Critical Psychology Issues
Thomas Teo, Dennis Fox, and Isaac Prilleltensky
American Psychological Association
Critical psychology has generated an increasing number of books, journals, conferences, and other components of academic respectability. However, despite a general critique of mainstream psychology and a concern for social justice, it remains difficult to define critical psychology by consensus and to identify the principles its various approaches share.
Two participants in this conversation hour -- Dennis Fox and Isaac Prilleltensky -- have just co-edited (with Stephanie Austin) the second edition of Critical Psychology: An Introduction; and Thomas Teo has recently published a book on the history and theory of the critique of psychology. From these vantage points, the participants seek to raise and discuss a number of questions, including the following:
(a) Allegiances: Are critical psychologists primarily psychologists interested in theoretical rigor, advocating political goals only because they happen to be compatible with critical theory? Or, are we motivated by sources outside psychology such as Marxism, feminism, or anarchism and are we primarily activists interested in social change, using psychology's theory and methods only when they happen to coincide with our politics?
(b) Methods: Should critical psychologists use traditional positivist methods to expose inequality and injustice and foster political and institutional reform, or should we reject methods that strengthen mainstream claims to legitimacy? Are qualitative methods more appropriate for critical psychology?
(c) Legitimacy: Should critical psychologists claim special expertise as psychologists to advocate social change, or does rejecting positivist methods reduce our rationale for doing so?
(d) Moral relativism: Can we advocate politically preferred values such as equality and empowerment or must we abandon all value preferences as culturally determined?
(e) Audience, style, and diversity: In our writing, conferencing, and teaching can we escape the conventional boundaries of academic life or should we adhere to academic norms? Is it at all important to answer these questions?
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