Individual-Society Dualism – Critical Social Psychology (7/30)

Individual-Society Dualism – Critical Social Psychology (7/30)

Individual-Society Dualism is the most enduring
theme in social psychology, but it’s a problem. It’s social psychology’s biggest
problem maybe. The tendency to think on the one
hand that things are produced by individual action, that individuals have clear boundaries,
that they’re not linked to others, that they’re autonomous, that they are rational
decision makers who are not unduly influenced by the
world around them. On the other hand, there are ways of thinking
in social psychology which say: yes, but influences from social, the social sphere
are so, so pressured, so heavy, so influential, that
people are not really just the single individual, they are so connected to and influenced by
social forces. One of the things we’re saying in this course
is that such a dichotomy, dichotomies are actually never helpful, and this is, is a
really unproductive dichotomy. So to focus only on the
individual without recognising that they’re always inextricably linked with society, with
the social, is not really very helpful, it’s
not productive at all. We as a discipline are perched right in that
gap. Are we there to explain individuals or are we
there to explain how they function in the wider society? And the standard definition
of social psychology is the study of individuals in
their social context. And so it’s about putting those two things
together, and any framework that actually tends to
say things are either due to individuals or due to social forces, actually pulls apart
what we are trying to build a bridge between. Take the example of people becoming students
in higher education. Now I’ve done a piece of
research with Caroline Kelly who’s also part of this course, which is on mature students.
Those students are terrified when they become students. They think they’ll be found out
that they’re not clever enough. There are all
sorts of things that they don’t know. Now that
sounds as if it’s very individual, as if this person has brought with them their own
shortcomings, their own fears and it’s all just individual. But of course this is in
a context where there are social expectations about
what it is to be a student, and where from society
they’ve got notions of what students should be like, what they should admit to.
And therefore the very fact that they feel not so confident means that they feel that
they’re not a proper student. The two things are indivisible-
what they’ve got from society, what they see
around them and what they bring. So individual and social always together.


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    What about a moderately successful person who splits the personalities of three (3) hugely successful iconic figures (all of whom are black American) and then labels the splintered elements of the icons with negative pejoratives—one person "unqualified", the other "loud" or "ghetto" and the third, "arrogant"? Then the moderately successful person recast the three (3) hugely successful individuals into a single group, entity that retains these negative labels. Any thoughts?

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    gardener ben

    whole is greater than the sum of its parts but the whole is the total of its parts, 100 neurons working together can do a million times more work than 10 working in 10 different individuals. people have to be strong and independent in an economic, dietary, thinking capacity to have a strong society that reflect their strength.. or weakness.

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