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László Garai Theoretical Psychology Vygotskian Writings Теоретическая психология Выготскианские тексты contents


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The paradigm of the relations of property


According to one of the assumptions of the production-centered theory of personality (see above), social formations make progress through crises, in the course of which personality also develops.

At the lowest ebb of its crisis, the Department of Personality Psychology might have realized (which it did not, however, since this kind of realization is apt to take place only retrospectively) that it had made some progress in a purely psychological conceptualization social categorization and categorizational signification and in elaborating a purely psycholo­gical method, combining developmental and social psychological methods.

The crisis had not come to an end, however, as became explicit during the periodic thematic discussions held in the Department: none of the members wished to give up motivation research, nor to put up with the professional-ideological illusions which a purely psychological research on motivations would have imposed upon them.

The production-centered theory of personality considered the motivated development of personality in its relation to crisis and revolutionary transformations of social totality. At the same time, the Department involved in a crisis of its own microsocial formation, undertook its transformation in a way which resulted in development. While running the field investigations which had been launched at that time (see below), the Department members were also confronted by microsocial forms in which as a rule they found that, if their accumulating crisis failed to erupt, development of the personality might stagnate or that an evolving but prolonged crisis might lead to self-destruction and ultimately to suicide, while the resolution of the crisis could bring about the development of the personality. It was thus with reference to microsocial forms that a hypothesis was set forth suggesting that the realization of these possibilities did not depend on what typological characteristics mediate as “inner conditions” the external effect of the “social environment” in a given person. The earlier conception was that the mediating position was that “held by the person in the global social structure of the relations of production”, in particular, with respect to belonging to the class of the propertied or the propertyless. It was vital for the prospects of a production-centered study of personality that microsocial forms and the processes that take place within them should be describable by the paradigm of relations of property.

The model, whose possible application to microsocial relationships is being examined, shows the following relationship, revealed by Marx’s production-centered philosophy of history historical materialism: possession of certain means of production ensures certain positions in the global social structure, positions permitting ruling this structure by political and ideological means; the aim of such a rule is essentially to maintain the very structure in which precisely the possession of the means of production is what reinforces the dominant position. This is a paradoxical formation, whose principle of organization is determined by those who occupy dominant positions and who in turn are determined to occupy dominant positions by the principle of organization itself. An investigation into the question of whether such paradoxical formations are to be found in microsocial relationships as well leads at first to the result that there are only paradoxical formations since this principle of organization proves in a first analysis to be that which serves to perform social categorizations which, then, is characterized by the categorization paradox (Garai, 1976b; 1977a; Erős and Garai, 1978). This is so because the subject who performs the categorization belongs to the object he categorizes, and at the same time is only detached from it as a result of this categorization (as “we” or “I”).

After closer investigation, it turned out that within all formations (groups, roles) which in social psychology have traditionally been regarded as possessing their given principles of organization, independently of the persons composing them, a dominant position exists which in fact determines the principles of organization. Thus, for example; the principle of organization of a role relationship like that between doctor and patient is determined from the position of the doctor: it is always here that is decided what the criteria are for being doctor or patient (Garai, 1975).

The perspectives of the motivated development of the personality are mediated by the position a person occupies in the structure analyzed by the paradigm of property relations during the given historical phase (consolidated, pre-crisis, in crisis, or consolidating after crisis) of the microsocial formation (Járó, 1975a; Járó and Veres, 1976a and 1976b).

The possibilities offered by a paradigmatic approach to the relations of property resolved the dilemma of a “production-centered, approach” vs. “concrete research” and also the crisis that stemmed from it.

Thus came to an end the period in the work of the Department of Personality Psy­chology during which its principal task had been to promote the assimilation of the non (or not mainly) psychological set of production-centered concepts into psychology. This effort had specifically concerned the problem areas not tackled by the Vygotsky school.

Research in progress


1. Empirical and case studies

Within the framework of the Department, Járó, Keleti, Köcski and Veres have mainly been engaged in empirical case investigations. They have made it possible to scrutinize systema­tically, and trace back to actual psychological phenomena, the abstract statements of the production-centered psychology of personality by making use, on the one hand, of the new features and conceptual tools of the theory (such as social categorization, the paradigm of property relations, self-qualifying paradoxes) and, on the other, by applying the methodolo­gical results and the experience gained in earlier empirical research, mostly in schools (Járó and Veres, 1976a). As a matter of fact, the goal set for empirical research had been, even previously, more comprehensive than simply planning and elaborating suitable technical-methodological devices. In order that the theory concentrating on the laws of development could ultimately apply to any person and under the circumstances of any social formation, empirical research set as a goal to delineate the area of validity and to specify the need for supplementary conceptualization with respect to the phenomena outside that area.

The investigations made by this group are connected by a set of hypotheses concerning the concrete social and individual criteria of the development of personality. Each of them focuses on different aspects and periods of development and reflects upon the generally formulated question: What are the conditions and events that permit us to state that a person develops?

The members of the group made a creative attempt to answer the question by a joint application of the principles of production-centered psychology so that they could refer to concrete individuals chosen as subjects. The starting point for their analysis was that according to the hypothesis of the specifically human fundamental need, the motivation for development the need for setting a goal is held to be valid for every individual under certain social conditions, this motivation being a supraindividual and extrapsychic factor. It was also postulated that the conditions of the force of the motivation can be described with the help of the property relations paradigm. Within the various social formations, one of these objective conditions is the position from which the goal of the common activity can be determined, and the other is the nature of the historical period, which determines whether the goal is set from the dominant position (stabilization) or whether there is a chance to determine the goals for the forces of the new order, formerly in a position of dependence (revolution).

The theoretical conclusion reached at this point by the empirical research group was that personality development is not a general human process, one of anthropological validity but is attained exclusively by those holding the positions which, at the time of the investigation, bear the historically mature tendencies of development. From this it follows that the objective factors making the development of the personality possible can be shown by analyzing the historical movement of the social formation providing the framework of development, and the positions held within it.

The social categorization hypothesis is concerned with the subjective conditions of the de­velopment of personality. This hypothesis is not only an attempt to answer the philo­sop­hi­cal question of how it is possible for man to experience as his own subjective free will what in fact is objectively, i.e. economically, necessary. At the same time it offers a theoretical possibility to investigate psychologically how a person in his concrete historical-social situation makes his decision concerning the alternatives of development emerging before him.

The hypothesis also provides the basis for a description of the semiotic devices and processes through which the person carries out his decision with reference to himself and to his environment. Decisions with respect to categorization may either stabilize the social system or provoke a crisis within it according to the concrete historical situation and the position occupied in the system of relationships.

The above ideas have been developed by Járó, thus summarizing the principles of a production-centered psychology in a unified model of development (Járó, 1975a). The central concept of the model is the episode of self-definition, which can either take in the historical moment in which the alternative of development appears or the structure of the social system of relationships (the dominant, mediating, dependent; and marginal positions). The episode of self definition is a historically and postionally structured situation of choice which will serve as a frame of reference for interpreting decisions about categorization (Járó and Veres, 1976a).

The production-centered model of ontogenesis necessarily had to face the criteria and range also of phenomena of “non-development” while describing the periods of development and systems of relationships in the social forms serving as frames for ontogenesis dependence relations in stable periods and of the inner mechanism of personality (rationalization) (Járó, 1975a; Járó and Veres, 1976b).

The various empirical case studies under way in the Department permit analysis of different aspects of social categorization among the social formations actually canalizing development, thus bringing different stages of ontogenesis under investigation. The following themes are addressed:

1) Emergence of categorial signalization in the early phase of ontogenesis, in the course of the differentiation of “I” and “others” (Köcski, 1976, 1977; Garai and Köcski, 1976, 1978; Köcski and Garai, 1978).

2) Positional differences in the categorization of high-school pupils occupying various positions in the system of relationships within the class (Járó and Veres, 1975; Veres, Járó and Erős, 1975a; Járó and Veres, 1976a, 1976b; Veres, 1976a).

3) Categorizational mediation of the change of social stratum in young workers coming to town from the country. Possibilities for influencing the categorization by cultural means (Veres, 1975, 1976, 1977a, 1977b).

4) Deficient social and generational categorization as a cause of suicide in the period of growing up (Keleti, 1976a, 1976b).

Work on these themes has, of course, attained different levels of conceptualization and of exploration of facts. Currently, all the investigations conducted by members of this group are case studies or structurally oriented field research since earlier attempts at experiments failed and were abandoned.

Empirical work within the production-centered-psychological approach, whether carried out by recording observations in life situations as in a diary, or by interviews, questionnaires or unfinished stories, is always so designed as to isolate the episodes of self-definition from the natural flow of complex events, and to allow positional and semiotic analyses by comparing the signs used by the persons with the objective structure of the situation.

Recent field studies have used a production-centered psychological approach, not only as a device of cognition but of social praxis as well: our studies in a high school and in a workers’ hostel introduced the method of social psychological and personality-psychological “catalysis” aiming at establishing the groups” self-reflection.

2. Theoretical-methodological research

Part of the work in the Department is done by independent methods of theory construction and methodological critique of theories, which is a type of tool that has also appeared in other sciences (physics, biology) at a given stage of their development.

The aim of this work is to develop a personality psychology independent of general psychology· (cf. Garai, 1968; 1969b, pp. 142-164; 1970). The task falls into two phases: (1) integrating the individual psychological (from psychoanalysis, developmental psychology, personality dynamics) with the social psychological stock of facts and inter­pretive materials that refer to personality; (2)establishing a synthesis of this independent personality psychology and general psychology. In both phases Lewin’s principle of homogenization (see above) is instrumental. Work in the first of these phases is more advanced. The validity of some social psychological theories was tested and a synthesis of the theory of cognitive dissonance and that of social categorization has been arrived at (Garai, 1977a: 1977c; 1977d; Erős and Garai, 1978). As a result of the examination of the social psychological theory of conflicts and of the ideological critique directed against it (see the Deutsch/Plon debate in the European Journal of Social Psychology (1974), the conclusion was that one of the two parties opposed in a conflict will determine the structural frames within which the conflict can be “acted out”, but the other party may depending on the historical state of the macro- or the micro-social formation extend the conflict from the level connected with its object (object-level) to the level of the structural framework that determines it (meta-level), positing his own principles of organization in opposition to the principle of organization fixed in the existing structure. Through the extension of the conflict to two levels, the formation enters a crisis for which only a radical solution is possible (Garai and Erős, 1976; Garai, 1977).

In a paper belonging to the second phase of this work, Garai (1978) showed that all attempts to understand the whole of mental activity in terms of brain functioning alone lead by necessity to leaving aside those phenomena which have their origin in social or personality factors (such as, for example, the meaning of environmental “stimuli”). At the same time, he pointed out that taking these phenomena into consideration leads to a sort of dualism. As a solution for this dilemma Garai suggested that the territorial mechanisms of supraindividual organization, rather than brain functioning, be regarded as the prime mechanism of these phenomena.

These theoretical activities were supported by a methodological critique of various social psychological and individual psychological theories. It primarily consisted in criticizing the conceptions of society and of personality implied by the different theories, within the framework of the history of ideas and of the critique of ideologies. The first systematic attempt in this direction was made by Erős in his previously mentioned paper presented at the Visegrád conference (Erős, 1974). In his later studies (1975, 1976a, 1976b, 1977a, 1977b; see also Garai and Erős, 1976; Erős and Garai, 1978) he further developed this type of analysis, also making use of the complex historical material that he had collected during his stay in the United States (1976).

One crucial theme of the historical and ideological-critical studies was the rise of American social psychology and the process in its development by which it ceased to be a “social prophesy” committed to reforms, and became a sort of “social technology” a technique of mass manipulation (see Erős, 1977b; Erős and Garai, 1978).

Another central question was related to critical social theory, born in the Europe of the thirties and oriented towards an empirical social psychology, as seen especially in the case of the Freudo-Marxists (Reich, Fromm) and the theorists of the Frankfurt School (Adorno, Horkheimer). Two aspects of critical theory are to be noted here. First, because they are good examples of the consistent critique of the ideological preconceptions of psychology as well as of the social sciences in general (see Adorno et al, 1976, especially Adorno’s writings), and second, because they demonstrate that the ideas of critical theory are themselves not free from certain lapses into ideological functions. This double aspect is best revealed in Adorno’s and his associates” work, The Authoritarian-personality, which is in some respects critical theorists’ greatest achievement in social psychology. Nonetheless, the implicit contradictions of this work have furnished possibilities for its “positivist reinterpretation” and in this way for its adaptation to the main trends of American social psychology. (On the set of contradictions in this work and the process of reinterpretation, see Erős, 1977b).

Some preliminary results of research in progress in the Department of Personality Psychology were presented in 1977 at the session commemorating the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Institute of Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (see Erős, 1978; Garai and Köcski, 1978; Járó and Veres, 1978).



Notes
1. The term, the humanities is traditionally used in Hungary (as well as in other Central European countries) to denote the historical and social sciences as opposed to the exact sciences.

2. Of the members of the Department, Garai took part in the work of the International Organizing Committee of the Conference, and Erős participated in the preparatory work.


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