New HHS: Mark May at the Institute of Human Relations, Neurofeedback & Selfhood, & More!

The July 2015 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Among the articles in this issue are one’s on Durkheim’s followers, psychologist Mark May’s influence on the Institute of Human Relations at Yale University, and the relationship between neurofeedback and the self. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“On equal temperament: Tuning, modernity and compromise,” by Michael Halewood. The abstract reads,

In this article, I use Stengers’ (2010) concepts of ‘factish’, ‘requirements’ and ‘obligations’, as well as Latour’s (1993) critique of modernity, to interrogate the rise of Equal Temperament as the dominant system of tuning for western music. I argue that Equal Temperament is founded on an unacknowledged compromise which undermines its claims to rationality and universality. This compromise rests on the standardization which is the hallmark of the tuning system of Equal Temperament, and, in this way, it is emblematic of Latour’s definition of modernity. I further argue that the problem of the tuning of musical instruments is one which epitomizes the modern distinction between the natural and the social. In turn, this bears witness to what Whitehead calls the ‘bifurcation of nature’. Throughout this article, using the work of Stengers and Latour, I seek to use tuning as a case study which allows social research to talk both of the natural and of the social aspects of music and tuning, without recourse to essentialism or simple social construction. In this way, my argument seeks to avoid bifurcating nature.

“Young Durkheimians and the temptation of fascism: The case of Marcel Déat,” by Mathieu Hikaru Desan and Johan Heilbron. The abstract reads,

In this article we assess the general claim that Durkheimian sociology has reactionary, fascist, or totalitarian affinities, and the specific claim that Marcel Déat’s Durkheimian background was a significant factor in his becoming a Nazi sympathizer. We do so by comparing the different trajectories of the interwar generation of young Durkheimians and find that only one, i.e. Déat, can be said to have become fascist. Indeed, what characterizes this generation of Durkheimians is the variety of the ways in which they responded to the crises of the interwar years, both politically and scientifically. Nonetheless, most remained on the political left, and during the war many younger members of the Durkheimian group either fled the country or were involved in the French Resistance. As the only personal link between the Durkheimian group and fascism, Déat’s career is of particular interest. Instead of Déat’s being an orthodox Durkheimian, his successive engagements embody the intellectual fragmentation and heterodoxy characteristic of the interwar generation. We outline Déat’s career by foregrounding the conjunctural and dispositional factors that we believe point toward a more plausible explanation of Déat’s transformation than does an internalist history-of-ideas approach according to which his political evolution can be explained by reference to an underlying intellectual continuity. Déat’s fascism is better explained by the repeated frustration of his political and intellectual ambitions that ultimately led to a fateful accommodation with Nazi power than by any tendency inherent to Durkheimian sociology.

“Neglecting the 19th century: Democracy, the consensus trap and modernization theory in Spain,” by Carles Sirera Miralles. The abstract reads,

The present article examines the historical narrative proposed by modernization theory about the recent Spanish past. Its assumptions and consequences for historical research focused on the 19th century are described in order to understand the lack of intellectual exchange among historians and sociologists in the Spanish academic world. Modernization theory has justified the political consensus that allowed the Spanish transition to democracy and its academic authority has narrowed the scope of historical research about previous democratization processes. Although the paradigm of Spanish backwardness has been refuted by specialists on 19th-century Spain, sociologists, economists and historians of the 20th century still propose a teleological interpretation of the democratization process that assumes the validity of the paradigm of secular Spanish backwardness. The scientific and political authority of modernization theory has made impossible an open academic debate and consequently the work of historians that refute teleological interpretations of development has been neglected, since modernization theory provides a political interpretation of the Spanish Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War as historically determined failures in order to legitimize the present democratic monarchy and constitution.

“Tertiary qualities, from Galileo to Gestalt psychology,” by Michele Sinico. The abstract reads,

Tertiary qualities have been studied primarily by Gestalt psychologists. My aim in this article is to revisit the theoretical assumptions regarding tertiary qualities. I start from the Galilean distinction of the qualities of experience, the Lockean subdivision of qualities, the subjectivist definition in aesthetics and the theoretical contribution of Gestalt theory, to show the theoretical value of ‘tertiary qualities’ in the current context of experimental psychological research. I conclude that tertiary qualities are a crucial keyword for an experimental psychology based on the primacy of perception. Such a perspective is in favour of a neo-Gestalt Experimental Phenomenology.

“Mark A. May: Scientific administrator, human engineer,” by Dennis Bryson. The abstract reads,

Underappreciated by historians of the human sciences, educational psychologist Mark A. May played a key role in managing and formulating the policy of the Institute of Human Relations at Yale University, initially as the institute’s executive secretary, then as its director, from 1930 to 1960. Moreover, during the 1920s, the 1930s and after, he participated in a number of conferences, seminars, committees and other projects sponsored by the Social Science Research Council and Rockefeller philanthropic organizations. Focusing on May’s efforts during the interwar period, this article will examine how May worked to advance an integrated program in the psychological and social sciences affiliated with the field of personality and culture. For May, a human engineering agenda geared toward the socialization and education of the individual was intimately connected to his vision of interdisciplinary social science.

“Brainwaves and psyches: A genealogy of an extended self,” by Jonna Brenninkmeijer. The abstract reads,

This article presents an ethnographical and historical analysis of the mode of being that is constituted when people use neurofeedback (brainwave training) for self-improvement. I analyse how human brainwaves have been associated with the psyche since their first demonstration by the psychiatrist Hans Berger, how they were connected to personality types by the cybernetician Grey Walter, and made trainable by the psychologists Joe Kamiya and Barry Sterman. I compare these cases with the reports of contemporary neurofeedback practitioners and users, and demonstrate that working on the self by working on the brain constitutes a complicated relationship between the brain and the self. Moreover, I demonstrate that combinations of brains and selves, material and spiritual ideas, and biological and social explanations are not confusions due to the ignorance of neurofeedback users, but amalgamations that emerged in the work and ideas of early scientists.

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.