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Social psychology: New Journal, New Perspectives 966
A Part of Article
The new journal on social psychology has come out. This fact itself is significant for our professional community. Firstly, because it once more proves institutionalized status of social psychology as a selfsustained psychological discipline. Secondly, because the journal forthcoming is conjunct with the landmark date: in 2008 the hundredth anniversary of social psychology as a separate branch of science was celebrated; in 2009 — the anniversary of its revival in Russia. Finally, and most importantly, the journal title — «Social Psychology and Society» — emphasizes the proposed agenda that is particularly relevant at the moment.
We must admit that social psychology was not «deprived» in publications previously. Social psychology publications took rightful place in the leading psychological journals «Voprosy Psikhologii» (Issues in Psychology), «Psikhologicheskiy zhurnal» (Psychological Journal), «Mir Psikhologii» (The World of Psychology), «Vestnik MGU» (Gerald of Moscow State University), «Psikhologiya» (Psychology) etc. In some cases the wording «social psychology» was included in the journal titles («Sotsialnaya psikhologia» (Social Psychology) of the Yaroslavl University; «Sovremennaya sotsialnaya psikhologia: teoreticheskiye podkhody i prikladniye issledovaniya» (Contemporary Social Psychology: theoretical approaches and applied research») and the others). But expanding the title «and society» is regarded quite significant on several reasons.
Surprisingly enough (concerning the hundredth anniversary!) the discussion on the subjectmatter of social psychology is still unfinished, at least, debates regarding it «borderline» status and existing of two its versions («psychological» social psychology and «sociological» social psychology), recently added with the third (symbolic interactionism). Current situations leads to polemics on many methodological issues, particularly, on correlation between micro and macro levels of analysis, on «specific gravity» of each level in the whole «body» of scientific knowledge. Unfortunately, the latter turns (even in the professional community) into doubts that social psychology may be regarded as a separate discipline.
The current situation demands to address these questions very closely, particularly, in connection with actual changes in the modern world and changes in the paradigm of socialpsychological knowledge itself. The general shift of the contemporary social science, conditioned with postmodernism influences, procreated discussion on development of postnonclassical science and, in particular, postnonclassical psychology. This discussion directly deals with social psychology because it offers the concrete model of this branch — social constructionism by K. Gergen. It embraces the whole complex of current search for new epistemology and, first of all, significant shift towards humanitarian orientation. Moving from general methodological speculations to concrete issues in socialpsychological science modernization, we see that the topic «social psychology and society» is obviously on the agenda.
Analysis of our scientific discipline witnesses that it is this aspect of social psychology (at least, in the frames of «psychological social psychology») that was relatively underdeveloped. It refers to research in psychology of large social groups and mass movements, to general issues in psychology of social changes, and even to such wellinvestigated sphere as mass communication. Special question is raised on «social psychology of social problems» though this dispute is wellknown starting from the work of K. Levin in the frames of action research and approach of the American society «Social psychology of social problems» (1936). Although in the light of the new paradigm emphasizing humanitarian orientation some new ideas and investigation plans may be discussed regarding this issue. They deal with the branch of social psychology that has recently been called «applied social psychology». It is the point where a researcher faces changing social reality, i.e. society. Consequently, the search for new solutions not only is necessary in the sphere of theoretical knowledge but also in each case of applied intervention. Thought form of applied social psychology are quite wellestablished (expertise, counseling, teaching), the question is how these form can work under the new, changing conditions, in the new social contexts. Addressing real life social processes (increase of unemployment, aggravation of economic inequality, organized crime and corruption) is the inevitable challenge for applied social psychology. Paradigm changes not only reflect global search in theory and methodology but also transform the level («range») of a separate applied research as well as a concrete form of intervention.
In this sense Russian social psychology is in one stream together with the colleagues from different countries and scientific schools. In 1970 S. Moskovichi argued the necessity for «sociologization» of social psychology, keeping in mind strengthening emphasis on the «social context». Moving in the described direction will encourage closer integration of the Russian researches into the world process of social psychology development; enrich the dialog between different methodological and theoretical approaches as well as search for new perspectives and spheres of its practical application. Radical social transformations affected the whole society at the turn of ХХ and XXI; there are challenges for the world science, thus search for solutions in every social segment should be somehow connected with the colleagues' work. Anyway, we do not underestimate concrete solutions; but the general milieu of scientific knowledge development in the globalization era cannot be overlooked. It is also a part of the «intrigue» of «social psychology and society» issue and, respectively, of the new journal orientation.
It is difficult to outline the whole specter of tasks to be solved by the new periodical at the stage of making up the first «pilot» issue. But a range of problems cross one's mind instantly, because these problems are at the agenda and discussed in different communities — formal or informal — in professional institutions where social psychologists function.
If we accept the idea of socialpsychological research of actual problems of modern society as the new journal motto, the first step to be made is obviously clarification of the range of issues and comparing them with traditional branches of social psychology. One should not abandon the old polemics on defining the boundaries of «the social»: is it enough just to refer to the fact of «interaction» and or there is necessity of broader «social context», i.e. appeal to effective social problems: for example, structural changes, psychology of new social strata, transition to market economy, democratization of public sphere, increase in number of intergroup conflicts, understanding social justice, stimulation of learning motivation etc. Attention to these problems should not be reduced to traditional genre of scientific papers — «to emphasize practical significance of this or that problem». For sure, it is important to emphasize a problem… But the problems are new by nature and they must be not just «emphasized» but also investigated comprehensively! In this connection we raise the issue of closer collaboration with sociology and, in particular, with sociology journals (I especially want to pay my colleagues' attention to «Sotsialnaya realnost» (Social Reality) journal), that used to be a tradition, but one almost lost now.
Strengthening connections with foreign colleagues is an important aspect of the problem. Maintaining such connections leads to twofold results: broader representation of publications from foreign sociopsychological journals (it is possible to refer to the experience of some other psychological journals) as well as chances for active collaboration with foreign members of the editorial board. (Such outstanding social psychologists as Willem Doise, Philip Zimbardo, Ivana Markova, Klaus Helkama have kindly agreed to participate). Is also makes us proud that the editorial board and editorial council include our colleagues form neighbour countries (A. A. Brudny, E. I. Golovakha, L. A. Pergamenschik, A. A. Faizullayev).
For some extent it restores our previous collaboration in the frames of Soviet social psychology.
The second aspect of maintaining such collaboration is stimulation of broader participation of Russian colleagues, publishing their papers in the world famous sociopsychological journals (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, European Journal of Social Psychology, Social Behaviorist et al). I have already described the pitiful asymmetry in collaboration between Russian and international social psychology: «we» knew about «them» much more, then «they» about «us». The new journal could make a great contribution to «equation» of these relationships; probably, work out a form of regular exchange of papers.
As to «internal» problems, they are numerous to no end. I will take courage to use the image of a Bolshevist newspaper as a «collective organizer» (!) and say that the journal will play the same role again. It is not a secret that social psychologists in our country are very disengaged: actually, there are many different social psychologies in different regions. It took much effort to overcome the barriers between the Leningrad and the Moscow schools (I am grateful to Evgeny S. Kuzmin for that); now there are quite regular contacts between them. And what about interesting approaches worked out in RostovnaDonu, Tomsk, Yaroslavl and the other cities (dear colleagues, I beg my pardon that I cannot mention you all!)? How well are we informed about each other's scientific developments and investigations? A kind of mutual informing is within the new journal's power, and that also resonates with the motto «social psychology and society».
Finally, another delicate task is attraction of young specialists to the journal. Remember that Russian social psychology is fifty years since its «second incarnation». Unfortunately, some people, who were enthusiastic in the first years of its «new» existence, have gradually left this sphere. It is apt to mention Artur V. Petrovsky, Evgeniy S. Kuzmin, Viktor N. Kolbanovsky, Vadim B. Olshansky, Ekaterina V. SHorokhova, Petr N. Shikhirev and many other «pioneers» in this «pilot» issue. Since we often forget what goes on at our neighbours'; the more we forget about the previous contributions (remembering them on anniversary dates). Ignorance of young researchers in respect of the accumulated knowledge of our discipline is not just surprising; in my opinion, it seriously hampers its further development. Probably, we should introduce a special rubric for beginning authors' publications on the acutest problems of «social psychology and society». Of course, it does not prevent from «compulsory» publications necessary for obtaining Ph.D degree, but the sphere for really «breakthrough» topics cannot be limited to such publications. Innovative approach to sociopsychological understanding of actual problems sometimes hardly fits Procrustean bed of Ph.D thesis, it is a «zone of risk» in some sense, and the journal is quite an adequate place for approbation of such approaches.
I see initiating scientific debates as a very important direction of the journal's work: we have almost withdrawn this tradition and that is the reason why we often are not well informed about our colleagues' findings and miscounts and are rather weak in the art of discourse. Publishing discussions in journals is a genre lost for us while in some periodicals on allied disciplines (sociology, general psychology) such traditions is practiced. It is particularly topical today, since we have to discuss a completely new specter of problems procreated by the situation of «a changed man in changing society» and, respectively, «changed» approaches in methodology and theory. It is appropriate to refer to
K. Gergen's idea that world transformations lead to changes in relationships between social psychology and society (or, more precise, changes of position of social psychology in society). This implies activization of «social sensitivity» of researchers, i.e. sharpening the ability to see and understand actual social problems. Without this ability we can hardly expect serious progress in theoretical as well as applied social psychology. As a result, we come to the issue of social psychologists training. Probably, the journal will find its niche in this sphere, for the amount of lecturers in this discipline has been proliferating recently.
A significant genre, aimed at the same task is publishing comments and reviews of the published works. It is now difficult to remember the time when one could read in a journal a review or even a short comment on a book (or an article) of one's colleague. I am afraid that this genre also is in need for genuine revival — we have almost lost our skills in substantial critics and «blind» reviewing does not facilitate truly creative environment in our professional community.
Obviously, forthcoming of a new journal is a good occasion to articulate our hopes for the future blossoming of our discipline. It is also clear that these thoughts may stay just a habitual dream about the better future. As in many other spheres of life of the society, that we are going to thoroughly analyze in sociopsychological frameworks, hopes and dreams do not necessarily prove completely realizable. The importance of certain milestones in the history of science is in the potential for reflecting the accumulated burden of problems and taking time for speculating on their solutions. We wish the new journal all the success in new beginning and keeping good traditions!