Postmodernism, Identity Politics,
and Other Political Influences
in Political Psychology
University of British Columbia
Traditionally, social scientists were taught that good research is not only rigorous but is also designed, conducted, and reported in an objective way. The “value-free” ideal incorporated the value of unbiased scholarship (see Proctor, 1991). Most people knew that this was indeed an ideal, and that human beings could not completely suspend their likes and dislikes, loyalties and ideologies when they put on their “researcher” hat. However, when so behatted they were expected to—and, I think, almost all tried to—follow procedures that would at least minimize bias.
In the last couple of decades, humanists and to some extent social scientists have experienced increasing pressure from colleagues who, under the label of postmodernism, have rejected the possibility that objective truths can be discovered, or even that such truths exist, in the domains of these disciplines. Instead, they argue that all truth is “construction, ” a function of historical, cultural, and geographical context interacting with demographic categories such as sex, class, ethnicity, and so on. One hallmark of this view is the use of derogatory quotation marks around the word “truth” wherever it appears.
Each of these demographic groups supposedly has different “truths, ” and should insist that only their own members can understand (and, a fortiori,