A Guided Science
History of Psychology in the Mirror of Its Making
That sciences are guided by explicit and implicit ties to their surrounding social world is not new. Jaan Valsiner fills in the wide background of scholarship on the history of science, the recent focus on social studies of sciences, and the cultural and cognitive analyses of knowledge making. The theoretical scheme that he uses to explain the phenomena of social guidance of science comes from his thinking about processes of development in general—his theory of bounded indeterminacy—and on the relations of human beings with their culturally organized environments.
Valsiner examines reasons for the slow and nonlinear progress of ideas in psychology as a science at the border of natural and social sciences. Why is that intellectual progress occurs in different countries at different times? Most responses are self-serving blinders for presenting science as a given rather than understanding it as a deeply human experience. For Valsiner, scientific knowledge is cultural at its core.
Major changes have occurred in contemporary sciences—collective authorship, fragmentation of knowledge into small, quickly published (and equally quickly retractable) journal articles, and the counting of numbers of such articles by institutions as if that is a measure of "scientific productivity." Scientists are inherently ambivalent about the benefit of these changes for the actual development of knowledge. There is a gradual "takeover" of the domain of scientific knowledge creation by other social institutions with vested interests in defending and promoting knowledge that serves their social interests. Sciences are entering into a new form of social servitude.
"Professor Valsiner develops here an opus magnum. It is, at the same time, a richly documented study of history of psychology, a cross-culturally informed prospection of the future of the discipline, as well as an essay on historiography of science. Overcoming the myth of psychology's birth through Wundt's first laboratory, Professor Valsiner shows that psychology cannot be understood ignoring the impact of Napoleonic occupation or the philosophical reaction to Kant in nineteenth-century Germany. His wholehearted and clear writing turns into an adventure, an erudite examination which goes deep into the most essential questions of psychology. It is a must for everyone interested in finding a third way between the theory-phobic empiricism and the postmodernist 'anything goes'"
—Carlos Cornejo, associate professor, Department of Psychology, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
"This book is a discussion on the current making of psychology as it evolves from its past. It offers an unusual argument that gathers together elements of theory, sociology and anthropology of science with a critical examination of the constitutive moments of psychology as a liminal discipline. Avoiding a fossilized consideration of vestiges of the past, some often-neglected historical voices are presented as arising from their contemporary turmoils, and also brought into dialogue with current contributions and concerns voiced by newcomers from non-Western cultures. This is done by reflexively taking into account as much the unavoidable social guidance of knowledge construction, as the pledge to breaching the cultural blinders for developing a truly global psychology."
—Alberto Rosa, professor, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Facultad de Psicologia
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Table of Contents
Introduction: What Kind of Knowledge—And for Whom?
Part I. Societies and Sciences: Presentations and Histories
1. The Eternal Freedom Movement of Ideas
2. Axiomatic Bases for Experiential (Empirical) Knowledge Construction
3. Objectivity and Social Forgetfulness
4. Pathways to Evidence: Negotiation of Knowledge between Its Producers and Consumers
Part II. The Mirror in the Making: Psychology as a Liminal Science
5. From Enlightenment to Struggle: Psychology and Philosophy in the Search of Wissenschaft
6. The Birth of a Troubled Wissenschaft: Emerging Psychology in Its German Context
7. Between Poetry and Science: Locating Geisteswissenschaft on the Map of Knowledge
8. Psychology in a Perpetual Crisis
Part III. Facing the Future—Transcending the Past
9. Learning from the Fate of Psychology
10. Pathways to Methodologies: Semiotics of Knowledge Construction
11. Globalization and Its Role in Science
General Conclusion: Science under the Influence: Guided Exploration of the Horizons of Knowledge
Index (Compiled by Maaris Raudsepp)