Annual review of Critical Psychology

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Annual review of Critical Psychology

    Annual Review of Critical Psychology Volume 3 Anti-Capitalism

Starting from a naïve position (that critical psychology can benefit the anti-capitalist

    movement) this issue gradually gravitates towards querying both ‘Critical Psychology’

    and the ‘anti-capitalist movement’. The questionnaire and discussion sections (before

    and after the presentation of the main text) are intended to foreground the issue of class.


    Melancholic Troglodytes 3

    ‘Critical Psychology’ and the ‘anti-capitalist movement’



    Fred Newman & Lois Holzman 7

    All power to the developing! 8 Chik Collins 25

    ‘Critical Psychology’ & Contemporary Struggles Against Neo-Liberalism 26 Grahame Hayes 49

    Walking the streets: Psychology and the flâneur 50


    Barbara Biglia 69

    Radicalising academia or emptying the critics? 71


    John Drury 89

    What critical psychology can(’t) do for the ‘anti-capitalist movement’ 90

    Howard Slater 115

    Evacuate the leftist bunker 116 Fabian Tompsett 138

    Acentric Psychology 139



    Sara Nafis - on Melancholic Troglodyte‘s Psychology and the Class Struggle 151

    Jane Asquith - on Peter Good‘s Language for Those Who Have Nothing 158

    (LIMINAL) 162

    Susanne Schade - on Carl Ratner‘s Cultural Psychology: Theory and Method 163


    Stewart Home - on various 172

    F. Palinorc - on John Holloway‘s Change the World Without Taking Power 181

    Melancholic Troglodytes - on various 197



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    Annual Review of Critical Psychology

    Anti-Copyright @? 2003 Discourse Unit

    Vol. 3, pp 3-5 (ISSN: 1464-0538)


‘Critical Psychology’ and the ‘anti-capitalist movement’

    Melancholic Troglodytes

    I give you the Tralfamadorian greeting: hello, farewell, hello,

    farewell…eternally connected, eternally embracing…

    - Billy, Slaughterhouse-Five (1971)

    Read it through and laugh not at it. If thou dost I’ll destroy thee and

    laugh at thy destruction.

    - Abiezer Coppe, Selected Writings (1649/1987)

    We are proletarian revolutionaries negotiating the space separating mundane brilliance from epoch-making genius. Naturally, the mediocrity of ‗critical psychologists‘ offends our sensibilities. On our daily commutes we sometimes come across atavistic manifestations of this discipline. We gaze upon its practitioners with undisguised disdain. Had their farce been intentional it might even qualify as comic: predictable papers chasing each other in a never-ending cycle of banality; seminars signifying nothing more than the degeneration of the chattering classes‘ art of rhetoric; and self-

    serving conferences camouflaging the shortcomings of the intellectually vacuous.

    With the exception of a few ‗pure science‘ subjects, such as computing, nano-technology and genetic engineering, academia has entered a process of irreversible decomposition. No method of embalming can hide the hideous mask of death and no amount of fragrance can conceal its stench. The proliferation of ‗think-tanks‘ is recognition on the part of the

    bourgeoisie that it can no longer depend on its petit bourgeois mandarins within orthodox academia to ensure its hegemony. Better to transform them into proletarians producing mental labour than to let them roam lifeless academic shopping malls like so many zombies in search of fresh meat.


    Does critical Psychology have anything to offer the anti-capitalist movement? This is precisely the problematic this issue of ARCP is devoted to. Most contributors are doubtful. Some are willing to concede a certain fruitful cross-fertilization between the most radical wing of Critical Psychology and the revolutionary faction within the anti-capitalist movement.

    Readers may (as did the contributors) find some of our editing and stylistic choices bizarre. For instance, before participating in this project, none of the contributors had been asked questions regarding their social class and political affiliation so directly. Some responded robotically! Some refused to reply, point blank. Many responded with reservations. One or two chose sarcasm as a method of delivery. We enjoyed all their answers regardless. Readers could ignore the questionnaires if they wish or read them in conjunction with the associated text. Or alternatively, they could read the questionnaires collectively. For example, no one writer may have come up with the ‗perfect‘ definition of social class but a cumulative analysis of the responses may yield a surprisingly fresh perspective on this most thorny of problems. If nothing else this issue may initiate a serious debate about the class struggle, overcoming sedimented attitudes and fundamentalist outlooks.

    Our not-so-hidden agenda also involves a devious attempt to foreground certain brilliant thinkers at the expense of the flotsam currently monopolizing debate within both Critical Psychology and the anti-capitalist movement. The brilliant thinkers include Marx, Pannekoek, Korsch, Vygotsky, Bakhtin, Leopoldina Fortunati, Sylvia Pankhurst and Debord. Our lawyers have counseled us against listing the flotsam for fear of libel action. Since Melancholic Troglodytes already possess enemies in abundance, we shall concede to their wishes!

    The class struggle is heating up. Many will try to ignore the implications of capitalism‘s death agony. Most will misunderstand the changes awaiting us or grasp them only partially. Revolutionaries have no such luxuries. We must equip ourselves with a dialectically evolving praxis (self-reflecting

    revolutionary practice), if we are to have a real impact on events. The articles in this issue concentrate on crowd psychology, demonstrations, protests and the relationship between individuality and collectivity. The reviews are independent contributions to critical theory and should be read as such. In bringing together writers from different backgrounds, we have


    tried to create a space for experimentation and innovation. Should this issue of ARCP find an echo amongst radicals this project may yield positive results. Otherwise, it will have been yet another needlessly brutal act of tree-murder and waste, signifying nothing.

    We wish to thank Ian Parker for granting us complete control over the editing of this issue of ARCP and Manchester Metropolitan University for providing us with computer-time and technical assistance. Thanks also to Paul Petard whose wonderful drawings adorn this issue. Finally, the contributors have bent over backwards trying to accommodate our 1questions. We shall be eternally grateful.

     1 It is only proper to point out that although we enjoyed friendly relations with all the contributors during the editing of this issue, there was one exception. Dr. Fred Newman took great exception to the questions we asked for the discussion section. A needlessly insulting series of rude emails were exchanged in quick succession between Dr. Newman and us. In retrospect it all seems puerile and unnecessary. However, instead of covering up the incident (which might have been the instincts of an academic journal), we decided to be upfront about it. Since we still value the intellectual contributions of Fred Newman and Lois Holzman, we shall endeavour to learn from them whenever we can. Their books and articles are always thought provoking and interesting. However, this collaboration represents the last time we shall involve ourselves in a joint activity with the Newmanites.



    The following three papers are by Leninists. As a ‗leftist‘ ideology (i.e., one representing the left wing of capital), Leninism has never been

    revolutionary, despite its claims and rhetoric. This judgment applies to all its manifestations over the years, whether orthodox Leninist, Stalinist, Trotskyite, Maoist or Che Guevarist. This does not mean, however, that the texts are devoid of value. Far from it. In some ways, and this is not easy for us to admit to, they are superior to the revolutionary contributions that will follow in the next section. They are self-assured and erudite. Furthermore, they cover an intellectual terrain (inspired by Marx, Vygotsky, Bakhtin, Vološinov and Benjamin) that is very close to our heart.

If Melancholic Troglodytes are correct in suggesting that the dichotomy

    between Leninism and ‗anti-Leninism‘ (a short-hand for ‗left-wing‘

    communism, libertarian Marxism, Situationism, Autonomism, class-conscious Anarchism, etc.) is one in need of supercession, then knee-jerking

    reaction against Leninist

    intellectual contributions

    amounts to political immaturity.

    It may even represent a certain

    duplicity since we know of no

    revolutionary who has not

    benefited from studying Leninist

    and Anarchist varieties of

    ‗leftism‘. We may not like their

    politics, we may not accept them

    as ‗anti-capitalist class fighters‘

    and, since we know our history,

    we may never trust them fully

    but we will continue to take

    whatever we find useful in their

    work, in order to intensify the

    class struggle.


(NEWMAN & HOLZMAN) Questionnaire

1) How would you define your social class? (Explain your terminology)

    FRED NEWMAN: I come from a lower working class background and grew up in the city (Bronx, NY). I became an intellectual and, for a few years in the 1960s, an academic. I abandoned that in favor of becoming a

    revolutionary organizer.

    LOIS HOLZMAN: I come from an upper working class/lower middle class background (my parents were first generation Americans, children of Russian Jewish immigrants). I grew up in New York City and its suburbs. I became an intellectual and then an academic and a revolutionary organizer. I left academia in the mid-1990s and remain a revolutionary organizer.

    2) Exactly how would you describe your politics? (Or alternatively, describe your political development to date?)

    FRED NEWMAN: I‘m a postmodern Marxist. In my young years, I was an anarchist from a traditional Democratic Party (i.e., Roosevelt New Deal) family. In the 60s I came to be identified by the powers that be as a Marxist. I studied Marx and found much to supportand much to not

    supportin what he wrote so I worked to reconcile this. What I‘ve come to is the postmodernizing of Marxism.

    LOIS HOLZMAN: I was a closet radical distant from political activity (except a few anti-Vietnam War rallies) through my twenties. My politics

    in those days were manifest in my intellectual work. In the mid-70s I met

    Fred Newman and began to give expression to my politics in how I lived my life. I became a Marxist and, with Fred, have been developing postmodern Marxism.

    3) What is your assessment of the current status of capitalism and the class struggle?

    FRED NEWMAN and LOIS HOLZMAN: Capitalism is omnipresent, yet vulnerable, and class struggle is virtually non-existent. There is, however,

    evidence of revolutionary activity worldwide and this activity-theoretic

    development of Marxism continues to grow. How powerful it will become is impossible to know.


    Annual Review of Critical Psychology

    Anti-Copyright@? 2003 Discourse Unit

    Vol. 3, pp. 8-23 (ISSN: 1464-0538)

All Power to the Developing!

Fred Newman and Lois Holzman

    East Side Institute for Short Term Psychotherapy, New York, NY

    Over nearly three decades we have described our work (our politics) in many different ways. Perhaps this is an expression or result of differing elements of our joint subjectivitya moral and scientific aversion to labels

    and being labeled, an intellectual delight in the search for a (never-realizable) linguistic precision, a strong disbelief/mistrust of consistency, a political passion for creating something new out of what exists (the old), a desire to speak to and with those for whom our work (our politics) has some relevance or interest (and those whose work we find relevant or 1interesting), a playful pleasure in and tactical commitment to provocation.

    With all of that, we are of course (hopefully) responding to a changing world.

    Our initial formulations, in the late 1970s, drew heavily on the Marxist conceptions of alienation and class struggle. At the same time, our characterization of social therapy (the centerpiece of our psychological work and the subject of this essay) as ‗the practice of method‘ (Hood [Holzman] and Newman, 1979) was meant to underscore that it was Marx as revolutionary methodologist more than Marx as brilliant political economist and revolutionary (albeit modernist) that inspired and taught us so much. As we put it then,

    Thus, the Marxian dialectic is not merely another paradigm (an

    economic interpretation) or indeed even another method to be

    practiced. It is, rather, a new understanding of understanding. Far

    from being a new method to practice, Marxism is insistent that human

    understanding and its highest form, revolutionary activity, is the

    practice of method. Marxism is profoundly practical, not in the sense


    of being a practice derived from a theory and/or method, but in the

    sense of being a theory and/or method which is a practice (Hood

    [Holzman] and Newman, 1979, p 3).

    From the beginning we also drew upon the conceptions of Lev Vygotsky (whom we relate to as Marx‘s follower)—for example, in describing social

    therapy (the practice of method) as tool-and-result methodology for re-initiating human development. Marx and Vygotsky, it seemed to us, were identifying (in different realms of social life) human beings as revolutionary, practical-critical, activists (or activity-ists). While a constant presence in our many articulations of social therapy, at times revolutionary activity may have seemed as background to another concept we wanted to convey (for example, ‗anti-psychology,‘ ‗anti-paradigm,‘ ‗cultural-

    performatory approach,‘ ‗performative therapy‘) or to another source of inspiration (as in ‗Vygotskian-Wittgensteinian synthesis,‘ or ‗postmodern

    therapy‘). In this essay, we move revolutionary activity to the foreground as we attempt, yet another time, to describe our work (our politics). The term that feels right to us in these twenty-first century post-days (post-communist, post-Marxist, post-structuralist, postmodern) is postmodern Marxism. The invitation to contribute to this special issue of Annual

    Review of Critical Psychology has been the occasion for us to explore and

    better understand our work from this perspective. To begin, we return to Marx.

Class Struggle and Revolutionary Activity

One can see in all of Marx‘s writings two lines of practical-critical thought:

    1) class struggle and 2) revolutionary activity. The oft-quoted opening of The Communist Manifesto is a concise illustration of the former: ‗The

    history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles‘ (Marx and Engels, 1987, p 12). Marx‘s somewhat less familiar third thesis on Feuerbach illustrates the latter: ‗The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice‘ (Marx, 1974, p 121).

    In Marx‘s worldview, class struggle forefronts the anti-capitalist and

    deconstructive, while revolutionary activity forefronts the communistic and

    reconstructive. Together, they could transform ‗all existing conditions‘. In some of his writings, for example the following passages from the

    Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, Marx made clear the necessity

    of synthesizing the two.


    In order to supercede the idea of private property communist ideas are

    sufficient but genuine communist activity is necessary in order to

    supercede real private property (Marx, 1967, p 149).


    Communism is the positive abolition of private property, of human

    self-alienation, and thus the real appropriation of human nature

    through and for man. It is, therefore, the return of man himself as a

    social, i.e., really human, being, a complete and conscious return

    which assimilates all the wealth of previous development (Marx, 1967,

    p 127).


    We have seen how, on the assumption that private property has been

    positively superceded, man produces man, himself and then other men;

    how the object which is the direct activity of his personality is at the

    same time his existence for other men and their existence for him.

    Similarly, the material of labor and man himself as a subject are the

    starting point as well as the result of this movement (and because

    there must be this starting point private property is an historical

    necessity). Therefore, the social character is the universal character of

    the whole movement; as society itself produces man as man, so it is

    produced by him. Activity and mind are social in their content as well

    as in their origin; they are social activity and social mind (Marx, 1967,

    p 129).

    The transformation of the world and the transformation of ourselves as human beings are one and the same task (since, for Marx, human beings are both producers and product of their world)the historic task of the

    methodology of Marxism. And yet, many readings of Marx (by his followers and detractors alike) either ignore revolutionary activity or subsume it under class struggle as Revolution (that is, a quite specific type of revolutionary activity). And while some of the Marxist Revolutions of the twentieth century were, arguably, successful class struggles, they often failed to engage the masses in continuous, day-to-day revolutionary activity, that is, the simultaneous reconstruction of human beings as social activity-

    ists. Thus, both history and its left analysis have obscured Marx in the


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