essentialism

(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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Usage Notes:

  • 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.

Related Quotations:

  • “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).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 

 


References

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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O’Leary, Zina. 2007. The Social Science Jargon Buster: the Key Terms You Need to Know. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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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 December 14, 2018 (https://sociologydictionary.org/essentialism/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

essentialism. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/essentialism/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “essentialism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed December 14, 2018. https://sociologydictionary.org/essentialism/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“essentialism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 14 Dec. 2018. <https://sociologydictionary.org/essentialism/>.