Another new book is available out of the Palgrave Macmillan stable: A History of Relevance in Psychology. Written by Wahbie Long at the University of Cape Town, is described by the publishers as follows:
This book represents the first attempt to historicise and theorise appeals for ‘relevance’ in psychology. It argues that the persistence of questions about the ‘relevance’ of psychology derives from the discipline’s terminal inability to define its subject matter, its reliance on a socially disinterested science to underwrite its knowledge claims, and its consequent failure to address itself to the needs of a rapidly changing world.
The chapters go on to consider the ‘relevance’ debate within South African psychology, by critically analysing discourse of forty-five presidential, keynote and opening addresses delivered at annual national psychology congresses between 1950 and 2011, and observes how appeals for ‘relevance’ were advanced by reactionary, progressive and radical psychologists alike.
The book presents, moreover, the provocative thesis that the revolutionary quest for ‘social relevance’ that began in the 1960s has been supplanted by an ethic of ‘market relevance’ that threatens to isolate the discipline still further from the anxieties of broader society. With powerful interest groups continuing to co-opt psychologists without relent, this is a development that only psychologists of conscience can arrest.
Researchers from York’s own Psychology’s Feminist Voices, Alexandra Rutherford, Kelli Vaughn-Johnson, and Elissa Rodkey have put out an engaging piece in BPS’s June 2015 issue of The Psychologist. It’s a brief yet compelling survey of the various ways that both the discipline and its subject matter have been gendered, and of the historiographic efforts that have elucidated these perspectives and processes. It’s also a call to action for further corrective historical narratives of this ilk:
To write such a history is a daunting task. Why should we undertake it? Gender analysis offers some particularly rich historiographic potential for psychology as a science that is not only gendered on multiple levels but also directly produces scientific knowledge about gender itself. It is a powerful contributor to – as much as it draws upon – the ‘beliefs about gender’ that affect everyday experience and how we understand each other and ourselves. This deeply reflexive nature of psychology has been extensively discussed by historians (see Smith, 2005). Gender is one of the primary axes of self-understanding and social and political organisation – including that of science. Thus, examining how the gendering of psychology has influenced its knowledge-generation about gender can help us begin to disentangle the science/gender system in new ways. Finally, by bringing close historical scrutiny to the ways that gender ideologies run in and through psychology, we can start to destabilise – and perhaps even change – them today.
Find the full article here.