Psychology and Culturology: A Means of Cooperating and Problems Associated with Cooperation

By Zaks, Lev A. | Psychology in Russia, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Psychology and Culturology: A Means of Cooperating and Problems Associated with Cooperation


Zaks, Lev A., Psychology in Russia


For ages, psychology has been fruitfully cooperating with various cultural studies (the name given to the humanities after a well-known book by G. Rikkert), ranged from philosophy to linguistics and ethnology, and from history and anthropology to aesthetics. Modern "cultural-historical psychology" started with L. S. Vygotsky and his school, and the notion and the idea of culture are considered to be the school's basic concepts. The ideas of Vygotsky and his disciples A.N. Leontiev and A.R. Luria were further developed not only in Russian psychology but also worldwide, by American cultural-historical psychologist D. Brunner, M. Cole, S. Scribner, and M. Tomacello. The flectedinfluence of psychology on culture studies was first documented in the late 19th century. V. Dilthey's psychology-inspired philosophy and literature studies, g. Zimmel's sociology, A. Potebnya and D. Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky's psychological aesthetics and literature studies in Russia, and overwhelming Freudian as well as neo-Freudian impacts on all the humanities also testify to these ideas.

In the twentieth century, culturology appeared as a science of culture, where culture means an organized wholeness (system), its general (systemic) properties, as well as its laws and variations. The birth of culturology was historically and genetically related to a whole system of cultural studies, and marked a new level of understanding culture and its components. Further work on this sophisticated phenomenon integrated the characteristic features of both social and individual human existence. Despite the controversial present-day status of culturology, its presence has far-reaching consequences for the entire system of social and anthropological studies, psychology among them. But psychology with its corpus of knowledge and approaches is equally essential for culturological thought.

This article is aimed at analyzing the synergetic relationship between psychology and culturology alongside prospects for using this knowledge to relate Man and society.

Let us start with a fundamental point for our consideration. What objectively binds psychology with culturology? What constitutes the basis for their cooperation ?

Culturology and psychology are objective multilateral relationships, the complex mutual determination of main system objects (culture and the psychic reality of human beings) builds a foundations for this cooperation. Every macro object is indeed [1] universal in terms of the human world, albeit in different ways. Culture comprises a wide range of modalities and substrates; it is closely "interlocked" and "fused" with all forms and manifestations of social life and the experience of particular individuals without exception, whereas "the psyche" is a specific, "mono- substrate", it has its own qualitative limitations, which means it is "localized". "The psyche" itself acts as one of culture's substrates and specifies particular ways in which it exists: the ideal and the mental. But these differences in ontological perspective, diversity and quality cannot eliminate the psyche's integrity and "unalienatedness" regarding the universe-continuum of social and cultural existence, and this allows both the psyche and culture to be treated as attributes of human society. Thus, the relationship between culture and psyche present the relationship between two attributes which are fundamentally important for Man and his world's realities. Hence, the resulting point is the attribute/fundamental character of "culture-psyche/the psychological relationship, which in itself is the basis for our consideration.

The interrelationship between culture and psyche can be expressed in T. Dobzhanskiy's words, though he spoke of man's biology (you may use "psyche" instead): "...trying to understand man's biology while neglecting cultural influences is as useless as attempting to interpret culture's genesis and rise without knowing the biological nature of Man"(Cole, 1997, 191). …

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