Political Psychology

By Kristen Renwick Monroe | Go to book overview

7
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

____________________
1
Political psychology is a growth stock. There are now at least eight doctoral programs in which it is a primary specialization and many others in which it is a well-established and substantial concentration (Sears & Funk, 1991). It is, as well, an established and growing presence at the undergraduate level (Funk & Sears, 1991). Institutionally, the field has its own journal, now two decades old, an international summer institute modeled on the University of Michigan's summer consortium research methods, its own international professional society, and a new fast growing section in the American Political Science Association. Moreover, a great many disciplinary conferences in the fields of psychology and political science routinely include political psychology presentations.

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.

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