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The Hidden Roots of Critical Psychology

The Hidden Roots of Critical Psychology
Understanding the Impact of Locke, Shaftesbury and Reid

March 2008 | 232 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Today new forms of critical psychology are challenging the cognitive revolution that has dominated psychology for the past three decades. This book explores the historical roots of these new psychologies. It demonstrates that their ideas are not quite as new as is often supposed.

In the early modern period, thinkers like the earl of Shaftesbury and Thomas Reid reacted against Locke's cognitive psychology in ways that were surprisingly modern, if not post-modern. However, Shaftesbury and Reid have been virtually written out of psychology's history. It is now time to recognize the great originality of their psychological thinking. Writing in a non-technical style, Michael Billig seeks to overturn the dominant views of psychology's history. In so doing, he gives a fascinating account of the times, bringing psychology's hidden past vividly back to life.

Insightful and entertaining, The Hidden Roots of Critical Psychology is aimed at undergraduate and graduate students studying conceptual and historical issues in psychology. The book's highly original argument should also appeal to psychologists more generally and to specialists in the history of ideas.

History and Psychology
The Father of Cognitive Psychology

Locke's New Way of Ideas
The Rebellious Foster-Son

Moral and Social Sense

Almost a Pre-post-modern Figure

Thomas Reid
A Common Sense Psychology

Concluding Remarks
Psychology in the Age of Discoveries


"Billig (Loughborough Univ., UK) provides a fascinating, thought-provoking history of the early origins of contemporary critical psychology. The author characterizes critical psychology as an approach that assumes the mind is socially and historically constructed. He contrasts this with mainstream cognitive psychology, in which the mind is reduced to the processes of individual thought. Although this debate is commonly viewed as having a short history (origins in the mid-20th century), Billig traces its origins back to the early-modern period (17th century), when John Locke's conception of a cognitive-based psychology first appeared. Locke's individualistic perspective was challenged by the socially based conceptions of the Earl of Shaftsbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper, Locke's foster son) and Thomas Reid. This book is especially valuable because it uncovers hidden lines of intellectual influence, which thus challenge assumptions about the founding of psychological schools of thought. In his conclusion, Billig points to the need to revise the history of psychology and to bring social and historical inquiry back into psychology. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, and faculty."

H.L. Minton
Emeritus, University of Windsor
CHOICE magazine

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ISBN: 9781412947244
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