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Scenarios for Psychology in a Postmodern Age

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The Church, the Factory and the Market Scenarios for Psychology in a Postmodern Age Steinar Kvale University of Aarhus Abstract. Shifting styles of doing psychology reflect assumptions from the culture at large. In the first section, three cultural metaphors for the science and profession of psychology are put forth—the church, the factory and the market. The picture they provide of psychology is then contrasted with the common histories of psychology as a succession of ideas. The metaphors are
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  The Church, the Factory and theMarket Scenarios for Psychology in a Postmodern AgeSteinar Kvale University of Aarhus Abstract. Shifting styles of doing psychology reflect assumptions fromthe culture at large. In the first section, three cultural metaphors for thescience and profession of psychology are put forth—the church, the factoryand the market. The picture they provide of psychology is then contrastedwith the common histories of psychology as a succession of ideas. Themetaphors are thereafter invoked in a discussion of psychology as apostmodern religious, industrial and commercial collage. What counts in apostmodern age is less the truth claims of the different psychologicalapproaches than their marketability. Potentialities of a pragmatic and aculturally situated psychology are discussed in relation to challenges toWestern psychology today raised by the psychological profession and theglobalization of culture. Key Words : consumption, history, industry, postmodern, religion Psychology is a cultural and historical activity. In this article I discuss howshifting cultural presuppositions influence styles of psychological researchand professional practice. I start by suggesting three cultural metaphors formodern psychology—the church, the factory and the marketplace—and thengo on to contrast the conceptions of psychology that these metaphorsprovide with the more common insider histories of psychology as asuccession of ideas. The metaphors are then put into play in a discussion of psychology today as a postmodern collage of religious, industrial andcommercial metaphors. In contrast to the earlier strong conflicts betweendifferent paradigms of modern psychology, the truth value of conceptions of psychology as a science tend in a postmodern condition to be subordinatedto their market value. Finally, I suggest, in relation to challenges by thepsychological profession and by the globalization of culture, some potentialsof a pragmatic and culturally situated psychology. In short, the articleattempts to understand some of the current contradictions of psychological Theory & Psychology Copyright © 2003  Sage Publications. Vol. 13(5): 579–603[0959-3543(200310)13:5;579–603;036176]  science and profession in the light of more general contradictions of thecultural situation. Metaphors Psychology Lives By: The Church, the Factory andthe Market In an attempt to find some recurring patterns of human activity—and thepsychology of human activity—I shall turn to three prominent types of buildings in the postmodern cultural landscape. There are the large andoften richly decorated churches, many overlaid with the patina of centuries.There are the functional industrial factories, rectilinear and square, many insombre grey, some tainted by rust. And there are the new shopping malls,extravagantly coloured, with reflecting glass façades and labyrinthineinteriors.The human activities taking place inside these conspicuous buildingsdiffer. There is the solemnity of the often-empty churches; the visitors arequiet or whispering, except for occasional ceremonies with songs andsermons, and in the cathedrals clicks of the tourists’ cameras. In the olderfactories, filled with noise and hectic activity, workers latched on to high-speed machines perform the same mechanical movements over and overagain. In the newer factories, often smaller and quieter, the workers are freerto move about and interact while monitoring computerized production. Inthe shopping malls people move freely around at their own pace, in theirown individual styles, glancing at and sometimes purchasing some of themany tempting commodities displayed.Metaphor means understanding one kind of thing in terms of another. Ishall here apply the institutions of the church, the factory and the market ascultural metaphors that may serve to clarify the shifting styles of psycho-logical research and professional activity in the 20th century—such asintrospectionism and psychoanalysis, behaviourism and cognitive psycho-logy, and the humanistic psychologies and therapies.Table 1 gives a simple schematic presentation of the three culturalmetaphors I will draw upon when relating psychology to its cultural andhistorical context. They involve different conceptions of how to obtain T ABLE 1.Religious, industrial and commercial metaphors of psychology AGE:MedievalModernPostmodern INSTITUTION:ChurchFactoryMarketTHEME:SalvationProductionConsumptionKNOWLEDGE:RevelationMethodologyConstruction THEORY & PSYCHOLOGY 13(5)580  knowledge: emphasizing revelation, methodology and negotiation, respec-tively. Religious worship, production and consumption all take place in thepremodern, modern and postmodern ages, but with different dominance indifferent epochs.I shall try to show how these metaphors illustrate presuppositions of modern psychology, each cultural metaphor involving different discourses of the relation of human beings to their world. We cannot as psychologicalscientists ‘jump outside’ the cultural tradition we live in; we may, however,be attentive to the presuppositions we think with and attempt to becomeaware of how our cultural pre-understanding influences our research ques-tions and the answers we obtain. In the following brief metaphoricaloverview of some of the complex interrelations of psychology and culture, itwill not be feasible to extensively document and argue the many postulatesput forth. A few cases will be discussed at some length; for the remainderthere will be references to literature treating the postulated interactions moreextensively. The Church Metaphor of Psychology 1 Truth inhabits inner man. (St Augustine) In medieval Europe, agriculture was the main form of production, to whichwas added work in small craft shops. Medieval life took place in a tight-knitfeudal community and trade was little developed. Christianity was a rulingspiritual and political force, with the churches as the visible symbols of church power. General church–psychology correspondence. Modern psychology corres-ponds to religion, in particular Protestantism, with individualization andconstruction of an inner person, in conceptions of the self and its develop-ment, in providing guidelines for human life, in seeking truth and consola-tion through contemplation and in confession and pastoral care. Worldview. Religion faces the fundamental issues of the human situation; itprovides answers to basic questions of life. Both traditional religion andmodern psychology provide a worldview: they give a vision of what a goodlife is, they deliver concepts and techniques for the ordering of interior lifeas well as contributing to the ordering and legitimation of social life(Browning, 1987). The Christianity that ruled the medieval age erodedthroughout the modern era. In the Renaissance, God was replaced by man asthe centre of the universe. God further receded from view as the romanticthinkers of the 19th century translated key religious themes and values intosecular terms. The final diagnosis—‘God is dead’—was given in 1878 byNietzsche (1994). Theology as a truth guarantee was replaced by the newsciences, and psychology took over religion’s task of providing guidelinesfor human life. KVALE : THE CHURCH , THE FACTORY AND THE MARKET 581  Subject matter. The soul and its unity with God are the subject matter of religion. The religious soul was in the modern era replaced by a secularizedpsyche and a self, with the relation to God severed. The subject matter formodern psychology became a self-encapsulated consciousness. Telos. In religion, life is a striving for unity with God, a quest for salvationof the soul. In a secular culture where salvation of the soul is replaced byrealization of the self, the humanistic psychologies provided a scientificlegitimation of the worship of the self. The biblical story of the fall andultimate redemption became in psychology individualized into theories of the growth of the self and stages of psychosocial development. In thepsychological liberation of the self, the evil and tragic dimensions of thehuman condition disappeared. Although also facing the dark irrational sidesof humankind, the new psychoanalysis remained in line with Enlightenmentrationalism and optimism—’Where id was, ego shall become.’  Individualizing. A psychological conception of human being srcinated inthe 4th century after Christ with St Augustine’s autobiography Confessions (1952). The God of nature and heaven was moved into man, constructing aninner person of contemplation. Certain knowledge was sought by lookinginwards—through introspection and self-reflection. Redemption was soughtthrough an inner confession to God. Augustine was influenced by Neo-platonic philosophy and defended Christianity against a sceptical philosophyat the dissolution of the Roman Empire, at a time when the concept‘modern’ first came into use. His argument against the sceptics’ doubt of certain knowledge was ‘I reply, “If I am mistaken, I exist.” A non-existentbeing cannot be mistaken, therefore I must exist, if I am mistaken’(Augustine, 1972, p. 460).A thousand years passed before an Augustinian monk during the Renais-sance radicalized the individualizing and interiorizing of man’s relation toGod instigated by St Augustine. Martin Luther’s Protestantism left humanbeings alone with God, to be sought inwards by prayer and by study of theHoly Scriptures. In Protestantism, people were set free from confession andthe absolution of their sins by the church and left to their own innerconscience and free will. The very term ‘psychology’ was coined in the 16thcentury, and the Protestant line of individualization came to dominate theEnlightenment psychology developed in the following centuries. Styles of inquiry. Theological modes of obtaining knowledge through innercontemplation and exegesis of sacred texts were carried over into introspec-tionism and psychotherapy. Augustine’s quest for certain inner truth, bycontemplating on how the inner states of consciousness appeared to theintrospecting observer, was systematized in the introspective psychologies of Wundt and Titchener. The theologians’ elaborate exegesis of the parables of  THEORY & PSYCHOLOGY 13(5)582
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