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|Piper Shafir, I. (2006) ‘Reflections on the Emergence of a Critical Psychology in Chile’, Annual Review of Critical Psychology, 5, pp. 269-280 www.discourseunit.com/arcp/5|
Isabel Piper Shafir1
Reflections on the Emergence of a Critical Psychology in Chile
What is Critical Psychology?
My objective is to write a paper on critical psychology in Chile, and the first challenge that I have encountered is the need to refer to a concept that does not exist as such. I doubt that such a thing as a school of thought of critical social psychology exists. There is also no central institution around which such a school can be structured. There are no authors or a system or a canonical work that might constitute a source of unique and common inspiration for all. What does exist is a practice that purports to be critical, and that is articulated around a diversity of knowledge and influences, heterogeneity of thematic content, dialogue, variability and debate. To write about this is consequently risky because among other things the exercise of description always implies the risk of delimiting the object one speaks of, which in this case is a practice that by definition is changeable, and where an attempt made to define and set its limits, its movement may as a result become fixed.
Confronting the question of a Critical Psychology in Chile, there are multiple responses that can be formulated from different epistemological, ontological and normative positions. For this reason and in order to provide a broad view of articulated perspectives, we shall try to give an account of its tensions, and even its contradictions.
If there was something in reality called Critical Psychology to which one might address oneself in order to obtain a response to the question, then writing would be much easier because the responsibility for the response would not be mine but would lie in that reality that I would be limiting myself to describing. I would then have to allow such reality to speak for itself and elaborate on the points that are necessary in order to make evident when it is pertinent that a particular theory or practice can be dubbed as such, and when it can not. Though I was the one who signed the decree that defined and decided what and whom would fall under and outside of such a construct, the decree would merely be informing on something that occurs beyond us. That which would be, in and of itself, an autonomous space and relatively immune to its descriptions, would only act as the judge.
It would indeed be much easier then! Moreover, if what I described as Critical Psychology were not to my liking, I could critique it and suggest modifications, which would make me feel like a transforming agent of that reality. It would be easy and comfortable, ingenuous and authoritarian.
As Ibáñez affirms (2001), it would be an ingenuousness charged with violence, among other things, because it would contribute to our immersion in the illusion of a knowing that would be limited to reflecting the world and that would be unarguable because, in the final analysis, it would be governed by the cold and unswayable stubbornness of reality itself.
To think of oneself as a critic, at least in the sense that I am using it in this paper, presupposes abandoning that sort of ingenuousness, assuming that no natural separation exists between knowledge and reality. It is less comforting but, I believe, more responsible, to assume that the categories with which we describe the world are our work and that they contribute to producing it; that the dichotomies of our knowledge do not reflect divisions but that they build them. With this movement, the last word regarding the validity of our knowledge ceases to be had by reality and is returned to us and ourselves, and now we are indeed responsible for what we say and do, as well as for the realities that we produce with those practices.
If nothing objective exists that can be called Critical Psychology and that can be described in order to respond to the question, what remains is not to assemble a definition but to expound on the fields of semantics and of meaning from which one speaks. To begin with, the question of: on what basis can certain practices be named such, and what are these practices and how can they be characterized? Is it enough to believe that they are critical for them to be such? Or is it necessary to submit to a tribunal of experts on criticism that will decide whether or not they are worthy of the title? If this were to occur, then we would be constructing institutional devices that would be as authoritarian as those we seek to dismantle.
To avoid all misunderstandings, I will state clearly that I am in radical disagreement with the possibility that someone – a person or an institution – has the authority to define a practice as being worthy or not of belonging to a fixed category called Critical Psychology. However, it cannot be denied that the doors are also built from within – those of us who feel we belong to this space need no explanations regarding it. It seems to be enough to name it and this makes “divine” the contents and forms that we seek to articulate. Moreover, it is enough to act godlyas to who will participate in a certain congress or publication and who will not even be mentioned. We are those who know, we are not taken into consideration (whether we like it or not), and we are informed of the threshold that separates us from the Psychology that is not Critical, even if we like to think of a space without doors or windows (Piper, 2002).
We are not standing before an established category by academic decree – we are the practices that we carry out. Definitively, what convokes us is not the sign saying “Critical Psychologist” or our being psychologists, or socially oriented, or critical. We are convoked by the desire to distance ourselves from ‘scientistic’ objectivism and also from ‘psychologistic’ subjectivism; to theorize without ending up in philosophical abstraction; to be useful without ending up in the utilitarianism of the applied psychologies. It isn’t that each of these alternatives is inadequate, in and of itself; but we have a shared feeling of dissatisfaction when confronted with its proposals. Those of us who call our practices Critical Psychology find ourselves in the position of forging a path that is simultaneously: philosophical, practical, political and ethical.
I am going to stop a little while to delimit the space from which I make these reflections. I belong to a group of psychologists who carry out our critical practice from Social Psychology. Our sources of influence come from Hegel and Marx (through the interpretation that of Carlos Pérez (1998; 2001 (a); 2001 (b)); the Critical Theories of Frankfurt’s School (specially from Herbert Marcuse); the ideas of Michel Foucault; the Social Psychology of Ignacio Martín Baró (1983; 1989; 1990). Also a permanent and productive relation that we have had with contemporary social psychologists like Pablo Fernandez Christlieb (1994; 2000; 2004) from National University of Mexico; Tomás Ibáñez (1990; 1993; 1996; 2001;), Lupicinio Iñiguez (2003), Félix Vázquez (2001), Juan Muñoz (2005), Joan Pujol (2003), and Marisela Montenegro (2001); all of them from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain); Ian Parker (1992; 1995; 1999) and Erica Burman (1994) from Manchester Metropolitan University.
Our nonconformity is directed at conventional psychology, specifically with that discipline that proudly regards itself as a technical profession, specialized in diagnosing problems and in efficiently intervening in order to transform individuals. A discipline based on practice that expects of itself to help others feel better and to be happier. Although it is said that psychology comes in different forms, it believes of itself that it can contribute to improving mental health, quality of life, social integration, personal development, autonomy, conflict resolution, the attainment of closure in mourning, family life, etc. Psychology is a discipline that fully trusts the validity of its diagnostic practices and the reliability of its techniques.
There are multiple practices in psychology that are not conventional. Are these non-conventional practices critical? Perhaps in a very general sense, they are (if we were to assess ‘critical’ as including criticizing the mainstream and if they are defined for their not conventional space of application). Within these psychologies there are those that focus their attention on the more dispossessed social sectors, on those groups marginalized by society as well as by scientists (As for example, the community or the victims human rights violations2). Really they are psychologies that criticize but that hardly focus on themselves and their practices as the object of reflection.
These psychologies affirm their critical character arguing that they consider ‘the social’ as an important element in their analysis. The problem is that, for them, the family name “social” usually refers to the action of applying techniques to a number larger than two (groups, institutions or communities). It also frequently refers to a preoccupation with solving that which they define as social problems. The predominant vision (at least in Chile) is that Social Psychology would be a sub-specialization under the psychological discipline that concerns itself with comprehending and intervening in those “social” variables that influence diverse psychological processes, and that only are wholly comprehended by the so-called specialists.
By practicing Critical Social Psychology, we seek to be distinct from that social psychology, and this is why the term critical. Instead of situating ourselves in some place, we prefer to remain in perpetual motion between the different forms of social thought. To make ourselves autonomous vis à vis conventional psychology, and ignorant of the division of knowledge into disciplines, sub-disciplines with specializations and sub-specializations.
To be distinct from Psychology implies a distancing from the individual as centre
Conventional psychology reasons with the individual situated as the centre. This established analytical axis is maintained even in orientations and models that attempt to broaden their study focus, incorporating variables that transcend the individual subject and redefining concepts such as mind, unconscious or subjectivity, adding to them the family name social. This is the case of some types of psychoanalysis, of the systemic approaches, socio-cognitivisms, and other approaches that are aware of the narrowness implied by not considering the context in which psychological processes are inserted, and they try to widen their perspectives. With this objective, they speak of intersubjective, linking or, at times, psychosocial approaches. But there is a small trap in this rhetoric, i.e., it is easy to have a more complex vision of psychological processes if the point of comparison is a simplistic version of the discipline, or a caricature of it. It is a trap, because any minimally reasonable and judicious psychologist will agree that as individuals we are inserted into relational, social and cultural contexts that exert influence over those processes considered personal. To accept this statement is not complexity but rather sound judgment.
In presenting the social context, the membership in classes, or culture as a variable (among others) that exerts influence over individual processes, or presenting subjectivity as an environment that includes those contexts, effectively produces a broadening of observation and a perspective of the discipline that is somewhat more open. Nevertheless, the fundamental bases of these rationalizations do not change in their essence. Despite the intentions of transcending the individual subject, the assumption continues of a subject’s (individual) separate existence that relates to an object (society), and the separate existence of some subjects with respect to others.
There is nothing strange about this if we consider that psychology emerges and develops for the individuals in a culture that believes in the reality of personal essences, of autonomous subjectivities, and whose basic problems have to do with how it is that these autonomous beings (individuals) relate with each other and how they relate to the whole of society. A discipline that reasons on the basis of the effective existence of individuals, of subjectivities that are associated to corporal units and to which analytical techniques can be applied that arise from the diverse forms of psychology.
The conventional psychologies have centred on those contextual variables that influence individuals without abandoning atomistic forms of reasoning, for which the social dimension continues to be an objective exteriority, related but essentially independent from the subjects.
To differentiate from this type of reasoning implies problematizing the very idea of the individual subject and centring of oneself on the reflexive analysis of that which we denominate as social. It is important to emphasize that for the Critical Psychology that we propose, the social dimension is not an attribute, a secondary specification, or an external characteristic of objects that might or might not exist. Therefore, no objects exist that do not contain it; i.e., that are “non-social.”
Although there is no definition of “that which is social” that functions as a common denominator in the different Critical Psychologies, the conviction is indeed shared that an immanent relationship exists between what is social and the processes of construction of meanings. Because of that conviction it becomes a Social Psychology. There are no human relations that are not linguistic or interpretative, nor do actions exist that are without meaning. Language is a form of social action that is a producer of meanings, and these meanings are not secondary attributes that can be separated from the processes from which they are constructed, and these meanings and processes, in turn, contribute to the production of social action.
We think of persons and societies not as autonomously constructed entities, but as products of constitutive social relationships. Society materializes through individual practices, and individuals exist as social beings through the production of the society. The production of society is a relational process in which the existence of a social reality that is independent of our social practices is unthinkable.
We are dealing with a dialectical process where the dichotomies lose significance: causes and effects are interchanged; outer space (society) and inner space (the individual) do not exist separately. In this same sense, though it is true that acts only acquire meaning in the context within which they are expressed, it is important not to attribute a status to the context that is independent of them – the context is comprised of the acts that result from it.
To think of the social dimension as historical relations of production makes it possible to understand its character as constitutive of subjectivities. Understood in this way, the modern form of individuality is only real and has meaning with respect to the particular social and productive conditions under which it appears, it is an expression of a state of relationships, just as psychology is (as content and form) and is functioning as a regulatory apparatus.
From the perspective of Critical Social Psychology, what conventional psychology terms mental entities, or, psychic apparatus do not have their origins inside people’s heads, neither are they internalisations produced by a linkup with an external environment. These are in themselves social processes (and are therefore symbolic), constituting and constituted by what we call “subjectivity”.
It is hoped that what has been expounded until now will show the sense in which a critical psychology may displace the preoccupation from the individual toward the social, becoming a Social Psychology. I also hope that it will show the unavoidable character of considering such processes as language and interpretation as immanent in each and every social phenomenon, as well as each practice that is a builder of meaning (Ibañez, 1990).
All of which implies the passage from a psychology of the mind to a psychology of socio-moral relationships (Shotter, 1993); and in that passage it is also necessary to overcome the referential-representationist vision proper to social psychology as a positive science (Doménech and Ibáñez, 1998). It also means a recovery of the qualitative methodology for social investigation, which, from an interpretative paradigm, makes it possible to attend to the processes of construction of meanings, obviating all attempts to seek objective facts or natural laws that explain them, and making it possible to equip the circumstances of daily life with all their protagonists (Doménech and Ibáñez, 1998).
Distinctness from conventional Psychology is being Critical toward Scientific Rationality
To practice Critical Psychology implies adopting a critical stance toward science and its naturalistic realism. To historically characterize scientific rationality as a realism refers to its conviction that there is reality and that it precedes the fact of knowing it. By “precedes” we refer to a temporal sense, i.e., that before there were knowers, there was reality, and in a logical sense, that is to say, that there would not be human beings because there was reality before them. This implies that reality is a condition of possibility of the observers’ existence, and therefore human beings emerged from reality, and not reality from human beings. It is a naturalistic realism in the sense that what is real is nature, there was nature before there were persons, and were it not for nature, there would not be any persons (Pérez, 1998).
A scientific psychologist conceives of persons and societies as natural entities; i.e., that possess a certain nature with laws that can be known and controlled. By diagnosing accurately how the laws of social life function it would be possible to choose and utilize the appropriate techniques to resolve social problems, and the validity of procedures would be demonstrated by the very development of events. Modern rationality assumes that the scientist can make a mistake, but it does not admit to the possibility that nature makes mistakes. No! She simply would have the last word.
However, a critical practice of psychology is, first of all, political, to that extent that it considers the idea of human nature as a form of alienation from freedom and its overcoming as a practical (not theoretical) fact. Although it isn’t possible to demonstrate the falsity of an ideology (such as scientific ideology), it is possible to produce a world in which ideology would lack meaning. This is why the possible overcoming of science is a political problem, more than an epistemological problem, and will only be achieved by changing the world under which science has meaning and being (Pérez, 1998).
To be critical toward scientific rationality is to mistrust the evidential force of facts; of the idea of knowledge as representation of the world; of faith in the efficaciousness of techniques; of the possible existence of a reality that goes beyond human action. Scepticisms derive from thinking that reality is a human production.
However, the idea of reality as a construction is an affirmation that is as broad as it is vague, and it makes room for diverse epistemological versions. Thus it is that constructionism has become a cliché of social disciplines and different ways of psychology that purport to be flexible in relation to their theoretical legacies and staying current vis à vis academic discussions.
Socio-Constructionism as a Jump-Off Point for a Critical Reflection
To affirm that a social process is a cultural product constitutes a fundamental assumption in order to be able to ponder it in a critical and liberating manner, but in no way does it guarantee that this will occur. It is therefore necessary to put forth certain conceptual clarifications that will provide the necessary keys for understanding what is meant by affirmation, which could merely be a truism. There can be many implications behind sustaining that an object or a phenomenon is a social construction, and they depend on the meanings attributed to the assertion. This makes it necessary to reflect on the theoretical, methodological, social and political effects of such forms of understanding. In other words, to sustain that we human beings are producers of the realities that we live in, is not enough. A Critical Psychology would have to be prepared to consider the theoretical, ethical and political effects of such affirmation.
The common vindication of what Ibáñez (1996) terms constructionist galaxy is reality’s constructed character, which can seem quite trivial, above all if we think of the social world. I cannot imagine that a social researcher would deny that institutions are a human production, or that we social beings build significations, but these affirmations can be as vague as they are void of meaning. For this reason it becomes necessary to deepen the study of the uses that are given to these words, both in their constructivist versions (i.e., proximate to cognitivism), and in the perspectives that emphasize the social character of the process.
The fundamental action, around which the constructionist universe is articulated, is problematization – that is, the practice of breaking with the illusion that behind what we see there is something, an alleged essence of the phenomenon, a natural nucleus that determines and makes it what it is. This flags an anti-essentialist posture, for which there are no natural categories nor essences that lead to the categories that dominate them (Gergen, 1989). The starting point would be the conviction that there is nothing in an object’s nature that makes it the way it is; therefore the object is not inevitable, but the product of social and historical practices.
It is precisely in front of that whose existence appears inevitable, that there is meaning in affirming that it is a social construct. That is, no social researcher would stop to argue that football is a social construct, because it’s evident to everyone that nothing obligates society to practice this sport. It is the type of reality that Searle (1997) calls institutional reality.
There are at least two aspects that contribute to the frequent impressions of vagueness and lack of precision in socio-constructionist discourse. One of them is that the affirmation “social construction of...” can refer to just about anything; or, what is more serious, to many different types of entities – actions, ideas, objects, and so on. We could, for instance, affirm that violence is a social construct, but what does this mean? That the violent individual is such? That what is constituted is a type of action that we consider violent? That our interpretations of violence are social constructs? The idea of violence, or violent societies? In front of doubts such as these, the constructionist partner usually responds with a forceful affirmation, but one that does not contribute to the discussion; i.e., that the question regarding the object of the construction loses meaning in a perspective that goes beyond the subject/object dichotomy. I believe such a response eludes the fundamental question of identifying what it is that we are saying is constructed. That is what would make it possible to distinguish whether we are dealing with a constructionism that maintains the logic of scientific rationality; i.e., a naturalist realism that assumes that some dimension of itself is constructed, or rather a constructionism that radically assumes that reality is a human production.
The same argument is used to elude another question that seems fundamental to me; that is, who is the constructor-agent of reality. The problem of evading this point is that it has given rise to uses of the concept that treat the individual, the group, institutions, culture and the whole of human history, as equivalent entities, without going so far as to ask about the statute of reality of each of them.
These aspects become evident when some of the meanings are analysed in which psychology tends to use the notion of social construct.
Tautological Use: The Construction of Constructs
A habitual use of socio-constructionism refers to the constructed character of categories and classifications – for example, an insecure society, or a violent person. In these cases, the term “social construct” makes reference to a matrix or a symbolic category that groups together or affects particular elements, to which a statute of natural reality is indeed conferred. For example, criminal delinquency is termed as a constructed category; nevertheless, the delinquent does not cease to be considered as an individual subject to natural determinations. Notwithstanding its acceptance that the being that is categorized being (defined and treated) as belonging to a determined category (in the example, delinquent) contributes to the moulding of his/her identity and behaviour, the existence of an essence is always assumed that leads certain persons to behave in certain ways.
This form of constructionist argument maintains the essentialist ideology proper to modern rationality. On the other hand, it is finally rather trivial – as trivial as affirming that there are no players that don’t play or thinkers that don’t think.
Individualist Use of the Concept
We have already referred to how the psychological discipline places the individual at the centre of its reasoning, and certain attempts to broaden its focus of analysis as well, incorporating variables that transcend the individual subject. Openings are habitually accompanied by a critique of objectivist positivism, placing the subjective construction of reality at variance with it. That is, the existence of an objective knowledge is criticized by arguing that the relationship of two individuals with reality is mediated by constructive processes of a subjective or mental origin (as in Piaget’s assimilation/accommodation). What I wish to point out is that what is constructed here would not be reality itself but the subjective meanings produced around it. And even though the subjectivity’s connections or cognition be named “social,” the exercise will not go beyond recognizing that we are inserted within relational, social and cultural contexts, exert influence over the processes considered as being personal.
We find ourselves, in this case, before a version of constructivism (although often calling itself “constructionism” or “socio-constructivism”), according to which there exist both personal and social essences. What these versions term social would be nothing more than a space where consensus is shared or established over the subjective versions of reality, without considering its hermeneutical dimension or its power relationships.
This use of the idea of construction of…, fully assumes the modern assumption that reality exists in and of itself, though it may be accepted that we, the subjects, may be unable to know it objectively. Once again, the argument that is put forth is closer to individualist psychologism than to psychosocial analysis – it is affirmed that objective knowledge is not possible, since in the process of knowing, we would place in it our own experiences, and even our subjectivity. I insist that in this case, what is constructed are the meanings of reality and the consensual versions regarding it, but not reality as such. And given that the origin of meanings would be in subjective processes, these are the only spheres of transformation possible. This is what Hacking (2001) would call a reformist ironic constructivism.
Awareness-Fostering and Vindicative Use
The conviction that a phenomenon is socially constructed presupposes the possibility of its modification. That is, it assumes that there are concrete social objects that are, but could not-be (i.e., they are not inevitable), that are in determined ways, but that could be in others, in the measure that the practices that produce them might be transformed. But it is also often supposed that people have the experience of living with objects or processes as being inevitable, even though they may not be so. The task of the social scientist would then be one of creating awareness, i.e., promoting the consciousness of the constructed character of phenomena, vindicating their contingent character and their possibilities of being transformed.
The quantity of phenomena or objects to which the adjective socially constructed has been added is as vast as it is broad ranging. The quantity and amplitude of the research, articles or books that deal with the social construction of objects is enormous, though lacking in depth. In the majority of cases the reference to socio-constructionism does not go beyond being a declaration without grounds or arguments that place the author in the framework of references in vogue, but whose premises are not engaged with at all. Thus, for example, it is common to find investigations that call themselves constructionist and at the same time seek to study the representations of an object. In other words, they allude to the constructed character of something as a way to argue the possibility of its transformation, but the theoretical consequences are not dealt with, nor the methodological or political consequences of transformation.
Hacking (2001) goes beyond enumerating investigations and works that call themselves socio-constructionist, analyzing them from the perspective of what he terms levels of constructionist commitment. That is, in terms of the political positions derived from the type of relationship that is established with the object, about which it is said that it is a social construct. He describes, according to its level of commitment, different types of constructionists – the historical constructionist, for whom social objects are the product of historical processes but without committing to saying whether they are good or bad, nor showing the will to transform them; the ironic constructionist, who sustains that objects are the product of social and historical relations, but that in the current conditions they cannot cease to be considered as being part of the world. The ironic constructionist analyses and understands the world (he/she knows that things are not inevitable), but ironically argues the obligatoriness of leaving it as it is. The reformist constructionist emphasizes how bad a determined object or phenomenon is, proposing that, given that the non-existence of the requisite conditions for living without it, one should at least change to some extent so that the world may be a bit less bad. The unmasking constructionist, who seeks to unmask the political function of an idea so that it may lose force. The rebel constructionist, who actively sustains that what is bad is not inevitable and who attempts to (always in the field of ideas) make it different. Finally there would be the revolutionary constructionist, who is in agreement with the rebel, but takes their activism beyond the world of ideas.
Constructionism for a Critical Project in Chile
The overview presented shows how there are different forms of being a constructionist and makes evident that defending the contructed character of social objects does not suffice to make one a critic.
I will say it in another way: to carry out a critical practice, it is necessary – though not sufficient – to be socio-contructionist. I will propose a critical use of constructionism (that we could call Criticial Social Constructionism), which understands the social dimension as historical relations of production. Implemented in psychology, Critical Social Constructionism invites us to understand subjectivity as an historically-constituted entity. Thus understood, the modern form of individuality is only real and has meaning with respect to the particular social and productive conditions under which it appears, it is the expression of a state of relationships, as is psychology and its functioning as one of its regulatory apparatuses.
Pérez (2001) suggests the possibility of a renewed approach to the problem in an ontological manner. That is, considering the idea of alienation and asking how it happens that all of reality is our product and, nevertheless, we experience it with such verisimilitude as external and “objective.” This implies confronting it in a political manner, understanding that the real problem of epistemological verification is the political and social reality that makes it possible. If the conflictive character of dualities is removed, not only does one return from politics to epistemology (i.e., from praxis to mere theory), but one’s own possibility of internally understanding the fundaments of the defended epistemology is abandoned. The loss of the keys that would make it possible to understand its internal coherence (which for Pérez are the ideas of contradiction, antagonism, alienation) would imply inevitably considering modern obstinacies as errors or false steps that are existentially lamentable.
But to say that human beings are producer-agents of the realities we live in is not enough. A critical constructionist partner must come to terms with the theoretical, ethical and political effects of such asseveration. Following Hacking’s taxonomy, they would have to be a revolutionary of constructionism, meaning, take responsibility for a critical posture and a committed will to changing things.
The majority of the elements that go on to configure the idea of a Critical Psychology cause its intrinsically political character to stand out, and with this I go back time and again to the point of departure of the debate that has sustained us as a critical collectivity in Chile – critical posture and committed will to change things; destabilizing practice of the relationships of domination, of denaturalization; a psychology that does not solve problems to sustain the ruling social order but that creates solutions to subvert it; that does not change people so that they can adapt to a social system, but that produces subjects desirous of transforming it. A practice that does not dedicate itself to the discovery of what we are, but rather to its rejection.
Well then, why psychology and not sociology or anthropology or philosophy, or plain and simple politics? This question becomes more pertinent with the deepening of the debates of Critical Social Psychologies, and we progressively encounter each one of the disciplines that deal with the social issue. Even more so, when we come across ideas gathered from Physics, of systems that are distanced from equilibrium, with the works of Prigogine (1972) and chaotic systems; of Biology with the contributions of Atlan (1979), or the field of Neuroscience with the works of Varela (1988), Doménech and Ibañez (1998).
Transdisciplinarity dilutes the disciplinary provenances to the point that each author’s formative origins are often unrecognizable (and irrelevant). In relation to this, Doménech and Ibáñez (1998) propose that one cannot speak of one sole social psychology as critical. They suggest understanding it as a disposition, a special sensibility that leads to advocating for the elaboration of generative theories, that question the dominant assumptions of the culture and that propound the re-consideration of all those knowings that purport to be unquestionable proofs. Theories that may generate alternatives of social action.
We seek tools to critique today’s society. We seek to produce emancipatory knowledge, to generate practices that debilitate the effects of the dominant power of all social practice, including our Critical Psychology. We seek to produce problematizing debates that reflect on the type of social reality that our practices construct, which implies generating new practices and, therefore, open up new meanings, and produce new realities. We seek to construct an ethics that will act in a manner that is internal to us – i.e., that simultaneously does not impose constraints on us, which will be fundamental for our political options.
The connection that is maintained with psychology lies in problematizing precisely central categories with which the discipline encompasses and explains reality – as that of subjectivity. The link with Social Psychology lies in focusing on the critique of the analysis of social practices which are in vogue in our current history. Understanding subjectivities as social practices in constant production opens up liberating possibilities to the extent that it is presented as a process that is interior to social relations. We are the subjectivities that we produce; and, therefore, we are those who, through the articulation of different practices, are empowered to transform them.