To be published in Leo Mos (ed.). Alternative History of Psychology in Autobiography, Kluwer Academic/Plenum
Für Max und Mela
1.Looking back to the future.
La pensée elle-même naît d'événements de l'expérience vécue et doit leur demeurer liée comme aux seuls guides propres à l'orienter." (Hannah Arendt , 1972 P. 26)
In the introduction to her book of biographies (Vies politiques [Men in Dark Times], 1974), Hannah Arendt points out that as we question certain men and women about the fashion in which each has lived their life and evolved on the world’s stage, we take the measure of a whole epoch and we illuminate what is common for everyone. The following narrative is directly in line with Arendt’s observation, since my life has unfolded and been closely connected with a significant period in the development of social psychology. Accordingly, my story may provide some insights into the socio-cultural and historical changes in the discipline during the period in which I have been both its witness and an active participant/contributor.
Of course, it must be understood that social psychology existed well before “my” time, in the1950's. As I have noted elsewhere (Apfelbaum, 1986), during the second half of the 19th century, several factors were responsible for the growth of the social sciences. Most important, in Western societies, the industrial revolution and subsequent urbanisation radically disrupted the established social order. It became urgent to create new mechanisms of social control and categories of knowledge appropriate to the emerging mass societies. Attempts to conceptualize these issues flourished in what I have called the ‘proto-social psychologies’ of the time. But a century separates the 19th century formulations from what is today acknowledged as the subject-matter and methodologies of social psychology. The current praxis of mainstream social psychology as well as its more recent dissident expressions were largely developed in the aftermath of World War II, and the discipline did not become fully autonomous until the 1950's.
In 1951, I was in my first year at university, discovered psychology, and later that year decided that I wanted to graduate in this discipline. By the 1960's, when I became a full time researcher in social psychology, it already had a well defined subject matter — social comparison and influence processes, aggression, interpersonal and group conflict, etc., — and specific methodological guidelines. I have, therefore, been both a witness of, and participant in, the growth and changing perspectives of the discipline during its “Golden Age” in the 1950's and 1960's (Apfelbaum, 1993b P.15 to 17), its subsequent “crisis” in the 1970's, as well as its later developments.
My research in interpersonal conflicts and bargaining during the 1960's attests to my initial commitment to an experimental approach to social phenomena. My work was rooted in what was then one of the leading paradigms of mainstream experimental social psychology. The fact that I was asked to review the research on this topic for one of the volumes of the Berkowitz seriesiii (Apfelbaum, 1974) indicates the recognition I was granted from one of the leading authorities in the discipline. I had by then already become interested in studying the role of power in social relations but my approach to this was still based on the mainstream game theory paradigm. It was only when I began to directly question the continuing neglect of power and suggest that it may well be the most significant dimension of social relations (Apfelbaum and Lubek, 1976; Apfelbaum, 1979), that I was criticized (cf. Deutsch, 1976, Triandis, 1979) and considered a renegade to mainstream social psychology.
The discipline was then in the midst of what Israel and Tajfel (1972) called the “crisis of social psychology.” This was part of the wider critical re-examination of the theoretical and epistemological foundations of all social science research. “The time had come to take stock and see where we are and where we should go” (Strickland, 1976, p.4). In this context, I was
drawn into the world of history of ideas, and the early development of social psychology, in order to understand some of the blind spots in the discipline and to see why it had deviated from its initial “raison d’être”. However, even when I seriously questioned the capacity of the discipline to take into account existing social conditions and pointed out its inadequacies, blind spots and silences, I remained convinced that social psychology was important as a discipline that could provide a unique understanding of the historical, sociological and individual contexts in which persons evolve.
Ultimately, my main interest has been to develop a framework for an integrative social psychology which explores how individuals evolve/construct their lives at the cross roads between their socio-historical and cultural experiences, as well as their sense of personal agency. My study of women in power positions (Apfelbaum, 1993a) represents this theoretical perspective, and my recent investigations of uprooting and memory are also part of it. I have only lately again encountered the writings of Maurice Halbwachs and Marcel Mauss, whose analyses and conceptions of social events and behaviors are seminal to such an integrative attempt.
So, it is the narrative of my three successive lives as social psychologist during a particular period of history (both in terms of world events as well as intellectual climate and strategic scientific choices) which will be the subject matter of this chapter. But I am quite aware of the pitfalls inherent to writing one’s own biography. There is a tendency to unfold the facts as if they necessarily had a logical order, or some kind of internal consistency, whereas in reality no-one’s destiny follows from logical decisions and rules. My “decisions”have never been fully free choices. Instead, what becomes of one’s life is the result of fortuitous meetings, encounters with unexpected events, and the vagaries of luck. Thus, my intellectual itinerary was not only determined by historical circumstances and opportunities, but also by the way in which I have (or not!) taken advantage of these opportunities. From this perspective, the evolution of my work over the years is illustrative of the type of social psychological analysis I consider to be necessary. In the context of this analysis, moreover, I will also discuss changes in the discipline, including the political, social and intellectual environment in which these changes occurred. Yet in doing so I do not pretend to take over the task of a historian. I am not an external observer. I am in the position of an engaged participant. Therefore, my narrative is necessarily biased: it is a construction filtered through my position in the world and in the discipline, through my own political and epistemological choices.
It will, of course, be mainly focused on my professional life, but I cannot simply hush up certain aspects of my private life insofar as they have had a direct impact on my praxis of the discipline : Thus, because of my North American partner, I led a “transatlantic” life which made me, for a few decades, part of the “intellectual jet set”society, a permanent expatriate in both my home and my host country and has given me a decentered perspective. This has become a second skin, an integral part of my lifestyle and understanding of social facts. Even when not forced by political circumstances, uprooting has a painful edge to it (Apfelbaum, 2000b). Yet at the same time, it has some advantages. It has given me a distanced intellectual perspective. As an outsider one is less dominated by the ideological and institutional constraints which rule society and scientific communities. Cultural idiosyncrasies and diversity become part of one’s normal social environment and, rather than negating their reality, I have come to consider them as significant starting points for conceptualising social phenomena.
Nevertheless, my intellectual home and institutional affiliation have both remained French. The political and intellectual climate that have shaped the social sciences in France affected my career choices. My generation lived through a number of historical events which have strongly determined our vision of the world and the way we have approached the social sciences. More than anything else, the key event was World War II. All the biographical accounts by French historians (Nora, 1984) and sociologists (Mendras, 1995; Marié, 1989) acknowledge its impact. Strangely enough, however, these accounts never mentionthe Nazi genocide, as if it had no impact and no epistemological consequencesiv. When I pointed to this surprising case of collective amnesia in a paper where I discussed Kren and Rappoport’s publication The Holocaust and the Crisis of Human Behavior (Apfelbaum, 1981), it simply fell on deaf ears. The anticolonial struggles were another important structuring event; for me, as for many others of my age cohort, the Algerian war was a moment of awakening to critical awareness of political life even if it did not have the same impact on the re-formulation of social psychology as the 1968 movements did a decade later.
One last word about my position as a woman in the scientific community, since I happen to be the only woman contributing to this volume. I have never been part of the boys club. I had sexual harassment experiences well before public attention was drawn to the issue. But at the same time, being a woman has never really hindered the advancement of my career. I believe that I owe certain invitations and promotions precisely to the fact that I was a woman and therefore not part of the implicit competition which existed among the boys : As an outsider, my promotion or invitation was a way to block the entrance of a male colleague. This might be a case of reverse gender discrimination . Perhaps I have also downplayed the gender discrimination component in my life because of my early exposure to “race” discrimination. I first experienced exclusion and discrimination in earnest, not as a woman, but as a young Jewish refugee when my entry into public school was denied on the ground that I was a foreigner. I learned French reciting the Christian prayers “Je vous salue Marie”and “Notre père qui êtes aux cieux” in a private catholic school where I was welcome. But let us not jump to the end.
2. Growing up in “dark times”
“One is never through with childhood.”Jean Ferrat
I was born in Germany where my parents first met and lived for a number of years. They originally came from small towns in what was then the Austro-Hungarian empire. I know little of my father’s father. On the only photo I have left of my grand parents, he appears as a very handsome man, proudly sitting next to his young wife. Widowed at the age of 34, my grandmother raised my father and his three brothers alone, working for one of her cousins who employed her in his shoe business. Her destiny reminds me of the fate of English women during Victorian times, when, widowed or orphaned with no resources nor social status, they were taken in by some member of their extended family and employed as governesses in their households. I did not really know my grandmother, but thinking of her struggle to raise four boisterous teenagers while employed at the turn of the XXth century when a woman’s status was still fully subordinated to her husband’s, leaves me with the image of a strong, opinionated
While my father’s family was poor, on my mother’s side there was wealth. My maternal grandfather had a flourishing steal business and had his entries at the local squire’s estate : he was what Poliakov (1955) has called a “court Jew.” He ruled over his family with an iron hand but provided his three daughters with a solid education. My mother learned French, played piano, danced the quadrille, went to university but was never allowed to pursue her dream of becoming a gardener (she later hinted at the fact that she really should have emigrated to Palestine and joined a kibbutz). My grandparents’ lifestyle was that of the bourgeoisie so well described in Arthur Schnitzler’s novels: there were maids, governesses and nannies who accompanied the whole family on their yearly trips to famous Austrian resorts. A couple of years ago, I visited Freud’s home in Vienna, at 22 Bergstrasse, and discovered, with emotion, that my grand parents and Freud spent their summers in the very same places where, who knows, they may well have met socially. The décor in Freud’s apartment with its colourful Persian carpets and photos of vacations in Bad Ischl, vividly evoked the stories which my mother had so often recounted. Everything in Freud’s apartment was so familiar that I felt I had come “home”.
I am born in 1934: “dark times” to coin Hannah Arendt’s view of events were already under way in Germany. Victor Klemperer’s journal (2000) gives a striking account of the rapid deteriorating social and political climate immediately after Hitler’s rise to power, even though people were then still profoundly divided about how serious or dangerous the situation could truly become. In our own family, one of my uncles opposed my mother’s pregnancy, claiming that the times were too uncertain and the future insecure. But my mother would not yield. Having just gone through the loss of a child (my 7 year-old sister), she saw no point in living without children. During the gloomy years of the war, this woman in her forties, who had up to then led a sheltered life, showed incredible courage in the face of intense danger, taking great risks to save our lives. Today I know what an invaluable gift her example has been for my own personal growth: She gave birth to me but I also owe my survival during World WarII to her. And even more than that, because despite the hardships, she maintained a compelling joy in life which she passed on to me. Many years later, she once confessed: “I knew I would save you.” And I, until her death, lived as if I was invulnerable. Being immortal was my way of repaying her for what the Armenian psychoanalyst Janine Altounian (cited in Apfelbaum,2000b) said about the children of survivors of the Armenian genocide: they owed their parents a “bottomless debt for having received life [from their parents] at such an incommensurable price” (my translation: p.13).
The courage and strength which my grandmother, my father’s mother, and my own mother showed in the face of adversity have provided me with models of exceptionally capable women who likely shaped my own personality. Their strength was undoubtedly the foundation for my own, although I have only recently become aware of this.. For many years, I dreamed to lead the dependent life of one of these Harlequin novel’s heroines, who lived happily ever after with their Prince Charming, in full security once they gained his attention, love and fortune. But then I discovered that it was just a hoax because these novels stop just at the time when the characters are confronted with the sad difficulties of daily life ( Apfelbaum, 2001).
When I think back to my childhood, I remember a fairly matriarchal environment not so much because of the history of my own family and the early “disappearance” of my father (I was six when we were forcefully separated and two years later, after having migrated from one French concentration camp to another, he was gassed in Auschwitz), but in the French countryside where I spent the war, World War1 had already taken a heavy toll of young men, leaving many single women or widows. This came up again in my study of women in leadership positions (Apfelbaum, 1993a), when one of them remembered how insistently her war- widowed aunts had urged her to become a professional independent woman so as to be always self sufficient and safe.
B. Wandering times.
As if she anticipated the catastrophe to come, my grandmother urged her sons to leave Germany. My father was the first of the Apfelbaum brothers to migrate. My mother advocated an immigration to the US -- was it a premonition or simply the occasion to satisfy her appetite for seeing the world? She took with her a little black book which would until her death never again leave her purse (and now mine) with handwritten, patiently collected recipes of succulent pastries; they were supposed to allow her to earn our living, if necessary. It turned out to be a life saving item when, during the war, she baked for the farmers who paid her back with eggs and milk.
My father procrastinated :he did not think that we had to go so far to escape from the Nazi danger . We would be save in France, the country of the Revolution and of human rights -- had he forgotten that it also was the land of the Dreyfus affair?
My parents settled in Paris. I was barely mastering German, my mother tongue, when I was put into a French kindergarden and rapidly discovered the discomfort of not being able to make myself understood; it was my first painful encounter with ‘otherness.’ At an age when little girls played with their dolls and little boys played at war, the real war played its cruel games with me. The first ten years of my life were errant times; they were years of hide and seek, of sudden moves, of an unexplained arrest by the French army and a week later, an equally mysterious liberation. One by one, the familiar objects of my environment disappeared as the German armies advanced. I still remember the white furniture in my parents bedroom, and the black piano, a Bechstein, which had also made it to Paris. Even today, I have a feeling of loss and estrangement when people recount what a delight it was to rummage among the wonders of their grandmother’s attics. I am even more distressed when I think of my parents’ library, which had vanished well before I could read. For me, the sensual pleasures of reading in the muffled atmosphere of one’s family library constitutes a rite of passage in the lives of intellectuals and I have always been envious when reading biographies such as Sartre’s or Vidal Naquet’s, of the privileged moments they spent in their father’s or grandfather’s libraries. Having never had this luxury, I feel as if I could never fully pretend to the status of intellectual, which Michelle Fine and Rosemarie Roberts (1999) have so generously conferred on me.
Rather than learning from books, I learned from experiences of uprooting and humiliation. Childhood was the rough time of uncertainty and daily struggles to survive; but there were also moments of heedless, innocent happiness. I remember the unique taste of pilfered wild cherries in early summer heat, the rustling of autumn chestnut tree leaves in the Pyrenean forests. In fact, I was at the time more afraid of the will-o’-the-wisp as I passed near the cemetery than of the German convoys which regularly stopped in our school yard. Fear, retrospective fear, came later.
All in all, I led the ordinary life of a country girl, and was lucky enough to have no major interruption in my schooling. Indeed, I was different from the indigenous children and did not take part in all the festivities which punctuate village life, in particular those concerning the Church whose influence was still very powerful in the French country side. But this exclusion weighed less on me than the humiliations I witnessed in the classroom in which corporal punishment was still common praxis. ( IQ testing was unknown, so that no one had warned our teacher that the 14year old daughter of the miller was mentally retarded and would never learn to read!). To this day, witnessing humiliation is something that I find unbearable.
I was ten when the war ended just in time to free us from our forced residency and allow me to enter high school in the neighbouring town. We had no money left, and at the age of 45, my mother took on her first paid job as a worker in a small factory..
C. Years of silence
.His silences are so fierce that I am unable to utter a single word “(Juliet,1995, my translation ).
Following the years of wandering, came the years of silence. Of these years, immediately following the war, I have little to say. It is as if these years had hardly left any significant imprint. Immediately after the few survivors of the Holocaust returned, “this event which should have never happened”(Arendt, 1964/87, p. 242) ) was covered over and followed by decades of abysmal silence. In fact, I feel as if I experienced the post-war years as an automaton or an alien in the world that surrounded me. Is this why I feel that I have learned so little during the high school years even though I was a fairly good student? Or is it that in the well-to-do part of Paris where the school was located, the teachers were more concerned to prepare girls for marriage than to open the gates of knowledge and stimulate their intellectual appetite. School did not stimulate my curiosity or arouse interest in cultural events, may be in part because one of our teachers once scornfully declared that it was inappropriate to attend a theater performance if one was not properly dressed up : this then de facto excluded the poorest of us in the class and the few who came from working class backgrounds.
Joining the Communist youth movement was a brief temptation since its meetings seemed to provide the comradeship (accurately described in the film Rouge Baiser), and sense of belonging I so much wished for. I resisted the call not because of any sophisticated political consciousness which I totally lacked at the time, but because of an obscure fear of further alienation : It was not a deliberate move but rather an instinctual one. For a long time, I suffered from my inability to join “movements” or follow orders for the sake of a common cause; today I know this has saved me from being enticed into various dogmatic and/or sectarian movements.
I find that I have dwelt on the private part of my childhood period although I initially planned to limit myself to what belongs to the ego faber aspects of my life. Is it that because we women are more willing to admit the deep connection between the private and the public aspects on our lives, whereas men, by guile, tend to only focus on the most general elements? Or is it that men take their destiny for granted and do not feel the need to look for its origins, while women, at least those of my age cohort, tend to retrospectively justify their achievements by referring to external circumstances? This is what I found in my study of women in leadership position (Apfelbaum, 1993a), and has also been noted by many other researchers.
Returning to the particulars of my own intellectual development, the account of my childhood belongs here because I have only lately come to realize how heavily the early years influenced not only my personality but also the way I approach and conceive problems in social psychology. I was only ten when the war ended, too young to have taken an active part in it and I always have had the feeling, almost a sense of shame, of having been only a passive bystander. In the wake of World War II, as the world seemed manichean, divided between the brave and the cowardly, the question of how would I have behaved had I been a few years older, must remain unanswered. Even later, in the social milieu of the rising social sciences, age has been a major discriminating factor: either one belonged to the resistance network in the same way as one was part of the Marxist or Ecole Normale network, or one was too young for that. Not being part of this cohort increased the outsider feelings which my earlier wanderings had already given me.
3. An exhilarating discovery : the Sorbonne and the potentials of knowledge.
I was just 17 when I stepped into the court of the Sorbonne for the first time, preparing for a degree in math without being convinced that this was the right track for me. But I had already refused the professional school, the newly opened Ecole Polytechnique féminine, which my mother, eager to make me financially self sufficient, had suggested. That director promised her students a safe future, “you will become an assistant engineer” or, even more promising, “you will meet and marry a student at one of those prestigious male engineering schools during one of the yearly organised balls.” But I wanted neither of these opportunities! I did not see education as a path to marriage, quite the contrary; I dreamed that education would me give access to the world of men and put me on an equal footing with them. This is exactly what I found in the predominantly male math classes at the Sorbonne: true comradeship and passionate exchanges !
But there was much more. The Sorbonne concealed unlimited treasures . Knowledge was immediately available to anyone without distinction. Overwhelmed by the freedom that existed in this space, I became a frantic intellectual bulimic and suddenly very daring, probably because the Sorbonne seemed a magical refuge, an extraterritorial space protected from the burdens of the outside world. I was wonderstruck; I had found Aladdin’s cave: knowledge and learning became for me the antidote to all the lurking dangers of the world. The philosopher Gaston Bachelard was speaking about time and using poetic expressions such as the time crystal (le “cristal du temps”) : I was under the charm : philosophy was poetry. In the near-by Collège de France, Maurice Merleau-Ponty or Claude Levi-Strauss held weekly public lectures; for Jacques Lacan, it was necessary to go all the way to the large psychiatric institution, l’hôpital Saint Anne. But equally exciting was the courtyard of the Sorbonne itself : it was a permanent happening. One could see Jean Piaget pacing up and down with his younger colleagues and then rushing to deliver his widely attended weekly lectures, before running out for lunch at the nearby literary café Balzar where he was holding court and meeting students. From time to time, a social psychologist came running down from a tiny laboratory, located across the street, which also served as an office or meeting room, in order to recruit volunteers to participate in some group observation experiment (the Bales category system was very popular, as were the scaling techniques for attitude testing as well as content analysis).This all seemed quite mysterious but was yet another avenue to explore.
I discovered, almost by accident, the existence of psychology that first year, during a conversation with a student who had just given up natural science for psychology. It was a discipline outside the realm of the very limited program of philosophy available to science students. I quickly became a regular auditor at psychology classes, and even dared hand in an essay without being regularly enrolled. I decided on the spot that if I was not discovered and if I got at least a pass on the paper, I would give up math for psychology. So among all the possibilities offered by the Sorbonne, I decided in favor of psychology on the basis of a bet, albeit a much more modest one than Pascal’s. At that time, there were no career openings at all for social science students, and it seemed like a great adventure. With hindsight, I believe that what attracted me most to the discipline was its empirical perspective, its declared rigorous and scientifically based approach to the understanding of social issues and human conduct.This line of thought, which represented the generally accepted credo of the time, suited me perfectly then and continued to do so for a long time.
3. Social psychology in the 1950's : a science in gestation,
In those years, the social sciences were in the process of becoming, setting up new institutions, initiating new paradigms, and establishing their respective boundaries. This was happening simultaneously in the university and in the newly founded Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-- an institution, unique to France, which offers full time research positions in all disciplines. Sociology was not introduced as a discipline in the university until 1958, but psychology already existed, although all of its subdisciplines were not equally developed. There was the well established psychology laboratory headed by Paul Fraisse, with a long standing reputation going back to Alfred Binet and his successor Henri Piéron. Henri Wallon and Jean Piaget insured the renown and legitimacy of child psychology. But social psychology was still in limbo with no clear cut territory nor defined boundaries. The “certificat de psychologie sociale” was created in 1946 and the chair was held by the psychoanalyst Daniel Lagache, a former fellow student of Jean-Paul Sartre, Paul Nizan, and Maurice Merleau Ponty at the Ecole Normale.
A “laboratory” was attached to the chair, and to run it, D. Lagache gathered around him people with very diverse intellectual and even cultural backgrounds, transfuges from philosophy, science and/or politics. Jean Maisonneuve, Paul Durandin, Robert Pagès or Serge Moscovici who have been my teachers were the principal protagonists of this first group. This early generation of social psychologists was a generation without forefathers; their training was not in psychology, let alone in social psychology. This created a climate of euristic freedom, their diversity enriched the enterprise, giving it a stirring atmosphere of intellectual revolution.v Each member of the group pushed towards new unexplored spaces and little by little staked their claims to a number of social psychological issues and topics.. The boundaries between what was in and what was out of social psychology was not yet clearly defined, nor were there well defined research traditions. The pioneer mentality which prevailed was exhilarating and spilled over to my generation. We were willing to participate in the adventure, despite the lack of safety for the future. We were not career oriented because there were no career possibilities at the time...this only happened much later. (Mendras, 1995 p.40).
During this period everything was possible. Social psychology was then still closely affiliated with sociology and coexisted in the same institute, the Centre d’Etudes Sociologiques. When it was created, recalls the rural sociologist Mendras (1995, P.57), Georges Gurvitch, Raymond Aron and Georges Friedmann, acting like feudal lords, divided sociology into separate fields and distributed them to young researchers: handing the workers to Alain Touraine, education to Viviane Isambert, the women to Madeleine Guilbert, the literature to Roland Barthes, etc.”Robert Pagès invented social psychology”... “This is how the politics of science was at work at the time”. The formal institutional split between the two disciplines occurred in 1967, when financial reasons dictated that social psychologists should turn towards the hard sciences if they wanted to have the means to become competitive with North American experimental social psychology.
The major inspiration during these post war founding years for the social sciences came to a large extent from the US (Apfelbaum, 1993b, p.16). Speaking of the sociologists, Mendras notes : "Except for the communists and their fellow travellers all my generation went to the US."(Mendras, 1995 p.44)vi . For social psychology as well, in the 1950's a trip to the US was almost an initiation ritual. I remember the excitement in Robert Pagès’s voice when he reported to us his experiences of the T groups in which he had participated in Michigan. By then, he had become the head of Lagache’s laboratory, but despite his interest in group dynamics, he gave a firm experimental orientation to his research group, once the times permitted recruitment.
More generally, it was a period of economic expansion which encouraged the development of the social sciences, including social psychology. In the US, the importance of this discipline was recognized because of its contributions to the war effort, and this led to the growth of university positions and research funds (Apfelbaum, 1986; 1992, 1993b, p. 14). In France, a similar evolution occurred, although on a much more modest scale, and my generation fully benefited from it. In the late 1950's, social psychology was “in.” Now, it had suddenly become possible to make a career in the social sciences. There were jobs in industry (although not for women), counselling or in motivation research for advertising companies. Simultaneously, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique began to hire and this is how I became in 1961 a full time researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.
The discipline had by now reached maturity with its own paradigms and clearly outlined theoretical and methodological orientations. The editorial boards governing its learned societies and scientific journals acted as gatekeepers, protecting the boundaries of the discipline, implementing the theoretical-empirical rules, controlling what was in and what was out. Quantitative methods were in, qualitative out, making subjectivity an outcast; laboratory deception experiments had become social psychologist’s stock-in-trade, so that subjects’ behavior was manipulated and then monitored within tightly controlled situations. These developments led to acceptance of the “...notion of a man as an emitter of responses,... whose social nature and social context might be interesting, but coincidental”(Strickland, 1976; p.4). No longer did Kurt Lewin’s field theory or his conception of groups receive more than lip service; questions relevant to democracy were out as social psychology increasingly shifted towards a behavioristic orientation. John Thibaut and Harold Kelley’s (two of Kurt Lewin’s former students) “translation” of the Lewinian notion of group into a behavioristic formulation is a case in point here: the analysis results in a “clean” social science, free of any political or ideological overtones. McCarthyism is in part responsible for the growing appeal of behavioristic models, and their increasing hegemony over social psychology. But the shift also contributed to making social psychology more acceptable among the hard sciences. In this process of normalisation, the dissident voices of theorists such as Fritz Heider and Muzafer Sherif were not heard, and they tended to become virtual expatriates from the discipline. As for more integrative views of the social realities, such as those expressed by Maurice Halbwachs (1924), Marcel Mauss (1969) or J.F. Brown (1936), they soon were forgotten. It is interesting to note that of the four volumes on antisemitism edited by Theodor Adorno during his North American stay, and which represent a systematic attempt to deal with a “social issue” in an integrative and interdisciplinary perspective, The Authoritarian Personality volume is the only one to have been integrated into the knowledge basis of the discipline. Adorno’s extensive discussions of the need for a rigorous multi-disciplinary approach, which among other things would integrate sociology with psychoanalysis, was never passed on to the social psychology students of the 1960's. This perspective got lost in the normalisation process then at work, whereby social phenomena were translated into aseptic categories thought to be necessary for the development of general laws.
4. becoming a social psychologist in the 1960's or the discreet charms of mainstream.
When I came into the job market nothing at first marked me out for this strange occupation : researching...It all seems to be the consequence of a number of chance improvisations that I grabbed (Duby, 1984 p. 111)
In 1960, I applied to the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique for a full time research position. My proposal to study the development of cooperative/competitive social interchanges, was based on experimental methods developed by game theorists. The circumstances were quite favorable. I tend to think that I was “I was at the right place at the right moment” borrowing this explanation to the justification given by the first women to access to high leadership positions and become cabinet ministers (Apfelbaum, 1993a) . Given the increase in hiring possibilities, Robert Pagès was developing his team in the Laboratoire de Psychologie Socialevii, giving it an orientation which encouraged experimental projects and mathematical formalisation at the same time as he was opening it up to the widest possible range of social psychological topics. In the midst of these developments, I was assigned -- or may be I chose -- the area of conflicts, bargaining and negotiation. In the US, research on conflict and conflict resolution had already become an important area. Funding was plentiful, partly because of the Cold War and the hope that psychologists would be able to contribute to the resolution of conflicts. The gaming situation borrowed from game theory research in economics was the most widely used experimental technique and helped make conflict research one of the leading paradigms in social psychology. So, the choice of my research topic was not entirely fortuitous. In France, moreover, given the limited number of researchers, I was at first almost the only one to work in this area and soon became part of the international conflict research community.
In brief, I was, at the time, very much in the mainstream of social psychology, and quite enthusiastic about participating in what appeared to me to be an enticing scientific enterprise aimed at shedding some light on human interchange patterns. Being center stage in mainstream social psychology and receiving recognition for my work gave me legitimacy and a secure feeling of “belonging.” But on closer examination, my theoretical orientation was, from the outset, slightly at odds with the framework in which most of the current research was being done. Therefore, as I look back at the decade when I worked with the gaming paradigm, the unfolding of my career and the reception of my research appears similar to that of John Garcia, which Ian Lubek and I (Lubek and Apfelbaum, 1987) have analysed in depth. The case of John Garcia was for us an illustration of how a mainstream community can resist the necessity for a paradigm shift in the face of anomalous data and dissenting results. Garcia’s research was normally accepted for publication by mainstream journals as long as his “off” results remained couched in the language of the mainstream neo-behavioristic vision of learning processes. Things changed radically once he explicitly questioned the validity of the paradigm and from that time on, his articles were rejected by the same editors who previously had been positive. When we examined the origins of John Garcia’s divergences with the neo-bahavioristic dominant views on learning, we found that he had had a fairly eclectic training among cognitivists and that he received great support from his mentors for his unconventional initiatives,
My own freedom towards the dominant way of approaching conflict issues can similarly be traced to a fairly unconventional training in psychology. The circumstances of my European apprenticeship at a time when psychology was still quite loosely defined and its boundaries not clearly delimited provided me and my generation with an eclectic training as well as a broad and relatively unified view of psychology (“L’unité de la psychologie” by D. Lagache was a strong major reference for us). The pioneering spirit which prevailed then in social psychology and among our mentors gave us considerable freedom. Furthermore, our evaluation systems at that time were much less constraining than those in North America, and this flexibility allowed me to think critically and develop a research program along less conformist lines.
When I started to work in the area of conflicts, theorizing on the subject rested mainly on two underlying assumptions about human behavior . The first defined social behavior as mainly driven by utilitarian motives, so that the course of interactions are determined by rational calculations concerning the future benefits following from various actions. The second assumption specified personality attributes as determinants of cooperative or competitive behaviors. Both of these views ignored the social, contextual and relational components of human behavior. In fact, research studies in this area attempted “...to eliminate actual interactions between the players, in particular by matching the subjects with a preprogrammed stooge” (Apfelbaum, 1974, p.104), a procedure which eliminates the partner’s attitude from consideration. In putting the emphasis on linear causal explanations, research deemphasised the circular and reciprocal nature of all interpersonal relations. This excluded the possibility of exploring dynamic aspects of conflict, including the changing attitudes of the participants. Thus, in the research of the early 1970's, the relationship between the participants and their respective behaviors toward one another were not of central importance, and this made conflict primarily an intrapersonal rather than an interpersonal phenomenon. Also ignored was how the social context of the conflicts might influence their outcomes.
My own research, on the contraty, emphasized the relational dimension of conflicts. From the outset, I contended that to understand the outcome of a conflict situation, it is necessary to analyse the development of interpersonal exchanges as an ongoing process in which each party responds to the other’s moves, and this “reactivity” can be formally described as a two way learning process. Such reactivity was introduced in the gaming experiments themselves by programming the stooge to respond differently depending on the behavior of the experimental subject.This research program combined my interests in mathematics and psychology in the effort to track the dynamics of interpersonal interchanges. I also introduced techniques to explore the subject’s initial perceptions of each other as well as of the social meaning of the task (cf. Apfelbaum, 1974 p.105).
Although my work deviated from the main body of conflict research, it was at first well received by the research community. I was asked to review the literature on conflicts and bargaining for the Berkowitz volumes on experimental social psychology which, at the time, was the standard reference work defining legitimate fields of study for the discipline. In this review chapter, I devoted a large section to power, which in my later publications became more explicitly the basis for a call for a paradigm shift. But at first, my comments did not seem challenging, probably because they remained couched in terms which did not antagonise the mainstream research community. I limited my comments to pointing out a number of unattended issues. Namely, that (a), little research had been devoted to asymmetrical power situations, (b) that prevailing experimental designs in conflict research were unable to stage power struggles and such phenomena as “revolts, riots and aggression....which have different internal logics and dynamics, and (c), that the gaming experiments were irrelevant because they do not take place within the context and perspective of dynamic social change. Even when power disparity is introduced as a variable, the experimental design is presented as established and legitimate –even if not explicitely defined as such -- [which] excludes the possibility (or at least the perceived possibility) of challenging this legitimacy and of moving the conflict to terrains other than those defined by the initial situation. Experimental designs have built-in limits which inhibit any behaviors other than those permitted within the circumscribed experimental situations.
These criticisms are in line with methodological issues discussed by Michael Billig (1976, p. 310). Paraphrasing him, I would contend that in gaming situations, the most glaring, and yet neglected feature of the whole situation is the experimenter who creates the situation and defines its social meaning. In accepting to participate in the experiment, the subjects have to accept the social context as presented by the experimenter and are unable to challenge his/her authority. Thus, whenforced to remain in interaction, in the experiments, subjects learned to cooperate, but not necessarily because they are willing to do so. The alternative of refusing to continue and leaving the situation is never considered . Consequently, the experiments are incapable of examining any uprising against authority, whereas in real situations involving conflicting or oppressed individuals/groups this can and does occur. In order to explore these issues I designed some exploratory experiments together with Bernard Personnaz (Apfelbaum and Personnaz, 1974-75; 1977-78). They were set up in such a way that subjects had the opportunity to debate not only the outcome of the situation but the legitimacy of their power disparity, and they did so. (See Apfelbaum, 1974 p. 148). This made it clear to me that it was necessary to conceptualize, and to find a framework that would allow me to theorize about dissent, resistance and the development of a sense of agency among the powerless.
5. Breaking away: shifting paradigm.
One expects intellectuals to share the spirit of their time but it is confounding that they remain its victim rather than offering their own view.”(Furet, 1995, p.19)
In the direct aftermath of World War 2 the reconstruction spirit led to the conviction, deeply entrenched in public consciousness, that the horrors of the war and, in particular, the Holocaust had been just “a momentary madness.” Thus it became possible to follow the prevailing post-enlightenment ideology and maintain faith in science as the royal road toward progress and greater human welfare. I was very much in tune with this perspective. Even the Algerian war did not disrupt the view that my intellectual activity was separate from my civic life. I saw no contradiction in being on the side of the anti-colonial struggle during the Algerian war while dutifully working in my laboratory, running gaming experiments which ignored such conflicts.
1968, once and for all, broke the earlier consensus about the knowledge base of social psychology. It was a major turning point in my intellectual trajectory, a break away from my earlier praxis of the discipline. From then on, my work has been animated by the spirit of the 1968 movement. Because my office was located near the Sorbonne, I was in the midst of events challenging the traditions of the old Sorbonneviii, and I took an active part in them. Furthermore, what was happening in the streets directly concerned me because it raised unavoidable questions about the relevance of my research activities to real world phenomena. The ongoing uprisings against authority and assertions of previoulsy silenced groups were indeed manifestations of conflicts, yet unrelated to what I was studying in my laboratory. In my experiments, the subjects had no opportunity to speak up. I had conned them into believing that the experimental situation did not allow them to walk out. If science was to shed light on real issues in the world, these discrepancies needed to be addressed. I did not know then that I was on the way to losing some of my illusions about the neutrality of the scientific enterprise.
Within a few days, the students’ early protests turned into a broader uprising: suddenly we were in a pre-revolutionary period in France. During the month of May, the students’marches were met with police brutality; testimonies describing what went on were collected and published in the first book about this period, Le livre noir des Journées de Mai (Anonymous, 1968) : I contributed to its preparation and publication and at the same time, participated in as many meetings as possible. In heated debates, the basic values of society, culture, education, etc. were revisited and questioned. It was an exhilarating time: For all the money in the world, comments the heroe of Schigsal’s play “Le regard”, I would not have wanted to be old during the 1960's, but it is almost a blessing to be old in the 1990's.
The events of that year and the years to follow left deep imprints on our life styles and social values as well as on the epistemologies of the social sciences. In August 1968, the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia and the resistance of the Czech population against the power of Soviet Union brought yet another encounter with dissent and revolt : I had the opportunity of observing closely this resistance when, in September 1968, I participated in the first East-West conference on social psychology held in Prague. Then, in 1970, I spent the year in the United States. I travelled across the country presenting my research on interpersonal conflict while also participating in Black Power rallies and discovering various expressions of the counterculture and the rising feminist movements.
In short, the world and history caught up with me and the gap between the social realities of the time and our ways of theorizing about them in the secluded atmosphere of research labs struck me as inappropriate. The reductionist vision that our continued commitment to experimentation imposed upon the way we understood social events seemed totally misleading. The time had come to revisit the gaming paradigm for studies of conflicts and question its adequacy to deal with the current uprisings and struggles against oppression. . And, beyond this particular case, it was urgent to explore the limitations which prevailing research practices imposed on the discipline’s theoretical and epistemological orientations. If the purpose of social psychology was “to understand the main phenomena of social and political life” (Moscovici, 1970), we would have to reintroduce and take into account the dynamics and complexity of social situations. This meant going beyond the model which considered individuals as simple responders to stimuli while ignoring the broader context in which they evolve and which determine their sense of agency. (Cf. Apfelbaum, 1997).
I was not the only one to sound the alarm and insist on the necessity to reconsider social psychology’s basic assumptions. On these matters however, the members of the Laboratoire de Psychologie Sociale were deeply divided during the 1968 movement. Some advocated solidarity with the students, and actively worked at changing the research structures and institutions without ever challenging the basic assumptions on which their discipline was based. For others however, such as Michel Pêcheux or myself, the events and debates of that period called for a critical reconsideration of the whole discipline (cf. Kandel, 1999). But, even among us, there were some major differences. Michel Pêcheux, a former student of Louis Althusser at the Ecole Normale, took social psychology to task from a strictly Marxist perspective. Employing rigid party line language, he, together with P. Bruno, Michel Plon and Jean-Pierre Poitou (1973), denounced the bourgeois capitalistic origins of social psychology, stressing its individualistic orientation and its denial of the subject’s autonomy. They further accused the discipline of serving the ‘economic and political interests of the ruling class’, as well as failing to integrate the materialistic foundations of oppression and the fundamental character of class struggle. (cf. Kandel, pp.287/288). In their view, social psychology was beyond redemption. As Michel Pêcheux once confided to me, “I chose to work in social psychology in order to disrupt and destroy it from inside”. Along the same ideological party line, Plon (1974), in another article, focussed his criticisms on conflict resolution research, denouncing its irredeemable flaws.
Even though I shared some of the elements of these critiques, my own position was radically different. I blamed social psychology for its blind spots, for having gone astray, and missed important meetings with its proper subject matter, but I was not ready, without a further “hearing”, to throw the baby out with the bath and condemn it unconditionally. Unlike my Marxist colleagues, I did not see myself as a judge, prosecutor or people’s commissar. I remained convinced – and still am – that social psychology could offer a unique level of analysis that neither psychology nor sociology could provide. It could embrace the interface between the individual and the collective, and represent the tension between socio-historical forces and personal agency. This seems to me to be the unique terrain of social psychology. Clearly, the empirical directions taken by the discipline over the last few decades had distracted it from this goal, and it was necessary to understand why. Thus, my interest in the history of social psychology emerged.
A. A voyage into the past of social psychology.
I ventured into the past of the discipline in order to examine its early roots and raison d’être. Accordingly, I pursued the early pronouncements and formulations of social psychology, and followed the lines of its development in the first half of the 20th century as it matured into an autonomous academic discipline. And in this process I unravelled its blind spots, mistaken directions, and ambivalent relations with socio-political matters. The voyage was full of teachings. My efforts in this area, in particular with Ian Lubek, brought to light entire lost social psychologies that had existed in France, such as the work of Hamon and Tarde (Apfelbaum and Lubek, 1982). But even more important in terms of the early existence of integrative views of social psychology was the discovery of Maurice Halbwachs’s The Social Framework for Memory (1924), and of Marcel Mauss’ s integrative notion of total social fact ( fait social total), as well as, in the U.S., J. F. Brown’s Psychology of the Social Order. All took into account the structural, cultural, and historical components of behavior together with the individual’s personal motives.
As a result of certain realities ( the need to be integrated in the scientific community of psychology) as well as for political reasons (see Apfelbaum, 1986), the complexities of social phenomena were progressively ignored in favor of oversimplified analytical paradigms. “Taking over the social questions but simultaneously trying to undermine their political components has been a constant result (or perhaps strategy) of the psychologizing of scientific psychologists. This de-politicizing of social questions was the pre-set condition for letting social psychology in as a sub-discipline. While academic admission was granted, social psychology... had to provide legitimating scientific credentials and, in so doing, the social questions it asked were then stripped of their socio-political significance.” (Apfelbaum, 1986, p.9-10). The interviews which I did, in 1977, with the early generation of social psychologists made it quite obvious how this de-politicizing was enhanced during the anti-communist McCarthy period. The trend then was to emphasize individual factors over social forces, and the result was to pushing social psychology towards a behavioristic perspective. Consequently, the effects of historical social factors (such as economic transformations) and the power inequities between groups remained outside the purview of psychology. In other words, my trip across history acted as a “mirror” reflecting how the discipline had been detoured away from significant questions of domination and power, into more trivial cul-de-sacs of interpersonal conflict. If I engaged in the work of critical history which “takes on a subversive function, destabilizing the very foundations of the discipline (Apfelbaum, 1992 p.533),” it was not to destroy social psychology but to be able to argue for a reframing of its principles. For me, the history has never been an end in itself, but rather, a means toward the end of reformulating its methods and subject matter.