Introduction & Apology
By “realist” I mean something roughly similar to the way Hilary Putnam used this term in his later work (hence its ‘pragmatist’ quality), and the sort of psychology I have in mind can be psychoanalytic, humanistic, or existential, that is, psychology that is particularly sensitive to what is called philosophical anthropology. By “philosophical anthropology” is intended in large part an appreciation of the psychological dimensions of human nature that, after P.M.S. Hacker, is broader in coverage than what is typically treated in philosophy of mind or philosophical psychology. What is more, this psychology is in no way confined or beholden to so-called scientific (or ‘academic’) psychology, be it behaviorist, experimentalist, empiricist (in a post-positivist sense), or cognitive, which does not mean it need be utterly dismissive of such psychology. The late Ilham Dilman termed our realist psychology, “thoughtful” psychology, in the sense that it accords “[pride of] place to reflection on human life—a life which offers the possibility of autonomy to human beings, a life in which human beings find their individuality.” With Dilman, I believe there is much in Freud’s corpus that transcends both his scientism and focus on “psychopathology” (although the former is more troubling for me than the latter), thus Freudian (and post-Freudian) psychology, in the right hands, might be seen as both realist and thoughtful. Revealing the principal concerning assumption of experimental psychology, Dilman reminds us that “it is in his mode of being that a person is moral; it is that which gives his behaviour its moral character. Experimental psychology seems to have no recognition of this.”
Insofar as scientific psychology seeks knowledge that is impersonal, general, inductive, and theoretical (i.e., reductionist) it is neither realistic in Putnam’s sense nor truly human in the manner in which this makes reference to philosophical anthropology. Insofar as scientific psychology strives to place psychology on par with other natural sciences, we begin to understand its recent infatuation with the neurosciences and the extravagant claims made on behalf of evolutionary psychology. Its distance from realism is further evidenced in its skeptical disenchantment with or outright disavowal of so-called folk psychology (or folk-psychological ‘theory of mind’!), a stance it shares with more than a few influential philosophers in the philosophy of mind.
While Jon Elster is highly critical of psychoanalytic psychology, the following comment from his Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions (Cambridge University Press, 1999), likewise alerts us to a characteristic, symptomatic, and conspicuous shortcoming of scientific psychology:
“… [W]ith respect to an important subset of the emotions we can learn more from moralists, novelists, and playwrights than from the cumulative findings of scientific psychology. These emotions include regret, relief, hope, disappointment, shame, guilt, pridefulness, pride, hybris, envy, jealousy, malice, pity, indignation, wrath, hatred, contempt, joy, grief, and romantic love. By contrast, the scientific study of the emotions can teach us a great deal about anger, fear, disgust, parental love, and sexual desire (if we count the last two as emotions). [….] I believe … that prescientific insights into the emotion are not simply superseded by modern psychology in the way that natural philosophy has been superseded by physics. Some men and women in the past have been superb students of human nature, with more wide-ranging personal experience, better powers of observation, and deeper intuitions than almost any psychologist I can think of. This is only what we should expect: There is no reason why one century out of twenty-five should have a privilege in wisdom and understanding. In the case of physics, this argument does not apply.”
Well before Adorno, et al. published The Authoritarian Personality (W.W. Norton & Co., 1950), Erich Fromm and his colleagues conducted pioneering research in the late 1920s at the Frankfurt Institute on the “character structure” of the Weimar working class, which was not published in English until 1984 (see the full reference below). Daniel Burston is apropos:
… [T]he fact that Fromm’s study was not published until after his death had notable scientific consequences. For notwithstanding the horrors of Stalinism, the ‘F-scale’ designed by Nevitt Sanford and Daniel Levenson to measure pro-fascist tendencies seemed to involve a tacit equation between right-leaning sympathies and authoritarianism, on the one hand, and left-leaning views and ‘democratic’ trends on the other, ignoring the ‘authoritarianism of the left.’ Although it is possible to understand both the motives that obstructed the initial publication of Fromm’s study and Americans’ ignorance of it, the apparent inability or refusal of Horkheimer and Adorno to take cognizance of Fromm’s findings about the authoritarianism of the left [that is to say, workers who voted left or identified with leftist social programs, nonetheless displayed character traits and beliefs that were rather authoritarian, helping to account for the subsequent fact that more than a few members of the working-class Left soon identified with the fascist National Socialists (Nazism)], and to alert their colleagues [at the Frankfurt Institute] to design their study and instruments accordingly, is both odd and reprehensible.”
I am not an expert on this subject matter (although I’ve had a longstanding ardent avocational interest), so the following merely reflects what I’ve found helpful (or at least suggestive, in other words, some of the titles have indirect implications for political psychology). I’ve left out most of the titles that treat Marxist ideology with some psychological sophistication and nuance, as those are found in my bibliography on Marxism.
- Alford, C. Fred. Melanie Klein and Critical Social Theory (Yale University Press, 1989).
- Appiah, Kwame Anthony. The Ethics of Identity (Princeton University Press, 2005).
- Balbus, Isaac D. Mourning and Modernity: Essays in the Psychoanalysis of Contemporary Society (Other Press, 2005).
- Benjamin, Jessica. The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination (Pantheon Books, 1988).
- Bion, Wilfred R. Experience in Groups (Tavistock, 1961).
- Burston, Daniel. The Legacy of Erich Fromm (Harvard University Press, 1991). See, especially, the respective chapters, “Studies in Social Character,” and “Consensus, Conformity, and False Consciousness: ‘The Pathology of Normalcy,’” pp. 98-158.
- Coady, C.A.J. Messy Morality: The Challenge of Politics (Oxford University Press, 2008).
- Cohen, Stanely. States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering (Polity Press, 2001).
- Danto, Elizabeth Ann. Freud’s Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis and Social Justice, 1918-1938 (Columbia University Press, 2005).
- Dilman, Ilham. Raskolnikov’s Rebirth: Psychology and the Understanding of Good and Evil (Open Court, 2000).
- Elster, Jon. Political Psychology (Cambridge University Press, 1993).
- Fontana, Benedetto, Cary J. Nederman, and Gary Remer, eds. Talking Democracy: Historical Perspectives on Rhetoric and Democracy (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004).
- Fromm, Erich (Barbara Weinberger, tr. and Wolfgang Bonss, ed.) The Working Class in Weimar Germany: A Psychological and Sociological Study (Harvard University Press, 1984).
- Garsten, Bryan. Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment (Harvard University Press, 2006).
- Gorringe, Timothy. God’s Just Vengeance: Crime, Violence and the Rhetoric of Salvation (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
- Hacker, P.M.S. The Intellectual Powers: A Study of Human Nature (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013).
- Hacker, P.M.S. The Passions: A Study of Human Nature (John Wiley & Sons, 2018).
- Haybron, Daniel M. The Pursuit of Unhappiness: The Elusive Psychology of Well-Being (Oxford University Press, 2008).
- Hinshelwood, R.D. What Happens in Groups: Psychoanalysis, the Individual, and the Community (Free Association Books, 1987).
- Iyer, Raghavan. Parapolitics: Toward the City of Man (Oxford University Press, 1979).
- Kakar, Sudhir. The Inner World: A Psycho-analytic Study of Childhood and Society in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2nd, 1981.
- Kakar, Sudhir. The Colors of Violence: Cultural Identities, Religion, and Conflict (University of Chicago Press, 1996).
- Lear, Jonathan. Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (Harvard University Press, 2006).
- Lichtman, Richard. The Production of Desire: The Integration of Psychoanalysis into Marxist Theory (Free Press, 1982).
- Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Beacon Press, 1966 .
- Miller, William Ian. Faking It (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
- Nussbaum, Martha C. The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton University Press, 1994).
- Nussbaum, Martha C. Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (Oxford University Press, 2016).
- Reich, Wilhelm (Vincent R. Carfagno, tr.) The Mass Psychology of Fascism (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 3rd ed., 1970).
- Robinson, Paul. The Freudian Left: Wilhelm Reich, Geza Roheim, Herbert Marcuse (Cornell University Press, 1990 ed.)
- Rorty, Amélie Oksenberg. Mind in Action: Essays in the Philosophy of Mind (Beacon Press, 1988), in particular, the four chapters in the section, “Community as the Context of Character,” pp. 269-345.
- Rustin, Michael. The Good Society and the Inner World: Psychoanalysis, Politics and Culture (Verso, 1991).
- Tomŝiĉ, Samo. The Capitalist Unconscious (Verso, 2015).
- Whitebook, Joel. Perversion and Utopia: A Study in Psychoanalysis and Critical Theory (MIT Press, 1995).
- Wolfenstein, Eugene Victor. The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution (Free Association Books, 1989).
- Wolfenstein, Eugene Victor. Psychoanalytic-Marxism: Groundwork (Free Association Books/Guilford Press, 1993).
- Žižek, Slavoj. The Sublime Object of Ideology (Verso, 1989).
(This compilation is also available on my Academia page.)