New Theory & Psychology: Early Critical Theory and Beck’s Cognitive Theory

Two articles in the most recent issue of Theory & Psychology may interest AHP readers. Full details below.

“How lost and accomplished revolutions shaped psychology: Early Critical Theory (Frankfurt School), Wilhelm Reich, and Vygotsky,” by Gordana Jovanovi?. Abstract:

On the occasion of recent centenaries of revolutions in Europe (1917, 1918–19), this article examines, within a general theme of different forms of relationships between revolution and psychology, two types of theories. First, this paper analyses Western theories that, while developing under conditions of a missed or lost revolution in Germany, argued for radical social change by referring to Marxism and psychoanalysis as necessary theoretical tools (Frankfurt School and Wilhelm Reich). Second, this paper analyses the influence of the October Revolution on the development of the psychological theory of Lev Vygotsky in the Soviet Union. In sum, psychology under the conditions of missed or lost revolution was conceptualized as a psychology of the unconscious, of the repression of human needs. Psychology under the conditions of accomplished revolution was conceptualized as a historical social psychology of self-mastery of human beings as social beings.

“Unconscious processes in Aaron Beck’s cognitive theory: Reconstruction and discussion,” by Monika Romanowska, Bart?omiej Dobroczy?ski. Abstract:

The concept of the unconscious has always provoked controversy. While some psychologists treated it as a relic of metaphysics or a manifestation of psychoanalytic mysticism, others saw it as an important explanatory construct. At the heart of this conflict, there is the theory proposed by Aaron Beck, the originator of cognitive therapy. According to the founding myth, he rejected the concept of the dynamic unconscious to develop an evidence-based approach. The aim of this article is to reconstruct and analyze Beck’s understanding of the unconscious based on his published works and archival materials and to identify the values that guided his theoretical choices. We argue that Beck’s conceptualization of the unconscious ignores contradictory conscious and unconscious representations and attitudes and offers no systematic model of basic needs and the conflicts between them. We conclude that this stems from Beck’s attachment to the phenomenological understanding of the psyche, emphasis on humanism in the therapeutic relationship, fear of cognitive theory losing its distinctness, and caution in formulating theories.

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.