Constructing the Subject: Historical Origins of Psychological Research

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Cambridge University Press, Jan 28, 1994 - Psychology - 254 pages
Constructing the Subject traces the history of psychological research methodology from the nineteenth century to the emergence of currently favored styles of research in the second quarter of the twentieth century. Kurt Danziger considers methodology to be a kind of social practice rather than simply a matter of technique. Therefore his historical analysis is primarily concerned with such topics as the development of the social structure of the research relationship between experimenters and their subjects, as well as the role of the methodology in the relationship of investigators to each other in a wider social context. The book begins with a historical discussion of introspection as a research practice and proceeds to an analysis of diverging styles of psychological investigation. There is an extensive exploration of the role of quantification and statistics in the historical development of psychological research. The influence of the social context on research practice is illustrated by a comparison of American and German developments, especially in the field of personality research. In this analysis, psychology is treated less as a body of facts or theories than a particular set of social activities intended to produce something that counts as psychological knowledge under certain historical conditions. This perspective means that the historical analysis has important consequences for a critical understanding of psychological methodology in general.

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Review: Constructing the Subject: Historical Origins of Psychological Research
Contrary to some reviewers, I think this is a groundbreaking book in the canon of Critical Psychology, which unfolds
and disassembles some of the claims made in traditional circles about what psychology is about. Instead, Danziger goes back to the supposed roots of psychology, laying bare many of the myths, narratives and fictions surrounding psychology's claim to be a 'science of the individual'. Necessary reading for those who wish to challenge the stranglehold that psychology has on late modern capitalist cultures. 


Historical roots of the psychological laboratory
The repudiation
The social structure of psychological experimentation
The triumph of the aggregate
Identifying the subject in psychological research
Investigative practice as a professional project
The social construction of psychological knowledge

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