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What Is Social Reconstruction?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 23, 2024
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Social reconstruction defines a philosophy that promotes peaceful coexistence and unity within a population using nonviolent ways to settle disputes. It aims to address past abuses through reconciliation and strengthen the appreciation of differences among people in a community. The main theory behind social reconstruction suggests the development of a national identity through cooperative communities to prevent people from resorting to violence when differences arise.

These philosophies emerged in the early 1900s as countries addressed the social disruption caused by World War I. The trauma suffered during the war led to a quest for pacifism and discussion about ideals of international respect between countries. War reparations represented a form of reconciliation included in peace treaties.

Social reconstruction promotes social recovery after conflict by sharing a vision for the future based on mutual respect, the reduction of prejudice, and increased understanding of human fragilities. Proponents of the theory believe wounds can be healed when the concept of human rights becomes the focus in every community. They also profess the way to safeguard worldwide peace through tolerance after a war occurs.

The survival of society is threatened by traditional methods of solving problems, according to reconstruction theories of the era. When cohesive communities share a vision for peace and equality after a conflict, it prevents future disputes, they believe. Many who worked toward social reconstruction touted education as the key to help people understand their shortcomings and create societies based on justice for all.

Social reconstruction identifies many ills that need to be addressed to create healthy societies. They include racism, poverty, unemployment, crime, and political corruption, among others. National institutions are not effective in addressing or recognizing how these problems might lead to the demise of entire populations, the theory states.

The solution promoted re-educating citizens until they understood their contributions to fragmented communities, were able to envision a society without these issues, and made their visions reality. The Progressive Education Movement surfaced in 1890 to address social reconstruction efforts. It promoted citizen participation via transforming individual preferences into ideals based on respect, compassion, and equality.

This child-centered form of education peaked in the 1930s, during the Great Depression in the United States. Educators began fostering independent thinking and creativity to solve problems. Progressive education replaced former methods of teaching using rote memorization and obedience to authority as primary concepts.

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