Lost in Plain Sight: The Cultural
Foundations of Political Psychology
STANLEY A. RENSHON
The City University of New York
In the beginning there was no field, only disparate disciplinary interests. Lasswell's (1930) pioneering work established the field's twin centers of gravity, with one theoretical and substantive pillar firmly anchored in psychology and the other firmly anchored in politics. Since then, political psychology's success has become self-evident.1
However, successfully establishing an interdisciplinary field does not guarantee either its legitimacy or its consolidation and development. Consider the fate of psychohistory, whose early successes (Erikson, Mazlish, Low____________________
The field's public visibility and importance have also reached unprecedented levels. Political psychologists are routinely asked to explain and help clarify public debates on issues ranging from abortion to war. Political psychologists have testified before Congress on the psychology of the Gulf War, and have been tapped as commentators for such important events as the Oklahoma bombing. Indeed, in such areas as presidential campaigns, and politics more generally, it is now fairly routine to have political psychologists as commentators.