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HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF PSYCHOLOGY
Series Editor: Man Cheung Chung
THE HISTORY OF
Essays Inspired by the
Work of Kurt Danziger
Adrian C. Brock
Willem van Hoorn
IOI lull I Ul L/l// l*JLI L/C
Interpersonal Areas of Psychology • On Cultural Histoi
1 A f
Rediscovering the History of Psychology
Essays Inspired by the Work of Kurt Danziger
HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF PSYCHOLOGY
Series Editor: Man Cheung Chung, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, United
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REDISCOVERING THE HISTORY OF PSYCHOLOGY
Essays Inspired by the Work of Kurt Danziger
Edited by Adrian C. Brock, Johann Louw, and Willem van Hoorn
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Rediscovering the History
Essays Inspired by the Work
of Kurt Danziger
Adrian C. Brock
University College Dublin
University of Cape Town
Willem van Hoorn
University of Amsterdam
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Betty M. Bayer is Associate Professor of Social Psychology in Women’s Studies
at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York, USA.
Richard Walsh-Bowers is Professor of Psychology at Wilfred Laurier University,
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Adrian C. Brock is College Lecturer in Psychology at University College Dublin,
Kurt Danziger is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at York University, Toronto,
Canada and Honorary Professor of Psychology at the University of Cape Town,
Willem van Hoorn is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of
Amsterdam, Netherlands and Honorary Professor of Psychology at the University
of Cape Town, South Africa.
Johann Louw is Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology at the
University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Hans van Rappard has taught history and systems of psychology at the Free
University, Amsterdam, Netherlands. He now studies comparative philosophy.
Irmingard Staeuble is Professor of Psychology at the Free University, Berlin,
Henderikus J. Stam is Professor of Psychology at the University of Calgary,
Pieter J. van Strien is Professor Emeritus of Theory and History of Psychology at
Groningen University, Netherlands and former President of the Archives of Dutch
Andrew S. Winston is Professor of Psychology at the University of Guelph,
Adrian C. Brock
1. Reconstructing the Subject: Kurt Danziger and the
Revisionist Project in Historiographies of Psychology 19
Henderikus J. Stam
2. In Search of Method 33
3. Controlling the Metalanguage: Authority and Acquiescence
in the History of Method 53
Andrew S. Winston
4. Paris, Leipzig, Danziger, and Beyond 75
Pieter J. van Strien
5. Expanding the Terrain of Constructing the Subject: The
Research Relationship in Interpersonal Areas of Psychology 97
6. On Cultural History as Transformation — or, What’s the
Matter with Psychology Anyway?
Betty M. Bayer
7. Wundt as an Activity/Process Theorist: An Event in the
History of Psychological Thinking 141
Hans van Rappard
8. The Missing Link of Historical Psychology 161
Willem van Hoorn
9. De-Centering Western Perspectives: Psychology and the
Disciplinary Order in the First and Third World 183
10. Concluding Comments 207
Appendix: Kurt Danziger ’s Publications 233
Adrian C. Brock
BACKGROUND AND AIMS OF THIS BOOK
The three editors of this book are all related to Kurt Danziger in different ways.
I was a PhD student with him at York University in Toronto from 1988 to 1993
and we have stayed in regular contact ever since. Johann Louw is based at the
University of Cape Town where Danziger is a regular visitor. Willem van Hoorn,
who was Louw’s PhD supervisor at the University of Amsterdam, is also a regular
visitor to the University of Cape Town. The three of us came together out of a
mutual admiration for Danziger’ s work.
When we began to discuss the possibility of producing a book on Danziger’s
work, we were agreed that we did not want to produce a ‘Festschrift’ in the tra-
ditional sense of the term. There is, of course, no harm in producing such a book
but we thought that there could be no greater tribute to Danziger than to make
his work the focal point for a variety of contributions representing several areas
of active research in history and theory of psychology. Although in recent years
productive scholarship has flourished in this field (Richards, 2002a), this situation
is not reflected in the readily available literature.
There are few broad discussions of the current state of history and theory
of psychology, as well as its problems and future directions. For obvious reasons,
scholars in this field tend to focus on the limited aspect of the history of psychology
that forms the topic of their research. The essays in this volume will go some way
towards filling this gap. They range in scope from the role of history and theory
of psychology in the discipline of psychology, the marginalization of cultural-
historical approaches to psychology, historical psychology and its relationship
to history and theory of psychology, the epistemological implications of critical
history, the inclusion of parts of the world other than Europe and North America
ADRIAN C. BROCK
in psychology’s history, the future of academic disciplines and much more. As
such, the essays in this volume can serve as a departure point for those who wish
to acquaint themselves with some of the most important issues in the field.
KURT DANZIGER’S WORK
Kurt Danziger has had a long career in psychology, having been awarded his
DPhil from the University of Oxford in 1952. The research for his dissertation
involved standard 1940s laboratory experiments using rats (e.g. Danziger, 1953).
He had already become critical of this kind of research while he was writing his
dissertation and he subsequently began to do Piagetian-style research with children
(e.g. Danziger, 1958). However, his interests moved towards social psychology
during the 1950s and this area of psychology became his main research interest
until the end of the 1970s. His work in this area includes a well-known study
of the sociology of knowledge in South Africa (Danziger, 1963) and books on
Socialization (Danziger, 1971) and Interpersonal Communication (1976). While
much of this work is highly original and of continuing interest to researchers in
this field (see Louw, this volume), the focus of this book is the work on history
and theory of psychology that Danziger started to publish in 1979.
Danziger’s switch to history and theory of psychology began when he had
a sabbatical in academic 1973-74. He decided to use the sabbatical to acquaint
himself with the original works of some of the important figures in the early history
of psychology. His knowledge of German was an obvious advantage in this task as
he read the work of Helmholtz, Fechner, Wundt, and many less prominent authors.
Danziger compared his situation on reading these works to that of a subject in
an Asch conformity experiment since the views that were being expressed in
the original works of these authors bore little or no relationship to the views
that had been traditionally attributed to them. At first, he wondered if he was
misunderstanding these works but it became increasingly clear that there was a
discrepancy between the primary and secondary sources (Brock, 1995a; 1995b).
It is difficult for those of us who were not involved in history and theory of
psychology in the 1970s to imagine how undeveloped the field was at this time.
Although history and theory of psychology had been an active area of pedagogy
for many years, it had only become a recognized area of research in the United
States in the late 1960s with the establishment of the American Psychological
Association’s Division 24 (Theoretical/Philosophical Psychology) and Division 26
(History of Psychology), as well as the Cheiron Society (International Society
for the History of the Behavioral and Social Sciences), the Journal of the History
of the Behavioral Sciences and the graduate program in history and theory of
psychology at the University of New Hampshire (Ash, 1983; Brock, 1998). It
was to be several more years before it became well established in other countries.
Danziger’s move into history and theory of psychology in the early 1970s was a
part of this wider trend.
The establishment of history and theory of psychology as an active area of
research had several important consequences for the field. As Danziger’s account
of his reaction on reading the original works of important figures in the history of
psychology shows, many historical ‘facts’ that had been merely taken for granted
up to that point were challenged. Revisionist accounts of several important figures
and events in the history of psychology began to appear and criticism of the standard
accounts of psychology’s history in the authoritative works by Boring (1950) and
Allport (1985) was a central feature of what came to be known as ‘critical history of
psychology’ (Danziger, 1984). Moreover, it was clear that the standard accounts of
psychology’s history helped to reinforce mainstream psychology and so revisionist
history became a way of attempting to change the discipline itself.
Both of these points can be seen in what may be Danziger’s best-known early
work in this field, “The positivist repudiation of Wundt” (Danziger, 1979a). The
standard view in American accounts up to that point was that the former student of
Wundt, E. B. Titchener was a loyal disciple who had represented Wundt’s views
in the United States. This view had its origins in the text of Boring (1950) but
Titchener’s devotion to Wundt had been exaggerated even further by later writ-
ers (Brock, 1993). Danziger drove a wedge between the two by pointing out that
Titchener had been influenced by the positivist epistemology of Mach, something
that he had in common with Wundt’s renegade student, Oswald Ktilpe who sub-
sequently founded the Wurzburg School. Danziger’s account was based on sound
historical scholarship but it can also be seen that he was enlisting Wundt’s anti-
positivist views in support of his own.
These themes were expanded in another article in the Journal of the History
of the Behavioral Sciences in the following year, “The history of introspection
reconsidered” (Danziger, 1980a). The title is taken from a paper by Boring titled,
“The history of introspection” (Boring, 1953) and clearly shows Danziger’s crit-
ical and revisionist aims. Another early work that deserves mention is a book
chapter, “The social origins of modern psychology” that was published as part of
a collection on ‘sociology of psychological knowledge’ since it shows the con-
tinuity between Danziger’s early work on the sociology of knowledge in South
Africa and his later historical and theoretical work (Danziger, 1963; 1979b; see
also Louw, this volume). This chapter shows Danziger’s familiarity with the so-
ciology of science and includes a critique of the application of role theory in this
area. A sociological orientation can also be seen in some of his later historical and
theoretical work so that at times he has had to defend himself against the mistaken
charge of ‘sociological reductionism’ (Danziger, 1992a; 1993a; see also Stam, this
The years 1979/80 were important for the establishment of history and theory
of psychology as a recognized sub-speciality within the discipline. According
ADRIAN C. BROCK
to the traditional account of Boring (1950), the discipline of psychology could
trace its origins to the establishment of Wundt’s laboratory at the University of
Leipzig in 1879. Psychologists as a whole are not generally interested in the
history of their field but anniversaries are an exception to the rule and there was
no bigger anniversary than the establishment of psychology itself. The American
Psychological Association declared 1979 to be psychology’s centennial year and
the International Congress of Psychology, which is held every four years, moved
to Leipzig in 1980 in order to commemorate the event. In spite of the dubious
historical accuracy of this account, the anniversary provided many opportunities to
publish historical work on Wundt and to have it widely read. Danziger contributed
three chapters to two special volumes on the legacy of Wundt and an article in
a special issue of Psychological Research that was devoted to Wundt (Danziger,
1980b; 1980c; 1980d; 1980e). As a result, he came to be regarded as one of the
foremost Wundt-scholars in the field.
Danziger’s work on Wundt declined sharply in quantity during the 1980s.
I am aware of only two works on the subject that he published during this decade
and both appear to have been commissioned (Danziger, 1983; 1988). Following
the ‘centennial’ period, there was a change in Danziger’s research interests to-
wards psychological methodology and its history (e.g. Danziger, 1985a; 1985b).
However, this interest was already apparent during the earlier period (Danziger,
1980e). The topic of methodology is central to psychology’s history because of
the theoretical divisions that became apparent in the early years of the discipline.
The 1920s are sometimes characterized as ‘the age of schools’ and the theoreti-
cal diversity that existed was outlined by authors such as Woodworth (1931) and
Heidbreder (1933). This kind of theoretical diversity is common in the human or
social sciences, such as sociology, linguistics and anthropology, but psychologists
were looking towards physics and the other natural sciences as a model for the
discipline and described this situation as a ‘crisis’ (Driesch, 1926; Biihler, 1965;
Vygotsky, 1985). It did not help the position of psychology in society since psy-
chologists could hardly address the public from a position of authority if they could
not agree among themselves. When psychology finally achieved some degree of
unity after the Second World War, it was not on theoretical but on methodological
grounds. A strict set of methodological rules was established in the United States
and subsequently exported to other parts of the world. It was these methods that
came to define the field.
The topic of ‘mind’ had been established for centuries as an object of phi-
losophy and it was part of the discourse of society at large. Even ‘behavior’ could
not be seen as the exclusive preserve of psychology since it was appropriated by
a range of disciplines describing themselves as ‘the behavioral sciences’. There-
fore, the special contribution of psychology came to be defined not in terms of its
subject matter but in terms of its methods. Even though many of these methods
were unique to psychology (Winston, this volume), they were legitimated by an
appeal to ‘science’ and alternative methods were considered inferior at best and
unacceptable at worst.
Danziger began his career as a psychologist shortly after the Second World
War when these methodological prescriptions, and the intolerance of any alterna-
tives to them, were at their height. With the sole exception of his early work with
laboratory rats, Danziger had never felt bound by these strictures. His work with
children used what has been called the ‘clinical’ method of Piaget and his work
in the sociology of knowledge in South Africa had used non-traditional methods
as well. He had always been critical of the primacy of method in mainstream psy-
chology and sometimes used the term, ‘methodolatry’ to describe this situation.
A useful introduction to Danziger’s views on methodology is an article in Phi-
losophy of the Social Sciences , with the title, “The methodological imperative in
psychology” (Danziger, 1985b).
However, when Danziger began to make psychological methodology the main
focus of his historical research, his criticisms moved to a different level. This
change crystallized around 1983 and eventually resulted in Danziger’s best-known
work. Constructing the Subject: Historical Origins of Psychological Research
(Danziger, 1990). It is virtually impossible to summarize such a rich work in a
few paragraphs but some of its most salient points will be briefly mentioned. For
Danziger, the psychology experiment using human participants constitutes a social
situation exemplifying various social regularities. He contrasts the situation in the
early German experimental research of Wundt and others where the participant
was described as a ‘research participant’ or ‘observer’ , rather than a ‘subject’ . The
role of the participant was at least as important as that of the experimenter, as may
be seen from the fact that these roles were often interchangeable. In some cases, the
role of the ‘observer’ was more important than that of the ‘experimenter’ and this
situation is reflected in the fact that the former was sometimes a person of greater
social status than the latter. An example of this occurs in the famous experiments
of the Wurzburg School in which the head of the institute, Kiilpe often acted as
the ‘observer’ in the experiments of someone like Biihler, who was officially his
assistant (Biihler, 1907; 1908). It could even happen that an experimental report
was published not by the experimenter but by the ‘observer’ ; something that would
be unthinkable in standard modern research. The term for the research participant
that eventually came to be adopted in standard experimental research, ‘subject’
is not to be found in any of this early experimental work. It had previously been
used in medical work on hypnotism and reflects the unequal division of power that
occurs in the hypnotic situation. Thus the adoption of this term by experimental
psychologists reflects a change in the division of power between the researcher
and the participant.
Throughout this work, Danziger shows that the way of doing experiments
that subsequently became enshrined as the only valid way of doing an experiment
is merely one of several possible alternatives. He also shows that psychology has
ADRIAN C. BROCK
always used a variety of investigative practices, of which experiments are only
one, and can trace its history not only to Wundt’s laboratory but also to the clinical
work of Charcot in France and the psychological testing that was done by Gabon in
England. The history of these investigative practices indicates a gradual narrowing
of research possibilities over the years. Moreover, the methods that eventually
came to be adopted were adopted mainly for extraneous reasons and not on strictly
scientific grounds. Using the phrase, ‘marketable methods’, Danziger shows how
psychologists adopted methods that would yield results that would be of interest
to the social institutions that had an interest in prediction and control.
Danziger’s work has its parallels in recent work in the interdisciplinary area
of ‘science studies’ that encompasses history, philosophy, sociology, and even
anthropology, of science. Much of this work implies a critique of the quasi-religious
status that science has acquired in some quarters and examines it as a social product.
While some historians, philosophers and sociologists in the field of science studies
have a broader agenda, Danziger is more concerned with psychology itself. If the
accepted methods of mainstream psychology lose their quasi-religious status, then
they too can be open to debate and the possibility of alternatives can be discussed.
This difference in emphasis seems to be acknowledged when Danziger says that
his approach owes much to the field of science studies but suggests that he may
“have produced a different kind of insider’s history” (Danziger, 1990; p. vii).
Even before Constructing the Subject had appeared, there was a noticeable
shift in Danziger’s interests towards what he originally called ‘the history of psy-
chological concepts and categories’ and later called ‘the history of psychological
objects’. Danziger first became interested in this topic when he was a visiting pro-
fessor at Gadjah Mada University in Jogjakarta, Indonesia from 1957 to 1959. He
went there as an employee of the Indonesian government with the specific man-
date to introduce ‘western’ psychology to the curriculum. To his surprise, he found
that he had an Indonesian colleague who was teaching a local form of psychology
called, ‘ilmu djiwa' that was based on Hindu philosophy. Danziger suggested that
they conduct joint seminars in which the local and the ‘western’ views of psychol-
ogy could be compared but the joint seminars never took place because they could
not find a common set of ‘objects’ around which the seminars could be based.
The local psychology had no equivalents for the basic objects of English-language
psychology, such as ‘motivation’, ‘intelligence’, ‘personality’ etc., and there were
no equivalents in English-language psychology for the objects that were central to
the local psychology. This seemed to be clear evidence that psychological objects
were social products (Danziger, 1997a; see also Brock, 1995a; 1995b).
Many other examples of this phenomenon could be given. A topic that has
been explored in some detail is the Japanese emotion of ‘amae’. This emotion is
very important in Japanese culture and many popular Japanese songs are based on
it. There is no equivalent in English, or indeed in any other European language, for
this emotion and it seems to be a specifically Japanese way of feeling (Morsbach
and Tylor, 1976). It is, of course, possible for non-Japanese persons to gain some
understanding of what the emotion is about but it would take several paragraphs
to explain it rather than one word. The insight that these concepts, categories or
objects — whatever term is preferred — are social products leads to the obvious con-
clusion that they have a history as well. Harre (1983) has pointed to the existence
of the now obsolete emotion of 'accidae’ which was important in medieval Europe
and which was manifested by a neglect of one’s religious duties. Neglecting one’s
religious duties is less important to modern Europeans and this may explain why
the emotion is now obsolete. Danziger has focussed not on psychological objects
that are now obsolete but on the historical origins of the some of the most com-
mon objects of research in American psychology. In doing so, he has continued
the process that he began in Constructing the Subject of historicizing aspects of
psychology that are usually regarded as fixed and eternal. If the methods of psy-
chology are viewed as sacred and not as social products that have a history, then
this is even more true of the basic objects of psychological research.
Perhaps the first point that needs to be addressed is what exactly a ‘psycholog-
ical object’ is in Danziger’s view. A key text in this regard is an article that Danziger
published in Annals of Theoretical Psychology in 1993 under the title, “Psycho-
logical objects, practice, and history” (Danziger, 1993a). In this work, Danziger
defines psychological objects in social terms: “They are simply the things that psy-
chologists take to be their proper objects of investigation or professional practice”
(p. 24). It therefore follows that psychological objects vary from place to place
and in different historical periods. One psychological object that Danziger has not
examined but which can serve as an example of this phenomenon is ‘stress’. This
is now regarded as a major social problem in most developed countries and it is the
object of a great deal of psychological research. However, until the middle of the
twentieth century, the word had a purely physical meaning and referred to a force
being exerted on a physical object. It has retained this meaning in terms such as
‘stress fracture’. It was only after this term was applied metaphorically to human
psychology around the middle of the twentieth century that it came to be regarded
as a suitable object of psychological research (e.g. Selye, 1978). Thus ‘stress’
became a psychological object after this period, whereas previously it was not.
Danziger’s main work on the history of psychological objects is his book.
Naming the Mind: How Psychology Found Its Language (Danziger, 1997a). In
this work, Danziger outlines the historical origins of several common objects of
research in American psychology: behavior, learning, emotion, motivation, atti-
tude, intelligence and personality. These are the kind of topics that might form
the headings of the chapters in an American introductory text. Perhaps the most
surprising result of this research is how ‘modern’ many of these concepts are. They
are not much older than psychology itself. Although Danziger has tended to focus
on psychological objects that were ultimately successful, he acknowledges that
there have been failures as well. An example might be the ‘BewuBtseinslagen’ of
ADRIAN C. BROCK
the Wurzburg School, which have been mistranslated as 'imageless thought’ but
are more appropriately characterized as ‘states of consciousness’. Towards the end
of the book, Danziger suggests that the psychological objects that are currently
popular in American psychology will eventually fall out of favor and be replaced
In spite of there being a literature on the history of scientific objects by
historians of science (e.g. Canguilhem, 1955; Smith, 1991, Daston, 2000), there
has been virtually no work on the history of psychological objects by psychologists.
This may be the outcome of what Danziger calls ‘naive naturalism’. This is the
view that the current objects of English-language psychology correspond to some
natural division of reality and can thus be regarded as ‘natural kinds’. In place of
this view, Danziger has adopted the term, ‘human kinds’ from his colleague in
Toronto, Ian Hacking (e.g. Hacking, 1995; see also Danziger, 1999). An important
characteristic of human kinds is that they not only help us to understand and
to explain human action. They influence the action as well. It is probably of no
importance to a dolphin whether we characterize it as a ‘mammal’ or a ‘fish’ but it
is of great importance to parents who physically punish their children whether we
characterize their actions as ‘discipline’ or ‘child abuse’. One of the features of a
human kind is that its application can sometimes be controversial. The person to
whom it is applied can passively accept it or vigorously reject it. What both Hacking
and Danziger want to emphasize here is the oft-stated view that human beings are
‘self-defining creatures’. It is because of this that the activities of psychologists
differ from those of their counterparts in the natural sciences since they are not
merely attempting to describe a human nature that exists independently of the
descriptions that they use. Their descriptions help to shape the phenomenon under
investigation and it is here that the relationship between psychological objects and
social practices lies.
Danziger has sometimes been mistakenly characterized as a ‘sociological
reductionist’ for holding these views (Stam, this volume). While he clearly wishes
to demonstrate that knowledge has a sociological dimension, he makes no claim
to knowing what the ultimate nature of psychological knowledge is. The issue is
seen as an empirical question that has yet to be resolved:
Our only hope of establishing the reach of psychological knowledge is not to take
its universality for granted at the outset, but to treat each of its products as a histori-
cally embedded achievement. Only when we understand something of this historical
embeddedness of specific psychological objects and practices are we in a position
to formulate intelligent questions about their possible transcendence. (Danziger,
1993a; p. 45)
Elsewhere, Danziger (1993b) suggests that trying to decide on these issues in
advance of carrying out any historical or cross-cultural research is like trying to
judge the outcome of a court case before the evidence has been produced. He has
also written positively of the critical realism of Roy Bhaskar (Danziger, 1990;
see also Bhaskar, 1978; 1979). According to Richards (2002b), this philosophy
“attempts to recoup the implications of social constructionism by accepting that
the objects of knowledge are objectively real, but conceding that the terms in which
they are known or knowable are in some sense socially determined” (p. 334). Thus
the sociology of knowledge and philosophical realism are not incompatible, as
is often supposed. The history of psychological objects as an area of historical
research is compatible with a wide range of philosophical views and Danziger’s
realist position is only one possibility among several. However, it does need to be
emphasized that when Danziger asserts that psychological objects are intimately
related to the social practices of a particular time and place, he is referring to real
social practices that have real effects on real people and not to some figment of
Danziger has continued this line of research with his most recent work on the
history of memory. This was a topic that he initially considered for inclusion in
Naming the Mind but he came to realise that it was so vast that it needed a separate
treatment (Danziger, personal communication). This work marks an important
departure from the psychological objects that were examined in Naming the Mind
in one very important respect: the concept of ‘memory’ is not a recent creation but
has existed in one form or another since at least the time of Plato. According to
Danziger (2002), the appearance of this term is connected with the social practice
of storing information in written form. Plato’s teacher, Socrates wrote nothing
and relied on oral communication. It is no mere coincidence, therefore, that Plato
introduced the concept with the metaphor of a wax tablet since it has always been
linked to storing information in one form or another (see also Draaisma, 2000).
The persistence of the concept can be explained in terms of the persistence of this
Danziger also shows that there have been wildly different conceptions of the
phenomenon over time and he has recently returned to the topic of Wundt in order
to illustrate this point. It is well known that Wundt did not carry out any memory
experiments in his Leipzig laboratory. The start of experimental research on this
topic is usually traced to the work of Ebbinghaus in Berlin (Ebbinghaus, 1885). This
situation is often explained in purely technical terms; that is, Wundt did not develop
the appropriate experimental techniques. Underlying this assumption is the view of
naive naturalism that memory has always been ‘out there’ and was merely waiting
for someone to investigate it. According to Danziger (2001a), Wundt did not regard
the topic of ‘memory’ as being of fundamental importance since, in his view, it
was not one mental activity but the secondary product of several. It was a category
of folk psychology — or what Wundt sometimes called, ‘vulgar psychology’ — and
he dismissed it as an ‘empty name’; that is, a word that had no proper referent.
Wundt was not the only person in nineteenth-century Germany who held these
views and they would not have appeared strange to Wundt’s contemporaries.
ADRIAN C. BROCK
Danziger has only published a small amount on this subject so far but it is
already clear that he does not regard an apparently ‘transhistorical’ psychological
object, such as memory, as being unaffected by socio-historical circumstances.
Some readers may be surprised by the use of ‘history’ and ‘theory’ throughout
this introduction since these are sometimes seen as separate activities. This is par-
ticularly true in the United States where the American Psychological Association
has separate divisions for these activities. Divisions 26 (History of Psychology)
and 24 (Theoretical/Philosophical Psychology ) respectively. This situation stands
in sharp contrast to the institutional arrangements in the British and Canadian pro-
fessional organizations, which have sections devoted to “History and Philosophy
of Psychology”. Danziger is a philosophically minded historian of psychology who
has been a frequent participant not only in the meetings of these two sections but
also in the meetings of the International Society for Theoretical Psychology. He
has also published his work in journals such as Theory and Psychology, Annals of
Theoretical Psychology and even Philosophy of the Social Sciences (e.g. Danziger,
1985; 1993a; 1994). In an interview that I conducted with him in 1994, he expressed
the view that history without theory cannot be good history and that theory without
history cannot be good theory (Brock, 1995a; 1995b). He has recently returned to
this topic in a book chapter titled, “Where history, theory and philosophy meet:
The historiography of psychological objects” (Danziger, 2003). As may be evinced
from the title of this chapter, Danziger’ s work exemplifies this unified approach
to history, theory and philosophy. Although Danziger’ s philosophical interests are
evident in his historical work, he prefers to use the term, ‘theory’; partly in order
to distinguish it from that branch of philosophy called, ‘philosophy of mind’ or
‘philosophical psychology’ (Danziger, personal communication).
While the authors in this volume may differ in their views on how ‘history’
and ‘theory’ might be related, they are all united in the view that these activities
should not be treated as distinct. Two of the authors in this book were the editors of a
special issue of Annals of Theoretical Psychology that was devoted to exploring this
relationship and two others contributed articles to this special issue (van Rappard
& van Strien, 1993; Danziger, 1993a; Staeuble, 1993).
Hank Stam is well known for his contributions to both history and theory
of psychology and as the editor of the journal. Theory and Psychology. He is
therefore well qualified to discuss the theoretical implications of Danziger’s work.
As mentioned in the previous section, one aspect of this work that has been the
object of much discussion in theoretical circles is its epistemological implications.
While Danziger rejects charges of ‘sociological reductionism’ and regards himself
as a philosophical realist, some psychologists have the impression that ‘reality’ is
being glossed over or left out of his account. In this chapter, Stam argues that such
charges are unwarranted and that Danziger’s epistemological views can be better
understood if ‘history’ is taken as the departure point for these views rather than
‘psychology’ as it usually understood.
The chapter by Johann Louw examines what is chronologically the earliest
work. Danziger’s South African research exemplifying a sociology of knowledge
approach provides some interesting links with his later historical work. As Louw
points out, Danziger has continued to be a sociologically oriented historian of psy-
chology and not just in his account of the ‘peripheral’ aspects of psychology, such
as the history of psychologists and institutions. His sociological analysis extends to
psychological knowledge itself and, although his work is generally characterized
as ‘history and theory of psychology’, it can be seen as an exercise in the sociol-
ogy of knowledge as well. Danziger’s work is sometimes identified with what has
come to be known as “The social constructionist movement in modern psychol-
ogy’’ (Gergen, 1985). However, his sociologically oriented history of psychology
has its roots in the much older tradition of the sociology of knowledge. He has
suggested that it is more appropriate to regard the area of ‘social construction’ as an
interdisciplinary field and that placing the suffix ‘ism’ on the end of this term can
only raise false expectations about the amount of agreement that exists between the
researchers from a variety of disciplines who work in this area (Danziger, 1997b).
Like Danziger, Andrew Winston has been working on the history of psy-
chological methodology since the 1980s. They are also familiar with each other’s
work and there may have been some mutual influence since their research has
overlapped. One topic that both have examined is the introduction of the concept
of ‘variable’ into psychology (e.g. Winston & Blais, 1996; Danziger & Dzinas,
1998). Far from being a timeless and universal feature of science, the term was
adopted by American psychologists in the 1930s and subsequently exported to
other parts of the world. Winston also shows quite clearly that the term is a part of
the internal culture of psychology and is hardly used in physics and other natural
sciences. This work on the ‘variable’ concept is a good example of how the history
of psychological methodology and the history of psychological objects can over-
lap. Winston also provides an account of a psychological object that died a very
quick death: the ‘experimentee’. The term was proposed by Saul Rosenzweig in
the 1930s but he decided to abandon it following pressure from E. G. Boring. What
is particular interesting about this account is the importance that was placed on the
homogeneity of the methodological terms that were used within the discipline.
Pieter van Strien develops a different aspect of Constructing the Subject in
his chapter on the single- subject research design. In his own work, Danziger had
focussed on the historical origins of mainstream American research methods. One
of the main features of these methods is that they take a large sample of ‘subjects’
and then work with the statistical averages from these results. This is equally
true of experimental research that is interested in general human performance
and in personality research where individual differences are the main focus of
interest. Danziger described this situation as “the triumph of the aggregate” and
ADRIAN C. BROCK
shows how the early German experimenters based their theories on evidence drawn
from one participant or a small number of participants (Danziger, 1990). One
of the most famous examples is Ebbinghaus who was both the subject and the
experimenter in his memory research (Ebbinghaus, 1885). Danziger acknowledges
that the single-subject research design has continued in psychophysics and van
Strien expands these remarks. He also points out that the design has continued
in other areas of psychology as well. Perhaps the best-known example is B. F.
Skinner who frequently used a single animal in his research. Van Strien also refers
to computer modelling, which belongs to a historical period that is later than the
period that Danziger discusses in Constructing the Subject. The chapter provides an
interesting extension of Danziger’s work to other investigative practices. Van Strien
acknowledges that psychologists like Skinner who did single-subject research were
out of step with the majority of American psychologists and it is the methods of
this majority that were the focus of Danziger’s research. He also suggests that the
persistence of the single-subject design can be explained in sociological terms.
Richard Walsh-Bowers is a former student of Danziger whose work in recent
years has centered on research ethics and the social aspects of the research situation.
The latter is an important focus of Constructing the Subject where Danziger had
drawn attention to the research relationship in the early German experiments, which
was a relationship of equals and sometimes a relationship in which the research
participant had greater social status than the experimenter. It was only later that
research participants came to be described as ‘subjects’, who had to be naive and
who were deliberately kept naive by using deception and other strategies. Walsh-
Bowers’ aim is to introduce a greater degree of equality and democracy in the
research situation and his chapter provides a good example of how critical history
is often written with the aim of changing the present.
Following the publication of Constructing the subject , Danziger addressed
a broad set of themes related to the historiography of psychology. In 1992, he
presented a paper at a meeting of Cheiron-Europe titled, “In praise of marginality”
(Danziger, 1992b). The paper discussed several aspects of marginality but perhaps
the most important was the problematic status of history and theory of psychology
in relation to psychology. This theme is taken up by Betty Bayer in her discussion
of the prospects of a cultural-historical approach to psychology. Her work also
touches on a theme that Danziger (1994) addresses in his paper, “Does the history
of psychology have a future?”. In this paper, Danziger suggested that it is important
for critical historians to maintain a presence within psychology, and within science
in general, so that they will be in a better position to have their views heard.
Historians of science work in different departments from practising scientists, go
to different conferences and publish in different forums. This is not an ideal position
to be in if one wishes to influence the course of science. Bayer offers a somewhat
depressing picture of scholars being hounded out of their academic disciplines
and being forced to do their work elsewhere. Those who identify with critical
history will surely have different experiences in this regard but Bayer does end
with an optimistic assessment of the prospect of change. Her chapter points to the
importance of interdisciplinary work and interdisciplinary alliances. For those of
us who take a sociological and historical perspective on these matters, disciplines
are not ‘natural kinds’ that correspond to some natural division in the world but
the product of social conventions that vary historically and cross-culturally. Even
the label, ‘psychologist’ is a ‘human kind’ that one can accept or reject; or accept
The inclusion of Hans van Rappard in this volume is an indication of the edi-
tors’ intentions of producing a critical discussion of Danziger’s work. Van Rappard
is well known as a critic of Danziger’s approach to the history of psychology (van
Rappard, 1997; 1998). In this chapter, van Rappard discusses the work of Wundt, a
topic that was central to Danziger’s early work in history and theory of psychology,
and seeks to highlight what he considers to be the differences between the general
approach of Danziger and that of his own. Van Rappard has criticised the trend
among historians of psychology towards ‘critical’ history and he correctly views
Danziger as one of the most prominent representatives of this approach. According
to van Rappard, the most appropriate kind of work that a psychologist-historian
(as opposed to a professional historian) can do is to examine the great theorists of
the past in order to assist current theorizing and he offers his account of Wundt
as an example of this approach. What complicates the situation considerably is
that Danziger himself has used a similar approach in his discussions of Wundt’s
Volkerpsychologie (Danziger, 1983) or Lewin’s early research in Berlin, which
he has described as “buried treasure” (Danziger; 1990; p. 178). There is nothing
inconsistent about being critical of mainstream psychology while simultaneously
looking for alternatives among approaches to the subject that were historically
less successful. Indeed, it could be argued that one is a necessary complement to
the other in North America where to use the works of the past as a guide to the
present is already a highly unorthodox step. While reading van Rappard’s critique
of Danziger’s views on the history of psychology, and also that of Dehue (1998), it
should be remembered that these Dutch authors work in a different social context
from that of Danziger since this may explain some of the differences in their views.
One example of these local differences is the different status of historical psy-
chology in (continental) Europe and the English-speaking world (Brock, 1995a;
1995b). Historical psychology has been an important theme in Danziger’s re-
cent work, though he was aware of its significance at an early stage (see Louw,
this volume). This subject has long existed on the margins of English-language
psychology (e.g. Barbu, 1960) but it is taken much more seriously in Germany
(e.g. Loewenstein, 1992; Sonntag & Jiitteman, 1993) and in the Netherlands (e.g.
Verhave & van Hoorn, 1984; Peeters, 1996). Willem van Hoorn is a former student
of Jan Hendrik van den Berg, a psychiatrist who represents a distinctive phe-
nomenological approach to historical psychology (van den Berg, 1961), and he
ADRIAN C. BROCK
has been engaged with this field for many years. His chapter is a plea for the inclu-
sion of historical psychology as an integral part of the historiography of scientific
psychology through the phenomenological concept of the ‘life world’.
Irmingard Staeuble has been a prominent figure in the recent work on histor-
ical psychology in Germany (e.g. Staeuble, 1991; 1993). She is also well known
as a critic of the postcolonial relationship between the so-called ‘first’ and ‘third’
worlds in psychology and has argued for a greater openness to non-western con-
ceptions of knowledge. In this respect, her interests overlap with Danziger’s own.
It was Danziger’s encounter with an alien form of psychological knowledge in
Indonesia that led to his interest in the history of psychological objects. He has
also criticized the unfortunate tendency to identify the history of American psy-
chology with the history of psychology as a whole and has advocated what he
calls a ‘polycentric’ approach to the field (Danziger, 1991; 1996). In this chapter,
Staeuble outlines the expansion of western psychology around the world after the
Second World War and the attempts to make it more appropriate to the local con-
text under the label, ‘indigenization’ (e.g. Moghaddam, 1987). She also discusses
the prospects of the kind of polycentric history of psychology that Danziger has
The book ends with a chapter by Kurt Danziger himself. This chapter contains
comments on the chapters by the other authors and also a discussion of some of the
issues that these chapters raise. One topic that Danziger explores in some detail is
the issue of ‘disciplinarity’ . Psychologists have traditionally identified their work
with the natural sciences and neglected the subject’s links to the social sciences and
humanities (Danziger, 1994; Brock, 1995a; 1995b). As Danziger points out, the
situation is maintained by erecting barriers to subjects like sociology, anthropology,
history and philosophy and one possible strategy for changing the situation is
to move outside this disciplinary ghetto and to participate in interdisciplinary
1 I would like to thank Kurt Danziger and my co-editors, Johann Louw and Willem van Hoorn for
their helpful comments on an earlier draft.
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RECONSTRUCTING THE SUBJECT
KURT DANZIGER AND THE REVISIONIST
PROJECT IN HISTORIOGRAPHIES
OF PSYCHOLOGY 1
Henderikus J. Stam
The greatest obstacles to good scholarship are to be found in the ‘god tricks’ that
serve to hide and obscure the necessary partiality involved in knowledge production.
Kurt Danziger (1998)
It is both a pleasure and a privilege to contribute to this volume of scholars honoring
the work of Professor Kurt Danziger. His influence is deeply felt by all of us
who have attempted to understand the history of the discipline of psychology as
more than a mere accumulation of ideas and empirical results and he has inspired
the critical work of those who have attempted to change the mainstream of that
discipline by showing us that investigative practices are deeply carved out of taken
for granted worlds.
I would like here especially to consider the relationship between Danziger’s
work and questions of theory. This is a tall order indeed so I intend to engage only
a modest aspect of that topic here, namely the epistemological implications for
psychological theory embedded in the historical work conducted by Danziger. The
continuous interplay between our theoretical discourse and investigative practices
and the embeddedness of those practices in social contexts not of our own making
makes psychological theory the outcome of more than the ideas of individual
H. J. ST AM
scientists. Addressing this topic should be relatively effortless given that Danziger
has himself addressed the implications of his work in both of his major historical
books. Constructing the Subject (1990a) and Naming the Mind (1997a) as well
as in numerous other papers (e.g., Danziger, 1990b, 1993a, 1994). On the other
hand, having addressed the issue he has also shown that it is not a simple matter of
drawing out a few implications from his work but that on his own account history
and theory are clearly not independent activities. In this sense Danziger can be
counted among those who, like others such as Michel Foucault, have challenged
the prevailing ethos of the human sciences and argued that from the vantage of
history there is so much more at stake in these sciences than was at first supposed.
By way of introducing the narrative, the point of my paper is perhaps best
captured by the following anecdote: While attending a conference in 1 989 at which
Danziger gave a talk in which he outlined some of his key notions in the history
of psychology prior to the publication of Constructing the Subject (Danziger,
1990a), I was seated beside a senior psychologist. During the ensuing discussion,
which consisted mainly of a rather predictable debate on the distinction between
intellectual and contextual history, Danziger held his ground without allowing
himself to be drawn into the more exaggerated and heated aspects of the contest.
My senior colleague turned to me and pronounced that he wished Danziger would
take a stronger stand because “we need our historians to provide us with a vision.”
Presumably my colleague meant a vision of what the discipline could be in the
light of the kind of critical history Danziger has written. In retrospect however I
do believe that there is a vision in the work of Kurt Danziger, and it is that vision
that I would like to place on the table. For in elaborating this particular aspect of
Danziger’s work we will come closer to addressing the question of history and its
relationship to theory.
Theory, from the Greek Oecopia and Latin theoria meant, among other things,
contemplation or observation. This meaning has lingered in the modern English
usage of the term; as late as 1710 John Norris could say that “speculative knowledge
contemplates truth for itself, and accordingly stops and rests in the contemplation
of it, which is what we commonly call theory” (as cited in the OED). At the same
time of course we see the gradual adoption of the term within the sciences and its
strict application by Newton to mean “invariant relations among terms designating
manifest qualities” (Losee, 1980, p. 91). He divided this meaning strictly from his
views on ‘hypotheses’ which are statements about terms for which no measuring
procedures are known (hence Newton’s famous dictum, “Hypotheses non lingo”).
This view was modified over a period of 300 years up to the logical empiricists
of the twentieth century who claimed that theories must be deductive systems in
RECONSTRUCTING THE SUBJECT
which laws are theorems. The spectacular demise of the logical empiricist system
in the space of forty years has been widely described and analyzed and I will not
pursue this here. In short, it is the failure (or impossibility) of maintaining the key
distinction between a theoretical language and observational terms that created
such difficulties both for logical empiricists and for those who would formalize
theory in science more generally.
Theory in the human sciences, and in psychology in particular, never ap-
proximated the grand schemes articulated by luminaries of the logical empiricist
movement such as Hempel and Carnap. Nonetheless, the latter provided a kind of
framework outside the discipline that could be called on at auspicious moments
for defense. Logical empiricism worked as a kind of Non-proliferation Treaty for
theory, where theory could be contained so long as it was held to be, in principle, a
species of deductive system. However the notion that observations were dependent
on, continually infected by, or otherwise structured by theoretical considerations
(e.g., Hanson, 1958; Kuhn, 1970) opened up the question of theory in the philos-
ophy of science more generally and eventually did so in psychology (e.g., Stam,
1996). The obverse is frequently left unsaid, namely that theory is deeply depen-
dent on some presumed observational regularities of life itself, even in its most
post-positivist moments. That is, theorizing and observing are not different kinds
of activities so much as they are different forms of a similar activity of sense-
making that varies in its systematicity, practical arrangements and consequences
(Stam, 2000). In this the writing of history is not different in so far as it requires the
adjudication of evidence always within a framework of prejudices and preconcep-
tions, theoretical predilections and considerations of what audience one expects to
HISTORY OF PSYCHOLOGY
How do these considerations inform a discussion of the historical work of Kurt
Danziger? Historiography is obviously deeply dependent on some presuppositions
and pretexts that allow the enterprise to establish its legitimacy. The difficulties
of the philosophy of history notwithstanding, the peculiar nature of disciplinary
history only compounds such difficulties. For not only are we confronted with the
question of what constitutes proper historical inquiry or ‘explanation’ but also with
what constitutes the discipline in question, in Danziger’s case, psychology. These
are not trivial problems, for while we may have agreement on how to proceed in
writing a history of psychology we may not agree on what ought to constitute
psychology, or vice versa. Fortunately, it turns out that these questions are related
so that the answer to one is at least affected if not inspired by one’s answer to the
second. This relationship exists on several levels: First, any historical undertaking
is concerned with the activities, artifacts, expressions and desires of human beings
H. J. STAM
and human collectives. Such conceptions of human nature that the historian has, and
that are predominant in the discipline and culture of the historian, must obviously
influence the work at hand, or on some accounts of history, make the work possible
in the first instance. Second, the disciplinary history of psychology is also, in part,
a history of the activities and artifacts of human beings, namely psychologists.
Hence, the historian of psychology is first of all a historian, piecing together a
narrative or account of places, persons, desires, contexts and ideas.
Nevertheless, if our conception of human persons is like that of the mainstream
of the discipline, that is, largely scientistic, individualistic and functional, then our
history will focus on the development of disciplinary achievements and not on
the institutional, political, social or even depth-psychological forces involved in
creating such a model of human being in the first place. Or, if it is our primary
goal to tell a story of the rise and development of aspects of the discipline proper,
it is likely that we will remain confined to a disciplinary trajectory.
To illustrate, I want briefly to examine critical history’s perennial foil, Edwin
Boring. 2 The first sentences of the 1929 edition of his text are,
The history of psychology is inextricably bound up with the history of philosophy,
whereas the rise and development of experimental psychology is explicitly a phase
of the history of scientific endeavor, (p. 3)
As Boring himself noted later in his memoirs, he wrote his history of psychology
out of a conception of history as progress. He noted that . . History is an ever-
flowing stream through the centuries, a stream of events that occur in the nervous
systems of persons situated so that their thoughts and acts become links in the
course of progress” (Boring, 1961, p. 49). Such presentist history has long been
criticized and the obvious variants still available today in the form of some under-
graduate text books only speak to the lasting importance of such historiography
to a discipline without a center, still uncertain about its scientific and institutional
As soon as notions such as “progress” and the very history of science itself
become contested, however, then the writing of such a disciplinary history becomes
a matter for revision. And it is here that I would place Professor Danziger among
the foremost practitioners of this revisionist history in psychology. Inspired by new
histories of science and the social studies of science, it was possible to confront
the seemingly ironclad notion of the division between an internal reconstruction of
science and its external reconstruction. The theories of scientists are generated in
the activities of scientists that are conducted in social institutions that have at least
some of the characteristics of other, non-scientific social institutions. Knowing the
historical location and specificity of our activities ought to be, on this account, a
normal part of the understanding of generating theory and research.
Indeed, both the understanding of the history of a problem and the construc-
tion of its theory are, on this account, not radically different activities. Among
RECONSTRUCTING THE SUBJECT
other things, history makes it possible to ask what the relationship is between
one’s interest as a scientist, one’s membership in a particular local community and
one’s accounts of one’s scientific activities. For example, the relationship between
ideas of intelligence and intellect, the institutionalization and universalization of
education, and the grading of human abilities all played a role in the develop-
ment of the intelligence test in a manner that complicates any story of heroic
pioneers who developed such tests (e.g., Danziger, 1997a). The post-war insti-
tutionalization of North American experimental social psychology can hardly be
conceived along the lines of brilliant individuals applying a new technology to a
whole new field of human experience using selected insights garnered from Kurt
Lewin. Instead, a complex relationship exists between ambitious post-war psy-
chologists (who largely came from working-class urban environments), the need
to demarcate social psychology from other fields of endeavor inside and outside
psychology, and the recognition that only a psychology based on individuals would
ever survive as social psychology inside the discipline. Along with more idiosyn-
cratic contributions of the individuals involved, this provides a more coherent and
context-sensitive account of the development (and failures) of contemporary social
psychology (e.g., Stam, Lubek & Radtke, 2000). The point is not that the history of
intellectual endeavors is complex but that the history of such endeavors are always
unfolding and open to further contextualization and elaboration and can never just
be accounts of intellectual achievements.
As an aside, note that the focus on the formative activities of scientists in
laboratories and their relation to theory are also a consequence of the under-
determination of theories by data. That is, in the absence of genuine epistemolog-
ical authority, most notably within the human sciences (see e.g., Weimer, 1979),
scientists must retreat to sophistication and commitment as well as traditions of
investigation. But such a retreat is negligible if the practical activities of one’s
scientific activities are determined to be progressive by the community of science
or one is able to demonstrate technological achievements to the world at large.
In the absence of both, the activities of psychologists are important not only for
what they reveal of the construction of a discipline but for what they hide. That is,
psychological theories both permit and pretermit, precisely what a historical re-
counting of the activities of psychologists ought to open up to view. History makes
visible not just the obvious but the hidden interrelated processes of constructing
and then separating data and theory out of a world of artifacts.
In Constructing the Subject (1990a) Danziger demonstrates how a treatment
of the investigative practices of the discipline radically shifts the emphasis of
disciplinary history. Rather than tracking a unitary conception of the discipline,
the question of investigative practices makes clear how psychology became a
hybrid of various technologies of investigation. Together with a division of labor
in the laboratory, the careful development of markets for its knowledge and the
incorporation of statistical devices into its methods and manner of theorizing in the
H. J. STAM
aggregate, psychology’s history no longer resembled the kind of linear, incremental
enterprise we had come to expect from histories of psychology. In a later paper
Danziger (1993a) extends this analysis to the “historicity of psychological objects”
or the very things to which our theories refer. Here he reminds us that our objects of
investigation are constructed, that is, they are the product of human activities, they
have definitive uses, and they have a reference that itself needs to be explicated.
This paper on the historicity of psychological objects seems to me a transitional
one, pointing to a need for further analysis that was left open by the use of the
term “objects.” The latter have the status of kinds of ‘hybrid’ entities (or quasi-
objects, cf. Latour, 1993) that are at once natural and social, material and discursive.
Latour’s claim is that distinctions between ‘constructed’ and ‘material’ accounts
are misguided, all of our research objects have the character of both material
and discursive, socially mediated properties. The construction and proliferation of
such hybrids is not just the outcome of an investigative practice but includes the
reformulation of powerful linguistic resources as well.
It seems that this problem is addressed in Naming the Mind (1997a). In this
volume the project is extended to the level of concept and terminology (rather than
investigative practices or their objects). Indeed, by not just focusing on theory or
strictly formal expositions, Danziger is able to keep from lapsing into old debates
on the nature of psychological categories. Instead he argues that the very act of
categorization in psychology displays a naive naturalism whereby natural kinds
are presumed to exist in the categories that make up the theories of psychology. Yet
by the time these theories are articulated in a formal sense, the act of naming and
pointing to the appropriate object of investigation has already smuggled in a host of
presuppositions and assumptions. Terms such as intelligence, emotion, motivation
and the like are neither neutral nor natural but carry histories of conceptualization
and use that deeply influence the possibilities open to the psychological theory
that uses the concept. As Danziger notes, some of our most important terms are
scientized and institutionalized variants of an eighteenth-century moral language.
Naming the Mind completes the earlier study of the investigative practices of
psychologists in Constructing the Subject by combining this work with a categor-
ical and discursive study. Danziger’ s argument shifts from the crucial role played
by investigative practices to the language guiding and in turn produced by those
practices. As I will discuss below, this shift is important for the way Danziger has
come to see the shaping of the discipline and the importance that a psychological
discourse has above and beyond the research practices of its members. In short,
Danziger argues that psychology established itself institutionally through astutely
combining universal biological meanings with local social meanings that were
mediated by the development of specific technologies. Certain investigative prac-
tices, certain methods of psychological research and assessment — intelligence and
personality testing, techniques for measuring the strength of attitudes and motives,
standard learning situations, and so on — provided the basis for constituting classes
RECONSTRUCTING THE SUBJECT
of scientifically validated phenomena that could be produced in a variety of prac-
tical settings. In the course of time, the role of such technologies in establishing
the meaning of psychological categories became ever more decisive.
At this point we have come full circle, for the investigative practices are
implicated in, and part of the discursive structure of the discipline. To return to my
earlier formulation, it is here that theorizing and observing are indeed activities
that are not separate but in their mutual organization and maintenance come to
constitute disciplinary practices and findings. To stay with the visual trope, both
observing and theorizing are attempts to make visible that which is conceived of
as invisible and to render invisible or subsidiary other, competing accounts of the
subject matter. The creation of objects of investigation and the findings related to
those objects are rhetorical accomplishments as well as moments of invention. It is
not only the language of psychology that is changed and shaped by the constitution
of these objects but it is practices that are made possible by the objects in their
Narrating history in this manner leaves open a question that Danziger himself
has worried about in his work across the span of two decades, namely, what are the
implications for the current enterprise of psychology, or as he asked in Constructing
the Subject , “when allowance is made for the factors that led to a relativizing of
psychological knowledge, is there no remainder?” (p. 192). I will return here to
an earlier worry that I noted in my review of Constructing the Subject (Stam,
1992), but with an intervening decade to consider the problem I would like to
take a slightly different approach to this question. I was originally concerned that
in that book, Danziger had backed out of the implications of his own analysis
by noting that psychological realities could not be entirely accounted for by the
limits of their investigative contexts and remained hidden under a veil of socially
constituted practices. Like some of Danziger’s critics (e.g.. Ash, 1993; Mills, 1993)
there is a continuing worry that something is being glossed or overlooked and that
that something in fact consists of the core phenomena of the discipline.
Danziger’s answer to this was initially to call on a form of critical realism
as a solution (Bhaskar, 1978). The domain of the real was distinguished from the
domain of the actual, on Bhaskar’s account, and the possibility was held up that
there are determinant psychic mechanisms responsible for, or underlying, the ob-
served regularities constituted through the investigative practices of psychologists.
However, Danziger himself has moderated these claims on the realist-relativist
question in his further work. For example, in his 1993 paper Danziger argues that
psychology’s objects are not natural kinds and that methods are not theoretically
and ethically neutral. Instead, argues Danziger, theories ought to be evaluated on
criteria of practical consequences and reflexivity. By the time of the publication of
Naming the Mind, this has retreated even further to the background. Here Danziger
refers not to ‘objects’ but to the problematic relationship between discursive cate-
gories and the phenomena themselves. Danziger clearly notes that the relationship
H. J. STAM
here is constitutional, not representational, by which he means that a psychologi-
cal object depends on “its human creator and the relationship between the object’s
existence and its representation has become quite intimate” (p. 1 87). Relying on
Ian Hacking’s notion of a ‘human kind’ as opposed to a ‘natural kind,’ Danziger
notes that psychological objects aren’t just legends either. They have a circulation
(in Hacking’s words  they are subject to “looping effects”) in a cultural and
human context and their circulation amends as well as reifies the phenomena in
WHAT CAN HISTORY BE?
Although his critics have accused him of, among other things, being a soci-
ological reductionist (Mills, 1993) or of denigrating the possibilities of writing a
history from the ‘inside’ of the discipline (Rappard, 1997) 3 , 1 think these critiques
are off the mark (and Danziger has spoken eloquently for himself in reply, e.g.,
Danziger, 1993b, 1997b, 1998). I would like to place my comments in the context
of broader debates in the philosophy of history. This is because the critiques of the
work of historians such as Danziger are often couched in terms of the pernicious
effects of relativism and explicitly or implicitly are aimed at propping up some
conception of realism (e.g., Fox-Genovese & Lasch-Quinn, 1999). In his mature
writings, it was R. G. Collingwood who recognized the mistake in this for the en-
terprise of history. Often accused of skepticism himself by reviewers of The Idea
of History (1946), Collingwood was careful not to become mired in this debate.
For after all, in his earlier works such as Speculum Mentis (1924) he endorsed a
realist program for history, if only implicitly, and by the time the Idea of History
was published he had worked out precisely why he was not a realist. Skepticism,
he argues, is a consequence of realism, “the discovery that the past as such is
unknowable is the skepticism which is the permanent and necessary counterpart
of the plain man’s realism” (1965, p. 100). It is the search for a factual past that
is an illusion because the past as such can never be known again. Instead it led
Collingwood away from “an unknowable past-in-itself ” to the activities of histo-
rians themselves (Goldstein, 1970). Here Collingwood is often seen as relegating
history to an act of imagination but this is too quick: In a paper on the historical
imagination appended to the Idea of History he argues,
. . . neither the raw material of historical knowledge, the detail of the here-and-now
as given him in perception, nor the various endowments that serve him as aids to
interpreting this evidence, can give the historian his criterion of historical truth. That
criterion is the idea of history itself: the idea of an imaginary picture of the past. That
idea is, in Cartesian language, innate; in Kantian language, a priori. It is not a chance
product of psychological causes; it is an idea which every man possesses as part of
the furniture of his mind, and discovers himself to possess in so far as he becomes
conscious of what it is to have a mind. (1946, p. 248)
RECONSTRUCTING THE SUBJECT
What keeps the “self-dependent, self-determining, and self-justifying” (p. 249)
historical imagination from falling into skepticism is the discipline of history itself.
Although Collingwood was not entirely clear about this, it is the structure of the
discipline and what this discipline considers as good research practices, reliable
evidence and the like that prevents the individual knower/historian from sliding
off into the mere play of imagination. And Collingwood defended the notion of
the autonomy of history precisely to preserve its status as a communal enterprise
(Goldstein, 1970). 4
Collingwood saves history from the endless spiral of skepticism by an explicit
turn to the imagination or the psychology of the individual historian. By extension,
the community of historians makes history possible outside of any other authority.
In this manner, Collingwood sees clearly that it is in its communal activities that
historians decide history. This formulation predates the work of others who take up
the problem of narrative, plot, and understanding, in particular Paul Ricoeur and
Hayden White. The latter become preoccupied with a question of how language
in its myriad forms makes the structure of story possible but when Ricoeur argues
(against positivist textual objectivity) for a dialectic of understanding and explana-
tion he means, in a manner reminiscent of Collingwood, that understanding is the
ability to take up again, within the self, the work of structuring that is performed by
the text. Explanation is always secondary to this understanding in that it consists
in bringing to light the codes underlying the work of structuring. It is clear that
understanding for Ricoeur is an imaginal act and explanation is made possible by
the discourse available to us from our cultural understanding and presuppositions.
History must be configured and brought into meaningful relation with other events
in time, that is, made subject to emplotment.
In the first volume of Time and Narrative Ricoeur (1984) attends to the ne-
cessity of narrative (through configuration and emplotment) for a historical under-
standing. Indeed, history must be configured, it must be brought into a meaningful
relation with other events in time. Like Hayden White, Ricoeur argues that history
is combined of the found and made-up, of the documented and the narrated. With-
out configuration and emplotment there can be no history. Once narrated history is
appropriated it is not only meaningful but it in turn becomes the ground for further
configuration. Narratives extend the past into the present and make it possible to
imagine a future (Ricoeur, 1988).
Like Ricoeur, a range of historians of the twentieth-century has taken up the
problem of the relation between the found and the made-up or the documented
and the narrated. Hayden White (1973, 1978) too has argued that to produce a
history, the chronicle must be converted to a meaningful narrative and hence must
be emplotted. But the past has no plot and hence the historian provides an account,
a narrative that emplots or encodes the traces or evidence. White is more formalist
than Ricoeur (and other narrative historians), however, in so far as he argues that
modes of emplotment are fundamentally dependent on tropes since there is no other
entry into the rhetorical structure of language. Indeed, figurative characterizations
H. J. STAM
are presupposed by the events to be represented and hence White’s claim that
language operates tropologically to prefigure a field of perception. The boundary
between the language that makes history and the content of that history remains
Despite White’s move into the formalism, so characteristic of later 20th cen-
tury theorizing, he effectively supports Collingwood’s contention that history is
an independent enterprise (even as he does not support Collingwood’s notion that
history requires the reenactment of historical agents). All such theories of history
are meant to prevent the encroachment of positivism and scientism on a historical
consciousness. They embody the insights characteristic of the Geisteswisschen-
schaften debates of the late 19th century where Dilthey already formulated the
notion that lived experience is mediated through the imagination as well as the
socio-cultural practices of the historical world (Makkreel, 1992; Mos, 1996).
It was Ankersmit (2002) who recently argued that historical representation is a
matter of the organization of the truth rather than the truth itself. Our representations
may be “sensible, fruitful, helpful, thought-provoking (or not), but, while the data
deployed may be true or false, the proposal deploying them cannot be” (p. 38).
Hence the criteria are broadly aesthetic; there is no direct line back to the agents
of history except through another point of view. But this point of view is not in the
past but is embedded in the aesthetic language of the historian (Ankersmit, 1996).
On this account history takes its force precisely from the need to represent the past
in the absence of a fixed algorithmic manner of moving from the past to writing
about that past (see also Stam, 2003).
Attempts to retain for history its privileged capacity to judge the past are rare
and today they exercise mostly those who see themselves as defenders of some
version of ‘objectivity’ in the self-styled culture wars whose battles seem to be
largely confined to university campuses in the United States (see Fox-Genovese &
Lasch-Quinn, 1999). To return to Danziger’s work on psychology then, in the
context of the larger debates in the philosophy of history Danziger’s work is not
nearly as controversial or threatening as it appears to psychologists. But precisely
because his audience has consisted largely of psychologists (and it would be a
mistake not to write for psychologists), Danziger finds himself on the defensive
for reasons that might seem odd to professional historians. Part of this is due to
the role that histories of psychology have traditionally played in the discipline.
Historical studies of psychology are first and foremost histories. Nonetheless,
as Danziger has already pointed out on several occasions, their traditional function
was to serve a pedagogical role within the discipline (e.g., Danziger, 1994). This
function precludes historical studies from contributing to psychology as a disci-
plinary project and constitutes a mobilization of the tradition for the purposes of
celebrating the accomplishments of the past and justifying the present. Such repre-
sentations of the past are premised on the continuity of the present. On an aesthetic
reading such histories are the least interesting and most conventional. They reflect
RECONSTRUCTING THE SUBJECT
the discipline as we have come to understand it, without in any way illuminating
the subject matter of the discipline, namely the nature of human psychology itself.
What Danziger has demonstrated with his histories of psychology is a way
of proceeding that allows us to turn history on the subject matter of psychology
itself. In this respect psychological studies are always historical; they reflect the
formalization of language and the development of techniques that emerge out of
our shared cultural goods. In that sense they do not entirely escape their origins
in particular life-worlds. For even when we apply such routine tools as statistics
to our psychological topics we do not escape a concern with number, efficiency,
normativity and so on that are entailed in such devices . 5
Disciplinary histories are specialized forms of history but history nonetheless.
What Danziger’s work makes so clear with respect to Collingwood’s claim that it
is the community of historians that ultimately regulates the work of the historian,
is that likewise, it is the community of psychologists that regulates the work of
the psychologist. What we do not know is, which discipline is to be regulative for
the history of psychology. It is here that we can see the argument most clearly,
for it is those who are wedded to a progressivist or positivist notion of history
that see a limited role for that history and wish that history to be on bended knee
before the scientific authority of psychology . 6 But the respect and authority of
science can never be granted to a historical account of it, even if that history is
merely ‘celebratory’ or presentist. For history cannot be science, in the same way
that history is never just literature. It is here that psychology and history come
together, for in order to know what the institution of psychology is we must have
a history of it as it has been practiced. Yet the history of psychology already
presupposes that we know what psychology in fact is. Hence the inseparability of
the enterprise of determining the subject matter of psychology from its history.
The story we tell about psychology is always both a historical and an implicitly
Critical historians of psychology have shifted their allegiance and they are no
longer beholden to the scientific claims of the discipline. After all, these are exactly
what need to be understood again from a historical perspective. Their regulative
community exists elsewhere, in the history of science, within the community of
critical psychologists, and so on. Hence their histories contribute theory to different
communities with different sensibilities and criteria for knowledge. It is not that
these communities necessarily speak incommensurate languages, but there are
recognizable differences. It is Professor Danziger who is among the very best
of those who have shown us that the picture of paradise created by traditional
psychological histories was illusory and having tasted the forbidden fruit of critical
H. J. STAM
historical knowledge there is no return from the exile in which we find ourselves.
The vision in Danziger’s work then consists of a discipline that is no longer fettered
to the chains of an epistemology that constricts our theoretical claims at every turn.
In his own words,
. . . changes in psychological categories will continue to be heavily dependent on
changes in the societies within which these categories have a role. Their meaning
will continue to be negotiated and contested among the groups to whom they matter.
(Danziger, 1997a, p. 193)
To end where I began, I would like to close this chapter with another anecdote:
several years ago I attended a conference in Canada and was engaged in conver-
sation by a retired colleague from a western Canadian university. He asked me to
recommend some historical works on a particular topic and, as luck would have it,
he just happened upon a topic that allowed me to rattle off a series of book titles.
Impressed, he inquired, “Weren’t you a graduate student of Kurt Danziger’s?” I had
to disappoint him and told him that no, I had studied with the late Nick Spanos, who
although having had historical interests, was better known for his critical work on
hypnosis and multiple personality. My colleague seemed disappointed but I took
it as a compliment. I can only hope that Professor Danziger takes it the same way.
1 Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4. An earlier
version of this paper was presented at a symposium in honor of Kurt Danziger at the European
Society for the History of the Human Sciences meetings, Berlin, Germany, August 2000. I thank
Adrian Brock and the organizers of that symposium for inviting me to participate and I am grateful
to Kurt Danziger and the Editors for their generous comments on earlier drafts.
2 I should add here that I do not wish to denigrate Boring’s contributions to the institutional de-
velopment of the history of psychology, especially with regard to the important role he played in
legitimating historical studies as a pursuit within psychology. Boring could also be ambivalent in
his presentism: “a psychological sophistication that contains no component of historical orientation
seems to me to be no sophistication at all” (1929, p. vii).
3 Or even of criticizing “celebratory” accounts in favor of “condemnatory” accounts (Dehue, 1998).
4 Connelly and Costal (2000) have recently argued that Collingwood’s ideas on history also contained
a version of a historical psychology that remains largely unelaborated.
5 One reviewer of this chapter noted that this and other descriptions makes it appear that Danziger’s
work has something in common with the French Annales school which formed around Fernand
Braudel in the 1950s and 60s. Known for its ‘total’ approach to history, there were no details of
daily life too large or too small to contribute to historical accounts (often called ‘social history’).
Braudel was famous for wishing to break down the boundaries of the social sciences in the name
of an ‘interscience.’ Nonetheless, Danziger does not share the school’s penchant for economic
explanations and the need for structural accounts, however sophisticated. Furthermore, intellectual
work must always be more than the product of economic and social history since it is constituted in an
international discourse that is continually contested across large geographical, social and economic
6 Kendler’s (1987) textbook is perhaps one of the clearest examples of this.
RECONSTRUCTING THE SUBJECT
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IN SEARCH OF METHOD
Since the early 1980s the historiography of psychology has undergone a significant
transformation. The social contextualization of the history of psychology has been
a defining component of this change, the acknowledgement of and search for the
historical roots of psychological knowledge in specific social settings. One of the
first publications to explore and plead for a recognition of the social origins of
modern psychology was the edited book, Psychology in Social Context (Buss,
1979). The title of this volume, and the aims outlined in its opening chapter, signal
its debt to the sociology of knowledge. Buss stated that
Psychology as practiced by professional academicians occurs within a social context;
psychological knowledge is tied to the infrastructure of a society of socially defined
groups, (p. 2)
As a social activity, the construction of knowledge also has a historical dimen-
To properly understand and evaluate the validity of ideas, theories, and concepts of
psychology, one must adopt a sociohistoric interpretation, (p. ix)
Thus psychology had to pay attention to its social basis, and had to acknowledge
that external forces had an impact on internal developments in the discipline.
In this essay I wish to return to the influence of the sociology of knowl-
edge on these early developments. I will argue that this tradition can still be
recognized in current debates, even if it is just in the recognition of overtones
of constructivist epistemologies in them. Certainly, the “contextualist” analysis
of psychological concepts and methods extends the tradition in some versions of
social constructionism. The work of Kurt Danziger has played no small part in
this process, and his chapter in Buss (1979) forms a pivotal transition point in
his own work on the history of psychology. Indeed, his curriculum vitae shows
a clear break around this time: he published this chapter (1979a), and “The pos-
itivist repudiation of Wundt” (1979b), and since then has published only in the
history of psychology. The chapter in Psychology in Social Context in particular
forms a bridge between his interest prior to his first publications in the history
of psychology and subsequent publications. The present chapter will address the
work done prior to his switch to history and theory, mostly in South Africa before
The key point here is that much of his South African work reflects a strong
background in the sociology of knowledge, in which the figure of Karl Mannheim
has loomed large. It will be argued that there are a number of continuities between
these early publications and his historical/theoretical work. I will attempt to show
that Danziger was steeped in this tradition long before he turned to history and the-
ory of psychology. Indeed, one conclusion will be that his approach is consistently
“sociological”, and that the early work on empirical aspects of the sociology of
knowledge informed his later work on the history and theory of psychology.
SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE
What is the nature of the link between the kinds of knowledge produced and
the social conditions under which it is produced? How are such relationships in-
vestigated? These are questions about the social roots of intellectual structures,
which typically resort under the sociology of knowledge. Karl Mannheim has
been a central figure in the study of the relationship between ideas and the struc-
ture of society. He defined one of the foremost problems of the sociology of
how and in what form did all the ways of thinking, currents of thought, meanings of
concepts, and categories of thought come about that constitute the present state of
our knowledge and the totality of our world views? (1986, p. 48-9)
In response to the epistemological question mentioned above, he arrived at the
concept of “style” to group together ideas in terms of their form and content
(Nelson, 1992). Ideational trends can be regarded as styles of thought, and he
proposed that the analysis of styles of thought formed the basis of the sociology
of knowledge. The empirical task for the sociology of knowledge was
to reconstruct its historical and social roots; to explore the change of forms in this
style of thought in relation to the social fates of the bearing groups. (Mannheim,
1986, p. 189, emphasis in original)
IN SEARCH OF METHOD
These styles are borne by specific social groups in response to their experiential
conditions, influenced by that group’s standing in wider society at a particular time
in history. This is a formulation of social context as something socio-historical.
Mannheim’s book on conservative thought was supposed to work out what an
empirical sociology would look like. Nevertheless, his approach to the sociology
of knowledge did not deliver fully on its empirical promise. After a reconstruction
of Mannheim’s research program, Nelson (1992) concludes that such a program
could be realized, and that Danziger’s work (1963b) in this tradition points to the
DANZIGER’S EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATIONS
OF STYLES OF THOUGHT
How does one study long-term psychological changes that are important in a
historical context? How does one investigate empirically how macro-social factors
and the development of knowledge are related? These are the methodological
questions Danziger posed in the 1950s and 1960s, when he turned to Mannheim’s
sociology of knowledge (e.g. 1936) as a source of inspiration.
In one sense, South Africa presented an ideal “context” to investigate such
questions. Social relations in the country were troubled and insecure. In Ideology
and Utopia Mannheim analyzed a not too dissimilar state of affairs in the Weimar
Republic, about an intellectual crisis situation within the context of a social and
political crisis in the latter stages of the Republic. According to Nelson, Mannheim
in situations of group conflict the underlying worldviews, or more exactly the funda-
mental designs, of the groups involved will form the cognitive basis for the articulation
of styles of thought that explicitly defend the reactive or proactive lifestyle ‘com-
mitments’ of the groups. Large-scale economic changes which displace the mode of
living of social groups stimulate the production of styles of thought as groups realize
that their existing ways of life are threatened. (1992, p. 36)
In all the studies discussed below, Danziger used existing socially-defined
“race” groups in South Africa to produce the material for analysis. The reasons for
this he gave himself (Danziger, 1963b). Firstly, there are historically specific factors
that made race important in South Africa. Secondly, the social distribution of
privileges occurs along racial lines, and is maintained by making race the principal
administrative concept. Thirdly, race extends to all aspects of life; in fact, it is the
foundation concept of the social and political order in South Africa. It was a society
where no compromises were made about its racial structure, and where economic,
political and social positions were rigidly defined. This made it relatively easy to
detect and describe different styles of thought. Following Mannheim then, different
groups in South Africa ought to hold different social theories, and the question
becomes an empirical one: how to detect them in different groups.
Three studies led up to Danziger’s “Ideology and Utopia” paper ( 1963a). In
the first study (1958a), Danziger started to explore the association between the
social position of a group and its view of social structure and social causation. He
asked two groups of students, whites and blacks, to write an autobiographical essay,
imagining themselves in 50 years time. Thus it was an autobiography projected
into the future, to allow them greater opportunity to discuss their lives in a wider
social setting, and to obtain information about their life goals and aspirations.
By asking participants to focus on the future rather than the present or the past,
the instructions managed to avoid any argument over which view was “objectively
correct” — a problem for the sociology of knowledge throughout its history. Earlier
Allport and Gillespie (1955) also asked students to write about their plans, hopes
and aspirations for the future, and this work followed that practice. In a later paper
(1963c) Danziger thanked Allport and Gillespie for making available their sample
of South African autobiographies.
Danziger however also was interested in individual processes, such as how
manifestations of group differences entered into the personality of individuals. If
they did, it ought to be possible to show empirically that individuals from different
social groups differed in the values they held and the goals they set for themselves.
To explore personal values, respondents were asked to respond to questions such
as: “For what end would you be willing to make the greatest sacrifice of personal
comfort, time, and money? (1958a, p. 318).” One of the consistent differences
between the white and black (black African and Indian) students was that white
students were concerned with private goals and aspirations, while black students
mentioned benefits to their communities much more frequently, and had aspirations
to serve that community. Allport and Gillespie (1955) similarly found a greater
degree of what they called “privatism” among Americans, white South Africans,
and New Zealanders, than among Egyptians, black South Africans, and Mexicans.
In a follow-up part of the study, these main results were given to the students a
few months later and they were asked to account for them. The groups also differed
in terms of the explanations they gave for this finding. Whites tended to explain
the differences that emerged in terms that downplayed the existence of conflict
between groups: they ascribed the differences mainly to factors related to group
inferiority, and group traditions. Blacks gave more conflict type explanations for
these differences, such as political and economic discrimination, and barriers to
individual achievement. Thus it seemed as if the groups adhered to two types of
social causation, tied to their position in society.
These findings provided support for some of the basic premises of the so-
ciology of knowledge, Danziger argued. Whites, as beneficiaries of the social
arrangement, were more conservative in their outlook, while blacks stressed the
factor of social conflict, with the implication that things might change. Mannheim
IN SEARCH OF METHOD
defined ideology as “those complexes of ideas which direct activity toward the
maintenance of the prevailing order” and utopia as “those complexes of ideas
which tend to generate activities toward changes of the prevailing order (Wirth,
1936, p. xxiii). The white group’s dislike of social change led them to deny the
element of social conflict with its possibilities of social change (ideology), and the
black group stressed conflict, with the resulting possibilities of change (utopia).
Indeed, one might say that a difference of implicit social theory has been detected,
in terms of how people conceive the structure of society and the relationships
In the second paper (1958b), group differences in the definition of the social
situation were examined. In South Africa, this meant examining the evaluation
by whites and blacks of the dominant pattern of their society, captured by the
term “white civilization”. White and black students were presented with a list of
14 features which “different people have claimed to be highly characteristic of
white civilization in South Africa” (Danziger, 1958b, p. 340). They were asked
to indicate which of these features they considered to be really characteristic of
white civilization and which not. In addition, they were asked to respond to the
same questions identified in the previous paper, and to complete an abbreviated
version of Adorno’s F scale.
Once again, differences in “styles of thought” could indeed be demonstrated
between privileged and non-privileged groups in South Africa. Whites, as the
beneficiaries of the social order (i.e. “white civilization”), overall tended to evaluate
it more favorably than blacks, whom the system reduced to second class citizens.
It showed also why South Africa was such a good example to study, because of the
domination of a white minority over power. In a homogeneous society members
shared a much more common definition of their social situation: “their position in
the world, their goals and how to achieve them; they have a similar evaluation of
their society as a whole and of their position in it” (Danziger, 1958b, p. 339). In
a society split by conflict, opposing groups could be expected to define the social
situation very differently.
The existence of styles of thought did not rule out the possibility that sub-
systems existed within groups as well. Danziger examined differences within the
white group, and found that the proportion of favorable valuations was much less
among university students than among technical college students. The technical
college students, Danziger speculated, might be more representative of the popu-
lation as a whole, while the university students came under the influence of a more
critical attitude at university. Differences also occurred within the black group:
the proportion of unfavorable evaluations was slightly greater among African than
Indian respondents. Africans had even fewer civil rights in South Africa than Indian
respondents, and this difference in social position could explain this result.
Furthermore, the groups differed in the nature of the favorable items they
chose to characterize “white civilization”. Whites chose items such as “high
standards of morality in the sphere of family life”, and “respect for law and order”.
This indicates that they perceived the social order as moral and just, as “white
civilization” could claim some moral advantage. Blacks were only prepared to
concede that it delivered material advantages to whites, by choosing items like “a
superior system for the production of material goods”. They rejected its claims to
moral excellence; in fact, they rated it as immoral and unjust, by choosing items
like “unjust oppression of nonwhite people”. Phrased in more psychological terms,
one could say that this is a difference in attitude, but “attitude” is conceived in a
much more holistic and social fashion in this study than was the case in the more
typical attitude surveys of the time.
Answers to the questions about personal values confirmed the previous finding
that whites are more “privatistic” and blacks more “communal”. How to understand
this link? Danziger suggested that a group’s orientation was determined by “certain
positive pressures towards redressing real and perceived limitations on the group
by means of group action.” In less privileged groups, who were discriminated
against, members “tend to internalize the social aspirations of the group so as to turn
them into individual aspirations for each member” (Danziger, 1958b, p. 343). This
convergence of social and individual goals occurred when the social system limited
or blocked individual aspirations, simply because of the group they belonged to. For
dominant groups, on the other hand, a conflict between public duty and individual
interests emerged. For example, none of the white respondents mentioned a change
in the social order as one of their personal desires. Some of them recognized the
injustice of this order, so for these respondents there was a discrepancy between
the definition of the social order and their personal aspirations. Whites resolved
this by agreeing with statements about “abstract helpfulness”, such as “reducing
human unhappiness”. The commitment therefore remained abstract and imprecise,
which was quite convenient, because it was unlikely to lead to action. The more
specific the social aim, the more likely it would lead to social action. In line with
this, the black respondents mentioned aspects of specific helpfulness much more
frequently, e.g. “establish a clinic in an African area”.
As long as the aim remains abstract and formal, its function may not really be that
of re-orientating the individual towards social action, but rather that of assuaging the
guilt that arises from the conflict between social ideals and private interest. For the
socially oriented person, on the other hand, social aims naturally assume a concrete
content, as they arise directly out of the demands of a specific external situation that
have become identified with his individual interest, (ibid.)
Those white participants who gave the most favorable responses to “white
civilization” tended to get higher scores on the F scale, as one could predict. Their
acceptance of social discrimination and approval of the existing social situation
were linked with authoritarian values and fascism as estimated by the F-scale. In
the black group, authoritarian values were frequently associated with a critical
IN SEARCH OF METHOD
attitude to the existing social order, which Danziger argued had to do with the
need for group solidarity. Thus one had authoritarian values espoused by both
white and black groups, but for totally different reasons. To explain this, one had
to go beyond the narrow confines of psychology again: “The interpretation of
the pattern of ‘authoritarianism’ must always take into account the wider social
context” (Danziger, 1958b, p. 345).
In the third paper, Danziger (1963a) used the future autobiographies as a
method of assessing another aspect of the inter-relationship between macro-social
factors and ideas. “Economic growth”, and the differences in growth patterns be-
tween countries, were not areas in which social psychologists showed much of
an interest. Apart from McClelland’s work on achievement motivation, psycholo-
gists had little to say about the requirements of economic growth, particularly in
The question then becomes how to investigate psychological factors that are
associated with sociological factors involved in economic growth. The future auto-
biographies were seen as a promising technique to measure the presence of “action
tendencies” (Danziger, 1963a, p. 17) in individuals, which could be linked to certain
sociological factors, such as participation in modern economic and administrative
processes. The action tendency in this study turned out to be the tendency toward
Max Weber (1947) identified one of the core components of modernization
in terms of a growing process of rationalization of various spheres of society. It is
characterized by elements such as specialized institutions, the adoption of bureau-
cratic standards, the separation of private and public, and secularization. Danziger
used the term rationalization to indicate the organization of “actions into a system
which constitutes the optimum arrangement of means for bringing about a certain
end” (Danziger, 1963a, p. 17). In such a system custom was no longer blindly
accepted as a justification for organizing society, and was gradually extended, as
the economy in these countries became more industrialized and administration
As larger areas of social life are rationalized, individuals become “rational-
ized” as well. Mannheim (1940) recognized this, and called the change in the
individual’s own attitude to his/her life “self-rationalization”. Life has to be seen
as a long-term enterprise, in which each step has to be planned and calculated in
terms of how it will contribute to achieving ultimate goals. The criterion for the
rationality of the actions of individuals in this context was how it contributed to
career success. It involved the “calculating control of impulse in the interests of
a deliberately formulated life-plan” (Danziger, 1971, p. 292). For Danziger, this
implied a rigorous control of impulse, and the application of a strict, objective time
scheme to one’s life. It stands to reason that individuals would differ in the degree
to which they manifested these tendencies, and it should therefore be possible to
measure these individual differences. Self-rationalization is associated with larger
social processes through a group’s involvement in rationalized economic and ad-
ministrative processes. Where members of a group have been exposed to such
processes over a long period of time, higher levels of self-rationalization should
be present when compared to groups where this exposure has been recent and
incomplete, argued Danziger.
The instructions for the autobiographies were slightly different from before.
Students were asked to begin at the present, and to write a few paragraphs concern-
ing their expectations, plans and aspirations for the future. From these essays, an
index of self-rationalization was calculated from 7 variables, such as: ego-reality
statements (realistic statements about the writer’s personal future); non-career
values (the writer’s commitment to values that conflict with the pursuit of pure
self-interest); objective time reference (rationing of time for its most efficient use);
and time structure (the number of distinct stages on the life path). The presence
of these seven variables in the biographies was scored and weighted, resulting in
a scale on which 25 was the highest possible score and 0 the lowest. Individuals
who were high in self-rationalization would exhibit
a very realistic level of planning, a relative absence of unrealistic fantasy and of
non-career goals, a concentration on personal rather than community goals, a pre-
occupation with economic incentives, and the use of a well-articulated temporal
structure shown by precise time references and orderly succession of life stages.
(Danziger, 1971, p. 292)
The hypothesis that participation in rationalized economic and administrative
processes will be substantially related to self-rationalization was supported. First,
African males manifested a far lower level of self-rationalization than English-
speaking white males because, Danziger argued, of their incomplete involvement in
rationalized social institutions and the special limitations imposed upon them by an
irrational system of social domination. When compared to Allport and Gillespie’s
(1955) data, these differences between black and white South Africans ran parallel
to the differences between respondents from highly developed and the “underde-
veloped” countries these authors used. Furthermore, Allport and Gillespie showed
Afrikaans-speaking students to be significantly below English-speaking students
on the mean index of self-rationalization, reflecting their differences in degree of
involvement in the modernizing sectors of the economy. By the time of Danziger’s
study, however, this difference was no longer significant, in line with Afrikaans
speakers’ increasing participation in the modernizing economy.
Thus the future autobiography seemed to provide a technique for objectively
assessing a pattern of rationalization in large groups of respondents. Once such a
technique was available, it became possible to investigate the psychological aspects
of the pattern of self-rationalization. In this paper the economy was brought into
reciprocal influence relation with the psychology of the individual.
IN SEARCH OF METHOD
The key paper in this series was published in 1963(b). The title, “Ideology
and Utopia in South Africa” was a deliberate reference to Mannheim: “I called the
paper in the British journal ‘Ideology and Utopia in South Africa’ which is a direct
take on Mannheim’s book” (Danziger, in Brock, 1995, p. 13). He asked (mostly)
university students (84 African, 51 Indian, 53 Afrikaans-speaking white, and
251 English-speaking white) to write essays projecting future social changes in
South Africa (Danziger, 1963b, pp. 65-66).
From these “future histories” he analyzed the styles of thought of the different
social groups. For the analysis of the future autobiographies collected in this study,
he devised a five-fold typology of styles of thought, or dominant type of historical
orientation: Conservative; Technicist; Catastrophic; Liberal; and Revolutionary.
The assignment of student writing content to one of these styles was determined
by the presence of four characteristics in their essays: (a) the attitude to and inter-
relationship of the present and the future; (b) interrelationship of historical means
and ends; (c) the conception of social change; and (d) the conception of social
causality. The essay was assigned to one of the five types in terms of which one
occurred most frequently in terms of the four criteria.
The Afrikaans-speaking white students mostly exhibited Conservative and
Technicist orientations to the future, while English-speaking whites were mostly
Catastrophic and Conservative in their orientation. Indian students were Liberal
and Revolutionary, while African students were Revolutionary and Liberal. Thus
“the frequency of the various types of historical orientation conforms broadly
to the position of the different groups in the social structure” (1963b, p. 70).
The Afrikaans- speaking group was at the head of the power hierarchy and had
the highest frequency of conservative types, while the African group, which was
lowest in the hierarchy, produced the highest frequency of revolutionary types.
As in the 1958(b) paper, findings clearly showed that differences existed
within groups as well. Afrikaans-speaking white students, for example, who tended
to adopt either conservative or technicist historical orientations, included some
catastrophic or liberal orientations. In addition, the extent of this range varies for
different groups at different times. In societies that were undergoing rapid social
change, Danziger believed future autobiographies provided a valuable technique
for establishing “the crucial links between changes in social structure and changes
in personality structure” (p. 27).
These studies showed clearly that it was possible to detect differences in con-
temporary thought styles, especially in highly stratified, unstable societies, using
empirical methods as described. Danziger came to the conclusion that the range of
available thought was socially determined, and that social position determined the
range of available historical orientations for the members of each group. Further-
more, the situationally transcendent ideas that were identified could be regarded
as attempts at subjectively mastering the basic tensions in society.
In 1963 samples from future biographies collected in 1952, 1956 and 1962
from a total of 162 African high school students were analyzed. Danziger (1963c)
had no less a target than a “historical psychology” in his sights; a psychology
concerned with “that deeper surge of change represented by the reconstruction of
values and perspectives in the context of complex historical developments” (p. 31).
The application of quantitative methods of content analysis in this regard was very
different from the conventional employment of these methods.
At the time that the first autobiographies were collected, apartheid still had
some degree of flexibility, though it became more and more coercive and uncom-
promising as the years progressed. By 1962, the last time that the autobiographies
were collected, the lives of black Africans were under the complete control of
the apartheid system. In 1961 political activity in the black community went un-
derground, and acts of sabotage began toward the end of 1961. This led to more
repressive measures from the apartheid state. The empirical question in this pub-
lication was: How would these changes in imposed social control and repression
affect the psychological future of African high schoolers?
The results again provided support for an interpretation sympathetic to the so-
ciology of knowledge. For a start, a massive majority of essays expressed complete
opposition to government policies, with not a single statement of identification with
the system. Forty-six percent predicted a violent overthrow of the regime. These
percentages did not change from 1950 to 1962. There was also a consistent in-
crease in a preoccupation with socio-political problems, and a tendency to see the
future in social rather than individual terms. It is not too difficult to see these devel-
opments as reactions to changing conditions of political repression. The content
of the psychological future as reflected in the future autobiographies also changed
as a result of these structural changes. Both the goals of economic success and
community service declined over time, to be replaced by political activity goals,
expressed in the cause of African nationalism. “The intensification of authoritarian
political control is having the effect on the individual educated African of defining
his future in political terms” (Danziger, 1963c, p. 39).
These empirical studies were conducted during one of South Africa’s most
politically repressive periods. The National Party had started to implement its
apartheid policies vigorously and systematically since its election into power
in 1948, which led to large-scale confrontations with black resistance organi-
zations in the 1950s and 1960s. Thus this period of extreme social instability in
the country was an almost ideal-typical setting to examine Mannheim’s theories
regarding the role of situationally transcendent ideas about the future of society.
Apartheid ideology and practice structured racial and political consciousness of
different groups to such an extent that they failed to develop a shared style of
thought. For the most part whites saw the situation as “normal” and generally
acceptable, while blacks saw it as ripe for radical change. Danziger’s empiri-
cally based historical psychology reconstructed the social and historical roots
IN SEARCH OF METHOD
of these ideologies and utopias in terms of the positions of the groups holding
The discussion of these studies identified and emphasized the sociological in-
fluences in Danziger’s work. But what about psychological influences? The social
psychology of Kurt Lewin certainly deserves some mention in this regard. One
clue to its influence on the early work of Danziger is provided by the prominence
given in his empirical papers to “the psychological future” as experienced by re-
spondents. Danziger hypothesized that one of his findings, the decline of the use
of a temporal framework by his black respondents, could be explained in terms
of special limitations placed on them from 1950 to 1962. He ascribed to Lewin
(1954) the hypothesis that a decline in the “differentiation of the psychological
future may well be the result of externally imposed frustration” (Danziger, 1963c,
p. 37). In Lewin’s work, the psychological meaning of actions was emphasized,
which was derived from the larger structure within which such actions were em-
bedded. For example, the state of the person and that of his/her environment were
not independent of each other — the person lived in a psychological environment
(Lewin, 1954, p. 918). For Lewin the behavior of a person always was part of
the larger situation, and thus the object of investigation in psychology had to be
the “person-in-a-situation”. The psychological meaning of an action therefore was
not fixed, but depended on the context within which it occurred. For example, in
Lewin’s studies in the 1930s at Iowa on “group climates” (Lewin, Lippitt & White,
1939), major differences emerged between the boys in the “authoritarian”, “demo-
cratic”, and “laissez-faire” conditions. In other words, differences in their behavior
depended on differences in the social conditions in which they found themselves.
Additional resemblances between Lewin’s and Danziger’s work are the ten-
dency to confront significant social issues in their research, and the acknowledge-
ment that human actions take place in a temporal domain as well, rather than being
a characteristic of a static “personality”.
Lewin’s work formed a bridge to Gestalt psychology for Danziger. His work
on group climates point to Lewin’s preference to work with holistic units in a non-
elementaristic fashion. Individuals were not studied in isolation, but as participants
in whole situations. As Danziger wrote in Constructing the Subject about Lewin,
“types of psychological context” (p. 177) rather than individuals become the real
objects of psychological investigation. Another linkage to Gestalt theory is through
Solomon Asch’s attempt to develop a psychology of social life through using
Gestalt theory. For Asch, one level of human motivation was that human beings
“crave society” (1952, p. 324) — they have a “social interest”. Behaviorist and
psychoanalytic theories of social interest firstly
find no place for precisely the phenomenon with which enquiry should begin — the
presence of a direct overflowing interest in other human beings, in the life of groups,
and in the need to participate actively in them. (p. 332)
From this brief discussion of psychological influences in the early empirical
work in the sociology of knowledge tradition, one can say that they were European
rather than Anglo-American in origin, despite the fact that Danziger received his
formal training in the latter.
FURTHER EMPIRICAL STUDIES
In the 1980s and ‘90s a number of studies revisited Danziger’s empirical so-
ciology of knowledge approach, to study psychological concomitants of political
change in South Africa. Du Preez, Bhana, Broekmann, Louw and Nel (1981),
Louw (1983) and Du Preez and Collins (1985) provided time series data on so-
cial orientation. They established that Afrikaans-speaking whites had changed
most over time, from a conservative position (nothing will change politically) to
a liberal position (gradual, controlled change will take place). African and Indian
groups changed the least in future orientation. In addition, there was no dom-
inant or transcendent historical perspective that could unite all groups. Whites
predominantly saw the future as catastrophic, while black groups were more op-
timistic. These studies were conducted at a time when the country again was in
turmoil, as a result of the apartheid state’s military response to black resistance,
and in the mid-1980s several states of emergency were declared to quell popular
In February 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from prison into a very po-
larized society. As the negotiations for a new political dispensation started, levels
of violence actually increased, and were particularly high between 1992 and 1994.
The political solution reached at these negotiations during the first part of the 1990s
culminated in 1994 in the first democratic elections in South Africa. During this
time, Finchilescu and Dawes (1999) asked adolescents, both prior to and after the
foundation of democracy in South Africa, to write an essay in which they pre-
dicted the future of South Africa in the next decade. Only two future scenarios
appeared in the essays: Catastrophic and Liberal. The Revolutionary outcome vir-
tually disappeared from the essays written by black African youth, and they now
expected Liberal futures — society would be peacefully transformed under gov-
ernment guidance. The orientations produced by coloured and Indian adolescents
shifted from 1980 to 1996 to be more similar to whites than they were to Black
Africans. These groups produced high percentages of essays with a Catastrophic
orientation to the future: the future held chaos, violence, and social upheaval. Thus
the authors established again that wide differences in the perceptions of the youths
from the various population groups existed. Finally, there also were a large number
of essays without clear future themes, many more than in previous studies. They
ascribed the latter finding to the lack of a clearly defined structural conflict, and a
state of confusion about the future.
IN SEARCH OF METHOD
In these studies we again recognize the important elements of the historical-
psychological approach Danziger had in mind earlier. The differences in the per-
spectives between social groups, and the changes they represented, must be studied
and understood “in the context of complex historical developments” (Danziger,
1963c, p. 31).
Danziger’s early empirical studies in the sociology of knowledge contain at
least three continuities with his later work in the history and theory of psychology.
These are concerns with history, context, and method.
The first continuity refers to the recognition of history. Indeed, the strength of
the sociology of knowledge, in Mannheim’s tradition, is its recognition of the im-
portance of socially transcendent ideas — ideas that point to the past or the future.
Danziger similarly concerned himself with the subjects’ temporal orientation —
past, present, and future. He argued that the temporal dimension was in fact the
dominant stylistic dimension, as events are ordered on a time scale (Danziger,
1963b). For example, a revolutionary style of thought emphasizes present ten-
sions, which will be removed in future by social disruptions at one or more strate-
gic moments. Thus a concern about the future of society, as indicated by future
biographies or future histories, introduces temporal orientation as a dimension into
Context assumed two meanings in these publications. In one sense, Danziger
worked in a specific political context himself, which allowed him research pos-
sibilities not so available elsewhere. Two prominent aspects relating to the South
African setting of this work can be identified. First, disciplinary boundaries were
much less rigid than they were in American social science at the time. In an inter-
view (Brock, 1995, p. 1 1) he said, referring to South Africa,
That was the other thing that began to strike me at that time: the tremendous hold that
disciplinary loyalties had on social psychologists in North America when compared
to their counterparts in some other parts of the world. For us it really wasn't that
important whether a person was a psychologist or a sociologist or an anthropologist.
This made it easier to follow research avenues suggested by the sociology of
knowledge when one looked for explanations of human actions.
A second contextual factor linked South Africa to the recognition of history
in this work. In the “underdeveloped” (as they were still called) countries of the
world social relations often were unstable enough to cast doubt on how they could
be maintained in future. Where the future of society was in doubt, situationally
transcendent ideas flourished like in the Europe of old, Danziger argued. South
Africa of the 1950s and 1 960s was a country where doubt about the future of society
was intense, because few could see a way out of the conflicts created by the race-
based policies of the government at the time. Rigid social distinctions based on
race dominated all aspects of life, so much so that situationally transcendent ideas
developed in the society could be expected to be virtually mutually exclusive,
depending on the positions of the contending groups. This is a classic situation for
the sociology of knowledge.
Context also was used in a sense much closer to how it would be used later in
historical-theoretical work. The 1958(a) paper recognized explicitly the possibility
that social context may play a more important role in psychology than generally
accepted. Black South Africans expressed a stronger desire for social equality and
social freedom than for the satisfaction of immediate private needs, and this re-
flects on psychological theories of human motivation. This is more in agreement
with Asch, says Danziger, and less in agreement with some of the traditional biol-
ogistic theories of motivation. In his Social Psychology , Asch (1952) identified the
“biological doctrine” as one of the explanations of the social nature of human be-
ings. This explanation entered psychology under the aegis of behaviorism, argued
Asch, and as a result, human social actions were learned because “they bring the
individual directly or indirectly the gratification of primary needs” (p. 13). For
Danziger, however, there is another implication here: “one can only raise the ques-
tion of the extent to which even supposedly scientific theories in psychology are
affected by the social context in which they arise and flourish” (1958a, p. 323).
Also, in explaining the pattern of authoritarianism exhibited by his respondents, the
wider social context had to be taken into account (Danziger, 1958b, p. 345). Such
a contextualist position is of course part and parcel of the sociology of knowledge,
in which concepts have a basis in specifiable contexts.
Methodologically, two aspects of these studies deserve mention. Danziger was
searching for empirical methods in social psychology that were responsive to the
factors of history and context. A major concern was that the methods used by social
psychologists, in attitude surveys for example were too reductionistic. Attitude
surveys normally start off with a collection of separate elements in order to arrive
at a measure of the whole. In addition, they place respondents in the role of passive
selectors of pre-structured categories. In Constructing the Subject, he pointed out
that the standard laboratory experiment, with its emphasis on isolating individual
“stimuli”, also was reductionistic in its approach. The value and attractiveness
of Mannheim’s approach lay in its reversal of this practice: it was concerned
with social totality, and with its active construction by social agents. Ideological or
utopian attitudes were treated as wholes, since they arose when the future of society
as a whole was in doubt. The meaning that social events had for the individual
was determined partly by the kind of ordering used by the social groups s/he
South Africa again provided fertile ground to show that a tendency toward an
individualist orientation and away from a socially oriented interpretation will lead
IN SEARCH OF METHOD
to meager insights. The psychological aspects of personal lives in countries like
South Africa often were of a secondary nature. There were larger scale, macro-
sociological factors that had to be considered first. Also, to look for the starting
point of social change at the level of individual motivation was simply a mistake.
For example, in terms of factors retarding economic growth, he argued that
As far as South Africa is concerned, one cannot dismiss the possibility that the forcible
stifling of political aspirations is indirectly responsible for the low level of discipline,
morale and enthusiasm of many African workers. (Danziger, 1963d, p. 397)
Thus an understanding of “the problem of African workers’ productivity” cannot
first be sought at an individual level. By the same token, however, sociological
factors were not the only ones operating here. They interfaced in a complex pattern
with individual characteristics of persons. Take for example the operation of laws
that barred black people from advancing beyond the lowest level jobs:
... if no amount of personal achievement will lift the individual beyond the social
status of a second-rate creature who is not capable of determining his own future, then
we should not be surprised if interest in achievement remains at a low level. Large-
scale individual efficiency and the maintenance of a system of social stratification
based on inborn characteristics like skin color would seem to be largely incompatible.
The challenge of conceptualizing the relationship between the individual and social
interpretations of course remained with social psychology up to the present (see
the discussion on levels of explanation below).
In the chapter in Buss (1979), Danziger merges the three elements of history,
context and method. History now takes central stage, for the first time in his pub-
lication record. The methodological focal point now shifts away from empirical
methods in social psychology to historiography: how to practice the history of psy-
chology. In this practice, the influence of the sociology of knowledge is still clearly
discernable. I have already indicated that Buss placed the text squarely within the
sociology of psychological knowledge, in particular in the debate between “inter-
nal” and “external” historians of psychology. Danziger approaches this debate by
analyzing the institutionalization of American and German psychology. The rise
of the discipline of psychology, Danziger argued, depended on the invention of a
role that did not exist before, that of the professional practitioner of the new sci-
ence. This new role depended on the society in which such roles were established,
with the result that what was defined as “psychology” differed quite substantially
between the USA and Germany. The reasons for this were clearly not just internal
to the discipline. German and American psychologists had to take into account the
norms and interests of existing power groups in their quest to institutionalize psy-
chology, but the power groups psychologists had to address were very different in
the two countries. In Germany, it was an academic and professional establishment
dominated by philosophy. In the USA, however, universities and the resources
they controlled were much more allied to the business sector, or to politics. The
difference in social context determined the different forms that psychology took
in quite fundamental ways in the USA and in Germany.
In this connection Danziger evoked the concept of legitimation. This terminol-
ogy too has its background in a publication on South Africa, when he published
a paper (Danziger, 1971) in which analyzed strategies of legitimation of social
power, using the successive legitimations of apartheid as a case in point. He now
draws from a slightly different tradition in the sociology of knowledge, that estab-
lished by Max Weber.
In the examination of legitimation strategies that led to differences in the insti-
tutionalization of psychology in Germany and the USA, Danziger tried to overcome
the dualism created between internal and external factors in the development of the
discipline. To accomplish this, he introduced an important historiographical device
that would link these two opposing poles, in the concept of intellectual interest.
Intellectual interest mediates between external and internal forces operating on the
development of a discipline, he argued. It faces both inward and outward:
outward, in that it serves to legitimate the activities of its practitioners vis-a-vis
significant target groups; inward, in that it establishes the norms by which the work
of practitioners is judged. (Danziger, 1979a, p. 38)
In Germany, psychologists had to convince an academic and professional estab-
lishment dominated by philosophy of the acceptability of the knowledge claims
of the new discipline. In the USA, however, if psychology was to emerge as a
recognized, independent discipline, it had to present itself as acceptable to busi-
ness or political power groups. Thus psychologists presented themselves as the
scientists of behavior, and ultimately had as their goal the “prediction and control
Intellectual interest therefore is the instrument of legitimation, both “inter-
nally” and “externally”. Internally, it holds together the practitioners of a field
around the subject matter, goals and methods of the discipline. Outside the dis-
cipline, it represents an attempt to convince powerful groups of the acceptability
of the discipline’s work, because there is a compatibility of intellectual interests
between the new discipline and these powerful groups. The concept of intellectual
interest thus makes it possible to overcome the absolute separation of “social fac-
tors” and “intellectual content”, that was so troublesome in a positivist sociology
of science (e.g. Ben-David & Collins, 1966). Indeed, Danziger (1979a) turns to
IN SEARCH OF METHOD
“intellectual interest” as a device to understand “context” after strongly criticizing
the positivist approach of these two authors.
In the 1980s Doise (1986) called this a problem of levels of explanation or
analysis. Doise argued that by framing the relationship between the individual and
the social in terms of a dualism, one faces the charge of reductionism at either
extreme. He argued for four levels:
• Intra-individual levels of analysis are normally characterized as “psycho-
logical” explanations, such as the authoritarian personality.
• Inter-individual or situational levels of analysis involve processes between
individuals, such as social comparison theory.
• Positional levels of analysis regard differences in position or social status,
normally based on factors such as gender, race or class, to account for
findings of a study
• Ideological levels of analysis emphasize the general conceptions of social
relations that serve to legitimize the existing social order.
Those who criticized mainstream social psychology in the 1980s, at least as it
was practiced in the USA, stated that it typically focused on the first two levels of
The sociology of knowledge approach chosen by Danziger for the empirical
studies in social psychology made it possible to include all four levels of analysis in
the explanation of his findings. But the dualistic framing of a choice between inter-
nal and external developments in psychology in the historiography of psychology
also implied a level of analysis problem. What Danziger did by introducing the
notion of intellectual interest was to reunite the internal and the external; to show
that the problem arises when it is formulated in terms of a choice to be made. The
tendency for psychology to give preference to individualistic levels of analysis has
been discussed earlier. The sociology of knowledge, on the other hand, privileges
macro-social structures, and social relationships within those structures. Sociol-
ogists of knowledge generally imply that in the relationship between knowledge
and society, “the social” has primacy. In his chapter in Buss (1979), Danziger tried
for the first time to overcome this dualism in regard to the history of psychology by
showing how the intellectual interests of the community of specialist psychologists
will mediate the relationship between psychological knowledge and interests and
structures in the wider society.
In later years, this way of surmounting implied dualisms via mediating de-
vices, became quite a familiar way of working for Danziger. In Constructing the
Subject (1990), and other publications (e.g. Danziger, 1993), he used the notion
of investigative practices to perform a similar historiographical function to that
of intellectual interest. Earlier he spoke of different patterns of investigative prac-
tice, such as the Leipzig and Paris models, and “American innovations’’ (Danziger,
1985). Investigative practice has a logical dimension in guiding the research work
of psychologists, but it also has a social dimension. For example:
the individual investigator acts within a framework determined by the potential con-
sumers of the products of his or her research and by the traditions of acceptable
practice prevailing in the field. Moreover, the goals and knowledge interests that
guide this practice depend on the social context within which investigators work.
(1990, p. 4)
The social context includes
the pattern of social relations among investigators and their subjects, the norms of
appropriate practice in the relevant research community, the kinds of knowledge
interests that prevail at different times and places, and the relations of the research
community with the broader social context that sustains it. (p. 5)
This typical way of working can be discerned in Naming the Mind (Danziger,
1997) as well, where the growth of attitude research is ascribed to two main factors.
The first of these came from outside the discipline in the form of public interest,
while the second factor was internal to the discipline and involved finding a way
to measure attitudes. Thus investigative practice becomes the primary medium
through which social forces have shaped the discipline.
Although investigative practices are claimed as the media through which so-
cial interests have been reflected, the analysis in later years went a little further,
to include the construction of psychological objects themselves, and how inves-
tigative practices constituted such objects (Danziger, 1993). The embeddedness
of psychology in extra-disciplinary contexts has implications for the very objects
of psychological study. For example, with regard to personality and its assess-
Their construction of ‘personality ’ or ‘character" as an object of knowledge was
strictly confined by the rather severe limitations of the social context in which their
investigations originated. (Danziger, 1990, p. 171)
To be perceived as legitimate, psychology and the objects of its study could not
stray too far from the local cultural definitions of their task. And here we are back
to the ideological component of psychological knowledge, that different aspects
of psychology will be sanctioned by different societies, and that psychology will
build its cultural values into its procedures. For Danziger, the world of psychology
IN SEARCH OF METHOD
is a constructed world, and historians of psychology must study the constructive
activities that produced it.
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Humphries & Company.
AUTHORITY AND ACQUIESCENCE
IN THE HISTORY OF METHOD
Andrew S. Winston
In Naming the Mind, Danziger (1997) analyzed the emergence of the fundamen-
tal categories of psychological inquiry. Challenging the implicit assumption that
behavior, personality, intelligence, learning, and motivation can be understood as
natural kinds, he carefully explicated their origins and dynamics as negotiated
products of scientific communities. In Chapter 9, he focused on the introduc-
tion of the concept of variables in psychological discourse and how this change
profoundly altered the shape of psychological inquiry during the 20th century.
Danziger employed the term “metalanguage” to describe the shared discursive
practices regarding method that came to be nearly universal in mainstream psy-
chology, and indeed helped to define the mainstream.
This aspect of Danziger’s work has overlapped with my own. Starting in
1988, I began to ask how the terms independent variable and dependent vari-
able became universal in introductory psychology textbooks, and how these terms
were used to define a relationship between causality and experimentation. By the
1970s, all North American psychology students were taught that an experiment
consists of manipulation of an independent variable while holding all other vari-
ables constant and observing the effect on a dependent variable, and that this is
the best or sole method for the discovery of causes. My interest in the source
of this methodological dictum lead to a number of investigations of textbook
ANDREW S. WINSTON
conceptualizations of experimentation, ideas of “cause” in modern psychology,
the influence of Ernst Mach’s philosophy of science, and the place of experimen-
tation in social psychology (Winston, 1988, 1990, 2001; Winston & Blais, 1996;
MacMartin & Winston 2000). I argued that the definition of experiment and its
relation to causality was, for the most part, “home-grown” in psychology rather
than imported into the discipline, though related to Machian philosophy of science
in important ways. Further, I argued that this conceptualization profoundly shaped
the way psychological questions were asked and answered.
In this chapter, I have three aims. First, I will augment and amend aspects of
my earlier work. Second, I will highlight some commonalities and differences of
emphasis in Danziger’s and my analysis of change in the metalanguage. In this
regard, I am grateful for the discussions that he and I have had over a number of
years. Third, I examine the process of change in metalanguage by considering a
case in which such a change was blocked by powerful authorities, during the same
period that the contemporary definition of experiment was introduced.
EARLY USE OF THE CONCEPT OF INDEPENDENT VARIABLE
Between 1932 and 1934, a number of leading psychologists began to employ
a new way of speaking about the “causes of behavior.” R. S. Woodworth, E. G.
Boring, and E. C. Tolman, substituted the concept of the independent variable
for the concept of cause, a term with a long and problematic history, accompa-
nied by much metaphysical baggage. Each of these authors used this term in a
slightly different way. The introduction of the concepts of independent variable
and dependent variable into psychological discourse was an important event in
terms of providing a common language for the discussion of investigations based
on highly divergent theoretical systems. In this analysis, I was interested in how
these terms came to define what an experiment was, and how this conceptualization
then encouraged certain kinds of inquiry.
In my previous work, I suggested that the terms independent variable and
dependent variable did not appear in psychology until the 1930s (e.g., Winston &
Blais, 1996). A more recent search of the expanded PsycINFO database indicated
that some papers of the 1920s may already have used these phrases. For exam-
ple, “independent variables” appears in the abstracts of both Culler (1927) and
Heidbreder (1927). However, their use is not the same as in the 1930s: the term
is used to mean “variables acting independently of each other,” rather than ex-
perimentally manipulated factors. 1 Danziger (1997) noted that William James
(1890/1950) had used the term “independent variable” in the Principles (I, p. 59),
but here again, the meaning in context appears to be “independent of each other,”
not the experimental factor which is manipulated by the experimenter. 2 These early
CONTROLLING THE METALANGUAGE
uses of “independent variable’’ are not clearly derived from the original mathemat-
ical meaning, described below. In this case, the use of the same term is misleading
for the contemporary reader. But in other cases, a slightly different term is used to
mean something close to the 1930s meaning of independent variable.
One example of the use of a related term is from William Stanley Jevons
(1874). In his influential Principles of Science? he described the nature of exper-
iment in terms of active manipulation and identified the terms to be used:
Almost every series of quantitative experiments is directed to obtain the relation
between the different values of one quantity which is varied at will, and another
quantity which is thereby caused to vary. We may conveniently distinguish these as
respectively the variable and the variant, (p. 440)
Both the terms “varianfi’and “variate” were commonly used for variable at the turn
of the 19th century and in the early 20th century. In his highly influential Statistical
Methods for Research Workers , R. A. Fisher (1925) used the terms “independent
variate” and “dependent variate,” which he introduced to explain regression func-
tions and their graphic representation. But he did not present this idea as a definition
of experiment nor as the factor explicitly manipulated by the experimenter.
The original meaning of independent variable and dependent variable had
nothing to do with experimentation. The concepts of function and variable were
clearly present in the work of Leibniz, although his concept of a function was
certainly not identical to the modern one. The specific terms independent variable
and dependent variable were introduced by John Radford Young in the Elements
of the Differential Calculus (1833): “on account of this dependence of the value of
the function upon that of the variable, the former, that is y, is called the dependent
variable, and the latter, x , the independent variable” (p. 2). Johann Gustave Lejeune
Dirichlet provided the modern definition of a function in 1837, which O’Connor
and Robinson (2002) translated as follows:
If a variable y is so related to a variable x that whenever a numerical value is assigned
to x, there is a rule according to which a unique value of y is determined, then y is
said to be a function of the independent variable x.
The important feature here is that the independent and dependent variable are
interchangeable: there is no implication that x is the cause of y, and the relation-
ship can be expressed as y = f(x) or x = f(y). There is no requirement that the
independent variable be manipulated, or that they have the asymmetrical status
noted by Danziger (1987). As I have described elsewhere (Winston, 2001), it is
in the writings of Ernst Mach that the connection between functions, experiment
and explanation is outlined. By the 1880s, Mach was clear that the concept of a
function, expressed mathematically, was to replace the metaphysically tainted con-
cepts of cause and effect. Functions were purely descriptive and their economical
ANDREW S. WINSTON
descriptive power was for Mach the only proper and useful form of scientific ex-
planation. Once Mach and others began to speak of mathematical functions as the
replacement for causal statements, it was natural to substitute the terms proper to
functions, independent and dependent variables, for statements of cause and effect.
However, it is possible to overstate the role of Mach in introducing the more
general talk of variables in Psychology. As Danziger (1997) noted, texts and arti-
cles on statistics already made the concept of variables familiar to psychologists.
With the increasing introduction of statistics into research and teaching during the
first three decades of the 20th century, variables, variates, or variants would figure
prominently. The terms independent variable and dependent variable were per-
fectly appropriate for any discussion involving a regression line. The literature of
Applied Psychology, especially discussions of prediction, used independent vari-
able in its original sense from the mathematics of functions during and after the
1930s (e.g., Wilson & Hodges, 1932). The use of these terms for prediction of a
criterion measure from a test eventually caused some friction between experimen-
talists and multivariate researchers as experimentalists came to use independent
variable to refer only to manipulated conditions (see Winston, 1990).
INDEPENDENT AND DEPENDENT VARIABLES APPEAR
IN PSYCHOLOGY TEXTBOOKS
In introductory textbooks, the earliest use of the terms independent variable
and dependent variable to define experimentation was in Woodworth’s (1934)
Psychology. In the third edition of his widely used textbook, he altered and nar-
rowed the definition of “experiment” to include only studies in which a variable
was explicitly manipulated:
An experiment is one means of obtaining observations bearing on a definite ques-
tion . . . the experimenter “controls the conditions.” He does not let things happen at
random; in the ideal experiment he has all the factors under his control that have any
influence on the process to be observed. The result shows him what happens under
certain known conditions. He varies one factor and notes the difference that makes in
the result. The rule for an ideal experiment is to control all the factors or conditions,
to keep all of them constant except a single one — which is then the independent
variable — and to vary this one systematically and observe the results. The results are
changes in the dependent variable. When he finishes his series of experiments, he
knows the changes in the dependent variable which are produced by changes in the
independent variable. (1934, p. 18)
Although Woodworth was the first to present the now universal textbook definition,
E. G. Boring (1933e) had defined experiment as the manipulation of an independent
variable in the previous year, in his Physical Dimensions of Consciousness, a book
Boring designed as a tribute to E. B. Titchener:
CONTROLLING THE METALANGUAGE
The experimental method, upon which all science rests, is, logically considered, a
method of the induction of a generalized correlation by means of controlled con-
comitant variations. In the simplest experiment there are always at least two terms, an
independent variable and a dependent variable. The experimenter varies a and notes
how b changes, or he removes a and sees if b disappears. He repeats until he is satis-
fied that he has the generalization that b depends upon a. The independent variable,
a, can now properly be spoken of as a cause of the dependent variable, b. (pp. 8-9)
Boring gave no source for this formulation. A search of correspondence between
Boring and Woodworth at both the Harvard and Columbia University archives
failed to yield any discussion of this issue, although there is correspondence re-
garding many other organizational and professional issues. It is not surprising that
two leading figures would make a nearly simultaneous change in language. How-
ever, they were not the only important actors here. Danziger (1997; Danziger &
Dzinas, 1998) described how Edward C. Tolman also introduced the concept of
In his Purposive Behavior in Animals and Men , Tolman ( 1932) emphasized
the language of “variables” when summarizing different systems of psychology
in Chapter XXIV, “The Final Variables of Purposive Behaviorism.” What is im-
portant here is that the term variables allowed Tolman to contrast individual dif-
ference psychology, structuralism. Gestalt psychology, and behaviorism using a
common language. I have argued previously that Tolman did not quite use the
Boring/Woodworth formulation in 1932, and that he used an idea of “independent
causes” which were clearly variables, without saying independent variables. This
assertion was not correct: on page 405, Tolman referred to heredity and previous
training as “two independent variables.” On page 406-407 it is clear that Tolman
uses the terms “independent causes” and “independent variables” interchange-
ably. As Danziger (1997) has argued, this is the most important feature of the
introduction of variables: the term is used to describe not just a methodology but
the theoretical entities of interest. Moreover, method and theory subsequently take
on an isomorphism uncharacteristic of discourse in the natural sciences.
In 1935, Tolman (1932/1967) wrote in “Psychology and Immediate Experi-
ence” that both molecular (physiological) and molar behaviorists shared a common
program of identifying the “independent or causal variables” (p. 102). He summed
up his integrative position:
A behaviorism seeks to write the form of the function fi which connects the dependent
variable-the behavior, B-to the independent variables-stimulus, heredity, training, and
physiological disequilibriums, S, H, T. and P. (p. 113)
Thus Tolman emphasized the concepts of independent variables and dependent
variables as a way of defining the project of psychology, and as the proper way
to conceptualize the theoretical terms of interest. In addition, these terms aided
in the explication of his “intervening variables,” which was a crucial move in the
ANDREW S. WINSTON
synthesis he attempted through Purposive Behaviorism. Unlike Woodworth, he
did not present these terms as a way of defining what an experiment is, but as a
way of defining what an explanation of behavior would look like.
There can be little doubt that Tolman’s continued use of these terms helped in
their popularization. His APA presidential address of 1937, published as “Deter-
miners of Behavior at a Choice Point” in the Psychological Review the next year
(Tolman, 1938), the terms independent and dependent variable were featured very
prominently (in figures, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 12, & 15) and the function relating them
was said to provide the “cause.” It is interesting that by this time, the term cause
had been allowed back into discussions of function, despite Ernst Mach’s attempts
to eliminate this idea as freighted with metaphysical baggage (Winston, 2001).
Insofar as Tolman’s position provided a unified vision for psychological inquiry,
providing an analysis of the problems of behaviorism. Gestalt psychology, indi-
vidual psychology and purposive psychology, Tolman’s language of independent
variables, intervening variables, and dependent variables allowed psychologists of
varied commitments to speak a common scientific language.
Tolman was teaching at Harvard during the summer of 1932, and Skinner
(1998) reported that he “saw a great deal of him” (p. 290) although Tolman (1952)
did not mention this absence from Berkeley in his autobiography. Skinner sug-
gested that he and Tolman were speaking about variables in a similar way at this
time. Skinner’s statement of behavior as a function of a set of variables was, he
thought, related to that of Tolman. However, Skinner rejected intervening variables
in favor of “third variables,” such as deprivation, which altered the functional re-
lationship between stimulus conditions and responding.
Skinner’s (1998) retrospective account suggests that he had priority in the
modern use of “variables.” In Skinner (1931) he argued that the experimental
results of the study of a reflex can be expressed as the function: R — /'(.S'), or con-
sidering third variables, R = f (S, A). He treated this relationship as experimentally
derived by manipulation, and not merely as the statistical relationship between two
sets of numbers (pp. 451-452). He did not use the terms independent variable and
dependent variable, although they are clearly implied by his formulation. 4 More-
over, Skinner’s philosophy of science, so heavily influenced by Mach (see Winston,
2001), emphasized the determination of functional relationships as the aim of his
science of behavior.
Priority claims are hardly the important issue here. What is significant is the
social matrix in which such changes in language occurred and the social process
by which they became codified and enshrined. Woodworth, Boring, and Tolman
occupied positions of influence in the APA, by then a rapidly growing organiza-
tion. Skinner was a new PhD, but outspoken and confident in his views. Although
Boring found Skinner difficult and had severe criticisms of Skinner’s dissertation
(see Bjork, 1993), he respected his intellectual talents and promoted Skinner’s
career in a variety of ways. Skinner was able to publish his new conceptualization
CONTROLLING THE METALANGUAGE
of the reflex with little delay, with the help of William Crazier, who was an editor
of the Journal of General Psychology. Boring and Tolman were also in frequent
contact, as Boring was attempting to recruit Tolman to return to Harvard, where
he had received the PhD in 1915 (Innis, 1992). There were ample opportunities
for discussion of general theoretical issues amongst these four important individ-
uals. They in turn had numerous opportunities to encourage the formulation of
all psychological problems in terms of independent and dependent variables. I
do not mean to imply that a cabal was formed with any explicit plan to alter the
language of psychologists, only that in conversation these individuals may have
discovered collective as well as individual reasons for adopting and promoting a
FAILURE TO CHANGE METALANGUAGE:
SAUL ROSENZWEIG AND Ee
In order to understand the process by which a new linguistic practice is in-
troduced and taken up, it may help to consider cases in which attempts to change
scientific language fail. One clear attempt occurred in 1933, and provides an in-
structive example in the microhistory of the regulation of language. In contrast
to the introduction of independent variable and dependent variable at the same
time, where no archival record of the relevant correspondence has been found, the
discussions regarding this attempt to change the metalanguage are available, and
can clarify the role of power and status in bringing about or inhibiting such change.
Saul Rosenzweig (1907- ) became a graduate student at Harvard in 1929
and received the PhD in 1932. He had some difficulty obtaining an academic po-
sition, despite an excellent record, due in part to the Depression and possibly to
antisemitism (see Winston, 1998). He continued his work at the Harvard Clinic
with Henry Murray. Boring (1932) described him as “top-notch intellectually”
and “our best graduate this year.” In 1933, Rosenzweig published an important
and often neglected paper: “The Experimental Situation as a Psychological Prob-
lem.” Some forty years before the topic became fashionable, he introduced the idea
that the experiment must be considered a social situation in which the elements
were quite different from an experiment in chemistry. As a conscious being, the
person serving as “subject” may “regulate their own reactions: they have minds
of their own and are self critical. From this results the difficulty that uncontrolled
experimental materials, viz., motives, may be brought into the experiment” (1933a,
p. 353). Rosenzweig suggested that the subjects might engage in playing the part or
role they thought was expected of them, might attempt to appear smart or compli-
ant, would develop hypotheses about what the experimenter was after, and would
generally behave in an active rather than passive fashion. He was concerned that
neither the term subject, which had only recently become standard, nor the older