Tag Archives: politics

Diagnosing the Kaiser: Psychiatry, Wilhelm II and the Question of German War Guilt

Kaiser Wilhelm II and Germany 1890–1914 Head and shoulders portrait of the Kaiser by Court Photographer T. H. Voigt of Frankfurt, 1902.

The July 2018 issue of Medical History includes the The William Bynum Prize Essay 2016: “Diagnosing the Kaiser: Psychiatry, Wilhelm II and the Question of German War Guilt,” by David Freis. Abstract:

After his abdication in November 1918, the German emperor Wilhelm II continued to haunt the minds of his people. With the abolition of the lese-majesty laws in the new republic, many topics that were only discussed privately or obliquely before could now be broached openly. One of these topics was the mental state of the exiled Kaiser. Numerous psychiatrists, physicians and laypeople published their diagnoses of Wilhelm in high-circulation newspaper articles, pamphlets, and books shortly after the end of the war. Whether these diagnoses were accurate and whether the Kaiser really was mentally ill became the issue of a heated debate.

This article situates these diagnoses of Wilhelm II in their political context. The authors of these diagnoses – none of whom had met or examined Wilhelm II in person – came from all political camps and they wrote with very different motives in mind. Diagnosing the exiled Kaiser as mentally ill was a kind of exorcism of the Hohenzollern rule, opening the way for either a socialist republic or the hoped-for rule of a new leader. But more importantly, it was a way to discuss and allocate political responsibility and culpability. Psychiatric diagnoses were used to exonerate both the Emperor (for whom the treaty of Versailles provided a tribunal as war criminal) and the German nation. They were also used to blame the Kaiser’s entourage and groups that had allegedly manipulated the weak-willed monarch. Medical concepts became a vehicle for a debate on the key political questions in interwar Germany.

New Journal: Psychology from the Margins

A new student run journal, Psychology from the Margins, out of the University of Akron has just been launched. The journal focuses on the work at the intersections of history, practice, and social justice issues. It is described as

… a student-run, student-led, peer-reviewed journal. This journal features scholarly work addressing the history of research, practice, and advocacy in psychology, especially in areas related to social justice, social issues, and social change. Its purpose is to help fill gaps in the historical literature by providing an outlet for articles in the history of psychology highlighting stories that have been unrepresented or underrepresented by other historical narratives. The journal will accept and invite graduate and undergraduate students to submit manuscripts.

Articles in the inaugural issue include:

“Stuck in the Present: Gaps in the Theoretical Past and Applied Future of the Psychology of Men and Masculinities,” by Zachary T. Gerdes. Abstract:

Over 30 years of research in the psychology of men and masculinities (PMM) has relied primarily on social constructionist and social learning theoretical perspectives. Social constructionism applied to gender and masculinity is much older than is often claimed in the psychology of men and masculinities literature. By paying a deeper homage to the feminist and social science researchers throughout the 20th century that influenced social constructionist theory applied to gender, PMM theory can grow and more effective clinical and prevention interventions can be designed for men. This is especially important considering the hundreds of problematic outcomes associated with how masculine norms have been defined and measured in the psychology of men and masculinities literature. Strict adherence to problematic masculine norms has been identified as a crisis in the U.S. Progress in the psychology of men and masculinities relies on the deepening of its theoretical past and the broadening of its clinical future. Concrete suggestions for doing so are addressed in this manuscript.

“Milton Rokeach’s Experimental Modification of Values: Navigating Relevance, Ethics and Politics in Social Psychological Research,” by Stefan Jadaszewski. Abstract: Continue reading New Journal: Psychology from the Margins

The Politics of Cognition: Liberalism and the Evolutionary Origins of Victorian Education

AHP readers may be interested in a forthcoming piece in The British Journal for the History of Science on the politics of cognition in Victorian Britain. Full details below.

The Politics of Cognition: Liberalism and the Evolutionary Origins of Victorian Education,” by Matthew Daniel Eddy. Abstract:

In recent years the historical relationship between scientific experts and the state has received increasing scrutiny. Such experts played important roles in the creation and regulation of environmental organizations and functioned as agents dispatched by politicians or bureaucrats to assess health-related problems and concerns raised by the public or the judiciary. But when it came to making public policy, scientists played another role that has received less attention. In addition to acting as advisers and assessors, some scientists were democratically elected members of local and national legislatures. In this essay I draw attention to this phenomenon by examining how liberal politicians and intellectuals used Darwinian cognitive science to conceptualize the education of children in Victorian Britain.

History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics

It is my pleasure to direct AHP readers to a just released special issue of History of the Human Science on Psychology and its Publics, guest edited by Michael Pettit and myself. The issue includes articles tackling a diverse array of topics on psychology’s relationship with the public, including: the public psychology of sentimentalism and the guillotine during the French Revolution; the construction of an attitudinal public in concert with the development of questionnaires; the dissemination of Albert Ellis’s rational therapy via popular media forms; the public’s interaction with psychological ideas via the graphic novel Watchmen and its queer history; the function of sexual assault surveys in structuring rape’s ontology and politicizing rape as a social issue; and consideration of the ontology of the public through the lens of deliberative public opinion. Thanks to all our contributors for their wonderful and thought provoking work!

In advance of the issue’s release I was also interviewed about the rationale and aims of the special issue by History of the Human Sciences editor-in-chief Felicity Callard. Read that interview in full here.

Full titles, authors, and abstracts for the pieces in the special issue follow below.

“Psychology and its publics,” by Michael Pettit and Jacy L. Young. Abstract:

This paper introduces the special issue dedicated to ‘Psychology and its Publics’. The question of the relationship between psychologists and the wider public has been a central matter of concern to the historiography of psychology. Where critical historians tend to assume a pliant audience, eager to adopt psychological categories, psychologists themselves often complain about the public misunderstanding of them. Ironically, both accounts share a flattened understanding of the public. We turn to research on the public understanding of science (PUS), the public engagement with science (PES) and communications studies to develop a rich account of the circuitry that ties together psychological experts and their subjects.

“The unfailing machine: Mechanical arts, sentimental publics and the guillotine in revolutionary France,” by Edward Jones-Imhotep. Abstract:

This article explores how the pre-eminent public psychology of the French Revolution – sentimentalism – shaped the necessity, understanding and construction of its most iconic public machine. The guillotine provided a solution to the problem of public executions in an age of both sentiment and reason. It was designed to rationalize punishment and make it more humane; but it was also designed to guard against the psychological effects of older, more variable and unpredictable methods of public execution on a sentimental public. That public, contemporaries argued, required executions performed by an unfailing technology. Rather than focus on the role of the guillotine after 1793, the article explores how the implacable mechanical action that helped produce the Reign of Terror and multiply the cadavers of medical science was demanded by the guillotine’s origins as a sentimental machine.

“Numbering the mind: Questionnaires and the attitudinal public,” by Jacy L. Young. Abstract: Continue reading History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics

Edited Volume on Cold War Social Science

The history of Cold War era American social science has been ably documented in a new edited collection, Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Library Democracy, and Human Nature. Edited by historians Mark Solovey and Hamilton Cravens, the volume includes contributions on linguistics, social relations, anthropology, psychology, as well as the social sciences more broadly, from a number of accomplished scholars. The volume, comprised of three sections, on knowledge production, liberal democracy, and human nature, respectively, is described as follows.

From World War II to the early 1970s, American social science research expanded in dramatic and unprecedented fashion. This volume offers fascinating perspectives on the rise of U.S. practitioners as global leaders in the field, exploring how, why, and with what consequences this rapid and yet contested expansion depended on the entanglement of the social sciences with Cold War politics. Utilizing the controversial but useful concept of ‘Cold War social science,’ the histories gathered here reveal how scholars from established disciplines and new interdisciplinary fields of study made important contributions to long-standing debates about knowledge production, liberal democracy, and human nature.

Table of Contents
Foreword: Positioning Social Science in Cold War America – Theodore M. Porter
Cold War Social Science: Spectre, Reality, or Useful Concept? – Mark Solovey
PART I: Knowledge Production
The Rise and Fall of Wartime Social Science: Harvard’s Refugee Interview Project, 1950-54 – David C. Engerman
Futures Studies: A New Social Science Rooted in Cold War Strategic Thinking – Kaya Tolon
‘It was All Connected’: Computers and Linguistics in Early Cold War America – Janet Martin-Nielsen
Epistemic Design: Theory and Data in Harvard’s Department of Social Relations – Joel Isaac
PART II: Liberal Democracy
Producing Reason – Hunter Heyck
Column Right, March! Nationalism, Scientific Positivism, and the Conservative Turn of the American Social Sciences in the Cold War Era – Hamilton Cravens
From Expert Democracy to Beltway Banditry: How the Anti-War Movement Expanded the Military-Academic-Industrial Complex – Joy Rohde
Neo-Evolutionist Anthropology, the Cold War, and the Beginnings of the World Turn in U.S. Scholarship – Howard Brick
PART III: Human Nature
Maintaining Humans – Edward Jones-Imhotep
Psychology, Psychologists, and the Creativity Movement: The Lives of Method Inside and Outside the Cold War – Michael Bycroft
An Anthropologist on TV: Ashley Montagu and the Biological Basis of Human Nature, 1945-1960 – Nadine Weidman
Cold War Emotions: The War over Human Nature – Marga Vicedo