Table of Contents




This book seeks to deepen our understanding of the cultural aspects of human psychology. These are aspects of psychology which originate in, are formed by, reflect, perpetuate, and modify social processes and factors outside the individual mind. My motivation in pursuing cultural psychology is both scientific and political. I believe that construing psychology as a cultural phenomenon is the scientifically correct way to understand psychology; a cultural analysis of psychology can also provide crucial insights for political action to improve human life.

The scientific and political aspects of cultural psychology are interdependent and reciprocally reinforcing. The scientific identification and explanation of cultural aspects of psychology can identify societal changes that will enhance human psychology — to help people become more intelligent, far-sighted, logical, harmonious, helpful, moral, and secure, and less stressful, disturbed, prejudiced, competitive, aggressive, lonely, insecure, depressed, mystified, and irrational. Conversely, the political orientation of cultural psychology to enhance psychological functioning through comprehending and improving the social fabric advances the scientific understanding of psychology as a cultural phenomena. Social goals direct cultural psychology to devise special theories and methods which investigate cultural origins, formation, characteristics, and functions of psychology. Traditional theories and methods are not necessarily applicable because they are informed by a vision of psychology as individual, biological, or universal.

The scientific study of cultural psychology is a check on political analyses. Without independent scientific information about the effects of culture on people, political analyses are subject to self-confirming, erroneous thinking. History is replete with fervent ideas for improvement which wind up debilitating people. A scientific cultural psychology can help to overcome such errors.

This book develops a scientific, politically useful theory and methodology that can investigate the cultural origins, formation, characteristics, and functions of psychological phenomena.

My theory rests upon a conceptual approach called activity theory. Activity theory is the most coherent and profound articulation of the cultural nature of human psychology that I know of. It was introduced by Vygotsky and his Russian colleagues, Luria and Leontiev in the decades following the Russian revolution. I seek to advance their approach by adding points that will make activity theory a more complete and useful theory for cultural psychology.

I also seek to advance the methodology of cultural psychology. I explain the principles of a methodology that can elucidate the distinctive and complex subject matter of cultural psychology. In addition, I develop qualitative methods — especially interview techniques and content analysis — as empirical tools for exploring this subject matter.

This book has benefited enormously from discussions I have had with Paul Dillon, Gil Perez, Luis Zarzoza, Diana Moreno, Olivia Tena, Carlos Kolbl, Sonia Carbonell, and Ruben Rodriguez. Lumei Hui has supported me in many ways which I gratefully acknowledge by dedicating this book to her.

Trinidad, CA