Psychology OR Public Policy(1)
The tradition out of which I am speaking is old and ignored.
The dialog I am trying to revive and sharpen is filed in the history of our professional organizations. It is recorded there in a composition quite unlike the character which I give it.
From the outset a dialog in American Associations of Psychology has been whether to include or exclude the applied segment of our discipline and that argument is still current (and for me wrongly conceived) as evidenced by a recent series of articles in the American Psychologist. We are again being asked whether two types of organization of psychologists (the error is in speaking and thinking of both as psychologists); Scientific and Professional might better serve both camps.
From my perspective, an early CORRECT conception of applied (or professional) psychology (and to a degree of theoretical psychology) came from the authorities in the Soviet Union, when they banned Sigmund Freud's writings and his conception of practice. They saw clearly (and correctly) that they were not dealing with science (in the so-called application of science and to a degree in the analytic part of science)-but with politics.
An equally clear and correct perception much earlier in our Western history was the vision of the Pope and former friend of Galileo, who through his office of the Faith had the inquisition silence Galileo, in the clear and correct recognition that even abstract science involves a view of the human condition and thus values. The discipline which has become most startled by the differences between theory and application is of course physics. Physics through the development of the bomb, and use of the bomb discovered the value component (in varying degrees present) in the conception, construction, and use of energy. Clinical and other applied psychologies, as well as psychiatry, seem totally incapable of noting the fit of the experience of physics. Totally, of course, allows for the major exception of Thomas Szasz, his followers, and the few others who think in like manner.
In the explosion (allowed by theory, research, and technology) public policy was created and furthered. Examination was ended, a truth was offered (a truth which falsified physics and public policy) and physics ceased to exist (at that moment) as a discipline, and became social engineering. Or, as Julian Benda would have it, they became traitorous Clerks. Clerks, who because of the betrayal of reason TO public policy betrayed both their clerkship (we would now say their academic role) and citizenship. Betrayal since physics and public policy are confused into each other, and thus both are falsified. When a physicist sits in the council of advisors and speaks toward a public policy he has lost his role as a physicist, has beguiled the argument by suggesting that physics as physics can speak in social council.
When the industrial psychologist enters the gate of industry, he is locked into the efficiency, work, and profit model (and thus a view of the human condition), and no series of caveats will rescue his offerings to science. And importantly (for the clarification which I am attempting) also will it not rescue industry-he is thus a lie to both. When the psychologist sets out in (and later offers up to public authorities) his research on integration, he fails to notice that he has changed the definition of citizenship from a constitutional guarantee to a psychological guarantee. Suppose, e.g., that psychological research had established the benefits of segregation, what then-the issue is still a Constitutional and Bill of Rights one and does not require psychological research. The psychologist further fails in his notice, by not seeing that his work is essentially political, and of course anti-libertarian as have been almost all of the efforts in the clinical and social psychological domain. And just as "of course" when absorbed into public policy there is absolutely nothing psychological about these efforts. To use the current notion-the field has been reconstituted.
The full and final exposure of Pinel, Tuck, Rush, and that covey (by Foucault and Szasz) has done for clinical psychology what the bomb has done for physics.
Yet, we still seem unable to notice. And to notice that the advent of technology changes (and has changed) the conception of the human condition. The mechanics model, the repairability notion, allow the notion failure. Citizenship (as seen in the Bill of Rights, e.g.) do not allow these conceptualizations of the human condition, and offers instead the notion man. We see then, in technology and next in clinical psychology, an obliteration of the abstraction man into technics. As clinical psychology (psychiatry) took one of its further leaps of ignorance by speaking of Community Psychiatry, and made the world its patient, man as a unit of abstraction further disappeared, even the nation state (whose minions applied workers clearly are) was put into question and world-wide fascism dressed up as health service became beloved-and all this before 1984. What an advanced group we are. Or, put it another way, not bad for a young bunch of hoods. What do you think would happen if these traitorous clerks had the age of physics coupled with its technology at their disposal? The misreading of their status by applied workers is only limited by imagination. Some further examples: The code of ethics and certification/licensing. That proud effort, the ethics manual, is of course not a scientific document, but moral stricture which fits not inquiry but conduct, and makes of applied workers what they are (so in a sense it is relevant) decorum preservers. For whom? The public good. How arrived at? Which public? The rush to certification/licensing is but another chapter of the wedding state and practice. Oh yes, it is argued as insurance for standards. In the light of what scientific knowledge? Then in what light is it argued? A few voices opposed this nationwide rush for certificate from big brother. And most of these voices failed to note a profound issue while speaking to it. The issue (here) is not (as has been argued) "will the state dictate practice?" but rather "will the certified practice further the dictates of the state?"
The service orientation of so-called psychologists has variously blown them into the arms of the state as expert witness. What can they witness to? Out of what is their witness? The vast failure of becoming current with the logical analysis of the early and middle part of this century is not a minor criticism of a discipline which prides itself of its scientific sophistication, and (deliberately linked at this juncture in my exposition because of its double comment) prides itself of its liberalism.
Out of what is the witness? Does the psychological-psychiatric expert offer a new set of facts? As does, e.g., the chemist, the pathologist, the ballisticist, or does he merely comment on the behavior in question? If he comments only (ascribes), then out of what is the ascription of the testifying psychologist? Out of everyday folk value, out of the reigning (or in opposition to it) value of the day. He either moralized to or against, e.g., "insanity." As if insanity were a fact-this is what I mean when I say that the said psychologist is not in his sophistication in the 20th Century, but dutifully disguising moralism as science (which of course is not logically possible). And the jurisdictions (courts, hospitals, prisons) welcome him, and he at times cites them for their inhumanity, when his very actions have destroyed the notion man into the conception state as referent for conduct. This of course (the diabolic here) is a "humanistic, man oriented" discipline. A science, of course, can easily operate without the later values.
Pinel, applied psychology's most prominent anti-liberal, chained man into compliance by invoking the conception (of the human condition) termed: "responsibility" for conduct. He did this against the former conceptions of the human condition as demonic, humoral, possessed, and of a (simply) general human condition. Pinel's "personal responsibility morality" was a double thin veil which helped the demise of the then hardly emerging notion of a man as citizen, as responsibility was state defined, and reminded by example (lock you up for crazy man), reminded by example that for conduct the unity of reference must be the license of the state (the power elite). The ancient antagonisms to statute which one sees in religion (and thus in part religion furthered the definition man) is decreased by the so-called psychologicalization of man. So-called because it has nothing to do with psychology, but everything to do with statism.
The psychological expert speaking on issues other than said insanity comes to the court with citations. What is he citing? Out of what conceptions arise his citations? To what are his citations relevant? Are his findings, we need to ask again, like the findings of the, e.g., chemist? There similarities (as you know some in contemporary philosophy argue that there are NO similarities, that psychology can not be a science, that man is not part of nature), but when offered as testimony the findings of psychology become moralism, politics. (Notice the dialog on drug abuse, alcoholism, suicide, and the like.) Testimony is not Science but advocacy-clearly so when it is ascription (as with insanity, sexuality, and the like), less clearly so when additional facts are present, as with the e.g., chemist, pathologist, and so on. The Soviet authorities and the Pope wanted testimony and were correct in seeing it as political-moral. It is not necessary to the logic of the argument (which I am presenting) though helpful as illustration to notice that the said psychologist's preponderance of testimony is about drug abuse, alcohol intake, suicide, sex practices, and insanity. The mounting of the witness box serves my argument with a further ease, the drawing of the line between being and not being a psychologist. The end of the psychologist and the beginning of the politicist is at the transom of testimony. This is where analysis ends, advocacy begins, and the shading of values eclipse the analytic-experimental. Implicit, and allow the repetition, is the recognition that "pure" science is bound in some degree by values, offers also conceptions of the human condition (see: drives, needs, homeostasis, nature-nurture, vicissitude, intervening variables, etc.), but the degree of value present is a critical factor (another being the grammar of the statement) in the formulation and the use of the formulation (see: Russell, Ryle, Wittgenstein, Benda, etc.). The as yet poorly incorporated logical analysis of this century is critical, and helpful to us in noting when we are clerks, and when traitors, or "pure" in offering a look (see Galileo), exposing in that look Religion as Religion (and thus not as Truth), and therefore the upset and alertness of the popes.
My charge is: that Psychology is doing the reverse today, it is confusing public policy as psychology. And thereby not allowing public policy to be seen for what it is. Thus the appropriateness of Benda's charge-treasonous clerks-traitors to psychology, to public policy, but not to the pope.
I think that admonition of Karl Marx about the writing of history can be applied in a large measure to psychology: Psychology can be viewed as the writing of politics.
1. Aron, H. (1971, April). Psychology OR public policy. In Ralph, K., Sharma, S. L., Aron, H., Psychology OR Public Policy. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the Western Psychological Association, San Francisco.