Psychology in Utopia
Toward a Social History of Soviet Psychology
191 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: March 29, 1984
- Published: July 1, 2008
What function can a science of psychology serve in a utopian society whose ideological foundations already contain a theory of human nature? This is the question that has dominated the history of Soviet psychology - a history that Alex Kozulin decodes in this book. Following an introduction that discusses the problems of deciphering the real content of scientific work produced in an ideological context, the author reviews the work and the fate of the first four generations of Soviet psychologists: those who came of age before the Revolution, during the heady days of the 1920s, in the midst of the Stalin era, and the most recent, contemporary generation. Six case studies provide a better understanding of the ideas and methods of Soviet psychology: the careers of Ivan Pavlov and Vladimir Bekhterev; the roots of non-Pavlovian psychophysiology in the work of Nikolai Bernstein; the ups and downs of the concept of the unconscious; the origins of Lev Vygotsky's epistemological theories; Pavel Blonsky and the development of Soviet educational psychology; and the effects of de-Stalinization in educational psychology and other areas.
It would take the social perceptiveness of a Balzac to capture the bizarre world of twentieth-century Russian science from the inside. Only someone like Alex Kozulin, who has known that world at first hand, could have written this fascinating and important study of the vicissitudes of psychology in the Soviet Union.
Stephen Toulmin, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago
Kozulin's fascinating book gives important insight into the relation of ideology to scholarship while documenting key trends, ideas and figures in the history of Soviet psychology. There is poignancy, ignominy and occasional heroism to be found in the chronicle – and both irony and humor to be found in the chronicler's attitude toward his subject.
Sigmund Koch, University Professor of Psychology and Philosophy, Boston University
Psychology in Utopia is an exceedingly instructive book. Mr. Kozulin's knowledge of the social and intellectual context of Soviet psychology is well informed, well written, and lucid. He provides thorough sketches of scholars and ideas I have had far too little access to, explaining ideas and events the meaning of which have eluded me for many years. Aspects of his arguments will undoubtedly prove controversial, especially to his former Soviet colleagues. But they provide much needed guidance to Americans, like myself, whose historical and cultural experience is limited by national myths and international misunderstanding.
Michael Cole, Professor of Communication & Psychology Director, Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, University of California San Diego
Kozulin exposes several obscure facts in the history of Soviet psychology and illuminates the living contributions of scientists like Bernstein and Vygotsky. Psychology in Utopia has to be read not only by historians of psychology, but by all who are interested in the impact of social and political forces on the development of psychology.
Luciano Mecacci, Institute of Psychology, National Research Council, Rome
As a young scholar at a Moscow research institute, Kozulin experienced firsthand how philosophical globalizations and shifts in the official Party line can influence research and how publications are worded to conform to the rules imposed by the state censor. Western readers will profit from the experience gained here. The interested scholar will gain insights not only to the ideological horizons of psychology, but also about present-day idols and ideals in Soviet education.
Thomas Kussman, Institute for Eastern European Studies, Cologne