Theory & Psychology Online Firsts July 2015

T & PTheory & Psychology has published a couple of articles from their upcoming issue online first.

By Michael Billig  a piece titled The myth of Kurt Lewin and the rhetoric of collective memory in social psychology textbooks. A rhetorical analysis is conducted in order to elucidate how texts have employed reductive tropes in a manner that mythologizes Lewin’s role in psychology rather than providing a historically accurate handling of his work and theory. A compelling assessment, which could be translated to ascertain other “fathers” of psychological subdisciplines have been caricatured.

Another work, by Ian Parker, Politics and “Applied Psychology”? Theoretical concepts that question the disciplinary community elucidates the practices by which psychology is substantiated as producer of concepts that get applied to the “real world” through political psychological movements, and inverts the acceptance thereof by applying political theoretical concepts to psychology as the object of inquiry. 

The Billig abstract:

This article examines how social psychology textbooks represent Kurt Lewin and his contribution to social psychology. Many textbooks describe Lewin as the father of social psychology, using a conventional, passive-voiced trope to do so. The rhetorical meaning of this trope is analysed to show that textbooks are invoking a collective memory, which closes down views of the past, rather than making a historical argument, which opens up the past for examination. This depiction of Lewin typically involves forgetting his critical views about statistics and experimentation. When textbooks cite Lewin’s famous motto “there is nothing as practical as a good theory,” they tend to ascribe it a special status. In doing so, they change its meaning subtly and treat it as a truth that needs no empirical validation. By their rhetoric, omissions, and avoidance of historical sources, textbooks recreate Lewin as a mythic figure rather than a historical one.

The Parker abstract:

This paper responds to a set of problems in contemporary psychology that cluster around the notion that the discipline might be “applied” to the real world, and that such application would thereby serve as the methodological and conceptual grounding for “political psychology.” The specific problems addressed comprise “interpretation” of material in the quantitative and qualitative traditions, the notion of “application” as such which rests on the prior modelling of individual and collective psychological phenomena, the conceptions of “politics” that operate in disciplinary interventions, the idealisation of “community” in different traditions of community psychology in the US and Europe, and finally “psychology” itself as the background against which these other problems are elaborated. In response to these problems the paper describes political theoretical concepts from feminist interventions in Left practice and brings them to bear on the discipline of psychology, turning the direction of travel of concepts around so that psychology itself rather than the outside world becomes the object to which ideas are “applied.” The five political theoretical concepts described here are: “performativity,” “standpoint,” “the personal as political,” the “tyranny of structurelessness,” and “intersectionality.”