Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation, and Subjectivity

By Julian Henriques; Wendy Hollway et al. | Go to book overview

2

Social psychology and the politics of racism

Julian Henriques


Introduction

This chapter takes a comparatively progressive area of social science research, the social psychology of prejudice, and examines its political effects. In the Introduction to this section, we have argued that despite the progressive effects of radical psychology in the past, the theorizations that supported liberal social policies have lost their usefulness for a radical politics. We highlighted one feature of such theorizations to support our view, namely the premise of an individual-society dichotomy. Shared by all the various branches of psychology, this dualism and the concomitant individualism which is central to it allows even radical analyses to be pressed into the service of existing social relations, thereby reinforcing and perpetuating them.

In examining the concept of prejudice, I am concerned with establishing several related points. First is the already mentioned compatibility of social psychology's concept of racial prejudice with existing power relations and its implications for social psychology's reproduction of these social relations. A pertinent illustration of this is the manner in which the Scarman Report explained racism as the prejudiced behaviour of a few isolated individual police officers. I shall briefly examine Scarman's position to argue that this is an instance of the reductive effect of the individual-society couple whereby society is assumed to be basically unproblematic and social breakdown is ascribed to particular stray and abnormal individual actions; what might be called the 'rotten apple theory' of racism.

Second, I am concerned to link this aspect of social psychology's

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