Social representations and social psychology : a theoretical critique with reference to the psychology of groups 1960s-1980s
For the past fifty years social psychologists have attempted to understand inherently social phenomena within an individualistic and static conceptual framework afforded by the Cartesian paradigm. In contrast, contemporary traditions of social psychology, especially in Europe, reflect the cultural and evolutionary principles of the Hegelian paradigm. According to this approach, social phenomena are constructed through the coordinated activities of inherently social individuals in relationship both with each other and with their cultural and physical environments. I use this perspective to develop Moscovici's theory of social representations and our understanding of the dynamics and transformation of social knowledge. Drawing on recent developments in both the philosophy of science and the sociology of knowledge I reject Moscovici's distinction between the reified universe of science, which, he claims, is devoid of social representations, and the consensual universe of common-sense, which is impregnated with them. A programme of historical research is reported in which I trace the evolution and diffusion of Tajfel's theory of intergroup relations and the emergence of a social dimension in the social psychology of groups. This study demonstrates the dynamics by which scientific knowledge is transformed. These dynamics involve the social processes of interaction and communication and are characterized both by a delicate balance between tradition and innovation, and by an interdependence among individual scientists, the community of scientists to which they belong and the wider society in which the community is embedded. The thesis as a whole has important implications for understanding the processes of science and for the conduct of research in the social sciences.