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How to Cite the Definition of Essentialism
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “essentialism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved January 23, 2019 (http://sociologydictionary.org/essentialism/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
essentialism. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from http://sociologydictionary.org/essentialism/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “essentialism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed January 23, 2019. http://sociologydictionary.org/essentialism/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“essentialism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2019. <http://sociologydictionary.org/essentialism/>.