Politics and psychology

A sceptical response to our recent Presidential Address.

Reading Professor Kinderman’s somewhat emotional ‘address’ to the Society’s Annual Conference in the June issue (‘Psychology is action, not thinking about oneself’), I was reminded of President Professor Miller’s equally humanitarian plea to the American Psychological Association in 1969. In this, Miller invited his audience to ‘give psychology away’: some of your older members may recall its similar rhetorical fervour. The same heartfelt plea, the same desire to make the world a better place by specifically applying and ‘giving away’ the accumulated truths about human behaviour so painstakingly (scientifically) acquired: a duty-bound obligation to not only proselytise but also to procure a better future.

Such hubris! And a half century later? What have we got? A world dominated by the neo-liberal hegemony, the Washington consensus, structural adjustment, the idolisation of economic growth, profit, the unelected oligarchs of the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve… blah, blah, blah. Not my thing… I’m very much in favour of anarcho-syndicalism, just like Chomsky. What’s ‘Psychology’ in favour of? Brexit is, clearly, a bit of a downer for Prof. K. Lost that one, eh? Too many Common People having a say perhaps?

Do you see the problem? There’s a Science of how the mind (old-fashioned term) works and – what shall we say – the Political Futures to which we, as individuals and groups, strive and aspire. Psychology and Politics. The spellings are different because they are different.

Charles Mercer

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