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A History of "Relevance" in Psychology

This book represents the first attempt to historicise and theorise appeals for `relevance' in psychology. It argues that the persistence of questions about the `relevance' of psychology derives from the discipline's terminal inability to define its subject matter, its reliance on a socially disinterested science to underwrite its knowledge claims, and its consequent failure to address itself to the needs of a rapidly changing world. The chapters go on to consider the `relevance' debate within South African psychology, by critically analysing discourse of forty-five presidential, keynote and opening addresses delivered at annual national psychology congresses between 1950 and 2011, and observes how appeals for `relevance' were advanced by reactionary, progressive and radical psychologists alike. The book presents, moreover, the provocative thesis that the revolutionary quest for `social relevance' that began in the 1960s has been supplanted by an ethic of `market relevance' that threatens to isolate the discipline still further from the anxieties of broader society. With powerful interest groups continuing to co-opt psychologists without relent, this is a development that only psychologists of conscience can arrest.
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About the Author

Wahbie Long is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and a Mandela Mellon Fellow of the Hutchins Center at Harvard University, USA.


"Long's work calls for a critical reflection and historical analysis of our psychological concepts and ways of framing the value of psychology more generally. ... The reader is rewarded with a clear demonstration of the potential insights yielded from critical discursive analysis and a convincing call to explore the larger historical and cultural context that shapes psychological theories and practice." (Brian W. Becker and Heather Macdonald, PsycCRITIQUES, Vol. 62 (6), February, 2017)

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