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Societal Approaches in Social Psychology

Joaquim Valentim

This book deals with the «social side» of social psychology from diverse points of view. Several European authors analyse this topic from different theoretical and methodological perspectives. In particular, special attention is given to socio-historical frameworks, ideologies, and normative and cultural meaning systems in order to develop a psychosocial understanding of the phenomena under study.
The work is composed of two parts. The first part, with five chapters, is centered on theoretical reflection, discussion and conceptual integration. The second part, with four chapters, focuses on specific empirical fields that illustrate paths by which research can express societal concerns for the study of social psychology in contemporary societies.

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Introduction JOAQUIM PIRES VALENTIM 1

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1Introduction JOAQUIM PIRES VALENTIM Mainly considered as a branch – if not a simple appendix – of psycho- logy, social psychology has been stamped by models that focus on intra-individual mechanisms in information processing and on inter- individual analyses. Often, the processes studied are essentially the same as those of the psychology of cognitive processes, with the difference that they apply to “social objects” (people, groups, institutions, norms, organizations). The title chosen for this book, “Societal Approaches in Social Psychology”, imparts a different perspective which focuses on the central role of social-historical frameworks, of ideologies, normative and meaning systems of the societies at stake, for psychosocial research. For that old project of rendering social psychology more social, the idea of a societal psychology, “thought rather clumsy”, as acknowledged by Himmeltweit (1990, p. 17), can be useful if understood as a label that highlights the need for the development of approaches that emphasizes the all-embracing force of the social, institutional and cultural environ- ments and with it the study of social phenomena in their own right as they affect, and are affected by, the members of the particular society (Himmeltweit, 1990, p. 17). The legitimacy and relevance of the explanations that focus on the intra- individual and inter-individual levels are not at stake; but they shouldn’t have a quasi-monopoly of the explanations in social psychology, with the risk of losing sight of what we want to study. The point is the with- drawal of socio-historical and ideological levels of analysis when they could...

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