Carl Ratner, PhD.
1. When did you begin to think about theoretical psychology and why?
In the 1960s when I was a graduate student. This was the time of the American-European cultural revolution. It was a popular uprising critical of government policies. (This cultural revolution also spread to Latin American countries such as Mexico.) The critique began as a critique of policies such as militarism, racial inequality, poverty. There were many protest demonstrations throughout the country demanding changes in policy. This led to a deeper critique of the reasons for bad policies, rooted in the capitalist political economy. Martin Luther King said in 1967, " the Vietnam War is merely a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.”
The Western political critique also criticized Marxism and socialism that were practiced by Communist Parties around the world. For this reason the Western Cultural Revolution was called "The New Left."
This was a vibrant decade. It produced great intellectual achievements, and a flowering of popular music. It changed the entire life style of the West in the direction of greater intellectual and personal freedom, and rebellion from conventional behaviors and thinking. It was not a purely personal rebellion; it was more a social rebellion that sought a democratic, egalitarian, communitarian society not dominated by wealthy business people or their corrupted-coopted government. This was the basis of individual rebellions in life style. The 60s witnessed a rejection of material wealth and consumerism as a sign of status. People were concerned with human relations and human values.
This popular uprising led to progressive legislation being passed. The government was restricted in its militarism, racism, and its spying on citizens. Anti-poverty and health care programs were passed. The Western New Left, Cultural Revolution also transformed the university system to be more democratic with student participation in educational policy and new courses on social critiques and critical history.
The social critique of capitalism included a critique of social science for implicitly supporting the corporate-government establishment. If society were to be democratized and humanized, then the social sciences and humanities that supported oppressive society had to be critiqued and changed. Social science theories and methodologies were subjected to important cultural-political critiques. (An excellent one was "The Sociological Imagination" by C.W. Mills.) Every discipline had "critical" branches. To this day there still are journals called "Critique of Anthropology," "Critical Sociology," Philosophy & Social Criticism," "Critical Discourse Studies," "Antipode," etc. American history was re-conceptualized to highlight the oppressive policies of government, business, and social class hierarchy. It also highlighted the social-economic contributions of ordinary citizens, especially minorities and women who had been excluded from mainstream historical accounts. This new history was called revisionist history or "People's History."
This was the origin of my thinking about psychology. (I dedicated my book "Cultural Psychology: A Perspective on Psychological Functioning and Social Reform" to my generation of the 1960s.) My theoretical thinking about psychology was a critique of psychology that corresponded to my political critique of exploitive, militaristic, materialistic, undemocratic society. My theoretical psychology was not merely an academic comparison of theories; it was political-cultural critique of them. I showed how psychological theories and methodologies reflected political values that had political consequences for social life.
My political critique of theories and methodologies led to a scientific critique. I demonstrated that preserving the social-political status quo required theories and methodologies to obfuscate its harmful origins and features. In other words, Psychology could not be a scientific account of human psychology as long as it failed to thoroughly comprehend the nature of society and its affects on psychology. The political inadequacies of Psychology led to scientific inadequacies, which reciprocally supported their political basis.
This is true for all oppressive social systems, not just capitalism. All social oppression requires obscuring itself and its psychological effects. All social oppression therefore generates an unscientific social science and Psychology. People in all oppressive societies must use their oppression as the basis for a social critique of the social system and also the social sciences that support it. It is naive to believe that Psychology can be scientific in an oppressive society which determines the criteria for academic and financial success. You cannot just develop scientific psychology on its own, without considering the societal context that structures scientific activity.
Natural science only developed in particular social systems in particular historical conditions. It was critical to repudiate mythological, mystical, and religious influences in order to, i.e., as a prerequisite to, develop natural science. Natural science was not a universal paradigm that naturally developed on its own. Reactionary religious institutions such as the Catholic Church prohibited natural science, as in the cases of Galileo. Science can only develop by challenging anti-scientific social forces. Scientists do not erode such forces by the intellectual power of their scientific arguments. The Catholic Church was not convinced by Galileo's scientific arguments. Scientists can only develop science by politically pushing to limit anti-scientific forces. Social scientists must actively oppose societal restrictions on their science in order to develop it. Science does not create its own social niche; the social niche for science must be politically created. Scientists must create the conditions for their self-development, i.e., scientific development. Science does not create these conditions by itself.
The scientific crisis of Psychology reflects the humanitarian crisis of society. Each calls for comprehending the other. (The underdevelopment of natural science in various societies also reflects humanitarian crises in those countries. The rejection of Galileo's physics testified to the oppressive domination the Catholic Church had over medieval society. The contemporary rejection of science by extreme fundamentalist religions similarly testifies to a social crisis of cultural and political stultification by religion.)
My theoretical critique of Psychology has a political implication for reforming society. Psychology can only become scientific if it exposes and challenges the full nature of society with its problematical basis and features. Hence the title of my book: "Cultural Psychology: A Perspective on Psychological Functioning and Social Reform."
I have developed a comprehensive psychological theory called Macro Cultural Psychology. It explains how psychology is rooted in cultural processes and factors. It traces psychological deficiencies to social deficiencies, and it aims to correct the latter in order to enhance psychological functioning. To do this I developed a theory of culture that identified the most important cultural influences in society and on psychology. This cultural theory then directs psychological research to these central cultural factors and explains why they are important to consider.
A dialectical theory of culture and psychology identifies how each element depends upon the other and forms the other.
2. Who has had the greatest impact on your theoretical studies? Why do you think they are important?
Within psychology, Vygotsky was the greatest influence. Erich Fromm was also important. Solomon Asch was the greatest social psychologist in my opinion. His book "Social Psychology" is a profound, theoretically-informed approach to social psychology. Sigmund Koch was a friend who led the attack on behaviorism and positivism. I absorbed a lot from Donald Campbell, an important theoretician about methodology.
One of the most important intellectual influences on my theoretical work was the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s and 70s. One of its leading thinkers was R.D. Laing, a psychiatrist in England. The anti-psychiatry movement argued that mental illness was a symptom of the stresses of society. Mentally ill people were thus victims of an oppressive society. It was wrong to blame mental illness on individual processes such as neurobiology. Mental illness could not be cured by medical means. It had to be cured by social reform to remove the social stressors. This critique of psychiatry was a powerful critique of society. It led me to regard all psychology in these terms. All psychology was primarily a function of macro cultural factors. Individual and biological factors are secondary influences.
The anti-psychiatry movement developed powerful critiques of psychiatry and abnormal psychology. It showed these disciplines to be unscientific and politically conservative. It showed that research methodology and psychological theories concerning mental illness were flawed. Even the diagnosis of mental illness was based upon erroneous categories and superficial behaviors. This led me to develop methodological critiques of psychological research. I wrote about this in my book "Cultural Psychology and Qualitative Methodology" and "Cultural Psychology: Theory and Method." The scientific critique of psychiatry was motivated by the political critique of society as stressful -- this was the primary cause of mental illness.
To be a good theoretical psychologist, it is necessary to read widely in social science and philosophy outside psychology. The reason is that psychologists are neither the best theory builders nor the best theory evaluators. To build and assess psychological theories, we must draw on philosophy of science and other social sciences such as sociology.
For my theoretical specialty, Macro Cultural Psychology, I had to read widely in sociology, anthropology, geography, history, and social philosophy. For psychologists are weak in cultural theory. I read a great deal of Marcuse, Foucault, Bourdieu, C.W. Mills, and Norbert Elias.
3. What is theoretical psychology? What should theoretical psychology be in your opinion?
Theoretical psychology should comprehensively and thoroughly analyze basic assumptions of psychological theories and methodologies and procedures. These basic assumptions should then be related to the culture, to see how they reflect particular cultural factors, and also how they support or reform social factors.
I have published critiques of evolutionary psychology; cross-cultural psychology; positivist methodology; biological theories of emotion, perception, social behavior, and mental illness; activity theory; postmodernism and social constructionism. I show how they violate the principles of macro cultural psychology, and are unscientific. I also show how their scientific weaknesses are functional for obscuring and legitimizing the political status quo. I also appreciate particular contributions of these theories and methodologies. My critiques are not complete rejections. I rather demonstrate their weaknesses and the reasons for these. I also recognize that within the weakness are important insights that must be utilized in a new science of Psychology. I admit that I sometimes overemphasize the weaknesses. The reason is that these are very serious and are usually overlooked. I felt it was vital to challenge these because they constitute the mainstream psychological practice.
For example, I have used theoretical psychology to analyze the ontological and epistemological assumptions of positivistic measurement. I demonstrated that behavioral measures that are statistically analyzed according to statistical tests of significance, are superficial and inaccurate indicators of psychological phenomena. This kind of analysis led me to pursue qualitative methodology. Improving psychological measurement cannot be done within the confines of superficial behavioral measures. For example, questionnaires about mental illness of self-concept in China cannot improve on American questionnaires by simply adding a few culturally relevant items for Chinese subjects. For this retains the flawed ontology and epistemology of questionnaires themselves. To accurately comprehend Chinese mental illness and self concept, a new qualitative methodology is necessary that can apprehend the cultural quality of these phenomena. This is where a theoretical analysis leads.
Theoretical critique is also political critique. But political critique must lead to scientific critique. It is the latter that is decisive in determining whether we accept or reject or modify a particular theory or methodology. My rejection or adaptation of a theory or methodology is always ultimately warranted by a scientific analysis. Political critique may be considered the distal process that generates scientific critique as the proximal process.
Social science critics cannot reject a theory, methodology, or procedure because it does not meet their political ideals. We cannot reject psychiatry simply because it fails to identify oppressive social factors and does nothing to reform social oppression that we think is important. We must use this political critique as the basis for a scientific critique. We must scientifically demonstrate that social factors are really important causes of mental distress. And we must demonstrate that improving social factors does improve psychological functioning. Only then can we reject traditional psychiatry as both unscientific and politically oppressive.
Similarly, psychoanalysis cannot be rejected simply because some prudish political authority, or religious authority, dislikes the emphasis on the sexual determination of psychological functioning. Psychoanalysis must be disproved on scientific grounds, which it has been in the West. It must be proven to be illogical, or vague, or unfalsifiable, or untested, or its predictions empirically refuted.
The scientific critique prevents political critique from being arbitrary and autocratic. It prevents a political figure from banishing a social scientific theory or methodology because it does not meet his or her political ideology. Political critique is a useful basis for rethinking social science, but it cannot be the ultimate determiner of social science. Ultimately, social science must be decided by scientific criteria. Theoretical psychology must be firmly based in scientific principles.
4. "Social constructionism fever", “postmodern psychology” and "embodied cognition studies", etc. have been sweeping through Chinese theoretical psychology academic circles in recent years. What do you think of the sudden and growing popularity of certain western scholars or approaches to China?
I do not have personal experience with these developments in China, so I cannot comment on the way that Chinese psychologists use them or the reasons they use them. I do not know what problems they are trying to solve with these approaches or why they favor them.
But I have written about the theoretical, philosophical, political, and social assumptions and implications of social constructionism and postmodernism. My articles are available on my web page: http://www.sonic.net/~cr2 I find these two approaches are important for deconstructing social and psychological processes. That is, they raise the question of how these processes are constructed. They deny that these processes are natural, fixed, given, and universal. This is extremely useful. Another way to say it is to say that social constructionism and postmodernism problematize social and psychological processes. They treat them as problems to be solved rather than as natural givens. Deconstruction is valuable because it breaks our familiar understandings about things. It de-familiarizes things, and it makes us re-think them.
All this is central to good critique. However, social constructionism and postmodernism propose an answer to the origins of things that is faulty, in my opinion. They propose that society and psychology are invented by individuals on the individual level, as personal constructions. Their view of social construction and psychological construction is subjectivistic and individualistic: individuals simply invent social and psychological factors as they wish, as personal meanings. Social constructionists and postmodernists generally (with some exceptions, of course) reject the idea of social structures, politics, and power. They do not recognize that social and psychological phenomena are shaped by these external processes. Nor do they recognize that improving social and psychological phenomena requires transforming social structures, politics, and power. Social constructionists and postmodernists reject the fact that people must create the conditions for their self-development. They mistakenly believe that people can create their self-development ex nihilo, as individuals, independently of facilitating macro cultural factors, processes, and conditions. Consequently, throughout my work, I conclude that both these approaches are ultimately unscientific and politically conservative.
Much more scientific and socially useful is critical realism, described by Roy Bhaskar and Donald Campbell.
5. What's your opinion about the future of theoretical psychology in North America and around the globe?
Bleak. The great thing about the rise of theoretical psychology in the 1960s was its concern for social improvement. It was part of a popular cultural renaissance or cultural revolution. That's what gave theoretical social science depth and breadth -- corresponding to the weighty social issues of the times. Intellectual advances cannot be achieved on a purely intellectual level. They require political support and political changes. The depth of intellectual analysis is proportional to the depth of social and political analysis. Psychological questions are, after all, social and political questions; they require social and political analysis; and they require social and political opportunities for change. Intellectual ferment requires political ferment. A lack of opportunities for social and political change minimizes the opportunities for social and political analysis, which minimizes the ability to analyze psychological issues.
The popular cultural-political upsurge that is necessary for theoretical psychology has been crushed by autocratic social factors. Another obstacle to theoretical thinking in Western and Eastern societies is the emphasis on pragmatic action over social philosophy. The emphasis on "solving problems" pragmatically is a technocratic emphasis that eschews deep philosophical thinking and questioning. It leads to working within the status quo to use its mechanisms for solving problems. This diminishes a deep analysis of what those mechanisms are and whether they can solve problems. When technocrats speak about eradicating poverty or expanding education they assume these can be accomplished within the parameters of the given social system. They do not imply that the system itself needs to be analyzed and transformed. This technocratic pragmatism extends to social science.
Psychology is moving in this direction. Psychologists discuss solving problems of eating disorders, low self-esteem, mental illness, risk taking, poor learning outcomes, or social adjustment in terms of established psychological principles and procedures. This focus does not encourage deep theoretical thinking about psychological assumptions, values, principles, methods, and techniques. For instance, psychiatrists study the effectiveness of neurotransmitters on particular disorders, without considering philosophical issues such as the relation between biology and psychology. This is why I believe that technocratic pragmatism in society and academia is an obstacle to good theoretical thinking in Psychology.
6. What is the role of Marxism in theoretical psychology? Do you think that Marx's critique of political economy has any relevance to theoretical psychology?
Theoretical psychology must apprehend basic assumptions and principles of theories, methodologies, and procedures (interventions). Apprehending the root causes of things is denoted by the term "radical." The etymology of radical means to grasps the root cause. Marx was a radical thinker and actor. Since theoretical psychology is (essentially, ideally) radical and Marxism is radical, Marxism is very important for theoretical psychology. Good theory and good politics go hand in hand.
Theoretical psychology can learn a great deal from Marx's theoretical analysis of capitalism. They can see how he radically penetrated to the root factors of society. They can also learn from his structural analysis of capitalism as an integrated system -- a unity of differences, as Hegel said.
Marx's analysis of political economy is central to understanding the politics and science of Psychology as a discipline. I have explained that the theoretical analysis of Psychology in the 1960s utilized Marx's approach to explain the conservative political nature of Psychology and how this retarded its science. Conversely, Psychology can only become scientific and socially progressive if it challenges its political-economic basis and develops an alternative, socialist one.
7. What do you think about the relationship between theory and history?
That is an important question. History is crucial for theory because history elucidates the development of academic psychological constructs. History also elucidates the development of everyday psychological phenomena such as self-concept, emotions, perceptions, cognitive reasoning, child development, and mental illness. History illuminates the real-life, real-world form of psychological phenomena and psychological constructs. It reveals historical changes and historical influences on both of these. History corrects the prevalent tendency of psychologists to misconstrue psychological phenomena as abstractions divorced from real life and society. History also reveals political forces that shape psychological phenomena and constructs. Theoreticians seek to comprehend the basis of psychological theories, methodologies, and procedures, and history contributes to this task. History actually resolves important theoretical questions. The history of psychological phenomena such as emotions, perceptions, child development, cognition, needs, sex, and mental illness demonstrate that these are culturally variable and culturally dependent. Biological factors on their own cannot explain historical changes in psychology, especially rapid changes such as a new self-concept, a new form of love and sexuality, and a new form of childhood that has swept over China in a mere three decades in China. These were promoted by specific socio-economic policies formulated by government leaders. The government changed rules to allow private housing, private businesses, and consumerism, and to limit families to one child, and these directly led to psychological changes. History demonstrates that psychological theory must emphasize concrete cultural influences on psychology.
8. As “the first foreign social psychology teacher in China after the Cultural Revolution”, you must have been through a very unique and abundant experience by witnessing the decline and rise of Chinese psychology. What are your observations of the development of Chinese psychology? Could you please illustrate them with your “exclusive” personal stories? For example your personal encounter with Pan Shu and other important figures in the field of Chinese psychology?
I taught social psychology in the sociology department of Peking Univ. in 1982, after studying Chinese at Yuyan Xueyuan in 1981. I was interested in learning about Marxist approaches to psychology from Chinese colleagues in a socialist country. I was disappointed to find none. First of all, there were only 8 PhD's in psychology in the entire country, and about 8 psychology departments, because psychology had been banned by the Party in the 1950s . The students and faculty who attended my course were quiet and conservative. They asked very few questions and had no background in academic psychology. They were interested in learning about conventional, experimental social psychology. They were not interested in critiques, theory, or Marxism. This was understandable given Chinese politics of the time. It was interesting that I was from a capitalist country yet I was more critical of bourgeois psychology than Chinese were coming from a non-capitalist country. My students were very friendly. They invited me for some dinners that they cooked in the hallway of a Beida building; and we also went on a few sight seeing trips around Beijing. We always went as a large group.
Chinese psychologists were looking for an apolitical alternative to the political ideology of the 1950s-80s. They believed that science and politics are antithetical -- i.e., that social science is apolitical and that politics is anti-scientific. I disagree with both beliefs. Social science is always political, and politics should be guided by social science -- just as politics should be guided by natural science such as ecological science. Marx's political analysis of capital was a scientific analysis. It is more scientific than bourgeois economics which didn't predict or understand the economic crash of 2008. I explained this in my book "Macro Cultural Psychology: A Political Philosophy of Mind."
I got to meet all 8 of the Chinese PhD psychologists. All of them were devoted to understanding psychology. They had received their PhDs from either the U.S. or USSR. Their foreign language skills enabled them to keep abreast of some new developments in psychology. However, they were working in isolation with few resources.
Several times I met with 4-5 psychologists as a group. Pan Shu met with me several times in his office. These were friendly conversations but did not delve deeply into psychological research or theory.
I gave a presentation at the convention of the Chinese Psychological Society in 1981 and I have a historic photograph of all the participants in front of the hotel where it was held. I also had the good fortune to present:
Errors in Social Psychology Research: How to Avoid Them, Chinese Psychology Society, Peking, Dec. 4, 1984.
The Present Situation of American Social Psychology, Guangdong Social Psychology Society, 3/26/83.
Social Psychology and Social Development, Shanghai Psychological Society, 3/24/82.
The psychologists whom I got to know the best were Jing Ji-chung (President of the Chinese Psychological Society under the Chinese Academy of Sciences), his colleague, Li Meige (of Swiss background), Hu Ji-nan of Hua Dong in Shanghai, and Wu Jiang-lin, a social psychologist at Guangzhou Shi fan Xueyuan, who had received his PhD under Floyd Allport, the brother of Gordon Allport. Wu invited me to teach a semester in his department after I left Beida. They told me a lot about Chinese history, society, and politics, as well as their personal lives, and lots of gossip about academic psychologists. They invited me to their homes, which few foreigners had the opportunity to do during this period. At his apartment, Hu played the Chinese mandolin for me, which was beautiful to hear. Prof. Wu was interested in advancing traditional American social psychology that he had learned.
These personal colleagues and friends were intensely interested in psychological issues. I did not have a sense that they favored a particular theoretical approach to psychology. We talked mostly about particular studies and events that were taking place in Psychology in the U.S. These psychologists were anxious for Psychology to develop in China.
Jing Ji-chung was very active in developing Chinese Psychology through collaboration with Western psychologists. He invited them to China and he was rewarded by being invited to international conferences, international publications, editorial boards, and visiting appointments to universities such as University of California at Berkeley. His international contacts helped him obtain funding for a child development laboratory in Beijing in the 1980s. Jing was very responsible for aligning Chinese psychology with American psychology. This had its advantages and its disadvantages, from my point of view. Hopefully the advantages can be maintained while eliminating the disadvantages.
I also met Fei Xiao-tung. I attended some of his classes in anthropology at Beida. He focused on population demographics. He generally did not discuss broader anthropological or sociological topics in class. I was told that there was a strict separation between academics and socio-political questions. I did not get to know Fei personally, but I felt that he was forthright, and generous with his time and his ideas. He was a critical, theoretical thinker as well as researcher. In his book Peasant Life in China, he made astute observations of cooperatives in Jiangsu Province that have guided my own research on cooperatives (see Carl Ratner, Cooperation, Community, and Co-ops in A Global Era, 2013, Springer Publishers).
9. What kind of influence does theoretical psychology have on your personal life?
I believe I have explained how my theoretical work is grounded in my political beliefs and my political activity for reforming society. In my view, good psychological science and good politics reinforce each other. Conversely, bad politics and bad psychological science reinforce each other.
10. What would you say to Chinese researchers, both teachers and students, if they decide to pursue theoretical psychology in China?
Theory is the highest form of science. Look at Einstein. He was a great scientist as a theoretician not an empiricist. Psychologists are mistaken in emphasizing empirical research over theory. Of course empirical research is important, but only if informed by good theory. Good theory is necessary to make empirical research accurate and useful.
I encourage Chinese social scientists to take a critical look at their theories, methodologies, and practices, like Americans and Europeans did in the 1960s. Chinese theoretical psychologists would examine both the Western psychological model to which Chinese have enthusiastically conformed, and traditional, indigenous Chinese models of psychology. Both of these require theoretical critique that would examine political and scientific aspects.
Nowadays it is popular to oppose Western psychology by advocating traditional, indigenous psychology such as Confucian or Taoist beliefs, or Hindu philosophy-religion in India, or Wahhabi Islam in the mid-East. I believe this is a mistake, a false alternative to Western errors. For indigenous psychologies are just as flawed as Western psychology. Indeed, Western psychology is the indigenous psychology of the West. So if it is flawed, then any indigenous psychology can be flawed. Indigenous psychology cannot be accepted as scientific or socially progressive simply because it is indigenous. Indigenous psychological constructs are influenced by conservative, oppressive, mystifying social factors that impede an understanding of psychology. Hindu psychology includes all sorts of mystical, mystifying notions such as reincarnation. Surely, this cannot constitute a scientific psychological construct that explains personality formation. Nor can it help to enhance personality formation. Mao Ze-dong criticized Confucianism along similar lines, that it is mystical and mystifying; not at all a scientific understanding of behavior, and not a progressive guide for behavior either.
What psychologists accept as indigenous psychology is actually not. It is usually a conservative, mystical anachronism that was imposed by an undemocratic authority in order to oppress/mystify the populace and maintain upper class rule. This indigenous psychology is not created by the people for the people. For instance, extreme Wahhabi Islam that is prevalent today, is an apparatus of the most reactionary, despotic ruling classes on earth today. Wahhabi Islam oppresses women in the extreme, and it also oppresses men. It suppresses intellectual and cultural development. I spent 2011 in Riyadh and saw this in the educational system first hand. Indigenous Islamic psychology is anti-scientific and anti-progressive. To glorify it as an indigenous alternative to Western capitalism only legitimizes oppression and mystification.
From this perspective, indigenous psychology does not yet exist in any society, because the people have not been given an opportunity to truly create their own psychology by themselves and for themselves. Indigenous psychology cannot be constructed until people are masters of their social structures and conditions. Indigenous psychology requires a democratic social system in which people have the opportunity to actually create their life conditions for their benefit. Indigenous psychology is not a historical anachronism, it is a historical project for the future. It is intimately related to the democratic transformation of cultural factors. Indigenous psychology is political in its historically sedimented oppressive forms (Confucianism, Hinduism, Wahhabi Islam) and in its historical telos --a historical project of constructing an enriching, emancipatory psychology.
I distinguish between indigenous cultural psychological phenomena (the lived psychology of people) and indigenous psychological constructs (which are constructs employed by social scientists to explain, describe, and predict psychological phenomena). It is vital to comprehend the former, however, this is not necessarily achieved by the latter. In other words, indigenous constructs may be inadequate for explaining, describing and predicting indigenous psychological phenomena.
This is certainly true of many indigenous Western theories, constructs, and methodologies. It is equally true of constructs, theories, and methodologies that originate in developing countries.
Of course, certain elements of Western psychology and indigenous psychology are useful for a scientific understanding, description, and prediction of psychology/behavior. However they need to be incorporated within a different framework.
Theoretical critique is an indicator of the progressive character of society. Progressive societies that seek to improve the social system will encourage theoretical critique of society and social science in order to elucidate root factors and problems and develop improved root cultural factors. Conversely, the absence of theoretical critique in psychology and social science is an indicator of the conservative, oppressive character of society that resists questioning and change.
Theoretical psychology has a particularly useful role to play in China. It is a forum where the Communist Party can develop a Marxist critique of Psychology and social science. The pages of empirical journals are not hospitable to such critique. But theoretical publications are. Theoretical psychology provides a venue for developing a Chinese Marxist-socialist approach to developing Psychology as a scientific discipline, and also to developing lived psychology of Chinese people in a way that furthers socialism and its social-psychological benefits. This will be a truly Chinese indigenous psychology.
Dr. Carl Ratner has spent his academic career researching the relation between culture and psychology. He has developed a theory and methodology he calls Macro Cultural Psychology. His work can be found on his web page: http://sonic.net/~cr2 Dr. Ratner has worked to develop a theory of culture and a theory of psychology that can guide the study of cultural psychology. His psychological theory is based on Vygotsky's cultural-historical psychology; his cultural theory is based on Marx, Bourdieu, and Foucault. These complement and enrich each other. Regarding psychology as a cultural phenomenon re-conceptualizes its origins, characteristics, function, development, relation to biological processes and animal behavior, and also the kind of methodology that is necessary to comprehend psychology.
Dr. Ratner is particularly interested in the political assumptions and implications of social science. Human psychology is a window into society; it indicates the need for social reform and the possibility of social reform.
Ratner has combined academic research with international travel in order to acquire lived experience in various cultures. This has greatly enriched his understanding of cultural psychology. He lived in Beijing and Guangzhou 1981-198. He helped to re-introduce social psychology after its 30-year absence. He attended conventions of the Chinese Psychological Society, the Shanghai Psychological Society, and the Guangdong Psychological Society. He published articles in Chinese social science journals about genetics and mental illness, the American family, and social reform. He worked as a foreign editor of China Reconstructs.
Dr. Ratner has also taught at the prestigious Nehru University in New Delhi as a Fulbright Fellow. In 2011 he taught in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He has also conducted seminars in qualitative methodology for the German government, social sciences institute. Ratner has also spent time in Taiwan teaching cultural psychology and indigenous psychology.
He is active in the American co-op movement and has published articles and books on the coop movement.
He lives 500 km north of San Francisco, and his house is 1 km. from the beach. His favorite hobbies are riding his horse on the beach at night under a full moon, and kayaking on the lagoons near his house.