The social in social psychology : cognitive, postmodern and discursive alternatives to individualism

Painter, Desmond William (2000-03)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study evaluates the development of a discursive approach to social psychology in terms of this discipline's most pressing metatheoretical question: what is the relation between the individual and the social in social psychology? This question is illuminated through a discussion of traditional cognitive approaches to social psychology as well as postmodern critiques of the discipline, after which the discursive approach is introduced to address shortcomings in both these perspectives. The discursive approach incorporates a key insight of recent developments in the philosophy of language, namely that language is not primarily referential, but constructive of our experiences and relationship to reality. By taking seriously both the performative or rhetorical and the abstract-systemic characteristics of language, discursive social psychology addresses the traditional issues of individualism and the reduction of the social on two levels: first, as it is revealed in especially traditional cognitive approaches to social psychology; and secondly, as it supports a set of specifically Western cultural values that reproduce cultural and political practices and power imbalances. Discursive social psychology is subsequently presented as a definite advance with regard to providing richer conceptions of social-cognitive processes and the socio-cultural foundations of psychological phenomena. Despite this there are also important limitations that should be taken into account before discursive social psychology is imported to South Africa as a critical alternative: the focus on language goes along with a negation of the materiality and embodied nature of experience. Because experience cannot be pre-reflexively psychological meaningful, discursive social psychology remains to develop a theory of agency that indicates how criticism, resistance and change is possible.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie evalueer die ontwikkeling van 'n diskursiewe benadering tot die sosiale sielkunde in terme van hierdie dissipline se mees knellende metateoretiese vraag: wat is die verhouding tussen die individuele en die sosiale in sosiale sielkunde? Hierdie vraag word aangespreek deur eers te kyk na tradisioneel kognitiewe benaderings tot en postmodernistiese kritiek op die sosiale sielkunde, waarna die diskursiewe benadering bekendgestel word soos dit die tekortkominge in hierdie twee perspektiewe aanspreek. Die diskursiewe benadering inkorporeer 'n sleutel-insig van onlangse ontwikkelinge in die taalfilosofie, naamlik dat taal nie primêr referensieel is nie, maar konstruktief en medebepalend van ons ervaring van en verhouding tot die werklikheid. Deur beide die performatiewe of retoriese en die meer abstrak-sistemiese kenmerke van taal ernstig op te neem, spreek die diskursiewe sosiale sielkunde die tradisionele knelpunte van individualisme en reduksie van die sosiale op twee vlakke aan: eerstens, soos dit onthul word in veral tradisioneel kognitiewe benaderings tot sosiale sielkunde; en tweedens, soos dit 'n stel spesifiek Westers-kulturele waardes onderhou wat bydra tot die reproduksie van kulturele en politieke praktyke en mags-wanbalanse. Diskursiewe sosiale sielkunde word gevolglik aangetoon as 'n definitiewe vooruitgang wat betref die uiteensetting van ryker konsepsies van sosiaal kognitiewe prosesse en die sosiaal-kulturele grondslae van sielkundige fenomene. Ten spyte hiervan is daar egter ook belangrike gebreke wat in ag geneem moet word voordat diskursiewe sosiale sielkunde as kritiese alternatief na Suid-Afrika ingevoer word: die fokus op taal gaan qepaard met 'n negering van die materialiteit en liggaamlikheid van ervaring. Omdat ervaring nie pre-refleksief sielkundige betekenis kan hê nie, bly hierdie ontwikkeling se verstaan van agentskap in gebreke om te verduidelik hoe kritiek, teenstand en verandering moontlik is.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/52025
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