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Questioning consensus in social representations theory

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This paper by the LSE Social Representations Group, challenges the notion that consensus defined as 'agreement in opinion' is at the heart of the theory of social representations. We suggest that the problem of consensus is a highly complex aspect of social life requiring appraisal. Consensus refers neither to mere agreement nor to the mere sharedness of attitudes, opinions and values by a social group. While these are the most common interpretations circulating in the literature, they fail to apprehend the different levels of analysis required to understand the social construction of symbolic realities. In this paper we criticise the most common notions of consensus and propose an alternative view. There is space in the theory of social representations to develop a more refined approach to the issue. We make use of this space in order to construct our argument that consensus in social representations exists at several levels. We propose the idea of a representational field simultaneously characterised by consensus, inconsistency and ambivalence. The issue of power within this heterogenous representational field is discussed.

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