What roles do race, class, and gender play in psychological research?
CfP: The 12222 International Critical Psychology Praxis Congress
Skip to content. Critical Psychology Critical psychologists hold a variety of theoretical and methodological viewpoints. Some questions of interest for critical psychologists include: What is the relationship between psychology and power? How does psychology make people into problems? What are the consequences of positivism in psychology? Share this: Twitter Facebook. Criticisms of mainstream psychology consistent with current critical psychology usage have existed since psychology's modern development in the late 19th century.
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The German branch of critical psychology predates and has developed largely separately from the rest of the field. As of May , only a few works have been translated into English. Marx 's Critique of Political Economy played an important role in the German branch of the student revolt, which was centered in Berlin. Then Berlin was a capitalist city surrounded by communist-ruled East Germany , represented a "hot spot" of political and ideological controversy for the revolutionary German students.
The sociological foundations of critical psychology are decidedly Marxist. One of the most important and sophisticated books in the field is the Grundlegung der Psychologie  Foundations of Psychology by Klaus Holzkamp , who might be considered the theoretical founder of critical psychology. Holzkamp, who had written two books on theory of science  and one on sensory perception  before publishing the Grundlegung der Psychologie in , thought this major work provided a solid paradigm for psychological research, as he viewed psychology as a pre-paradigmatic scientific discipline T.
Kuhn had used the term "pre-paradigmatic" for social science. Holzkamp mostly based his sophisticated attempt to provide a comprehensive and integrated set of categories defining the field of psychological research on Aleksey Leontyev 's approach to cultural—historical psychology and activity theory. Leontyev had seen human action as a result of biological as well as cultural evolution and, drawing on Marx's materialist conception of culture, stressed that individual cognition is always part of social action which in turn is mediated by man-made tools cultural artifacts , language and other man-made systems of symbols, which he viewed as a major distinguishing feature of human culture and, thus, human cognition.
At the same time, the Grundlegung systematically integrated previous specialized work done at Free University of Berlin in the '70s by critical psychologists who also had been influenced by Marx, Leontyev and Seve.
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One core result of Holzkamp's historical and comparative analysis of human reproductive action, perception and cognition is a very specific concept of meaning that identifies symbolic meaning as historically and culturally constructed, purposeful conceptual structures that humans create in close relationship to material culture and within the context of historically specific formations of social reproduction.
Coming from this phenomenological perspective on culturally mediated and socially situated action, Holzkamp launched a devastating and original methodological attack on behaviorism which he termed S—R stimulus—response psychology based on linguistic analysis, showing in minute detail the rhetorical patterns by which this approach to psychology creates the illusion of "scientific objectivity" while at the same time losing relevance for understanding culturally situated, intentional human actions.
His last major publication before his death in was about learning.
One important concept Holzkamp developed was "reinterpretation" of theories developed by conventional psychology. This meant to look at these concepts from the standpoint of the paradigm of critical psychology, thereby integrating their useful insights into critical psychology while at the same time identifying and criticizing their limiting implications, which in the case of S—R psychology were the rhetorical elimination of the subject and intentional action, and in the case of cognitive psychology which did take into account subjective motives and intentional actions, methodological individualism.
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The conceptions of learning he found most useful in his own detailed analysis of "classroom learning" came from cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave situated learning and Edwin Hutchins distributed cognition. The book's second part contained an extensive analysis on the modern state's institutionalized forms of "classroom learning" as the cultural—historical context that shapes much of modern learning and socialization. In this analysis, he heavily drew upon Michel Foucault 's Discipline and Punish.
Holzkamp felt that classroom learning as the historically specific form of learning does not make full use of student's potentials, but rather limits her or his learning potentials by a number of "teaching strategies. Consequently, in the last section of the book, Holzkamp discusses forms of "expansive learning" that seem to avoid the limitations of classroom learning, such as apprenticeship and learning in contexts other than classrooms.
This search culminated in plans to write a major work on life leadership in the specific historical context of modern capitalist society. Due to his death in , this work never got past the stage of early and premature conceptualizations, some of which were published in the journals Forum Kritische Psychologie and Argument.
In the s and s the term radical psychology was used by psychologists to denote a branch of the field which rejected conventional psychology's focus on the individual as the basic unit of analysis and sole source of psychopathology. Instead, radical psychologists examined the role of society in causing and treating problems and looked towards social change as an alternative to therapy to treat mental illness and as a means of preventing psychopathology.
Within psychiatry the term anti-psychiatry was often used and now British activists prefer the term critical psychiatry. Critical psychology is currently the preferred term for the discipline of psychology keen to find alternatives to the way the discipline of psychology reduces human experience to the level of the individual and thereby strips away possibilities for radical social change.
Isaac Prilleltensky and Graham B. Stead
Starting in the s a new wave of books started to appear on critical psychology, the most influential being the edited book Critical Psychology by Dennis Fox and Isaac Prilleltensky. Various introductory texts to critical psychology written in the United Kingdom have tended to focus on discourse, but this has been seen by some proponents of critical psychology as a reduction of human experience to language which is as politically dangerous as the way mainstream psychology reduces experience to the individual mind.
Attention to language and ideological processes, others would argue, is essential to effective critical psychology - it is not simply a matter of applying mainstream psychological concepts to issues of social change. This manifesto argues that critical psychology should include the following four components:.
There are a few international journals devoted to critical psychology, including the no longer published International Journal of Critical Psychology continued in the journal Subjectivity and the Annual Review of Critical Psychology. The journals still tend to be directed to an academic audience, though the Annual Review of Critical Psychology runs as an open-access online journal. There are close links between critical psychologists and critical psychiatrists in Britain through the Asylum Collective.
David Smai l was one of the founders of The Midlands Psychology Group, a critical psychology collective who produced a manifesto for a social materialist psychology of distress. Like many critical applications, critical psychology has expanded beyond Marxist and feminist roots to benefit from other critical approaches. Consider ecopsychology and transpersonal psychology.
Critical psychology and related work has also sometimes been labelled radical psychology and liberation psychology.