Ian Parker, Manchester
The current political economic crisis makes people feel afraid. This fear is quite understandable, for many people may lose their jobs and they have certainly lost their trust in politicians. But today we need to notice the role of an academic and professional discipline that operates as part of capitalism and that prevents people from taking political economic action to tackle the crisis. This discipline is psychology. Psychology in the colleges and clinics will tell you how you need to correct your faulty thoughts and change your behaviour so you can be happy again. But what is the agenda here?
There are three aspects to this agenda. The first is the individualism that psychology is based on. This individualism strips out relational aspects of human action, and those aspects are then only reintroduced later as if they are ‘variables’. In this way the very individuality of human experience, which derives its significance and value from histories of interaction with others, is betrayed. The second aspect is essentialism, in which qualities of human activity are separated from each other so they can be categorised and refined within a psychological model of the person. This essentialism then organises explanations of what people can do and cannot do in terms of fixed mechanisms or procedures.
When you speculate about what made the banker have a crisis of confidence and when you imagine that you should change the way you think and feel as a solution to this crisis, you are sharing in this psychologisation. It is a powerful ideological con-trick, and an alternative to capitalism must also include an alternative to psychology.