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The Crisis in Social Psychology Under Neoliberalism: Reflections from Social Representations Theory

Gjorgjioska, MA; Tomicic, A; (2019) The Crisis in Social Psychology Under Neoliberalism: Reflections from Social Representations Theory. Journal of Social Issues , 75 (1) pp. 169-188. 10.1111/josi.12315. Green open access

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Abstract

This article examines the material and ideational conditions in academia and broader society under neoliberalism and their effects on social psychology, both as an academic community and as a source of knowledge production. Social representations theory (SRT)—embedded in the discipline of social psychology—is taken as a case study, which mirrors not only the specific impacts of neoliberalism on the theory and scientific community of SRT, but by extension also on social psychology as a whole. Specifically, we observe how neoliberalism has impacted SRT's ability to address those features of social psychology which led many scholars to label it “a discipline in crisis” by the 1960s and which included its reliance on a realist ontology, positivist epistemology, and quantitative methods, as well as the absence of an axiological frame which led to its distancing away from a humanistic, action-oriented social psychology. Rather than lessening these challenges, it is argued that neoliberalism has, in fact, further entrenched them in two interconnected ways. First, at the level of academic practice, neoliberalism has structured academic work or labor in the neoliberal university/academia in ways that are more consistent with the production of knowledge that subscribes to positivist principles. Second, on a conceptual level, the hegemony of neoliberalism has been accompanied by a corresponding hegemony of conceptual and methodological individualism in the social sciences. This in turn has led to an environment conducive to and encouraging of positivist approaches in social psychology.

Type: Article
Title: The Crisis in Social Psychology Under Neoliberalism: Reflections from Social Representations Theory
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/josi.12315
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12315
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10069657
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