Origins and Development
One obvious first step toward answering the question, “What is political psychology?” is to trace the discipline's origins and development. Whether one's inclination is to adopt an etiological or an etymological stance, either approach will eventually reach natural limits. As helpful as it may be to establish the germinal conditions that gave rise to the discipline and to understand how political psychology's terms, tools, and institutions have evolved, the discipline is sufficiently mature to render patrimony and early socialization less determinative than perhaps they were even 10 years ago. At the turn of this new century, political psychology has found its legs. Where it will take us is very much open to speculation. For that reason, in addition to paying attention to origins and development, we also must ask, “Of what use is political psychology?” Eventually this question is addressed, but first I turn to the issue of origins.
Since political philosophy's first stirrings, theorists have puzzled over Psyche's interaction with the polity. As Stone (1981) noted, the nature of citizenship, Plato's “myth of the metals” (1945, pp. 106–107), and the effects of participating in the polis are ancient topics finding modern echoes in discussions of biopolitics, community psychology, and political efficacy.