Published in: M. Gelfand, C. Chiu, Y. Hong (Eds.), Advances in Culture and Psychology (vol. 3, chap. 6). N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2012.


Macro Cultural Psychology: Its Development, Concerns, Politics, and Future Direction


Carl Ratner




This chapter explains how psychological phenomena originate in macro cultural factors, embody their characteristics, and function to promulgate them. A variety of psychological phenomena are used to illustrate this theory: identity, sexuality, educational psychology, sense of time, emotions, agency, racism, numeracy, gender, and autobiographical memory. The chapter emphasizes political aspects of cultural factors, psychological phenomena, and the discipline of psychology. An epistemology and a qualitative methodology are outlined for elucidating cultural origins, characteristics, and functions of psychology.


Keywords: qualitative methodology, gender, politics, sexuality, educational psychology, memory, agency, racism, objectivism


I.  Introduction


Macro cultural psychology elucidates the dialectical relation between psychological phenomena and macro cultural factors such as social institutions, cultural artifacts, and cultural concepts. Macro cultural psychology aims to develop this relationship into a complete, comprehensive paradigm for explaining, describing, and predicting human psychology. It does not simply empirically establish cultural influences on psychology. Rather it establishes that psychological phenomena are essentially cultural. Culture is the essential element of psychology, the basis of psychology, psychology掇 reason for existence. Macro cultural factors are the locus where psychology is formed; macro cultural factors comprise psychology掇 leading characteristics, mechanisms, dynamics, and function. Psychological phenomena embody and perform macro cultural factors. Macro culture is the 浽rand narrative of human psychology just as natural selection is the 浽rand narrative of biology. Human psychology does not originate in interpersonal processes, infantile processes, animal processes, or innate, 耹ard-wired biological processes. This chapter explores these tenets of this integral psychological theory.

In addition to being a psychological theory, macro cultural psychology is a cultural theory about what culture is, what its main factors are, what its dynamics are, what its organization is, and why it is important for human development -- i.e., why/how culture civilizes human faculties to make them distinctive, higher conscious functions.

I emphasize that culture consists fundamentally of macro cultural factors – social institutions, cultural artifacts, and cultural concepts. They have concrete, variable content in particular societies. When we say that human psychological phenomena are cultural, we mean that they are organized by macro cultural factors. ). I will cite evidence that the dominant macro cultural factor is the political economy. This makes all macro cultural factors and their corresponding psychology political to some degree.

 Cultural factors are internally related to each other: they are interdependent and permeate each other掇 character/quality. Cultural factors form a coherent cultural system. Any particular cultural and psychological factor, such as education, is 缹verdetermined by numerous other elements of the system. Any factor/element is 浾 total social once legal, economic, religious, esthetic, morphological, and so on (Mauss, 1967, p. 76).

This chapter will outline the historical ancestry of macro cultural psychology (section II), the organic interdependence of macro cultural factors and psychology (section III), how psychological phenomena are barometers of culture and reflect their positive and negative features (section lV), that culture is political which shapes the content of psychology and the socialization of psychology (section V), that society needs psychology to maintain itself (section VI), that psychological phenomena perform cultural maintenance (section VII), an epistemology for macro cultural psychology, (section VIII), and qualitative methodology for macro cultural psychology (section VIII).


II. Historical Background of Macro Cultural Psychology and Key Assumptions

The basic idea of macro cultural psychology was articulated by Marx in his statement that a specific mode of production of objects entails a specific form of subjectivity: 烢roduction not only creates an object for the subject, but also a subject for the object. Production thus produces not only the object but also the manner of consumption, not only objectively but also subjectively. Production not only supplies a material for the need, but it also supplies a need for the material. It thus produces the object of consumption, the manner of consumption, and the motive of consumption. Marx (1973, pp. 494, 495) when he said, "Not only do the objective conditions change in the act of reproduction, e.g., the village becomes a town, the wilderness a cleared field, etc., but the producers change too in that they bring out new qualities in themselves, develop themselves in production, transform themselves, develop new powers and ideas, new modes of intercourse, new needs, and new language" (Marx, 1973, pp. 92, 494, 495). Subjectivity is part of objective cultural factors; it is formed by them and in them, it has their character, and it functions to support them.

Vygotsky espoused this concept in a paper written in 1929, entitled 毧oncrete Psychology -- a term he took from the French Marxist philosopher-psychologist Georges Politzer (see also Kosik, 1976 for an important treatise on concrete psychology and philosophy). Vygotsky said, 浠e derive individual functions from forms of collective life. Development proceeds not toward socialization, but toward individualization of social functions (transformation of social functions into psychological functions) (Vygotsky, 1989, p. 61).

A. N. Leontiev (1977) further explained the idea that psychology is a macro cultural phenomenon:


Despite all its diversity, all its special features, the activity [Tatigkeit] of the human individual is a system that obeys the system of relations of society. Outside these relations human activity does not exist. How it exists is determined by the forms and means of material and spiritual communication that are generated by the development of production and that cannot be realised except in the activity of specific individuals. It stands to reason that the activity of every individual depends on his place in society, on his conditions of life. 毣lthough a scientific psychology must never lose sight of man's inner world, the study of this inner world cannot be divorced from a study of his activity and does not constitute any special trend of scientific psychological investigation (see Ratner, 2012a, b, d,; Ratner & Guitart, 2011, for additional roots of macro cultural psychology).


Macro cultural psychology develops this perspective into a specific, coherent, comprehensive cultural-psychological theory. Macro cultural psychology thus operates within the framework of grand, classical theories.

The American Psychological Association掇 Task Force on Socioeconomic Status (2002, pp. 1, 25, 26) is an excellent illustration of these macro cultural psychological principles. It emphasizes that the political economy of a society – i.e., socioeconomic status, or class -- is a major constituent of human psychology.

The Task Force report states that socioeconomic factors and social class are fundamental determinants of human functioning across the life span, including development, well-being, and physical and mental health. These should be primary concerns for psychological research, practice, education, policy, and advocacy.

            For example, the increasing stratification of American society since the 1970s has exacerbated psychological differences among rich and poor: (a) the gap between rich and poor children on standardized test scores is now 40 percent bigger than it was in 1970. That is double the testing gap between black and white children. Class is thus a more powerful social and psychological differentiator than race; (b) the gap between rich and poor in college completion — one of the single most important predictors of economic success — has grown by more than 50 percent since the 1990s. More than half of children from high-income families finish college, up from about a third 20 years ago. Fewer than 10 percent of low-income children finish, up from 5 percent (Tavernise, 2011, 2012; Ratner, 2012a, pp. 207-210).

Psychology must avoid contributing to the injuries of social class. This is a scientific issue for research and treatment/intervention, as well as a political recommendation for social reform: 浠e must broaden psychology掇 advocacy agenda beyond the promotion of programs and policies that exclusively focus on psychological health to include those that direct access to material resources, while remaining vigilant to the social psychological and cultural meaning of these policies and programs...We challenge psychology as a field to think broadly about how our work does or does not advance broad-based structural change. 洍nterventions [with poor individuals] can significantly improve the well-being of those whose lives are touched by [difficulties]; at the same time, they do little to address classism or the fundamental causes of inequality at the social level, which will ultimately limit the effectiveness of such interventions in reaching all those in need (APA, 2002, p. 25).

The remainder of this chapter will explain just how macro cultural factors are political, how they organize psychology, and how psychology is a culture-performing competency. We begin by explaining how macro cultural factors and psychology are organically related – a unity of differences, or a differentiated unity.


III. Macro Cultural Factors and Psychology Are Organically Related


The relation of macro cultural factors and psychology is not an inter-action of independent phenomena (realms). The relation is an internal, integral, dialectical one of interdependent phenomena. Psychology is part of macro cultural factors and macro cultural factors are part of psychology. They are two sides of the same coin. Psychology is the subjectivity of macro cultural factors, and macro cultural factors are the objectivity of psychology -- i.e., the objectification of psychology in artifacts, cultural concepts, and social institutions. Macro cultural factors contain living subjectivity, they are not reified things. Conversely, subjectivity/consciousness/psychology embodies objective cultural factors; they are not ethereal, immaterial, subjectivity.

Psychology is cultural because human life is cultural. Culture is the basis of our humanity and civilization, it is our survival mechanism and fulfillment mechanism. Our behavior/psychology is directed toward constructing culture which is the essence of our humanity. We are culture-makers, not simply meaning-makers. The meaning of human life is to construct culture. Culture is meaningful, meaning is not a personal construct apart from culture. And the cornerstones of culture are macro cultural factors. Meaning is primarily made through producing macro cultural factors. These are the meanings that filter down to interpersonal relations. Culture requires – selects for – a unique kind of psychology/behavior. Animal, or infantile, instincts cannot produce culture. Human psychology is the behavioral mechanism that makes macro culture and is selected and formed by macro culture. Psychology is therefore a cultural phenomenon.

Macro cultural factors are the locus where psychological phenomena are crafted, administered, objectified, and socialized/transmitted. In addition, the need to construct/maintain macro cultural factors -- schools, economy, government, art, science -- is the impetus, telos, and raison d惀tre of psychological development. In these ways psychology takes the form of macro cultural factors.




1. The orgasm as macro cultural psychological phenomenon

The most intimate and personal experiences are structured and permeated by macro cultural factors, and function to promulgate them. This is what civilizes personal, intimate experience, in contrast to simple, automatic, stereotyped bio-physical reactions that characterizes animal and infantile behavior. The cultural essence of intimate personal experience is manifested in the sexual orgasm.

Fahs (2011, pp. 9, 53, 57-61) interviewed 40 American women about sex and reported that 烅hen speaking with women about their sexualities, women disclosed all sorts of [social] performances, many of which reinscribed rather than unsettled traditional gender roles. Women discussed performing [sex] as a means to make their partners happy, to satisfy ideas of what women should do or should be, to mesh with cultural expectations that they felt they could not meet. 浠hen talking with women directly about orgasm, a prominent theme of feeling pressure to orgasm emerged, as women struggled both to feel pleasure and to demonstrate their pleasure to sexual partners. 25-year old Kate said, 涑utting pressure on myself to orgasm feels strange. For something that掇 supposed to happen spontaneously, it feels like there掇 a lot of thought put into this and a lot of anxiety around it, like this is some kind of benchmark of not only the sex, but who this person it as a lover, or how I am as a lover, or how I am as a woman. A 46-year old said, 氥uring times where I have not been able to orgasm, I felt worthless and angry at myself... A 25-year old said, 洍 feel pressure from myself to orgasm because I just feel like there掇 all that energy, like work that掇 being done that doesn掐 go anywhere...He wants to know that he can bring this about for me, and I want to show him that. 浿ince [my orgasm] is such a big factor in how guys value themselves, if I care about the person, I掞l [fake] it...I掭 not going to fake it if I don掐 really care.

These comments reveal that orgasms are cultural acts, fraught with cultural meanings, ideals, pressures, objectives, identity, emotions, benchmarks of normal functioning, social appearances, and striving. Women use orgasms to live up to cultural ideals, to validate their partners and themselves; to express care about their partners; to gain a productive return on their investment in sexual work (so all that work isn掐 wasted); they feel angry and worthless when they do not achieve culturally-valued orgasms; they put pressure on themselves, they try to achieve orgasms, and many women fake orgasms for cultural-psychological reasons (to make their partners orgasm, to end the sexual encounter, to make their lover feel virile). Orgasms are cultural performances of cultural standards; they involve conscious psychological processes, thinking, effort, self-consciousness, self-praise and self-criticism (Camoletto, 2011)..

Women掇 sexual phantasies are also fraught with cultural content (ibid., p. 246ff.): Group sex and threesomes; romance; inaccessible people with status (such as celebrities, men in uniform, married men, strangers); sex in taboo, risky places; dominating others; submitting to others -- e.g., rape, prostitution, sexual objectification. Submission was the most common sexual fantasy, reported by 1/3 to 1/2 of women in various surveys. Even women who have been abused and raped have these kinds of erotic fantasies. (Cultural stereotypes of women掇 subordination to men overpower negative personal experiences with this gender relation.)

Cultural ideals, pressures, agency, validation, concerns, and social relations are what lead women to have, not have, or pretend to have an orgasm -- only about one-half of American women regularly experience orgasms during intercourse. They are the operating mechanisms of the organism. The orgasm is a 烠echnology of the self, which Foucault defined as a cultural means for constructing the self (Ratner, 2012a, pp. 159-160).

Sex is a social process, it is not a mechanical physical, natural act. Lovers discuss what excites them, to make it more enjoyable. They read sex manuals and get sexual counseling. If sex were natural none of this would occur.

Sex is additionally a culturally-organized psychological phenomena that animates cultural behavior and achieves cultural goals. Culturally-organized sex promulgates culturally valued social relationships with partners possessing culturally ideal features (behavioral, anatomical, social, financial/material). Our sexual partners personify socially valued physical features, material status, demeanors, and sexual behaviors.[1]

2. Biology, culture, and psychology

With sexual desire and sexual responsiveness being culturally organized, biology must play a subordinate role in human sexuality, and in all human psychology/behavior. This is a central principle of macro cultural psychological theory. Biology must lose the determining role it plays in animal and infant behavior in order that culture can organize behavior/psychology. Innate biological mechanisms determine mechanical, automatic, stereotyped behavior. This prevents cultural, conscious formation of behavior/psychology. The co-existence of discrepant, competing processes is unworkable and violates the law of parsimony. Biology cannot operate at the same level in the same determining manner as culture vis a vis psychology. Culture displaces biology to the general level of energizing psychology/behavior, while culture takes over determining the specific character or quality of psychology/behavior. There is a hiatus between biology and culture in that biological processes energize but do not determine or explain psychology/behavior (Ratner, 2012, pp. 107-129). The mechanisms of behavior/psychology are cultural, as in the case of sex.

Ratner (1991, pp.199-242) reported several important facts about the subordination of biological processes to cultural ones in human psychology: Low socioeconomic status men with low to normal levels of testosterone are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior than are upper class men with high levels of testosterone. Only 4% of upper class, high testosterone men are delinquent as adults compared with 15% of lower class men with normal testosterone levels. 14% percent of lower class men with normal testosterone levels were delinquents in childhood, in comparison with 11% of high testosterone, upper class men.

Regarding sex, normal prepubescent animals (males and females) whose gonadal hormones have not begun secreting show no sexual activity (except in the case of apes where pre-pubertal males and females do often copulate). Human children (especially in societies that encourage them) indulge in sexual activities years before gonadal hormones have begun functioning. Girls completely lacking in any kind of ovarian hormone describe daydreams and fantasies of romantic courtship, marriage, and autoerotic genital play.

Removal of animals' gonadal hormones through castration or ovariectomy prevents adult sexual activity if done before puberty, or eliminates it if done after puberty. Reduction in hormonal levels has little if any affect on human sexual behavior. Ovariectomy and menopause in a high proportion of women produce no change in sexual desire, just as oral contraceptives, which inhibit ovarian, hypothalamic, and pituitary hormones, have no inhibiting affect on sexual activity (and increase it!).

Healthy males show a wide range of testosterone values (from about 350 to 1000 nanograms per 100 milliliters of blood) and variations within this range have no significance for sexual behavior. Castration of males sometimes leads to reduced interest in sex, however many individuals maintain an undiminished sexual drive and coital ability for several decades.

Cortical processes and culture.  Macro cultural psychology argues that the cortex is organized by culture, not vice versa. This was Vygotsky掇 position. If culture is to be the mechanism of psychology, it must organize the indeterminate cortical processing of psychology. The cultural features of psychology determine how and where it is processed by the cortex. The cortex cannot consist of 浵ard-wired, pre-determined modules for processing psychology, because psychology does not have a pre-determined form that could be 烓nown or programmed by the cortex in advance of its cultural form. (Hard-wired, pre-programmed, innate determination of behavior only makes sense when the behavior is fundamentally fixed, as in animal behavior that confronts a regular, slow-changing natural environment. Culture is rapidly changing through social construction-innovation, and it requires variable behavior/psychology that cannot be innately programmed or processed.) Tang, et al. (2006) measured the cortical localization of simple addition tasks using Arabic numbers among native English speakers (NES) and Chinese speakers (NCS) (Ss averaged 24-27 years old). Cultural localization was substantially different in both the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere, although some overlap in localization among the two cultural groups also existed. In NES, the visuo-premotor pathway was extended to the Broca area, implicating strong verbal dependence of the math fact retrieval that may be mediated by phonological processing. In NCS, however, the retrieval processing showed a much weaker activation in the Broca area, suggesting that the area for verbal processing was not engaged. This data proves that there is not an innate, universal cortical location (module) that processes arithmetic. Instead, the cortex is organized to process arithmetic in different loci by cultural processes that differ in different societies.



3. The error of eclecticism-interactionism

Attempts to eclectically combine innate biological determinants of psychology with culture are futile because they fail to appreciate fundamental differences between the two.

A case in point is Matsumoto & Hwang掇 (2012) attempt at a biocultural theory of emotions. The authors posit 烠he existence of a biologically innate processing system that activates some emotional states仈his core emotion system is hard-wired, fairly impermeable to modification by experience, and relatively unchanged throughout the lifespan (p. 97). Universal facial expressions and physiological responses associated with particular emotions are said to support this claim. The authors also claim an animal basis of natural, universal emotions. In addition, the authors posit cultural emotions. We cannot examine all these details here (see Ratner, 1989, 2000, 2007a for a discussion of naturalistic emotions). We simply observe that the authors present cultural data that contradicts their claim for biological emotions and supports the macro cultural psychological theory of culture, biology, and psychology.

The authors state that cultures influence biological emotions (p. 98): 烠here is likely no emotion that is entirely biologically driven without cultural influence (p. 108). One reason is that unmodified biological 涃motions such as anger and disgust are potentially destructive emotions in any culture. For these reasons, people of all cultures minimize the expression of these emotions toward higher status others or to ingroup members (p. 99). One way of minimizing biological emotions is to manipulate display rules. Another way to modify emotions is by manipulating the interpretation of a situation so that different emotions may be stimulated by it.

All this cultural modification of 涄ore 涀iological emotions negates the claim that they are hard-wired, fairly impermeable to modification by experience, and relatively unchanged throughout the lifespan. The cultural manipulations of display rules clearly contradict the claim of 烝orphological similarities between human and nonhuman primate expressions (p. 97).

The authors admission that humans can feign 涄ore emotions when they are not elicited by a natural stimulus additionally refutes their contention that core emotions are natural, automatic, mechanical responses.

Anthropological evidence reveals that the quality/experience of anger, sadness, and guilt are culturally organized and variable. Buddhist anger, sadness, and guilt are qualitatively different from Western forms of these 涄ore, biological emotions (Ratner, 1991, pp. 76-83; Ratner, 2006, pp. 106-108; Ratner, 1997, pp. 105-106; Ratner, 2007a; Ratner 2012a; Stearns & Stearns, 1985; Stearns, 2011, 2006, 2005, 2003, 1999, 1994, 1990). If 涄ore biological emotions can be and need be culturally modified and imbued with cultural content and capacities, what is left of their natural, immutable, hard-wired biological core?

This discussion demonstrates that culture is not compatible with natural emotions that are hard-wired according to pre-cultural conditions. Culture displaces natural determinants of behavior with qualitatively different mechanisms, properties, and capacities – such as responding to abstract symbolic meanings about distant events never encountered.

Macro cultural psychology is not claiming that culture eliminates biology from emotions or psychology. Obviously, the brain and hormones are necessary. However, culture transforms biology掇 role in behavior to a general potentiating substratum that does not determine specific behavior/psychology the way that it does in animals and infants. Culture neither eliminates, nor adds to, nor interacts with natural processes; it transforms them. This conclusion is the heart of Vygotsky掇 sociocultural psychology (Ratner, 1991, 1998, 2004, 2012a).


IV.  Psychological Phenomena Are Barometers of Culture


Psychology is an indicator, or barometer of the macro cultural factors that form it. Consider parents feelings toward their children that we discussed in footnote #1. We said that parental feelings reflect and reinforce the cultural value of educational success. However, for some groups of parents, their feelings toward children are independent of the children掇 educational success. Macro cultural psychology would use the parents subjective, personal feelings as a barometer of the social structure, as an indication that the social structure does not value the educational success of these classes of children.

For instance, the American economy for the past 4 decades has made occupational success very difficult for the working class; consequently there is no economic need for working class children to succeed in school, and there is no cultural-psychological need for their parents to motivate them to succeed by including success as a component of their pride in children. Indeed, encouraging working class children to succeed in school (through building this into parental emotions) would create false hopes and lead to resentment and rebellion at the lack of job opportunities for using school success. It is socially functional for lower class parents to exclude school success from their parenting in a hierarchical, class society that devalues them and their children. Society, not parents, should be blamed for parents emotions.


V.  Culture Is Political, and Cultural Politics Shape The Content of Psychology and The Socialization of Psychology


Culture is political. Therefore, power/politics must be a central category of cultural psychology. Long before Foucault, Bertrand Russell (1938, p. 10) described the fundamental concept in the social science as power – in the same sense in which energy is the fundamental concept in physics.

The sociological field of institutionalism emphasizes power/politics at the heart of cultural factors and the subjectivity they promote (Friedland, 2009, p. 38). Power/politics not only produces macro cultural factors, it also produces subjectivity. This is known as subjectification. Subjectification includes 烞ubjectivation: how individuals form their subjectivity on the basis of various forms of administration (Foucault, 1997; Barry, et al., 1996; Burchell, et al., 1991; Mansfield, 2007)).



A detailed example of the way political macro cultural factors organize psychology is the way the psychology of time has been structured by political economic interests. Historian Giordano Nanni (2011, 2012) finds evidence in the colonization of Aboriginal people by the British in Victoria, Australia. The territorial conquest was accompanied by colonizing the Aboriginal sense of time; the dispossession of material resources entailed the dispossession of psychology.

Nanni begins with a bold statement that, 浻rom 1492, the histories of western time and western imperialism are virtually inseparable (2011, p. 6). Subsequent


19th-century European settler-colonial expansion projects to displace and reform 偤lternative temporalities outside Europe  were 煢st overtly deployed as a means of establishing control. There is no doubt that the most patent manifestation of the intimate connection of time with Empire lies in the ocial deployment of Greenwich Mean Time in 1884 – that grandiloquent gesture of temporal imperialism, par excellence – which at the height of the colonial era sought to replace the miscellany of 剮ocal times around the world with a single, centralized notion of 唼tandard time...

          But on a cultural level, the trend towards temporal centralization and standardization was paralleled by an attack on local, Indigenous temporal systems, whose perceived 剫rregularity threatened the hegemony of dominant colonial notions of 匭rder with alternative and con罧cting attitudes to time, work and productivity. During everyday colonial encounters – and particularly during the course of the evangelization, education and employment of colonized peoples – colonial societies vigorously pursued the elimination and/or reform of alternative and incompatible temporal structures. The ability to impose the observance of speci溡 timetables, rituals and routines embodied a highly signi溡ant aspect of Empire. The project did not go uncontested on the ground, however, as colonized people often managed either to defy the imposition of clock-governed routines and Christian rituals, to negotiate compromises between the new and old rhythms, or to exploit the temporal discourses of their self-styled reformers. (ibid., pp. 6-7).


The British did not simply allow the natives psychology to follow changes in activity. They actively engineered psychology in order to augment the changes in activity. They forced on the natives the linear sense of time divided into equal temporal units on the clock that was appropriate to Western cultural activity and institutions. Quantified, measurable time was important as the measurable basis of economic value on the market (the labor theory of value). In settlements where capitalist economic relations were not central, the natives were left to maintain their indigenous time to a greater extent (ibid., p. 12).

Time was political in that it incarnated cultural features that promoted cultural behavior of the British social order.

The transformation of time sense was reinforced by tying it to a new sense of character that was defined by punctual, consistent work, and was compromised by idleness and indolence. Time sense was integrated into the psychological system and this, as well as financial rewards, anchored the new sense of time.

Factory owners in England and other countries applied similar techniques to impose a capitalist psychology of time upon English factory workers who had emigrated from rural culture. Contemporary schools also impose time rules on pupils, praise obedience as a sign of good character, and punish pupils for disobeying. Socializing a cultural form of time psychology, socialized the individual into the cultural system of which it is a functional element.

After a psychology of time has been socialized, people become habituated to it and internalize it as their own desire and sense of life. The capitalist time sense leads people to become impatient to do things quickly, even their own things, like driving, conducting banking transaction, paying for groceries, and communicating. Time sense becomes integrated in our psychological system of motivation, perception, emotions, memory, and self-concept. Our psychological system then works to implement the cultural sense of time throughout our cultural activities.

Because psychology is political, people can resist particular politics by adopting counter-cultural forms of psychology. This requires knowing what kinds of psychology concretely negate unwanted politics. Not any and all psychological constructions effectively resist cultural norms.

The Australian Aboriginals refused to obey time requirements as a way of retaining their Aboriginal culture. Their resistance was crushed by the colonizers superior resources. However, colonial control over time was never total.



Educational psychology is another complex of cognitive processes, perception, identity, emotionality, motivation, and attention/concentration that is organized by macro cultural factors.

Earlier we saw that economic inequality has increased the gap between rich and poor children on standardized test scores 40 percent over what it was in 1970.

Consumerism and mass media promulgate psychological processes in young people that affect their educational psychology. Consumerism and mass media foster superficial tastes and thinking, impulsiveness, immediacy, and sensationalism. This subjectivity contradicts the subjectivity necessary to concentrate on profound, complex, and serious academic material (Arum & Roksa, 2011).

A society掇 occupational possibilities also determine the kind of educational psychology that students strive to develop for succeeding in society after graduation.

Students educational psychology is also affected by multiple features of the educational system that actually emanate from the political-economy. To understand the educational institution and its impact on educational psychology, we must comprehend its political-economic origins, characteristics and function.

Foster (2011) documents how recent educational changes in the U.S. reflect and reinforce the political-economy of late capitalism. These changes revolve around privatizing education to make it into a cash cow for corporate profit. This requires commodifying all aspects of education so that they may be bought and sold to generate profit. Commodification encompasses constructing and maintaining school buildings, administration, teacher training, tutoring services, tests, and online curricula. (Already nine companies account for about 90% of the American educational testing market.)  

Commodification includes transforming the labor of teachers into a free market commodity that can be rented and disposed of at will by management. Teachers labor is transformed from one that allows substantial autonomy and personal interaction with students, into one that treats teachers as semi-skilled, low wage employees, performing standardized work that is subject to autocratic management.

Neoliberal restructuring of education has an additional economic objective -- to prepare students for low-skill, low-wage, low-autonomy, low-creativity, unintellectual occupations, controlled by capitalists. It is no coincidence that the corporations, foundations, and think tanks – such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and the (Wal-Mart) Walton Foundation -- who support privatized education, also attack labor rights among workers –and support religion (see Ratner, 2012a, b; 2013f).

Neoliberal education includes an ideological component to indoctrinate teachers and students into capitalist thinking and behavior, including the acceptance of capitalist commercialism throughout all areas of social life. This requires new pedagogy that will be described momentarily.

Neoliberal education is perpetrated by political processes. It is designed and implemented by capitalist corporations, their foundations, and their political minions in government (New York Times, Aug. 1, 2010, 涆he Academic-Industrial Complex). This educational direction is neither the will of the people, nor is it blind market forces working themselves out. For example, The Global Agreement on Trade in Services mandates that all aspects of education are subject to global free trade and cannot be protected by national or local governments.

The political-economic basis, locus, character, and function of neoliberal educational reform is evident in the following details: In 2005, a group of billionaire equity investors and hedge fund managers formed Democrats for Educational Reform to promote ideas such as school choice through charter schools. Their strategy was to leverage their investments by funding key Democrats who would share their agenda. One of these was a new Senator from Chicago, Barack Obama. He helped launch the group掇 opening event on June 3, 2005. Immediately after he was elected President, the group wrote him a memo naming its choice for Secretary of Education: Arnie Duncan. Obama dutifully appointed him, along with Larry Summers (who had pushed for banking deregulation as Treasury Secretary under Clinton) and neoliberal economists as his economic team (Ravitch, 2011).

Duncan was the perfect man for their strategy because he had been Chicago掇 school chief and had headed Chicago掇 Renaissance 2010 that was financed with $90 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation has over $35 billion in assets which it uses to promote neoliberal education including charter schools, breaking teacher unions, privatization, and rote testing.

Until 2009, Duncan and Summers were on the board of directors of the reactionary Broad Foundation, which specializes in training educators to promote neoliberal educational reform. (The Broad Foundation receives millions from the Gates Foundation.) It was started by Eli Broad, net worth $5.4 billion from real estate and insurance. In 2009, the Broad Foundation had trained 43% of all large urban school superintendents. (Many of the superintendents whom Broad trains are ex- senior military officials and corporate CEOs.) In 2002, Duncan, as CEO of Chicago school system, worked with the Broad Foundation and other venture capitalists to initiate a corporate-friendly training program of future school superintendents. It was the prototype of the Broad Foundation掇 Superintendents Academy. The Gates Foundation funneled $63.2 million into the Chicago schools during Duncan's tenure as Chicago schools CEO from 2001-2008.

Duncan packed the Dept. of Education with Gates and Broad associates. He tapped top Gates Foundation officers to be his chief of staff and to head the agency's Office of Innovation and Improvement. Foundation officers are also spearheading the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program. Duncan also used a Gates-funded report on education, entitled Turnaround Challenge, as the basis of Obama掇 淯ace To The Top educational reform for public schools. 淯ace To The Top offered major funding to schools that agreed to restrict teacher tenure, to rote testing, privatizing, and transforming public schools into charter schools -- which are publicly funded but are managed by unelected directors who are free from government regulations (Foster, 2011, p. 24).

The single biggest investor in charter schools in the United States is the Walton Family Foundation of Wal-Mart which spent a total of $150.3 million during 2007-08. In New York, the Walton group has provided $15 million in construction funding plus more than $1 million per year for operating costs in recent years to help the Brighter Choice charter school network establish eight new schools in Albany. Meanwhile, Democratic Governor David Paterson has received contributions totaling $55,900 from Christy Walton, as he pushes legislation to lift New York's current statewide cap of 200 charter schools. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, net worth $27 billion, has also funded companies to promote charter schools.

Corporations recognize, far more acutely than social scientists, that society is a network of interconnected macro cultural factors. They astutely promote their interests in educational reform by supporting related social activities. For example, in 2009, Bill Gates wanted to help New York City mayor Bloomberg to gain a third term because, among other commonalities, Bloomberg supported Gates neoliberal educational agenda. (One of the companies that manages charter schools in Harlem, N.Y., named Success Charter Network, has a board of 9 members, 7 of whom are hedge fund managers. There are no parents, teachers, or community members on this board.) Therefore, Gates spent $4 million to fund a political change in New York City掇 statute that had limited mayoral terms to two.

Neoliberal efforts have proven remarkably effective in turning education into a reproducer of the social class hierarchy. The entering freshmen of the class of 2010 at the country掇 193 most selective colleges contained only 5% from the poorest 25% of the population, 15 percent came from the bottom half of the income distribution, and sixty-seven percent came from the highest-earning fourth of the distribution. Only 44 percent of low-income high school seniors with high standardized test scores enroll in a four-year college, compared with about 50 percent of high-income seniors who have average test scores (Leonhardt, 2011).

As government subsidies decline, students are thrown ever more onto the private resources of their families. Wealthier families always triumph in this situation. Budget shortfalls have prompted Medina, Ohio Senior High to impose fees on students who enroll in many academic classes and extracurricular activities. Parents pay to register their children for basic courses such as Spanish I and Earth Sciences, to get them into graded electives such as band, and to allow them to run cross-country and track. A family's total tab for a year of public education: $4,446.50. At Marietta High in southeastern Ohio, it costs $33 to take chemistry, $36 for honors chemistry and $152 for the Advanced Placement course. Dakota Ridge High in Littleton, Colo., charges sophomores $15 for basic 10th grade English but $50 for honors. Juniors can take basic English for $8 or pay $75—plus a test fee of about $90—for Advanced Placement English Literature (Simon, 2011).

These public school financial restrictions on educational access feed the class structure of colleges that favors wealthier students who have been able to afford to enroll in college prep courses.

Privatization, like choice and the market, is code for class warfare and class structure. This is expressed in the etymology of privatization: it comes from the Latin word 烢rivare, which means 烠o deprive!

Privatization, choice, and the market have resulted in socioeconomic status becoming more important as a determinant of educational success. The percentage of age-15 math and reading achievement test scores explained by SES is twice as great in the United States and the United Kingdom as in Canada or Finland, and three times as great as in Japan and Korea where public support for education is high (Ratner, 2012a, pp. 208-209). Thus, SES is not a fixed variable, it is politically variable (a political variable).

1. Neoliberal pedagogy

The neoliberal approach to education retards educational advancement. Data proves that charter schools do not uplift low motivation or inferior educational competencies; nor do charter schools equalize the competencies of disadvantaged students with well-to-do students. Philadelphia recently declared that its charter schools were a failure. To earn profit, charter schools underpay teachers $15,000 a year compared with public school teachers. The teacher attrition rate in charter schools is 25%, about double the rate for public schools. Student attrition rate is also higher in charter schools than public schools (Foster, 2011, pp. 24-27).

Stanford University掇 2009 study of charter schools—the most comprehensive ever done—concluded that 83 percent of them perform either worse or no better than traditional public schools; a 2010 Vanderbilt University study showed definitively that merit pay for teachers does not produce higher test scores for students; a National Research Council report confirmed multiple studies that show standardized test scores do not measure student learning adequately. Gates and Broad helped to shape and fund two of the nation掇 most extensive and aggressive school reform programs—in Chicago and New York City—but neither has produced credible improvement in student performance after years of experimentation (Barkan, 2011; Ravitch, 2012a, b).

Neoliberal educational reform, like neoliberal economic reform, is about advancing capitalist political-economic interests, not enriching the populace. Neoliberals expunge any challenge to the capitalist political economy from school curricula. They thus expunge liberal, communitarian concepts; information dealing with ruling class exploitation and oppression; and scientific evidence that exposes problems caused by the capitalist political economy (pollution).

Neoliberal politics engineer all aspects of educational pedagogy in line with corporate needs. Timed speed tests are useful for socializing students to respond rapidly to fragmented material in a culture that values speed and productivity, and immediate return on investment. Timed speed tests do not encourage relaxed, contemplative, nuanced, creative thinking.

The neoliberal drive to exacerbate, solidify, and rationalize class divisions generates insight into the neoliberal push for educational standards – and social standards in general. Standards do not function primarily to assess social value with the objective of improving sub-standard behavior or tightening accountability and transparency. (Neoliberals oppose any attempt to increase public oversight over businesses.) On the contrary, standardized testing, or psychometrics, 涐s best understood as the development of tools for vertical classification and the production of social value or class hierarchy (see Garrison, 2009, p. 5;  McNamee & Miller, 2009). Educational standardization in contemporary capitalism is not descriptive, and ameliorative; it is a prescriptive political act that searches out and exaggerates psychological differences (as statistical tests of significance find miniscule psychological differences to be 烞ignificant) to rationalize and exacerbate the class system.

Neoliberal politicizing of every aspect of education confirms macro cultural psychology掇 tenet that cultural and psychological phenomena are political. Neoliberals properly realize the political function that education has and they properly seek to align the politics of education with the neoliberal political economy. Learning is not a neutral, technical apolitical competency. Education is a cultural activity; it is training ground for cultural participation. There is a politics of learning.[2]

Neoliberals have ironically proven the effectiveness of the macro cultural psychological model of education to transform education. Progressives must appropriate this model to effectively create a new educational system. Progressives must develop their own political agenda for education that is rooted in working toward a progressive political economy and that politicizes every aspect of education – curriculum, teacher training, pedagogy, school administration, community participation – to support that system and gain support from it. That political system and its educational program are subject to discussion; they are not dogmatic or autocratic (like neoliberalism is).

These politics must negate the neoliberal features of education and the neoliberal political economy that underlies them. While classical education and multicultural education are valuable, to be implemented they must be grounded in, and informed by, counter-politics (a negative dialectic) that challenge the status quo. Otherwise, they will be crushed by existing politics of education and their political economy, as is happening now.


2. Culture

These cases of education and time illustrate that culture is concrete and political.  Culture is not a nebulous 烞haring of customs, 涄ommunicating, 涐nteracting, 烞ocializing, 烞ocial context, or 浵istorical accumulation of shared practices; nor is culture defined by a country掇 name, or by single, abstract variables such as individualism-collectivism, masculine-feminine, avoidance of uncertainty, long term orientation, emotional complexity, parental control, or power distance. (Ratner, 2012a, pp. 257-266; 2012b; Ratner & Hui, 2003; Ratner, 2013f). Nor is it spontaneous interpersonal negotiations and agreements (Ratner 2012a, pp. 248-251). Statements such as 涄ulture provides templates or scripts for behavior, or 浡apanese parents and German parents differ in... call out for specification of what culture is and how it provides templates for behavior. Macro cultural psychology answers this call by identifying concrete macro cultural factors of a particular social system that is rooted in a specific political-economy controlled by certain political interests that may be autocratic. We investigate 烠he middle class family in 21st century American consumer-capitalist society, or 毧onfucian ethical principles, or 涄apitalist sense of time that was imposed by British colonialism, or 浾ncien regime sexuality of the aristocracy, or 涃ducational policy of the 唼tate-capitalist government in contemporary China.


     3. Socialization

The socialization of cultural-psychological phenomena is as much formed by cultural-political factors/processes as their content is. Colonialism and corporate neo-liberalism colonize subjectivity to enforce obedience, whereas a democratic society would foster active psychological development that has an obvious cultural function in fulfilling democratic practices.


VI.   culturally-organized psychological phenomena are necessary to promulgate a SOCIAL SYSTEM


Psychology is the subjective element of cultural factors. Psychology must therefore be developed by cultural factors in order to enact them. Culture needs psychology, it does not eliminate psychology as critics of cultural psychology believe.



For instance, education as cultural behavior and cultural factor requires a wide network of interrelated psychological functions. These include motivation, reasoning, emotions, memory, self-concept, perception, and imagination. In particular, education requires an identity of being a learner. One must see oneself as a learner in order to develop the commitment necessary to engage in the arduous process of acquiring educational competencies. Coll & Falsafi (2010, p. 218) express this aptly in saying that 烑earning how to learn requires learning to be a learner. Identifying with being a learner is the subjectivity necessary to animate the learning process. 涆he learner identity consists of generalized meanings about how one is recognized as a learner by oneself and others, which then mediate the sense making of the participation and the perceived sense of recognition as a learner in specific situations and activities of learning (ibid., p. 220).

It follows that 洍f learner identity is to become matter of course for educational policy making and practice, more research is required based on solid conceptualizations and with higher levels of concretization. To begin with, we need a theoretical understanding of its composition, function and development that permits the analysis of its construction and enables its practical application as a conceptual technology of the self (ibid., p. 221).

Macro cultural psychology explains the subjectivity of the learner as organized by concrete cultural factors; it is not an abstract, universal ideal, such as dedication to thoroughly understand profound ideas. We have explained educational and non-educational (extra-educational) cultural factors that comprise the identity of a learner. Some of these cultural identities support the identity of a serious learner while others undermine it. A subverting identity is the consumer who displays superficial, impulsive, transitory attention to sensationalistic features of products, or the 烋erd who is boring and socially inept. Another distraction from academic learning is the cultural concept of the learner as possessing innate skills that cannot be substantially improved by training. An additional distracting learner identity is the concept of learner as an entrepreneur of knowledge who instrumentally uses education to pass benchmarks toward a material goal such as a job.

Distracting identities can only be transformed into serious-learner-identity by altering the learner掇 exposure to macro cultural factors, and ultimately by replacing distracting macro cultural influences (consumerism, entrepreneurialism, low skilled jobs) with influences that foster serious learning as positive to individual fulfillment.



Gender identity is another culturally formed psychological phenomenon that is necessary for successfully participating in and sustaining macro cultural factors. Macro cultural factors are gendered, i.e., they stand in a gendered division of labor of male and female roles. Gender identity is part of the subjectivity necessary to master gendered macro cultural factors and roles. A discrepant gender identity impedes this mastery.

For example, math and science are gendered cultural behaviors in that they have traditionally recruited men, not women. Men, more than women, have been trained to develop the cognitive and emotional competencies necessary to succeed at math and science. As such, math and science are identified as masculine, and masculinity, more than femininity, identifies with math and science. It follows that masculine gender identity is more comfortable with and attracted to these activities. Success at math and science is not a purely technical skill; it requires a subjectivity/psychology that resonates with the skill set. Gender identity is one key component.

Research on gender identity in the banking industry supports this analysis. Investment banking is 烝asculine in that it is an aggressive, competitive, materialistic industry which has traditionally recruited men. This masculine identification of the banker role requires masculine gender identity of bankers. 涆hose who can 厜erform the appropriate forms of masculinity during this process are the ones who are generally rewarded with a position in the organization (North-Samardzic & Taksa, 2011, p. 197). Women who do not have this orientation will be less successful than men who do.

Bank managers recognized the importance of gender identity (subjectivity) for participating in the macro cultural factor of banking, and they actively engineered masculine gender identity in their male and female employees. 洍mplicit pressure to conform to and project masculine identity and associated behaviors had an impact on women掇 subjective identities...For example, several women from Markets and Banking noted that they had been 厜erformance managed or 啍rained to be more like their male colleagues, even encouraged to be loud and assertive. Training women to renounce femininity sustained the male culture in banking. It created an untenable situation for women. If they do not adopt the masculine cultural psychology they fail, but if they do adopt it they are perceived as gender deviants (pp. 208-209).

To equalize gender participation in math, science, and banking, fundamental changes in social roles and gender identity are necessary. 1) Change the gendered division of labor of the cultural activity, as well as its gendered cultural meaning, so that math and science and banking are represented as gender neutral or including 浻eminine competencies. Athletics has been socially re-engineered in this way to be healthy and fulfilling for women; 2) Change the cultural organization and meaning of gender identity so that femininity includes competencies in math and science and banking – as it now includes sports.

These complimentary changes in social activity and gender identity will allow women to participate in male activities as women without having to become gender deviant. Femininity will enhance their activity, not detract from it.

These are examples of how enriching a psychological competence – teaching math and science to women -- can have (indeed, can only occur in concert with) beneficial social changes in gender and the division of labor of activities. A recent study confirms that higher math achievement for women depends upon higher gender equality in social roles such as education, work, and politics. Importantly, societal gender equality also raises mathematical achievement of men. National wealth is unrelated to gendered math performance (Kane and Mertz, 2012).




Cultural templates of identity explain behavior that seems to have no interpersonal basis and is often attributed to genetic causes. For example, two Chinese twin girls were adopted as one-year olds by two Canadian couples and grew up 300 km. apart near Toronto. Although they were raised apart, their behaviors were very similar. Twin researchers concluded that the similar behavior must have been due to genetic similarities. However, their cultural identity as twins must be considered as a factor that motivated them to imitate each other. Their adoptive parents brought them to visit each other every 6 weeks, and they were fully aware they were twins. The culturally disseminated, shared cultural concept (template, script) about twin identity stipulates that twins resemble each other in action as well as appearance. Adopting this cultural identity becomes the operating mechanism of behavior; it constitutes powerful motivation to imitate one掇 twin despite the absence of continual personal contact or adult encouragement. Common macro culture compensates for disparate personal environments.

Cultural identity explains a wide range of behavior that is not specifically instructed and rewarded. Identifying with a culture motivates the individual to imitate cultural models. Identifying with being Muslim, or Chicano, for example, drives the individual to actively want to become like other Muslims or Chicanos, and search out and perform culturally appropriate behaviors. Social leaders do not have to specifically condition every behavior in the individual. Cultural identity does cultural work and saves the culture effort by utilizing the individual掇 effort and agency to become complicit in his own cultural socialization. Cultural identity allows cultural socialization to occur from the side of the individual – bringing the individual to culture – as well as from the side of culture – bringing culture to the individual. Cultural identity makes it easy for citizens to believe the mystifications of their leaders, once they share a common cultural identification/identity with them. Cultural psychology plays an important role in maintaining culture.



VII.   Performativity


The foregoing examples demonstrate that psychology is necessary for maintaining culture. We turn now to how psychology actually performs cultural factors.  J. L. Austin coined the term 烢erformativity. His idea is that speech and action do not merely reflect or represent a cultural standard, they pragmatically put it into practice. If social systems are to persist, they must be performed (reproduced) in the psychology and action of the social members. Performativity means that individuals are social agents – which makes their psychology/behavior political acts.

For instance, three-year-olds were shown how to play a one-player game.


 When a puppet later entered and announced that it too, would play the game, but then did so in a different way, most of the children objected, sometimes vociferously. The children掇 language when they objected demonstrated clearly that they were not just expressing their personal displeasure at a deviation. They made generic normative declarations like, 洍t doesn掐 work like that, 浯ne can掐 do that, and so forth. They do not merely disapprove of the puppet playing the game differently; he is playing it improperly. This behavior is of critical importance, as it is one thing to follow a norm and it is quite another to legislate the norm when not involved oneself.

     The children had only to see the adult demonstrate the game – in a straightforward way with no normative judgments of language – before they jumped to normative conclusions about how the game should be played (Tomasello, 2010, pp. 37-38).


This is a telling description that demonstrates that young children actively become social agents who have a sense of shared intentionality, promulgate social norms as important to obey, and castigate violations of it. These children did not pursue idiosyncratic, personal meanings about social behavior, as 烝icro cultural psychologists (such as Valsiner) claim (Ratner, 2012a chap. 6).



Streib (2011, pp. 349-351) observed 4-year olds at school performing behavior that reflected their social classes. Her detailed research demonstrates that the political economy reaches into families where parents initiate rudimentary interactions with their babies. This equips children with class-structured, class-appropriate (涄lassed) behaviors when they arrive at pre-school, where these are greatly extended by teachers and peers. Streib shows how young children respond to teachers requirements, and also initiate behavior, based upon their class preparation; the children掇 classed behavior then elicits reinforcement and extension from the teachers.


Children at Community Preschool enacted class through their different linguistic styles. Upper-middle-class preschoolers used their increased willingness to speak, interrupt, and talk to adults as conversational equals to routinely 烠ake the floor. In doing so, they inadvertently but effectively silenced the working-class preschoolers, who used fewer words, did not use language to call attention to themselves, and did not talk to adults as they talked to each other. Similarly, upper-middle-class students used their willingness to 烠ake a stand to gain teachers attention, improve their negotiation skills, and win the bulk of cross-class disputes. Young children do not just know about class, but are class actors as well (p. 349).


   In both 烠aking the floor and 烠aking a stand, upper-middle-class children seized the bulk of adults attention. This attention allowed them to improve their own linguistic skills: they practiced responding to questions,  making public presentations, debating, rationalizing, and negotiating. They also used their linguistic style to get their needs met. Seeing social affinity with adult teachers empowered them to ask for help more often. Their linguistic and social skills also enabled them to win toys and the turns they were fighting over within the rules of middle class decorum. As Bourdieu states, language bestows power.

    All this made it difficult for working- class students to take their own stand. The combination of the children掇 class styles made it so that working-class children lost opportunities to improve their own language skills, lost attention from adults, lost the ability to get their needs met quickly, and lost cross-class disputes. This discourages working class 4-year olds from the educational process. They see the teachers attention drifting to their middle class peers, they see their own needs going unmet as their peers receive more help, and they learn that when they argue with an upper-middle-class peer in school it is unlikely they will win.

   Children are politicized agents of social class; they reproduce it in their social behavior as well as in their individual reactions.

 Streib notes an important consequence of her research: 涆his paper calls into question the ability of preschools to level the playing field. Mixed-class preschools may be sights where inequality is bolstered instead of dissolved. It should not be assumed that mixed-class settings are beneficial to working-class students.[3]

Strieb掇 children demonstrate how behavior is a cultural means, like an artifact, that achieves cultural ends.

Of course, children do not reproduce social class on their own. Their behavior is encouraged and learned from their social class conditions, including pedagogical practices. Streib shows how school policy dictates that conflicts be resolved through verbal negotiations. This policy is viewed as egalitarian and socially neutral but it is based on middle class behavioral norms and encourages and rewards middle class behavior. (Conflict resolution policy is therefore political.) Since upper-middle-class children enter preschool with the language style that most closely matches the school掇 mandated conflict-resolution style -- using rational arguments to defend a position, and verbal competency -- they win the majority of the disputes. Conflict resolution policy thus exacerbates class divisions.

1. Improving Educational Psychology

To correct these problems within the classroom, teachers should address the class features of their behavior and students behavior. Teachers should make special effort to help working class students develop competencies that will enable them to succeed and fulfill themselves in society (Streib, p. 351). The kind of society that is most fulfilling is open to debate. However, it will surely include correct grammar, numeracy, abstract reasoning, and using rational arguments to defend a viewpoint.

In debating the kinds of competencies that schools should encourage, two errors must be avoided. 1) Ignoring cultural differences in psychology and attributing psychological differences to personal or natural competencies of individuals. This leads to treating lower class students as incapable of handling middle class material. 2) Idealizing working class kids educational psychology as competent and fulfilling. This is the view of cultural relativists who construe working class educational psychology as a cultural difference but not a deficiency. Behavioral and cultural reform is deemed unnecessary and even imperialist.

Idealizing cultural differences under pluralism and multiculturalism ignores the fact that certain practices are normative and enriching, and that if students do not acquire them they will be marginalized and incapable of important competencies such as numeracy, abstract and rational reasoning. Eschewing remediation of sub-standard children is tantamount to eschewing standards and education in general.

Idealizing and ignoring cultural differences appear to be contrary, however, both jeopardize working class children.




Another example of psychological phenomena embodying and performing cultural factors is autobiographical memory, or the manner in which individuals recall and organize their life experiences in a narrative. Fivush, et al. (2011) argue that autobiographical memory is actually a social competence for social purposes, formed by cultural templates that are created and objectified on the macro cultural level, it is demographically variable, it is a social marker of one掇 social position that generated the psychological competency, and it dialectically promulgates macro cultural factors that form it.

To begin with, 浾utobiography is a critical developmental skill; narrating our personal past connects us to our selves, our families, our communities, and our cultures (p. 321). In addition, 涄ultures provide organizational and evaluative frameworks for narrating lives, including canonical cultural biographies, life scripts, and master narratives (pp. 322-323). Autobiographical form and content is shaped by a child掇 social class via her parents framing of narratives that reflect and reproduce their class.

Members of different social classes develop classed autobiographical memories that are social markers and social competencies (social capital) which open (or close) social doors. Autobiographical memory thus dialectically generates class-appropriate behavior, just as classed verbal skills do in the case of Streib掇 children.  

Autobiography is not primarily an existential quest for meaningful personal experience. It is a cultural skill that is demanded by various macro cultural factors. This cultural requirement is what makes autobiography personally important. 涆o be accepted as a responsible person, narrators have to demonstrate an understanding of how their personality and values have developed, influenced both by life掇 pitfalls and happenstance and by their own actions based on enduring values (p. 328). Autobiographical memory is a 烠echnology of self. If you fail to describe yourself in culturally normative ways, you are not accepted socially. For example, a major criterion for acceptance into a university is the manner in which the prospective student tells his life story.

University admissions committees thus stipulate a cultural concept/template of autobiography that applicants must incorporate as their own template for how to narrate their experience. The template includes coherence and expressivity, and content of how life is to be lived and narrated. Redemption narratives -- where the individual overcomes negative social pressures -- are preferred (in the cultural canon) to downward spiral narratives.

Some prototypical, cultural, master narratives are the John Wayne (JW), Florence Nightingale (FN), and Vulnerability master narratives. The JW master narrative refers to the narrator taking a position of courage and stoic resolve during intensely negative experiences and expressing little or no negative emotion. Narratives following the FN master narrative express negative emotions as a result of the traumatic event but these emotions are immediately linked to or followed by concern for others. Finally, the vulnerability master narrative allows for the expression of intensely negative emotions and feelings of helplessness as a result of the negative event (p. 335).

Autobiography is thus a cultural competency, formed on the macro cultural level in cultural templates, that does cultural work. It enables individuals to engage in culturally-appropriate behavior, and play cultural roles. This maintains particular kinds of macro cultural factors and ensures successful participation in them. Memory, like all psychological phenomena, is political (see Violi, 2012 for how the institutionalization/objectification of the display of traumatic historical events in trauma site museums constitutes a politics of memory that structures viewers memory, perception, and emotions). Socializing particular forms of autobiographical memory socializes the individual into the entire culture and politics that generated those forms and are embodied in them. Psychological socialization is cultural-political socialization.

The cultural organization of autobiography encompasses the complex of psychological skills (language, memory, self-concept) it involves. These are not separate modules, they are interdependent in activities such as autobiographical memory and thus bear a common cultural-psychological character.

Fivush, et. al. (p. 327) document ways that autobiographical competence reflects macro cultural factors mediated by the family:


In comparison to Asian mothers overall, American mothers tend to be more elaborative, asking more open-ended questions, elaborating more on the child掇 independent contributions, and focusing on the child掇 opinions. Chinese mothers are more likely to be rated as low-elaborative, asking more yes–no questions, focusing on factual aspects of the experience, and more rarely taking account of the child掇 perspective on the event than Euro-American mothers. Interestingly, 4- to 6-year-old children already portray these cultural differences in their autobiographical narratives.


Han, Leichtman, & Wang (1998, p. 702) similarly found Korean mothers generally did not seek information from children but, instead, prompted children to confirm information already presented to them. In general, Korean mothers did not encourage children's introducing their own ideas into the conversation. In addition, Korean mothers often produced utterances unrelated to children's previous utterances and expected children to follow their leads. In contrast, Canadian mothers often followed up and elaborated on children's utterances, encouraged children to contribute ideas, and took a partnership rather than a leadership role in conversation.

Children掇 memory reflected these different socialization processes. Han, et al. (1998) found that among 4 and 6 year olds, in comparison with Asians, American children provided more references to specific past events, more descriptives, more references to internal states, such as evaluations, and more mentions of themselves relative to others. For example, in response to: "Tell me every- thing you did at bedtime last night.'' 6-year old girls replied as follows:

Korean child: 1 played with my sister. Interviewer: What else did you do? Korean child: I washed my face and brushed my teeth. Interviewer: What else? Korean child: Then . . . I watched TV, and after a while, I fell asleep.

       Chinese child: After I washed my face, I asked Dad lo tell me a story. Then my mom covered me with the blanket. Then my mom went over there and read magazines. And finally I fell asleep. Interviewer: What else did you do?

Chinese child: Watched TV before going to bed. After watching TV, I went to wash. After washing, I watched again. Just after I finished dinner, my dad asked me to practice writing. After practicing writing, he asked me to play the piano. Just after playing the piano, the TV program began. Then my dad watched TV together with me. After watching TV, I went to sleep.

U.S. child: I read, did I read last night? No, I played computer, instead of reading, but I liked the book better than the computer. Interviewer: What else did you do? U.S. child: I played with my toys, I think, and then I'll tell you what game I played on the computer. There's a dictionary thing, and there's a word finder, and there's hangman, and other games, and three games, and then there's all different things, and to find a word, you just click on the word finder, and after two or three letters it just rinds the word. (pp. 708-709).

In addition, the earliest memories obtained from a mixed group of Asians and Asian Americans were, on average, about 6 months later than those of White Americans; the age of earliest memories of native Koreans and White Americans revealed an even larger difference of 16.7 months (p. 702).


Cultural differences in memory reflect cultural needs for different kinds of memory in order to function in different macro cultural factors. The socializing of autobiography is also culturally gendered:


Over time, from age 40 months to age 70 months, both mothers and fathers increasingly reminisce about more social and emotional experiences with girls than with boys, and embed emotional experiences in more interpersonally situated events with daughters but in terms of more autonomous activities with sons. 

   By the age of 4 years, children are already mirroring the gender differences described above in their independent autobiographical narratives. Girls tell longer personal narratives than boys, and express more internal state language. By the age of 7, Euro- and Afro-American females tell more emotional and relationally oriented personal narratives than boys, whereas boys tell more autonomously oriented narratives than girls (pp. 327-328).


Gender differences in memory reflect and reinforce a gendered division of labor. This cultural-psychological analysis of autobiography reverses the popular idea that individuals make sense of their experience from their own personal, psychological perspective, as an existential or metaphysical quest for meaning. On the contrary, individuals make sense of themselves and events from the perspective of cultural positions, or roles, in ways that fulfill cultural roles. The individual does not decompose society into idiosyncratic, personal fragments; on the contrary, he contributes to cultural coherence by performing its culturally-shaped, culturally-shared subjectivity. 浟Congruence] with the cultural concept of biography, which is shared with listeners, contributes to creating global coherence in life narratives (p. 331). This is the way cultures maintain themselves and produce benefits for individuals.


1. Agency

The foregoing examples give a new cast to agency. Agency usually denotes individually-created desires and strategies, however, research reveals that individual agency is political in the sense that it reflects and reproduces a political system of practices (see Ratner, 1993, 2002, chap. 2, 2009b). Even 4-year olds agency is culturally organized to enact class behavior.

North-Samardzic & Taksa correct the interpersonal, individualistic notion of individuals 洖oing gender, by emphasizing that organizations 洖o gender: 毢y saying the organizations 偮o gender we mean that organizational cultures contain speci溡 rules, values, meanings expressed in social situations in which gender-positioning processes are realized as interpersonal relations in a public process whereby gender meanings are progressively and dynamically achieved, transformed and institutionalized (p. 200). This confirms Vygotsky掇 point that individual behavior is an individualization of social behavior.


VIII.   Epistemology and Methodology

To ascertain the features of psychology that macro cultural psychology highlights, it is necessary to utilize a particular methodology and epistemology. Epistemologies and methodologies are bred to discern particular kinds of phenomena and characteristics; they are not neutral in the sense of discerning any and all phenomena. Macro cultural psychology must develop a distinctive epistemology and methodology to discern macro cultural features of psychology. Two critical elements are objectivism and qualitative methodology.




Numerous ideologies blind people to the fact that their psychology/behavior originates in macro cultural factors, is organized by them, required by them, socialized by them, and promulgates them. Such ideologies are functional for obfuscating macro cultural factors that are oppressive. Indeed, the prevalence of (false) ideologies is a measure of social oppression (see Callero, 2009, McNamee  & Miller, 2009, Gladwell, 2008  for discussion of the myth of individualism and meritocracy; religious ideologies similarly explain suffering in mystical terms such as god掇 will and individual sin which obfuscate oppressive political macro cultural causes).

Social science methodology must take account of this cultural-psychological reality. If subjective experience is rendered incapable of accurately comprehending its origins, characteristics, and function, then social scientists cannot accept subjective reports as full accounts and understanding of psychology. Subjective reports (questionnaires, interviews, diaries) must be supplemented by objective descriptions of macro cultural origins, features, and functions of subjective experience to discern the extent to which individuals do and do not understand their behavior/psychology (Ratner, 2011, Ratner, 2013c, e; Kosik, 1976).

Thomas (2011) used objectivist methodology to identify lacunae in students understanding of racism. Firstly, Ss do not realize that they practice discrimination, and they see themselves as tolerant of different ethnicities: 涆he girls may speak about stupid racism, but they are as active in its perpetuation through identity difference and identification as are the violent fighter-boys (Thomas, 2011, p. 49).

Secondly, Ss do not understand the reasons for their discriminatory behavior, or other people掇 behavior. E.g., the girls attribute their own racial behavior (that avoids peers of different ethnicity) to simple personal preference for associating with peers of similar behavior and appearance (see Ratner, 2011 for examples). The girl students attribute boys ethnic fighting to intrinsic masculine 烝acho-ism, and do not understand the social roots of ethnic fighting (Thomas, 2011, p. 71). In these cases, they focus on the by-products of socio-economic differentiation/exploitation without perceiving their socio-economic causes. Plato articulated this in his allegory of the cave where people see shadows without apprehending their causes (see Kosik, 1976 for a contemporary treatment of this concept). Thomas Ss similarly feel that sub-classes of people are undesirable and unapproachable without knowing that their feelings are generated by a deeply-rooted political economic exploitation of groups of people that makes them appear different and unfamiliar.

Thirdly, the students do not understand the reasons for racism in society. And fourthly, they have no viable solution to racism – beyond 浾ccepting everyone掇 humanity

Thomas uses an objectivist analysis to explain and correct these four oversights. She identifies discriminatory behavior that Ss generally do not perceive and certainly do not understand. Secondly, she identifies the reasons for it in macro cultural factors that institutionalize and tacitly approve racism (see Alexander, 2010). Thirdly, she explains macro cultural factors that distort Ss self-understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it. Fourthly, Thomas articulates macro cultural changes necessary to effectively overcome racism in society at large and in the Ss personal behavior.

Regarding the third and fourth points, Thomas identifies a popular ideology called 涀anal multiculturalism as one cultural factor that blinds Ss to understanding the reasons for racism and its presence in their own behavior. Banal multiculturalism is a superficial view of racism as personal prejudice about social differences; and it advocates overcoming racism by psychological means such as being tolerant of differences and appreciating people掇 humanity and individuality. Subjective attitudes of tolerance are construed as having transcended racism.

This cultural template blinded Thomas Ss to understanding their own racial behavior. It led them to believe that they have transcended racism because they subjectively accept culturally diverse individuals. They therefore interpret their racial behavior as personal preference for similar peers, not as racism. Banal multiculturalism additionally blinded the Ss from perceiving that their behavior derives from deep-seated, structural, political-economic causes of racism – since the ideology construes racism in terms of personal hostility. The ideological template also prevented Ss from overcoming racism by challenging its true structural causes.

To understand the basis and character of their behavior, and to change these, people must reject this distorting cultural ideology, and replace it with the objectivist analysis that Thomas outlined above and calls 涄ritical multiculturalism (Thomas, 2011, pp. 3-7).




Qualitative methodology is central to macro cultural psychology because it elucidates the full character of psychological phenomena including their cultural features.  Qualitative methodology utilizes hermeneutics to elucidate psychological and cultural systems (known as the hermeneutical circle); these systems define, describe, and explain their elements. Macro cultural psychological methodology uses four hermeneutic circles or systems: One describes, and explains particular psychological phenomena in a psychological system. An emotion would be traced to related perceptions, self-concept, cognitions, motivation, and developmental processes. In addition, a psychological phenomenon would be situated within a cultural system, as our examples have illustrated. A third hermeneutic circle consists of a particular cultural factor situated within a cultural system of other cultural factors. The fourth hermeneutic circle is to include psychological phenomena within a cultural system to animate and perform cultural factors (Ratner, 1997, 2008, 2012a chap.1).

While qualitative methodology is radically different from positivistic methodology (see Lambdin, 2012 for one point of difference), it must be rigorour and objective, and not slip into impressionistic reporting of statements, or draw conclusions that are ungrounded in empirical data.

Models of such rigor are found in grounded theory and phenomenology. Rigorous procedures include: theoretically justifying one掇 hypotheses; clearly defining terms; rigorous coding of narrative data in a way that is faithful to the words spoken (saturated with the full range of words); grounding all conclusions in coded responses; obtaining intersubjective agreement about codes and conclusions among several coders; framing specific questions that focus on theoretical constructs; framing specific questions about particular macro cultural factors and their influence on psychology/behavior; using probing questions to elicit details about cognitive processes, emotions, aspirations, perceptions, desires, self-concept, and sexuality; using probing questions to clarify Ss responses and compare them to objective assessments of Ss behavior and its cultural context; and encompassing empirical relationships discovered in research within a theoretical framework.

Thomas uses qualitative methodology to analyze racial behavior. Unfortunately, she does not systematically employ these rigorous procedures, and she occasionally slips into ungrounded conclusions. It is useful to point out these flaws in order to prevent them from recurring.

In one part of her study, Thomas raises the interesting possibility that sexual desire may have taken on certain racial features in a racialized society. Sexual desire may be stimulated not only by racial physical features, but also by racial social behavior such as racial fighting (see Stoler, 1995).  This would be an interesting example of the acculturation of sexuality and the promulgation of cultural factors by sexuality.

Unfortunately, on this point, Thomas methodology fails her. She concludes from her interviews that 烒acism articulates itself as gender and sexual pleasure. 涆he girls articulate a clear pleasure with the boys fighting, even as they proclaim their lack of interest. 洍 have argued that the complexity of their affects and subjectivities point to sexual desire of racism and racist fighting (ibid., p. 68-69, 72). Yet the brief conversations that Thomas reports do not express these sentiments.

One conversation went as follows:

Thomas: Do you like it when guys compete for you?

Alexis. No.

Grisselle: Yeah.

Anne: Yeah, like you feel special. But if they start hurting themselves, no.

Thomas: Then that掇 not attractive.

Anne: Yeah, because then they掞l have a bleeding lip and no eye.


Thomas began this discussion with the theme of liking guys who compete for girls. She never mentioned or asked Ss to comment on racial fighting or sexual desire. Nor did any of them mention these. Alexis did not like the competition. The other two girls liked it but they explicitly disliked fighting and found it unattractive. Another girl, Sammie said 浯h god, I hate that [fighting]; it掇 stupid (p. 69). Yet Thomas insists: 涆his exchange is stunning in how clearly it makes the connection between racial fighting and girls heterosexual desire. 涆hey desire fighting (pp. 67, 69). Thomas transforms competition into fighting, fighting into racial fighting (that was never mentioned), and liking into sexual desire (that was never mentioned). She strangely transforms her Ss explicit rejection of fighting into their sexual desire for it.

Another conversation (p. 71) replicates these points:

Thomas: So do you think that women like men to be violent?

Speaker 2: Not violent, but they like to be tough.

Thomas: So you捯e attracted to really masculine guys?

Speaker 3: Uh huh.

Speaker 4: Not really

Speaker 5: someone who can take care of me.


Here, speaker 2 explicitly rejects violence. She likes 烠oughness but not violence. Speaker 4 is not even attracted to masculine guys. Only 3 and 5 are attracted to masculinity. They define their attraction to masculinity as stemming from its protective function. They never associate masculinity with fighting, they never mention a desire for fighting, they never mention a desire for racial fighting, and they never mention anything sexual about masculinity, protection, or racial fighting. Thomas abandons objective methodology when she misrepresents what her subjects say, and claims that girls find racial fighting sexually stimulating.

Thomas departure from rigorous, faithful interpretation of discourse, gives her license to impose any theoretical construct she favors on the narrative data. One is heterosexism. She claims that the girls racism is promulgated, in part, by their heterosexism, just as it is promulgated by their racially charged sexual desire. She mentions 烠he heterosexual desire of racism (pp. 51, 52). She also says 浾ny words spoken in support of racial understanding must also be made with the contours of racism, sexism, and heterosexism in mind (p. 77). She demands that racial understanding include understanding heterosexism and sexism. But she offers no justification for her requirement. (Perhaps she believes that all social issues are essentially gender issues and require a feminist analysis.)

Thomas never defines heterosexism (the dictionary definitions of which incongruously include assuming that all people are heterosexual, personally preferring heterosexuality, and discriminating against homosexuals); she sometimes conflates it with heterosexual desire. She never explains what the relation between racism and heterosexism might be – how could preferring heterosexuality, or believing all people are heterosexual, necessarily engender racial fighting? Thomas asks no specific questions to elicit heterosexism. Thomas never identifies it (in any of its incongruous forms) in the Ss words. Nor does Thomas explain her insistence that heterosexism contributes to racist fighting and sexual arousal over it, but never mentions homosexuality in this regard – can掐 homosexuals be racist, engage in racial fighting, and be sexually stimulated by it? These problems can be obviated by following the rigorous procedures of grounded theory and phenomenology enumerated above.

I am not denying that race may pervade sexuality and that racially charged sexual desire may reciprocally spur racist behavior and racial violence. Indeed, this would be consistent with macro cultural psychology. I am saying that Thomas does not prove this with her careless methodology. Improved qualitative methodology may, or may not, prove it.


IX.    Future Directions and Political Implications of Macro Cultural Psychology


As macro cultural psychology is in its infancy, the foregoing principles must all be explored and verified in detail across a wide variety of psychological phenomena -- including the extent to which psychological phenomena are formed in macro cultural factors, objectified in them, stimulated, organized, and socialized by macro cultural factors; the ways in which psychology performs macro cultural factors, even in intimate, personal activities (Ratner & El-Badwi, 2011). It is also important to explore the organization and dynamics of culture to more deeply understand the full origins and characteristics of psychological phenomena. We must explore the political control of macro cultural factors and their associated psychology. We must also explore the political function of psychological phenomena to sustain or challenge the political-economic system. Macro cultural psychologists will trace debilitating and fulfilling psychological processes to cultural factors, and use this data to recommend improvements in cultural factors (Ratner, 2007b, 2009a, 2011, 2012a, b, d; 2013b-f; Ratner & El-Badwi, 2011). Such recommendations must be concrete negations of specific problematical features of macro cultural factors. Social change cannot be effective if it is based on vagaries such as 烝ore respect, 浻reedom, 烠ransparency, 烠olerance.[4]

Further work is needed to examine political assumptions and consequences of psychological theories, methodologies, and intervention procedures – i.e., how their politics affect their scientific viability, and how they sustain or challenge social oppression (e.g., Callero, 2009; McKinnon, 2005).

We must remain vigilant to develop the distinctive fruitful principles of macro cultural psychology. We should avoid merging macro cultural psychology with other approaches in ways that dilute its principles and its integrity. We draw upon theoretical and empirical contributions from related psychological and cultural theories that are consistent with macro cultural psychology (Ratner, 1999). These contributions come from social psychology, cultural psychology, cross-cultural psychology, developmental psychology, anthropology, cultural geography, history, and sociology. It is fruitless to 浵ybridize discrepant viewpoints by inserting hyphens between them and leaving them to eclectically co-exist (e.g., bio-cultural emotions). Macro cultural psychology approaches its subject matter in the style of grand theories (paradigms) and Occam掇 law of parsimony. We identify the shortcomings of other approaches that must be dispelled if coherent theory building, valid knowledge, and viable social and psychological improvement are to advance. Refining the logical consistency of macro cultural psychology involves exploring the extent to which culture transforms behavior and biological behavioral mechanisms so as to be congruent with cultural features (and cultural logic).

It is important to develop research methods – especially qualitative methodologies -- to investigate the macro cultural origins, characteristics, and function of psychological phenomena. We need methods to demonstrate how consumerism affects students educational psychology, or how banal multiculturalism limits students understanding of racial behavior. We can learn from methodologies employed by historians, geographers, anthropologists, and sociologists that apprehend culture in relation to behavior. We can incorporate useful procedures, such as experimentation, from positivist methodology, but we must also be careful to avoid its pitfalls (Lambdin, 2012).

Macro cultural psychology can develop procedures for intervening in educational and therapeutic issues in ways that apply insights about cultural origins, characteristics, and functions of the issues. These cultural insights will generate fruitful ways to avoid and alter cultural anchors of problematical issues. Freire called these interventions that raise consciousness of macro cultural factors 涄onscientization (Freire, 2000). The term originally derives from Frantz Fanon's coinage of a French term, conscienciser, in his 1952 book, Black Skins, White Masks

 Hammack (2011, p. 347) explains that the failure to include conscientization in interpersonal interventions dooms them to failure: 洍n their desire for political `neutrality the programs fail to address issues of power asymmetry that deeply influence the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In so doing, they inhibit the extent to which issues of structural reality can be acknowledged and addressed by youth.

Macro cultural psychologists need to explore the ways in which macro cultural psychology and political activism reinforce each other. Macro cultural psychology explains psychology to social scientists and policy makers, and it explains cultural politics to psychologists. We should refine and test our cultural-psychological theory掇 recommendations for policy reform. We can do this by comparing our analysis and recommendations to the successes and failures of others. Validation would come from policy failures by approaches that eschew macro cultural psychology (negative examples), and from successes by approaches akin to macro cultural psychology (positive examples). The former is exemplified in the escalating crises brought about by neoliberal policies (which I call the politics of disaster); the latter is exemplified by the sound analysis of the APA Task Force on SES.




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[1]  If this sounds odd, consider the way that personal feelings toward one掇 children similarly depend upon the extent to which the youngsters personify cultural ideals such as academic or athletic prowess. Parents feel proud of their children when they get good grades or excel in sports, and they feel anxious and disappointed in their children when they fail to personify cultural ideals. Parents feelings towards their children are not purely personal. This social construction of emotions has an important cultural function of motivating children to achieve cultural goals to sustain the social order. It is good for society and for the child. Sexual feelings equally have a cultural basis, mechanisms, characteristics, and function.


[2]  Standards, such as educational criteria, are windows into the politics of a culture. Struggles over tests, as in contemporary United States, are really political struggles. There is a politics of testing.

[3]  This is an important contradiction to contact theory which claims that contact among diverse people sweeps away cultural prejudices and helps everyone express their 烋atural curiosity about and sociality towards others. Acultural notions such as this are erroneous because macro politics pervade subjectivity and interpersonal interactions. Rather than relying on a natural sociality, egalitarian sociality must be constructed at the macro level through structural change in the ownership and control of institutions and the principles that govern them.

Hammack (2011, p. 248) makes this point in his research on mediation between Israeli and Palestinian youth. One Palestinian, Ali, has participated in two programs – Seeds of Peace, and Hands of Peace. Yet he remained 涐deologically polarized in his thinking, so determined to `prove his identity as a Palestinian, and to maintain a fervent anti-israel stance. A 17-year old Palestinian girl, Leila became more accepting of Israelis after attending a camp Seeds of Peace with Israeli youth. However, a year later, the political-social-military conflict betweeb the two countries took its tool on her: 洍 thought about Seeds of Peace and my experience, and I thought about the situation and the reality is much harder and much stronger than Seeds of peace. We are seeing things, seeing facts on TV, but Seeds of peace, it掇 just words you learned at camp. I really regret the idea that I was in Seeds of Peace孖 (ibid., p. 318). The bitter national conflict led Leila to resume her hatred of Jews and to condone suicide bombings which she had repudiated during the Seeds program. She ultimately said, Jihad is to kill the one who came to take your land孖 (p. 319).

 Contact theory did not foster tolerance and integration because 1) Israelis and Palestinians occupied asymmetrical status/power, 2) they pursued competitive rather than common goals – 洍sraelis and Palestinians are in fierce competition over political and territorial control and exclusive claims to legitimacy, 3) there was little cultural and institutional support for mutual understanding  (ibid., pp. 249-250). Hammack掇 research verifies the macro cultural psychological principle that macro cultural changes are the basis of interpersonal relations – and all behavior/psychology. It is futile to attempt to ameliorate conflict on the interpersonal level through contact while macro conflict persists. Broad political, economic, social, and military factors must change in order for interpersonal contact to be accepted and salutary (ibid., p. 345).

Hammack掇 research also demonstrates that identity is not a self-construction, but is rather structured by macro cultural factors. The macro cultural reality of national conflict is a central organizing force in the identities of Israelis and Palestinians (ibid., p.  340; Ratner, 2013f).

Hammack (ibid., pp.254-256) explains that contact theory was conceived by G. Allport as primarily a bottom-up, individualistic theory of social change via interpersonal relations. Sheriff tested this theory and found that simple contact interventions were ineffective. Indeed, contact between competing groups exacerbated intergroup hostility. Conflict was reduced only when the experimenters altered the relation between groups by introducing the need for cooperation to achieve superordinate goals.

The limitations of contact theory pervade all individualistic interventions. Psychotherapy is limited because it attempts at treating individuals apart from any concern for macro cultural factors that are the major causes of psychological dysfunction (Ratner, 2013e; Ratner & El-Badwi 2011). Attempting to enhance acculturation of immigrants is similarly limited without structural opportunities for success.


[4]  Under the banner of religious freedom, American jurisprudence allows religious organizations to practice discrimination, and violate the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. A statute known as the Ministerial exception allows religious organizations to discriminate against women in employment and in ordaining  leadership positions such as rabbis, Imams, and priests. Religious freedom also allows autocratic religious authorities to prohibit many kinds of sexual and reproductive freedom, including providing birth control by insurance companies that do business with them. Freedom to practice religion masks unfree religious practices. Unprincipled freedom for forces of unfreedom subverts freedom. Consequently, true freedom requires restricting the freedom of religion to impose unfreedom.