Psychology and Capitalism
How your state of mind makes Big Business Happy
Psychology and Capitalism is a critical and accessible account of the ideological and material role of psychology in supporting capitalist enterprise and holding individuals entirely responsible for their fate through the promotion of individualism.
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This short book centers on the uses of bourgeois psychology to capital in the realms of control and illusion. Studies have shown that since neo-liberal capitalism was introduced in the late 1970s, rates of mental distress have increased markedly. This has affected oppressed populations the most. Yet the methods of contemporary psychology and psychiatry center their ‘treatment’ on individuals alone, with no historical content. They ignore how capital has configured society. This is on purpose. You will note the psychological theories that used to be taught in school - Freud, Adler, Maslow, Jung, Skinner, Rogers and others – all of them conflicted. This undermined any idea that psychology was a science. The present large division between ‘talk therapy’ and biological drugs – the ‘couch and the brain scan’ approaches, as Roberts put it, also conflict, though biological reductionism is now the most prominent. Roberts counts 11 modern forms of psychology at present - all of which are not integrated. These contradictions hint at the ideological aspect of modern psychology. Roberts looks at the uses ‘personality’ and ‘character’ studies have, and how they enable military and corporate entities to control warfare and workers alike. Pop psychologists on PBS offer up ‘4’ aspects of personality, and rigid individual categories like neurotic, introvert and extrovert, ‘passive aggressive,’ ‘the self,’ ‘A personality,’ ‘beta males,’ nature and nurture, narcissism and intelligence fill common talk – all ahistorical and individualized, with questionable scientific bonifides. Loneliness is the exception, as it is now commonly and obviously understood to be linked to social disconnection. Roberts outlines the misuses of psychology as an insider. He discusses ‘military psychology’ and its collaboration with torture; advertising manipulation; IQ and the bogus aspect of twin studies; poor drug science and especially the role of the individual. As to the latter, he says about current psychology: “…the individual is the primary reality … By amazing coincidence, it is also the cornerstone of ‘rational’ self interest and individualism upon which the entire field of economics is predicated.” Corporate psychology pushed through HR departments is especially geared to getting the worker to be agreeable, conscientious, punctual, resilient and flexible. Especially flexible! Psychology essentially “privatizes responsibility” in Robert’s words. .................Roberts lists a few ‘social psychologists’ who look at the links between society and individual functioning and concepts like alienation and consumer fetishism – Wilhelm Reich, Kenneth Gergen, Eric Fromm, R.D. Laing and Slavoj Zizek – all absolutely marginal to the field as practiced now. Every psychology student should read this book. ~ Greg Gibbs, May Day Books & Blog