Political Psychology

By Kristen Renwick Monroe | Go to book overview
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An Intellectual Agenda
for Political Psychology
University of Michigan

In my 1999 presidential address to the International Society of Political Psychology (Winter, 1999b), I suggested that some of the most characteristic features of the 20th century (things that our forebears back in 1899 probably did not expect of the new century) involve the themes of power, sex, and violence—both by themselves and also in various unholy combinations with each other. Each of these themes can be approached from the perspectives of many disciplines, but most notably the disciplines of psychology and politics. Inasmuch as political psychology is an interdisciplinary field focused on the complex and reciprocal relationships between these two disciplines, I believe that political psychology is uniquely poised to understand such a confluence of power, sex, and violence. Indeed, I believe that understanding the psychological, social structural, and cultural dynamics of these three themes must become an urgent intellectual agenda for political psychology, if we all are to survive the next century.

In this chapter, I am more detailed about such an agenda. More specifically, I suggest that three broad topics deserve special theoretical and empirical attention from political psychologists: Understanding the striving for power that, especially in the context of perceived “difference, often leads to violence; understanding the construction of difference itself, with gender being perhaps the original prototype or template for all other differences;385 and exploring whether it is possible for people and societies to

Cf. MacKinnon (1984) on “Difference and dominance.


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