Special Issue: Our Present Crises: Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and Social Inequality

A special issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. The issue, “Our Present Crises: Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and Social Inequality,” is guest edited by Graham W. Pickren and Wade E. Pickren. Full details below.

“Signposts to decolonial futures in understanding and addressing our present crises,” Graham W. Pickren and Wade E. Pickren. Abstract:

We introduce the special issue “Our Present Crises: Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and Social Inequality” by highlighting how histories of the social and behavioral sciences can contribute to a multifaceted understanding of the links among the climate crisis, massive biodiversity loss, and social and economic inequities of nearly every kind. We propose that although the epistemological and ontological bases of these disciplines are themselves entangled with modernity/coloniality, there are, nonetheless, critical insights to be gained by exposing these entanglements. These insights may help generate visions of decolonial futures which eschew destructive dualisms in favor of relational ontologies which honor the living ecosystem of the earth.

“Do your first works over,” Susan James and Helene Lorenz. Abstract:

This article presents in four parts various understandings of the deep roots of the current climate emergency, some thoughts about alternative transitional paths forward, and the ways the discipline of psychology might be relevant. In Section two, we explore environmental and ontological critiques and analyses that developed in the academic world in the 1990s after the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus in the Americas. In Section three, we analyze the recent emergence of new materialisms and their connections to indigenous relational ontologies and practices in what has been called “the ontological turn” or “the decolonial turn.” In Section four, we trace the effects of coloniality in education. In Section five, we explore approaches to alternative world visions, new educational projects, the possible role of the discipline of psychology in transition discourses, and the urgency of the present moment.

“Energy in the Anthropocene: How the concept of energy shaped both our current crisis and its professed solution,” Anna Simon-Stickley. Abstract:

This essay traces how the concept of energy—defined as the ability to do work in physics—informed two similar fields of knowledge with very dissimilar results. One, the resource economy in the late 19th century, laid some important epistemic and ideological foundations for the destruction of the environment in the present. The other, ecology, introduced a new holistic view of nature, which laid the groundwork for the recent reconceptualization of ethics, epistemology, and humankind’s role on Earth culminating in the Anthropocene hypothesis—formulated in direct opposition to the capitalist, anthropocentric notions inherited from the 19th century. In both cases, it was the concept of energy that enabled thinking about the multifarious visualities, materialities, and temporalities of natural phenomena as united in a single causal substructure of energy exchanges. In resource economics, the energetic worldview imposed an anthropocentric useful/useless divide on the environment—modeled, I argue, on the energy/entropy distinction—and made it “logical” to think of minerals, plants, and human labor as analogous resources, justifiably equated and linked in the economic system. The same ability to equate and connect was fundamental to the discipline of ecology and its application to sociology in the 20th century, and, in more recent years, to philosophy and historiography. In stripping nature of all surface illusions, energy proved enormously efficient for exposing the entanglement of large-scale systems composed of animate and inanimate actors equally imbued with agency.

“Expelled from Eden: How human beings turned planet Earth into a hostile place,” Ana Luiza de França Sá and Victor Lino Bernardes. Abstract:

The focus of this article is the mind–body problem in mainstream modern psychology examined from a decolonial perspective. The construction of the idea of the separation of mind and body is a seminal point of division of labor in the history of modern capitalism. This division perpetuated by the mind–body dualism idea was necessary to justify the enslavement of some and employment to others. Colonization processes have had profound importance on the mind, feelings, behaviors, and political settings. Throughout its history, the subject treated in EuroAmerican psychology has sought to deal with the mind–body problem as an individual, a separate entity, not as part of the psyche as a whole. A new perspective where the mind and body play an intertwined role is necessary considering subjectivity in a cultural-historical approach. The subjective level is defined by the unification between symbolical and emotional cultural processes. The body (emotions) operates in conjunction with the culture and, when amalgamated, constitutes what we entitle as subjectivity. An ontology defines the assumptions that lie under a cosmovision and sustains a way of seeing, feeling, thinking, and acting with oneself, others, and the whole living world. It is what defines the real. The trajectory of this paper is an invitation to shed light from a decolonial perspective on social inequality concerning the present crises of humanity. The consequences of social inequality expressed today indicate the difficulties created by the dichotomy of mind and body.

“The (d)evolution of a technological species: A history and critique of ecopsychology’s constructions of science and technology,” Tal Davidson. Abstract:

In this paper, I aim to convey the history of ecopsychology’s changing conceptualizations of science and technology and their role in facilitating engagement with the ecology movement. To do so, I compare ecopsychology’s treatment of science and technology in two important publications: Gatherings, a non-peer-reviewed digital journal of the early 2000s that portrayed ecopsychology in humanistic, socially critical, and artistic terms; and Ecopsychology, a scholarly journal founded in 2009 that regarded ecopsychological questions as testable hypotheses, and distinguished itself from prior (“first generation”) ecopsychology on the basis of its embrace of technological progress and the scientific method. As a part of this shift, ecopsychologists of the “second generation” championed the notion that humans are a “Technological Species,” an ontological statement that naturalized the increasing sophistication of high technology as the result of inherent human drives, and established conceptual groundwork for studies that used consumer technology such as computers to mediate experiences of nature. In the final part of the paper, I critique the “Technological Species” proposition for obscuring the historical and material conditions that make the existence of consumer technology possible, such as the ecologically devastating mining of rare-earth metals on colonized land in Central and South America. I argue that, to be socially and ecologically accountable, ecopsychology should turn toward practices that help us make sense of consumer technology’s place in systems of colonialist and ecological violence, process our place within these systems as users of consumer technology, and build community less dependent on technology.

““That future age of which we can only dream”: Exploring the origins of the climate crisis in the Story of Progress,” Michael B. Smith. Abstract:

The principal source of the ecological ruptures planet Earth is currently experiencing—the unfolding climate emergency above all—is a story a small subset of humans have been telling themselves and living according to the precepts for about 300 years. Slowly and often reluctantly the number of adherents to this story has grown until there are few places on the planet where the story does not hold at least partial sway. Over the past 300 years, the Story of Progress has evolved from a possibility to an article of faith. Examining the history of the Story of Progress makes visible the degree to which the idea of Progress has become woven into language itself, making it difficult to articulate other possibilities—and, therefore, difficult to escape the story that has produced a catastrophic climate crisis.

“Technoscientific control of nature: The ultimate paradox,” Martin Fichman. Abstract:

The current interlinked environmental and socioeconomic global crises constitute the gravest threat to humanity’s well-being, indeed survival, today. Studies of the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of the various elements of these crises—including accelerating environmental degradation, unfettered capitalist technoscientific/industrial expansion, overpopulation, and overconsumption—are plentiful. Also well-known is the influence of Francis Bacon’s writings, particularly The Advancement of Learning (1605), Novum Organon (1620), and the utopian New Atlantis (1627), on the development of empiricism and the modern scientific method as well as the reform and organization of scientific research. Bacon’s significance for the founding of the Royal Society of London (1660) and for the plan and structure of the Encyclopedie (1751–1772), coupled with his oft-cited aphoristic injunctions to study nature to control/dominate it, are staples in the lore and justification of technoscience. I argue that the enduring appeal of so-called Baconianism derives, in part, from a fundamental misappropriation of certain of Bacon’s original ideas. Specifically, the complex ethical and religious framework within which Bacon situated his vision of scientific and technological development was discarded (or ignored) so that, by the early decades of the 18th century, Baconianism had come to be understood almost exclusively for its utilitarian role in society. This deracinated version became the familiar trope of technoscience’s unlimited potential to transform nature (including human nature and behavior) in the service of an ideology of industrial/consumerist expansion since then. Linkage between the history of science/technology and addictive consumerism, apparent by the close of the 19th century, has been insufficiently examined. Such addictive consumerist behavior and continued virtually unregulated industrialization and production, were effectively removed from ethical scrutiny and a high degree of material acquisition and personal/societal rapaciousness became the norm rather than the exception in most countries. I suggest that further historical deconstruction of this denuded Baconianism will yield important insights in the search for viable solutions to the present global socioenvironmental crises.

Book Reviews

Broken dreams: An intimate history of the midlife crisis Jackson, Mark Reaktion Books, 2021.
Reviewed by Susanne Schmidt

Psychologies in revolution: Alexander Luria’s “Romantic science” and Soviet social history Proctor, Hannah Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 259pp. 77,99€ (cloth). ISBN 978-3-030-35027-7; 978-3-030-35028-4 (eBook). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-35028-4
Reviewed by Roger Smith

Society on the edge: Social science and public policy in the postwar United States Fontaine, Phillipe and Pooley, Jefferson (Eds.) Cambridge University Press, 2021. 280pp. £74.99 (cloth). ISBN 9781108487139; 9781108732192 (paperback); 9781108765961 (ebook). https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108765961
Reviewed by Daniel Geary

The Science of Violent Behavior Development and Prevention. Contributions of the Second World War Generation. Tremblay, Richard E. Cambridge University Press, 2021. 388 pp. $110 (cloth). ISBN 978-1-108-83481-0
Reviewed by Marga Vicedo

Talking Therapy: Knowledge and Power in American Psychiatric Nursing. Smith, Kylie Rutgers University Press, 2020. 192 pp. $28.95 (paperback). ISBN 9781978801455; 9781978801462 (cloth); 9781978801493 (pdf); 9781978801479 (epub).
Reviewed by Laura D. Hirshbein

Economic Knowledge in Socialism, 1945-89 Düppe, Till & Boldyrev, Ivan (Eds.) (2019). A special issue of History of Political Economy, 51( 6). 328pp. ISBN 978-1-4780-0937-5 (paperback)
Reviewed by Diana Kurkovsky West

Conversations with Carl Jung and reactions from Ernest Jones. Richard, Evans. Jodi, Kearns (Ed.) The Center for the History of Psychology Series. The University of Akron Press, 2020. $24.95 (paperback). ISBN 9781629221939.
Reviewed by Philip Kuhn

From Melancholia to Depression: Disordered Mood in Nineteenth-Century British Psychiatry Jansson, Åsa Series: Mental Health in Historical Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. 234 pp. Open access (ebook). ISBN: 978-3-030-54802-5; 978-3-030-54801-8 (cloth); 978-3-030-54804-9 (paper)
Reviewed by Jonathan Sadowsky

Healthy Minds in the Twentieth Century: In and Beyond the Asylum Steven, J. Taylor and Brumby, Alice (Eds.) Series: Mental Health in Historical Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 274 pp. Open access 978-3-030-27275-3 (ebook). ISBN: 978-3-030-27274-6 (cloth); 978-3-030-27277-7 (paper)
Reviewed by Michael Rembis

The empathy diaries: A memoir Sherry, Turkle Penguin Press, 2021. Xxi + 384 pp. $28.00 (cloth). ISBN-13: 9781108834810
Reviewed by Raymond E. Fancher

A Silvan Tomkins handbook: Foundations for affect theory Frank, Adam J. and Wilson, Elizabeth A. University of Minnesota Press, 2020. 203 pp. $20 (paper). ISBN: 978-0-8166-8000-9
Reviewed by Rob Boddice

Unnerved: Anxiety, social change, and the transformation of modern mental health Schnittker, Jason Columbia University Press, 2021. 272 pp. $35 (paper). ISBN: 9780231200356
Reviewed by Michael E. Staub

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.