Revitalizing Political Psychology: The Legacy of Harold D. Lasswell

By William Ascher; Barbara Hirschfelder-Ascher | Go to book overview
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Chapter 7
Integrating Lasswell's
Contributions:
Brief Applications

In presenting the various elements of Harold Lasswell's framework, analytic categories, and theories, we have not yet shown how these elements can be fit together. However, Lasswell's insistence on a “configurative approach” 103 is as important a lesson as any in his repertoire. Therefore, in this chapter we present thumbnail applications, addressing single or multiple cases, to illustrate the applicability of Lasswell's psychodynamic functional theories and analytic categories to crucial public policy issues. Of course, these vignettes do not do full justice to any of the cases; each issue warrants full-length books. These applications do, however, demonstrate the relevance of a host of potential psychodynamic insights that conventional positivist, empirical approaches may neglect.

The first four applications concern diagnoses of intergroup conflict and violence, focusing on how understanding the psychodynamics of such conflicts can guide the search for strategies to reduce the predispositions to violence. The fifth application addresses the strategies for developing democratic character in Latin American military officers, with a special emphasis on the troubled case of Argentina. Together, these five applications hinge on the interplay of identifications, demands, and the triple-appeal principle in the socialization toward or away from democratic character.

Turning to domestic policy issues directly relevant to the United States, we address the peculiar symbol associations facing nuclear energy, and, lastly, the issues of labor union bargaining and leadership. The nuclear energy case highlights the importance of symbol associations as conveyors of affect from one policy issue to another. The labor union discussion emphasizes (a) the potentials and dangers of charismatic leadership in the interactions among leaders, rank-and-file members, and employers; and (b) how union members, ' interests can be pursued without excessive influence from symbolic associations that might stand in the way of constructive negotiations.

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