New HoP: German Critical Psych, S. African Psych & More!

The February 2013 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the history of German critical psychology, the development of South African psychology (by Wahbie Long, right), and the vocabulary of anglophone psychology. Other articles discuss attempts to develop a psychology of citizenship and the historicity of mind (as previously blogged about here). Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Backlash against American psychology: An indigenous reconstruction of the history of German critical psychology,” by Thomas Teo. The abstract reads,

After suggesting that all psychologies contain indigenous qualities and discussing differences and commonalities between German and North American historiographies of psychology, an indigenous reconstruction of German critical psychology is applied. It is argued that German critical psychology can be understood as a backlash against American psychology, as a response to the Americanization of German psychology after WWII, on the background of the history of German psychology, the academic impact of the Cold War, and the trajectory of personal biographies and institutions. Using an intellectual?historical perspective, it is shown how and which indigenous dimensions played a role in the development of German critical psychology as well as the limitations to such an historical approach. Expanding from German critical psychology, the role of the critique of American psychology in various contexts around the globe is discussed in order to emphasize the relevance of indigenous historical research.

“Rethinking “relevance”: South African psychology in context,” by Wahbie Long. The abstract reads,

This article examines the phenomenon known as the “relevance debate” in South African psychology. It begins with a historical overview of the contours of the discipline in that country before describing the controversy’s international dimensions, namely, the revolutionary politics of 1960s higher education and the subsequent emergence of cognate versions of the debate in American, European, and “Third World” psychology. The article then details how South Africa’s “relevance” project enjoyed a special affinity with an assortment of ethnic-cultural, national, and continental myths and metaphors, all of which served the interests of the political formations of the day. It discusses how, in present-day South Africa, the intelligentsia has become an important catalyst for the so-called African Renaissance, which seeks to provide “relevant” solutions for the regeneration of African society. However, the global hegemony of what began in the 1970s as a “second academic revolution,” aided by the lifting of the academic boycott of South Africa, has blunted the once critical edge of “relevance” discourse. A new mode of knowledge production now holds sway, the outcome of a dramatic reformulation of the capitalist manifesto in which the values of the “May 68” generation have been hijacked by a managerialist rationality. In light of the capitalization of the knowledge-production enterprise, it is concluded that the idiom of “relevance” has outlived its usefulness.

“The vocabulary of anglophone psychology in the context of other subjects,” by John G. Benjafield. The abstract reads,

Anglophone psychology shares its vocabulary with several other subjects. Some of the more obvious subjects that have parts of their vocabulary in common with Anglophone psychology include biology (e.g., dominance), chemistry (e.g., isomorphism), philosophy (e.g., phenomenology), and theology (e.g., mediator). Using data from the Oxford English Dictionary as well as other sources, the present study explored the history of these common vocabularies, with a view to broadening our understanding of the relation between the history of psychology and the histories of other subjects. It turns out that there are at least 156 different subjects that share words with psychology. Those that have the most words in common with psychology are mathematics, biology, physics, medicine, chemistry, philosophy, law, music, linguistics, electricity, pathology, and computing. Words that have senses in other subjects and have their origins in ordinary language are used more frequently as PsycINFO keywords than words that were invented specifically for use in psychology. These and other results are interpreted in terms of the ordinary language roots of the vocabulary of Anglophone psychology and other subjects, the degree to which operational definitions have determined the meaning of the psychological senses of words, the role of the psychologist in interdisciplinary research, and the validity of psychological essentialism.

“Citizen weeks or the psychologizing of citizenship,” by José Carlos Loredo-Narciandi & Jorge Castro-Tejerina. The abstract reads,

Arland Deyett Weeks (1871–1936) was an American educator and social reformer who published The Psychology of Citizenship in 1917 with the intention of compiling the psychological, psychobiological, and psychosocial knowledge needed for governing modern democratic Western industrialized societies, as well as offering suggestions for intervention and social reform in the educational, legal, and occupational domains. His point of view can be placed within the progressive social and intellectual movement that characterized the policies of the United States in the first decade of the 20th century. His sociopolitical ideas were fed by transcendental and pragmatic sources, especially with respect to the way of dealing with tension between the individual and the collective. Modern psychological techniques (occupational, educational, legal psychology, etc.) nourished his reform program. In this article, we contextualize Weeks’s book within these ideas and show its historical significance in the sociocultural and intellectual context that gave it meaning.

Mind’s historicity: Its hidden history,” by Noemí Pizarroso. The abstract reads,

Whereas psychological research can hardly accept the idea of a changing psychological architecture, mind’s historicity seems to be commonplace among historians of psychology, at least in recent decades. Attempts to promote a convergence between psychology and history have always existed, though mainly in the margins of both disciplines. Among these attempts, there is a tradition in French psychology that remains quite marginal even to the history of the discipline and is practically unknown out of the French context. Our goal is to introduce this approach, through the work of its main architect, Ignace Meyerson, to an English speaking reader, in the light of current pleas for historicity. Developed within the core of the discipline of psychology, though in dialogue with many others disciplines, Meyerson’s historical psychology appears to be more ambitious than other attempts, as it aims at studying psychological activity itself, beyond the history of its conceptualizations. It is concerned not with the analysis of fragmented, isolated, and mechanistic behaviors or cognitive process, but with the study of mind in its functioning through the multiple and changing fields of experience where human beings are involved.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.