RadPsyNet plans to be in New York next August for the American Psychological Association convention. It looks like many more of us will go to New York than went to Los Angeles last year.
We'd like to do several things while we're there beyond the routine sessions and far from routine restaurant tours--and we're counting on your input!
First, we're applying to be listed in the convention schedule as an unaffiliated group. We'll probably plan two formal meetings as a way to meet each other and to spread the word to new people. Being listed and having APA provide the space will cost us $50, which we now have in our account. If for some reason APA rejects our request, we'll still plan a couple of meetings and try to get the word out in other ways. After two years of existence, having a planning and coordinating meeting of some kind would be a good idea.
Second, we'll probably plan more informal get-togethers throughout the week of the convention. At RadPsyNet's 1993 founding meeting in Toronto, a number of us remarked that our convention experience would have been less alienating if we had met each other sooner. So in addition to arranging one of our formal meetings for the first day of the convention, we'll also plan to get together for dinner and other activities. It might even make sense for people planning on being in New York to stay in the same hotel.
Third, we'll assemble a list of presentations at convention sessions given by RadPsyNet members, which we can print in the newsletter and distribute as a separate flyer. So once we all find out if our seminar and paper and poster proposals have been accepted, send the details (title, time, place, etc.) to Dennis Fox. You could also send us details for presentations by nonmembers you think RadPsyNet members might find interesting.
If you have any other ideas for August in hot New York, let us know. We'll provide more details in the next newsletter.
Depending on how you count, RadPsyNet now has somewhere between 50 and 100 formal members (Dollars are easier to count than people: We'll have more than $200 in our account after this newsletter goes out. We've taken in $600 since we began.) In response to our last request for $10 dues or a request for a waiver, we heard from about half the people on our list. Here's how it looks as of January:
Will Submit Later
Newsletter Exchanges, Other Group Contacts, or Other Services
No feedback at all!
Total Membership (?)
The big question, obviously: What's the story with the 42 people who haven't told us whether they want to remain members? Since we have the money this time around, we're sending the newsletter to the whole group in the interest of keeping communication open. After all, we do hear from people who tell us they just forgot to send in a check, or that they didn't notice the new dues-or-waiver policy. But if you're one of the 42, please tell us whether you want to remain listed. As you can see, the newsletter is expanding in size--and costs. This really should be your last newsletter unless we hear from you! Check this issue's address page for a notice that clarifies your status!
Another way of counting members might be to look at the radical-psychology-network e-mail discussion list. That's up to 160 members, most of whom are not signed on to RadPsyNet. Not formal "members," perhaps, but still communicating about radical psychology theory and practice. Many others stumble across our gopher or World Wide Web page, reading the newsletters without having to pay dues. That's great for making contact with people (see the letter later on from Joy Marcus as an example), but it doesn't help pay the expenses.
As newsletter editor, sitting in the mid-US receiving the mail, I see clear signs of growing interest, particularly among students. Information requests come in steadily, most recently after a notice in the SPSSI newsletter. It's good to know there's so much interest in finding out about critical perspectives in psychology.
See you in New York!
submitted by Titis Lubis
University of Padjadjaran
SKEPO is a group consisting primarily of individuals who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the faculty of Psychology, University of Padjadjaran, Indonesia. SKEPO was born in 1992, when some individuals who had been working together came to recognize some of psychology's limitations when it is used to analyze social phenomena. Following is the story of how SKEPO became a reality.
The process of getting our degree continued with a period of time practicing what had been obtained at the university. This period showed us some facts about the psychology we are familiar with. First, we see that psychology has not been able to function as a significant tool in promoting human welfare, in the attempt to solve human and/or social problems. We assume that the activities within the body of psychology (e.g., assessing, diagnosing, labelling, etc.) that are directed to individuals detached from their social and political contexts are the main causes of this failure.
Second, many incidents prove that psychology is practiced mostly to fulfill the needs of capitalism's machinery in the name of "industrialization." To gain control is the central issue in the practice of psychology, particularly in this decade. However, as a matter of fact, psychological practice is not aimed to helping individuals/community gaining control over one's/their own life. Instead, the goal is professionals' and/or the status quo gaining control over the society. Individuals in our society are subjects to change, partly governed by psychology, to maintain the status quo.
We finally realized that this is not right, so we began to explore psychology which we know of so little. We gradually came to understand that what so so-called "psychology," as science and profession as well, is very much under the influence of positivism. Not only psychology, actually, but social science as a whole is carved by this particular school of thought. As professionals, scientists, researchers, and members of our society, we are trapped within the walls built on positivism. As we all know that positivism promotes that the main goal of scientific research or activities is to explain and, therefore, to be able to control, the phenomena being studied. It is understandable then why the central theme of psychology, a science of human behavior, is to gain control over someone else's or some people's life.
Now that we have found what is wrong with the psychology that we learned at the university, we didn't stop exploring, because we knew that we needed to know more about psychology and positivism to be able to escape from the "trap." Our intention was to seek an alternate paradigm for psychology. So we put forth effort to understand the whole idea of positivism and how it became strongly influential in the behavioral sciences. In regard to critically look at positivism, we established two dimensions of activities within our group, i.e., theoretical and practical dimensions. In the theoretical dimension, we discuss positivism, other schools of thought which oppose it (e.g., phenomenology, hermeneutics, critical theory), and also some alternate research methodology (PAR, etc.). Many efforts have been put to find good references, because those are scarce in our country. In the practical dimension, we expose ourselves to collaborative research and/or activities with grass-roots organizations, laborers, and peasants, particularly in the area of informal education and advocacy. That is who we are and what we have been doing. We were glad when we heard about an organization on the other face of our earth which is concerned with a similar issue. Therefore, we would really like to be part of the Radical Psychology Network. We hope that we can learn more from other people from other nations about psychology through this particular network.
Jl. Rancamanyar 1/7
Titis Lubis email: email@example.com
Robert J. Gregory
In surfing the Internet (albeit given the excellent quality and quantity on some days, it is more like swimming), I watch for and glean material of interest as I prepare to teach Introductory and Community Psychology next year. However, given my anthropology background, my interest in ecology and science, my theoretical framework of general systems theory, and my emotional and intellectual desires to survive, I frequently run into tidbits of information and ideas that to me, illustrate the limits of psychology as historically and currently conceived. My concern revolves around the relevance of psychology to the larger world, especially information on environmental problems, of which there are so many. This search continues daily.
The other day I was intrigued by a discussion on fertility and the possible role of psychology in aiding infertile couples. I am intrigued by this effort by psychologists to assist, also by even greater efforts by psychologists to cope with massive misunderstanding of issues on human sexuality. The very next day, I found a long treatise on the current and coming overpopulation problems and their implications, making psychological concerns almost irrelevant. Next, along through cyberspace travels, I found an article about our chemically oriented society, and how it is just possible that pesticides and other chemicals may have already interfered with reproduction, not only in humankind but also in animals. Now we are seeing just the very beginnings to the large scale die off. You have heard, no doubt, about the loss of frogs and toads worldwide, they may have been the miner's canaries in this grim scenario. In fact, the documentation made me think the potential disaster is many, many dimensions greater than the problems posed by all our atomic bombs and the radioactive waste materials and what to do with them. Then I found new and frightening information on climate change, ozone depletion, soil erosion, and pollution. And the very next item that hit my mailbox was a story about how the Soviet Union used three wells as disposal holes for nuclear waste. These have begun leaking already, posing a threat potentially 60 times larger than the Chernobyl disaster.
In the face of what seems to be happening over the Internet, I surfaced to walk around my campus, refreshing myself with green trees and plants, and summer sun, here in New Zealand. But my mind continues to ponder the big questions.
What can psychology offer? I retreated in my mind's eye to an image given by a teacher, long ago.
"Imagine an aquarium. Picture 100 beautiful tropical fish, swimming about. Look closely, one of them is sick, and is turning belly up. Quick, what do you do about it? Flush it, you say? Okay, picture 99 beautiful tropical fish, swimming about. Look closely, one of them is sick, and is turning belly up. Quick, what do you do about it? Flush it, you say? Okay, picture 98 beautiful tropical fish, swimming about..."
and so goes the story until someone says, check the water temperature, the chemistry of the water and the environment.
How many fish must go before there is a realization that the context is of equal, if not greater, concern.
And so we psychologists keep busy with research on how individuals think, feel, or live, we test and assess and counsel our individual clients, and we teach our students about how to understand and work with individuals. Do you, like me, feel caught in a quandary in a paradoxical paradigm, while the lifeboat is sinking? We try to understand how individual inhabitants think or feel, but all too often, we ignore what is happening in the environment. A few of us, too few I worry, are aware of denial. I believe it is past time for a radical psychology that firmly addresses the emerging catastrophes.
Department of Psychology
Palmerston North, New Zealand
Email from Joy Marcus
Date: Tue, 18 Oct 1994
Subject: radpsy network newsletter/a taste of history & suggested readings
Hi there. I wonder if you ever heard of the Radical Therapy movement, or the Radical Psychiatry movement? If you are interested in some living history, perhaps I can be helpful..... Back in the late 60's/early 70's I was the founding organizer of the Berkeley Radical Psychiatry Center. This evening I was cruising the net, wanting to track down some old dissertations written over the years by various grad students who were interested in our work. Instead, I found you. I am delighted--the struggle continues, the beat goes on! And small world of small worlds--would you believe I actually gave a lecture in 1983 at Sangamon State (on nuclearism) after which I hung out with a bunch of folks there who had taken over the job of publishing Issues in Radical Therapy, the quarterly journal of which I had been the founding editor in Berkeley. So much more I could tell you, if you'd like...... Here is a reading list you might find useful. [See list below] Please put me on your network e-mail list and put me on your newsletter subscription list, too. I'm happy to send a check. How much, made out to whom or what, and where?
Looking forward to hearing from any or all of you....
Interval Research Corp.
1801 Page Mill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94303
There is so much to read. I've just totally run out of energy here.
[See our Books and Reviews Site]
Recently released is a collection of 12 essays in English translation by Ignacio Martín-Baró, Writings for a Liberation Psychology, edited by Adrianne Aron and Shawn Corne of CHRICA, the Committee for Health Rights in Central America (Harvard University Press, $29.95). Martín-Baró, chair of the psychology department at the University of Central America, San Salvador, was one of the six Jesuits murdered by the Salvadoran government in 1989. Noam Chomsky calls Martín-Baró's mind "probing and humane, wide-ranging in interests and passionate in concerns, and dedicated with a rare combination of intelligence and heroism to the challenge his work sets forth `to create a new person in a new society." M. Brewster Smith calls the book "a fitting monument to psychology's only contemporary martyr."
The first section of the book, which we've called "The Psychology of Politics and the Politics of Psychology," deals with the role psychologists ought to be playing in the world, what it would mean to have a psychology devoted to human liberation, and other themes close to the hearts of radical psychologists. It's a book the folks on the membership list will want to know about. Martín-Baró, if he had lived, would have joined the RadPsy group.
Looking for someone to be lead researcher/author on a series of social psychology experiments examining "enemy images" in international relations. Two sets of data--needing computer statistical analysis--have already been conducted. Further experimentation and a write-up are still required. Contact:
N. Manchester, IN 46962
FASTnet is a network of progressive-minded, action-oriented people and organizations concerned with promoting a democratic politics of science and technology in the United States. Upon subscribing to the FASTnet electronic discussion list, you become a provisional member of the Federation of Activists on Science & Technology network. The FASTnet list provides a means for alerting other progressives to opportunities for action, coordinating with other activists and organizations, formulating and implementing strategies and tactics, seeking new cross-cutting alliances, requesting advice from other progressive organizations, etc.
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Laurie Miller reviews Isaac Prilleltensky's 1994 book
The Morals and Politics of Psychology: Psychological Discourse and
the Status Quo.
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
And Isaac Prilleltensky responds.
Although these articles are longer than the usual space limitations of RadPsyNews, they raise important issues for radical psychologists. Until we have RadPsyJournal, we'll try to leave room for substantive debate.
John Laurence Miller
As Isaac Prilleltensky tells us in the opening sentence of his provocative new work, "this book is based on the assumption that psychological theories and practices are simultaneously constituted by, and formative of, the cultural and social order" (p. 1). The problem is that we have too limited an understanding of the process through which psychological theories and practices influence our society; and unfortunately a better understanding would reveal all too often that their influence is a negative one. Professor Prilleltensky sets for himself the challenge of offering a critique of major schools of thought in contemporary psychology with respect the question of whether they serve to promote the betterment of society, or whether their serve to maintain injustice and the status quo. His conclusion is that the latter is much more common than the former.
Readers are likely to experience a mixed reaction to Prilleltensky's critique. They are likely to feel that he asks important questions about the social consequences of psychological theories and provides a rich and well-researched scholarly base to support future work on this subject. Furthermore he speaks clearly with the voice of the honest scholar: rather than unthinkingly accepting existing opinion, he goes out of his way to examine many sides of a question. On the other hand, Prilleltensky appears not to have served "in the trenches" and does not know first- hand the process through which psychological theories and instruments can be manipulated to justify inhuman professional and institutional practices. Readers may feel therefore that his writing is "too academic": his clear mastery of the published literature and well developed scholarly instincts lead him to offer criticism of the behaviour of psychologists working in clinical and industrial settings without a first-hand understanding of the practical or indeed moral and political problems that they actually face. Because of its critical perspective, it suggests directions for improving the quality of psychological discourse as well as contributing to the sociology of (psychological) knowledge. Prilleltensky is perhaps most trenchant as a critic when revealing the influence of unexamined and unacknowledged ideology and bias in work that is presented as "scientific and objective." A good example is his critique of research into "locus of control" by social psychologists working within the framework of attribution theory. Prilleltensky accepts the contention that an important psychological variable is what social psychologists call locus of control, a person's sense of whether it is they themselves or forces in their environment that control events in the world. However he correctly goes on to criticize the unstated bias that it is better and healthier for a person to see the locus of control as internal in themselves rather than external in the environment. As Prilleltensky accurately states, it is a simple fact of life that there are many events in the world over which most people have no control whatsoever. By creating the impression that it is somehow maladaptive for people to recognize this simple truth, psychological research serves to "delegitimize" people's ordinary and accurate sense of reality. And when those with real power are acting unjustly, this same research may serve to undermine protest when protesting would be the most justifiable response.
In a similar vein, Prilleltensky criticizes psychoanalysts and other clinicians on the grounds that their theories serve to undermine the legitimacy of social protest by "pathologizing" society's victims. As Prilleltensky states: "By dichotomizing individuals as sick or healthy, the defect paradigm helped to promote the notion that maladapted persons are the sole product of a less able organism and/or genetic handicap." (p. 102) He quotes examples of pathologizing statements such as: "Urban unrest is attributed to the lack of impulse control among young men raised in households without strong father figures" or "All the particularities of African psychiatry can be put down to frontal [lobe] laziness". As Prilleltensky notes, among the devastating effects of this person-blame style of theorizing is the acceptance of its premises by the victims themselves.
A third example of psychological discourse comes from industrial and organizational psychology. As Prilleltensky points out, psychologists have an undistinguished record in industry, having helped to maintain unjust and oppressive policies and practices in the name of efficiency and improved productivity. He draws particular attention to three specific practices of industrial psychologists. (1) The use of psychological expertise to pacify trouble makers and diffuse resentment against owners and supervisor, even when there are legitimate grievances. (Union members call this "cow psychology.") (2) The use of pseudoneutral terms: he cites terms such as problem solving and team building as example of words that sound innocuous but in reality refer to coercive practices. (3) The professionalization of management decisions: in this context, psychologists serve as psycho technicians providing advice about how to achieve corporate objectives without sensitivity to the human consequences.
Throughout this discussion, Prilleltensky's own biases also begin to show through. On the one hand, he seems generous in his discussion of the work of academics, even those (such as B.F. Skinner) with whom he strongly disagrees. On the other hand, he seems unduly harsh in his discussion of the work of a practicing clinician such as Carl Rogers. Prilleltensky criticizes Rogers' client-centered therapy, not for being flawed clinically--Prilleltensky says himself that Rogerian therapy appears to be quite effective as a clinical method--but rather because its very effectiveness in helping people adjust to society serves to help maintain the status quo. One wonders what Prilleltensky believes a good therapist should do. Should the therapist make it more difficult for clients to adjust to society on the grounds that this would help to promote radical change? Is that really responsible behavior on the part of a clinician? What Prilleltensky seems to be advocating is that clinicians place their own ideological and social agendas ahead of the clear and obvious desires of their paying clients (and in the process help to maintain or even exacerbate what is often severe and debilitating psychological distress). Such behavior not only seems obviously exploitative but constitutes as well legal grounds for clinicians to lose their license.
Prilleltensky appears to be overly harsh as well in his critique of school psychologists. He begins by pointing out (correctly) that school psychologists almost always attribute the learning problems of students to problems within the learner, and do not take seriously enough the possibility that the real problem may be in the environment (such as in the practices of the school). But then he seems to commit almost the same error himself attributing the cause of this failure of the school psychologists to internal factors (in the school psychologist) without taking sufficiently seriously the fact that the real problem may be in the (school psychologists') environment. He writes:
"most individual school psychologists continue to be disturbingly silent when it comes to voicing social or political discontent. Chances are they fall prey to an occupational myopia that excludes political activism from the realm of their professional endeavors." (p. 158)
Prilleltensky appears not to be sensitive to the fact that a school psychologist who attributes a child's learning problem to school policies is (a) likely to be asked (meaning told) to change the report removing any references to problems in the school, (b) likely to have their recommendations ignored, and (c) at risk of being dismissed on grounds of competence (because any suggestion that the school is not run adequately in itself is likely to be seen as a sign of incompetence).
The final section of the book, entitled "Psychology and Social Ethics," presents Prilleltensky's social philosophy and his view of the role of psychologists in promoting social progress. A central theme is that psychologists are at present too preoccupied with questions of individual welfare and not concerned enough about the greater good of society as a whole. This central thesis itself seems questionable and Prilleltensky fails to present arguments and evidence which would make it seem more plausible (Footnote 1). (There is at least as much reason to believe that psychologists are overly influenced by larger societal and institutional considerations and not concerned enough about the welfare of the individual.) What makes matters worse is that he attempts to tackle complex and ancient philosophical issues with too little space and in the wrong forum (a book about psychological discourse rather than social philosophy). Most psychologists would instinctively react against Prilleltensky's general philosophical position and he says nothing that would persuade many to change their mind.
An awareness of these weaknesses however should not detract from a broader appreciation of this book's many strengths. Prilleltensky's main point is well-taken, that beneath the apparent diversity of viewpoint in contemporary psychology, there exists a deep structure of common purpose and related discourse. Furthermore he brings to light phenomena and information that are not widely known in the process of making his case. A good example is his discussion of the "psychiatric survivors" movement, made up of former psychiatric patients who have become in turn critics of psychiatry. It is easy to dismiss the criticisms of these people as themselves symptoms of mental illness; but Prilleltensky argues that there are legitimate complaints which need to understood and addressed. Prilleltensky is certainly correct in his basic claim that psychologists need to gain a better understanding of the kinds of influence that they have gained within society so that they may use their position to promote, rather than to undermine, human welfare. Furthermore his book represents a first step in the direction of developing a critical analysis of psychological practices and theories. Let us hope that other authors follow his lead so that we may achieve a richer and deeper understanding of the important topic that Prilleltensky has introduced.
Although he criticizes psychologists for being primarily concerned with individual rights as opposed to collective needs, Prilleltensky himself (admirably in my view) seems to be just as concerned with individual rights as anyone. A good example is his di scussion of how psychological research can contribute to social change. As examples of how psychology can make a positive contribution, Prilleltensky cites several studies mainly from social psychology dealing with how people resist conformity pressure (w hat he calls "counteracting hegemony"). Surely in this case (and many others) he is placing the rights of the individual non-conformist ahead of those of the collectivity.
Learning Disability Program
Counseling & Development Centre
172 Madison Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2S5
I would like to thank Laurie Miller for his thought provoking review of my book. I also wish to thank Dennis Fox, the Editor, for allowing me the opportunity to respond to Miller's comments. I would like to address several issues raised in the review.
The first statement I need to comment on pertains to my involvement in "the trenches." Miller observes that "Prilleltensky appears not to have served `in the trenches' and does not know first-hand the process through which psychological theories and instruments can be manipulated to justify inhuman professional and institutional practices." He goes on to say that I offer criticisms "without a first-hand understanding of the practical or indeed moral and political problems that they (psychologists) actually face." At the bottom of page 5 of the book I share that "I formerly worked as a child and family clinician in school settings." At the top of page 6 I note that my concerns with applied psychology "grew out of eight years of experience working with children and their families." To complete the story, let me say that I worked at The Child Guidance Clinic of Winnipeg for most of these eight years. Prior to that I worked in a similar setting in Israel. Therefore, it is hard for me to understand Miller's claims that I do not know "first-hand" the subject matter I criticize, primarily when I share my work background at the outset of the book. In my jobs, I became painfully aware of the potential misuse of psychological knowledge. In schools, as Miller knows from his background in learning disabilities, the use of diagnostic tools to "blame-the-victim" is a pervasive phenomenon. Most of my work experience entailed spending entire weeks in schools, making decisions every day as to what were the preferred ways to negotiate situations in the benefit of the client. Politics was as much a part of the job as psychology. I was acutely conscious of the power that I and school administrators held over children and families. The conclusions I may have derived from my work "in the trenches" may not agree with Miller's views, but they are certainly grounded in "first-hand" experience.
The second point deals with the societal consequences of therapy. Miller interprets my position well when he says that therapy "serves to help maintain the status quo." Therapy does that in many ways, not the least of which is framing problems and solutions in intrapsychic and apolitical terms, thereby exculpating social forces such as power imbalances, economic deprivation, injustice, and the elimination of social programs. How should therapists confront this dilemma? The practical implications of this state of affairs are numerous, and potentially disturbing for many therapists. I claim to have no easy solutions, but Miller insinuates that I would have
"clinicians place their own ideological and social agendas ahead of the clear and obvious desires of their paying clients (and in the process help to maintain or even exacerbate what is often severe and debilitating psychological distress). Such behavior not only seems obviously exploitive but constitutes as well legal grounds for clinicians to lose their license."
This is no light accusation, and I wonder why of all the possible solutions to this difficult quandary Miller chose to portray me as encouraging unethical behavior that does not respect clients' self-determination. Miller's rhetorical conjectures about me sure make for sensationalist reading, with a subtext that proclaims: "Prilleltensky promotes unethical behavior." There must be a better reason for intimating that I would espouse such behavior. However, whatever it is, it completely eludes me. True, we can all speculate what so and so would have said or thought, and Miller is free to speculate what I would have said about this or that, but the fact remains that nowhere did I say that psychologists should solve one ethical dilemma by creating another one. As an esteemed professor of mine would have said, one stupidity does not justify another.
Soon after these factious allegations Miller claims that I ignore the influence of political, cultural, and environmental factors in the professional behavior of school psychologists. I thought I made this point clear in the first section of chapter 3, entitled "The socialization of psychology." In that section I devote six pages to the societal influences that shape the professional conduct of psychologists. Out of context, Miller's quote from page 158 may indeed be misinterpreted, as I believe was the case for him.
Commenting on the final section of the book, Miller asserts that I am not convincing in claiming that "psychologists are at present too preoccupied with questions of individual welfare and not concerned enough about the greater good of society as a whole." I have tried to show throughout the book, and not just in that section, that the predominant culture of individualism has deeply penetrated psychology. Miller's alternative explanation that "there is at least as much reason to believe that psychologists are overly influenced by larger societal and institutional considerations and not concerned enough about the welfare of the individual" does not get to the issue at hand. I agree with the fact that psychologists are heavily influenced by institutional dictates, but that does not mean that they are concerned with the welfare of the population in general, nor with the most vulnerable sectors in particular, with whom I am most concerned. Being influenced by institutional considerations is not tantamount to being concerned for the welfare of others. In fact, most institutional cultures prescribe "each person to him or herself," the exact opposite of what I was suggesting.
Regarding Miller's point that psychologists are "not concerned enough about the welfare of the individual," I would claim that if this is the case, the situation for psychology is far worse than I assumed it to be. For it is bad enough not to be concerned with vulnerable groups of people, but not to worry about the well-being of individual clients seems seriously harmful. Miller criticizes my attempt to deal with philosophical issues in "too little space and in the wrong forum." For the longest time psychologists shied away from dealing with crucial moral and philosophical questions that are at the heart of academic and professional practice. We all carry our philosophical baggage. I just tried to make mine explicit and thus open to criticism. I believe a great deal of our moral naivete derives from the ill-conceived assumption that we, psychologists, need not deal with moral philosophy. Moral and political decisions are made by psychologists every day, with consequences for their students, clients, research participants, and society at large. Unless we begin to talk seriously about the moral tenets that should guide our work, we will find ourselves lamenting the fact that others have made moral and immoral decisions for us, and that we have just followed them because we had neither the principles to tell us otherwise, nor the tools to critique the implicit assumptions we have blindly followed. I think there is a great deal of merit in criticising the substance of my propositions. However, Miller's claim that I should not have addressed these ethical issues altogether, in a book that deals with the morals and politics of psychology, is puzzling. Undoubtedly, some of these issues are ancient and complex, and I do not claim to offer definitive answers, but in articulating my position I am advancing a debate that we sorely need: what principles should guide our actions.
In a footnote Miller makes the point that I am just as concerned with individual rights as I am with collective rights. I am glad to expand on this point. I believe we have dichotomized individual versus collective rights, and no doubt there are times when these do conflict. However, I believe it is possible to envision a society where they do not conflict as much as they presently do, for in our society we frequently perceive a contribution to the community as a personal loss. Why give to others if this means less for myself? Sure enough many people look forward to opportunities to give, but I would challenge the prevailing notion that charity and other forms of social benevolence really mean giving. In a society where principles of distributive justice will be upheld, much more than charitable donations will be necessary. Giving up personal wealth and comfort for the benefit of others is something very challenging that touches on sacred capitalist principles of private property. Yes, I am concerned with individual rights, but I wish we could revisit these rights to allow for more space for the rights of other individuals who are presently powerless to claim their own.
I am equally concerned with the trend to claim more powers for oneself or one's group, when that means reducing the degrees of freedom of other groups. This is why a colleague and I have tried to replace the concept of empowerment with the notion of reciprocal empowerment (Prilleltensky & Gonick, 1994; in press), whereby the social ideal is to give to oneself and others voice, participation, and equal resources to pursue self-determination in a climate of collaboration and respect. Personal and collective values are no doubt bound to conflict at times. The challenge is to create conditions and mechanisms whereby these could be resolved in harmonious ways. Habermas' concept of an ideal speech situation is an avenue worth exploring in this regard.
Finally, let me say that I strived to avoid intellectual pugnacity in this reply. Academic exchanges can easily turn into a series of mutually unacceptable put downs. I am aware of this proclivity and hope I have avoided it, though I could not remain silent in light of the serious allegations made in the review. I hope that Laurie Miller and the readers got something out of this exchange, just as I did. Comments are welcome.
Prilleltensky, I., & Gonick, L. (1994). The Discourse of Oppression in the Social Sciences: Past, Present, and Future. In E. Trickett, R. Watts. & D. Birman (Eds.), Human Diversity: Perspectives On People In Context (pp. 145-177). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Members of the Discourse Unit involved in the organization Psychology Politics Resistance offer MSc in:
Critical Psychology: review psychology from different perspectives (Marx, Feminism, Foucault, etc)
Psychoanalytic Studies: explore psychoanalytic theory as it relates to clinical practice and culture
Ian Parker, EmaiI I.A.Parker@Bolton.ac.uk
Continuing Education Conference by Division of the Psychology of Women and Women's Interest Group of the Massachusetts Psychological Association
February 3, 1995, 8:30-4:30.
Park Plaza Hotel
64 Arlington Street
Norine Johnson 617/471-2268
Karen Wyche 401/751-4356
July 9-14, 1995
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Twenty-fifth Conference emphasizes Caribbean psychology
XXV Congreso Interamericano de Psicologia PO Box 21836 UPR Station San Juan, PR 00931-1836 Tels. 765-5374 764-0000 x 4200 Fax 764-3705 Email I_Serrano@upr1.upr.clu.edu
I am organizing a session on "Law and Social Control in Colonial Societies" for the annual meeting of the Canadian Law and Society Association being held in Montreal from June 4-7, 1995. Papers are invited from anyone who is carrying out research involving the themes of law and colonialism, legal pluralism, and historical changes in social control. The due date for paper proposals in January 31, 1995.
February 25, 1995
The consequences of cyberspace, cyberpunk and cyberfeminism for psychology (with speakers from cultural studies, Sadie Plant, Jonathan Drori and Les Levidow).
July 8, 1995
The phenomenon that psychiatrists call "auditory hallucinations." Abstracts (150 words) by May 31 from any interesting perspective ranging from clinical psychology to spiritualism.
Department of Psychology and Speech
The Manchester Metropolitan University
Manchester M13 OJA UK
"Boundary Work: Linking Research, Legal, and Counseling/Training Perspectives on Sexual Harassment"
Sunday, August 20, 1995,
Deadline: February 1, 1995
SASH is an interdisciplinary conference held in conjunction with the Society for the Study of Social Problems annual meeting. The 1995 conference is especially interested in proposals such as:
James E. Gruber
SASH Program Organizer
Department of Sociology
University of Michigan-Dearborn
Dearborn, MI 48128
Lancaster University's Department of Psychology and School of Independent Studies are offering exciting new Masters schemes in Critical Social Psychology. These courses are aimed at graduate students who are interested in developing an understanding of, and embarking upon research using, a variety of new paradigm approaches to social psychology. Students taking the Masters schemes in Critical Social Psychology will also be able to select relevant options courses from existing Masters schemes in Contemporary Sociology and Cultural Studies. The course may be taken full time (one year) or part time (two years). Candidates should normally have, or expect to receive, a good honours degree which includes basic coverage of social psychology (this will normally, but not always be a degree in psychology or social psychology).
Course Director, CSP
Tel. (0524) 593698
Fax (0524) 593744
Bailrigg, Lancaster LA1 4YF UK
William R Woodward
University of New Hampshire
Here at the University of New Hampshire I have coordinated a new minor with an African American colleague, and we labeled it "Race, Culture, and Power." From colleagues, I have learned a lot about structures of power in societies. We defined the minor globally, to place minority issues in North America in a larger context, historically and geographically. We seek to identify structures, such as the relation between dominant and subordinate cultures. We use Rigoberto Menchu's memoirs as a course book and DuBois's The Souls of Black Folks, as well as Takaki's Iron Cages. That said, the Radical Psychology discussions about native Americans and the military fit into the structure of subordinate and dominant groups. What is interesting is the predictable dynamics coming out of this model: exclusion and resistance, rhetoric of inclusion and self justification. Reverse the skin colors, and ask yourself if you would not get similar dynamics.
The focus of our minor in this small white state of New Hampshire is to educate the majority culture. We want to prepare students for jobs and lives in multi-ethnic settings. We want to get beyond specific minority studies, which sometimes encourages ghettoization and marginalizing, to learn and teach about the tensions they all share. Incidentally, I also co-direct the history of psychology program, undergrad and graduate, with Deb Coon. Encourage your students to apply to our graduate program emphasizing teaching, experiment, and history of psychology.
William R Woodward
Department of Psychology
University of New Hampshire
Durham, NH 03824-3567 USA
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