A Critique of Postmodern Psychology

QUESTION: A Critique of Postmodern Psychology

ANSWER:

A socially constructed, unstable self creates special difficulties in the area of law, crime, and punishment. For example, if a self were to “flux” quickly, a criminal act on a particular night of rape and pillage may be blamed on a previous shifting self, making it difficult to locate and punish the guilty “self.” Louis Sass, a Rutgers clinical psychology professor, puts it this way, “There are clearly dangers in giving up that notion of a single self. You absolve the person of responsibility for making judgments.” Imagine the excuses people might make: “Hey, it wasn’t my fault. One of my other selves did it.”1

Not only are there problems in the area of law, crime, and punishment, but there are also major problems deciding exactly what is normal and abnormal. Walter Truett Anderson addresses this problem when he says, “I have been putting words like ‘abnormal’ and ‘deviant’ in quotes, because those categorizations are under fire now, the boundary between normal and abnormal is as questionable now as all the other boundaries that once defined social reality.”2

Postmodern Psychology – A Fringe Movement with No Boundaries
According to Anderson, Postmodernists are not in the boundary business. Certainly if they can’t find boundaries between the biological and the cultural (nature and nurture), why should we expect them to find boundaries between the normal and abnormal? For example, Michel Foucault knowingly infected his homosexual partners with the AIDS virus. This should cause even the most devout Postmodernist to think twice before blurring the boundaries between sane and insane, normal and abnormal, and common sense and the ridiculous. If Postmodernists consider Foucault’s behavior “normal,” then there is no definition of abnormal worth considering.

It should also be noted that among the majority of psychologists, Postmodernist psychology is viewed as a fringe movement. At this point it seems unlikely that the Postmodern approach to psychology will have a major influence on the future direction of psychology in general.

Notes:

Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Cited in Mitchell Stephens, “To Thine Own Selves be True,” Los Angeles Times Magazine (August 23, 1992). Online article accessed August 10, 2005: http://www.nyu.edu/classes/stephens/Postmodern%20psych%20page.htm.

2 Ibid.

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