As many readers of this site and the writings of the East Side Institute are aware, Fred Newman and I are among the vocal critics of psychology’s obsession with and glorification of the individual. We agree with our colleagues that psychology developed alongside and played a central role in the development of the ideology of “rugged individual-ism” that accompanied the expansionary years of American and international capitalism. Nevertheless, we believe that to locate the problem entirely in the myth of the individuated subject is mistaken. Doing so misses the magnitude of psychology’s distortions and profoundly underestimates the destruction that psychology has wreaked on our culture.
Psychology’s obsession with and glorification of the individual—
a construct derived directly from the logic of the particular—is a hoax.
The contradiction is this: while it has been successful in infusing us with a sense of “identity” and the experience of ourselves as individuated things separate from “the other,” Psychology itself has never been particularly concerned with individuals as individuals. Its concern has been methodological—the individual is a useful construct in making knowledge claims about groups or formulating general laws of behavior. Psychology’s intense and extensive study of the individual has not been done in the name of, nor has it empirically supported, human diversity and uniqueness. Its object of investigation has not been the individual, nor has it really discovered anything about the actual and potential ways in which people differ from one another. Far from contributing to a culture that supports individual differences and fosters individual expression, psychology has been instrumental in contributing to a culture of conformity.
The above is taken from Fred Newman’s and my book, Unscientific Psychology: A Cultural-Performatory Approach to Understanding Human Life (first published in 1996 and republished in 2006). We go on to substantiate our claim in some detail. Check it out!