New History of the Human Sciences: Psychopathy, Catholic Psych, & More

The December 2014 issue of History of the Human Sciences, the final one under the editorship of James Good, is now available. Articles in this issue include ones on the history of psychopathy, Catholic psychology and psychoanalysis, early physiological psychology in Britain, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Valedictory editorial,” by James M.M. Good. No abstract.

“From phrenology to the laboratory: Physiological psychology and the institution of science in Britain (c.1830–80),” by Tom Quick. The abstract reads,

The claim that mind is an epiphenomenon of the nervous system became academically respectable during the 19th century. The same period saw the establishment of an ideal of science as institutionalized endeavour conducted in laboratories. This article identifies three ways in which the ‘physiological psychology’ movement in Britain contributed to the latter process: first, via an appeal to the authority of difficult-to-access sites in the analysis of nerves; second, through the constitution of a discourse internal to it that privileged epistemology over ontology; and third, in its articulation of a set of rhetorical tools that identified laboratories as economically productive institutions. Acknowledging the integral place of physiological psychology in the institution of science, it is claimed, has the potential to alter our understanding of the significance of current neurological science for historical scholarship.

“Imprimi potest: Roman Catholic censoring of psychology and psychoanalysis in the early 20th century,” by Robert Kugelmann. The abstract reads,

Because he was a Jesuit, Irish-born Edward Boyd Barrett (1883–1966) had to submit his writing to Jesuit censors, who were charged with making sure that nothing in the documents was contrary to Roman Catholic faith and morals. Drawing upon archival records, this article shows the complexities of the censorship process in the early 20th century. Boyd Barrett’s Motive Force and Motivation-Tracks (1911), an experimental study in will-psychology completed under Michotte, was threatened with withdrawal from circulation after an anonymous review (which was not published) accused the book of modernism. In the 1920s, articles on psychoanalysis directed at a wide Catholic readership, received severe criticism by Jesuit censors, and some were not published. The article presents the censors’ objections and Boyd Barrett’s defense. One effect of censorship was to make psychoanalysis, at least in some formulations, acceptable to a Catholic readership.

“The emergence and development of psychopathy,” by James Horley. The abstract reads,

Currently, psychopathy and related terms such as antisocial personality disorder are popular yet problematic constructs within forensic psychology and other disciplines. Psychopathy is traced typically to the works of Pinel and Prichard in the early 19th century, and it has even been linked to biblical passages, although there appears to be little or no support for the latter claim. The first use of the term psychopathy in German psychiatry of the mid-19th century referred only to psychological disturbance in general, or ‘personality diseases’, although German psychiatrists such as Kraepelin did propose more specific definitions of the term related to social deviance. Our modern understanding of psychopathy as a psychiatric disorder of an undetermined genetic origin involving antisocial elements and a lack of feeling or concern for others owes much to the clinical work and writings of Cleckley. Antisocial personality disorder appears similarly to derive from the work of psychiatric nosologists like Kraepelin and Schneider, while sociopathy is due more to the work of Partridge in the 1920s and 1930s.

“Revisiting early sociological studies on addiction: Interactions with collectives,” by Jia-shin Chen. The abstract reads,

Addiction is a significant issue in many aspects but no explanatory closure has been attained. The overemphasis on the brain disease paradigm upheld by the National Institute on Drug Abuse may run serious risks, and the present study intends to counteract this partiality. Drawing on Ludwik Fleck’s notion of thought collectives, this article offers a close reading of the works of sociologists Bingham Dai and Alfred R. Lindesmith vis-à-vis other coeval biomedical approaches. Individuals within the same thought collective, such as Dai and Lindesmith, have different views although they share certain thought styles. As noted in this study, inter-collective communication is not typically antagonistic and may form some liaison under certain circumstances. These findings imply that communication among collectives may facilitate creative liaison, as suggested by Fleck. This study aims to enrich the understanding of addiction by coordinating biomedical and sociological sciences through minimizing, if not erasing, their intellectual antagonism and social distance.

“Quantifying the quiet epidemic: Diagnosing dementia in late 20th-century Britain,” by Duncan Wilson. The abstract reads,

During the late 20th century numerical rating scales became central to the diagnosis of dementia and helped transform attitudes about its causes and prevalence. Concentrating largely on the development and use of the Blessed Dementia Scale, I argue that rating scales served professional ends during the 1960s and 1970s. They helped old age psychiatrists establish jurisdiction over conditions such as dementia and present their field as a vital component of the welfare state, where they argued that ‘reliable modes of diagnosis’ were vital to the allocation of resources. I show how these arguments appealed to politicians, funding bodies and patient groups, who agreed that dementia was a distinct disease and claimed research on its causes and prevention should be designated ‘top priority’. But I also show that worries about the replacement of clinical acumen with technical and depersonalized methods, which could conceivably be applied by anyone, led psychiatrists to stress that rating scales had their limits and could be used only by trained experts.

“Foucault and Soviet biopolitics,” by Sergei Prozorov. The abstract reads,

The article addresses the puzzling silence of the Foucaldian studies of biopolitics about Soviet socialism by revisiting Foucault’s own account of socialism in his 1970s work, particularly his 1975–6 course ‘Society Must Be Defended’. Foucault repeatedly denied the existence of an autonomous governmentality in socialism, demonstrating its dependence on the techniques of government developed in 19th-century western Europe. For Foucault Soviet socialism was fundamentally identical to its ideological antagonist in its biopolitical rationality, which he defined in terms of racism. This article challenges Foucault’s reading, demonstrating that his notion of racism is ill-suited to describe the governmental rationalities of Soviet socialism during both the formation and the consolidation of the Stalinist regime. While the Soviet project was paradigmatically biopolitical in its ambition to transform the forms of life of the population in line with the communist ideology, its biopolitics was fundamentally different from the security-oriented logic of racism, focusing instead on the exposure of the population to the violent transformation of their forms of life. Revisiting Foucault’s genealogy of racism, we argue that the point of descent of this biopolitics lies in the 19th-century split of the ‘counter-historical’ discourse of the struggle of the races into the discourses of state racism and class struggle. While Foucault’s genealogy focuses on the development of the former into liberal and totalitarian biopolitics as we know them, it leaves class struggle out of the history of biopolitics and is therefore unable to account for the biopolitical specificity of the Soviet project.

“The domestication of Foucault: Government, critique, war,” by Ansgar Allen and Roy Goddard. The abstract reads,

Though Foucault was intrigued by the possibilities of radical social transformation, he resolutely resisted the idea that such transformation could escape the effects of power and expressed caution when it came to the question of revolution. In this article we argue that in one particularly influential line of development of Foucault’s work his exemplary caution has been exaggerated in a way that weakens the political aspirations of post-Foucaldian scholarship. The site of this reduction is a complex debate over the role of normativity in Foucaldian research, where it has been claimed that Foucault’s genealogical approach is unable to answer the question ‘Why fight?’ The terms of this debate (on the neo-Foucaldian side) are limited by a dominant though selective interpretation of Foucault’s analytics of power, where power is understood primarily in terms of government, rather than struggle. In response we suggest that if we reconfigure power-as-government to power-as-war, this adjusts the central concern. ‘Why fight?’ becomes replaced by the more immediate question, ‘How fight?’ Without denying the obvious benefits of cautious scholarly work, we argue that a reconfiguration of Foucault’s analytics of power might help Foucaldian research to transcend the self-imposed ethic of political quietism that currently dominates the field.

“The pitfalls of bombast: A response to Stephen Dunne’s ‘Figurational sociology and the rhetoric of post-philosophy’,” by Richard Kilminster. No abstract.

“Response to Kilminster: Figurational sociology without the sophistry,” by Stephen Dunne. No abstract.

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.