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Psychopolitical Validity: Working with Power to Promote Justice and Well- Being Isaac First International.

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Presentation on theme: "Psychopolitical Validity: Working with Power to Promote Justice and Well- Being Isaac First International."— Presentation transcript:

1 Psychopolitical Validity: Working with Power to Promote Justice and Well- Being Isaac First International Conference on Community Psychology: Puerto Rico

2 “We cannot explain the development of individuality or subjectivity apart from its social context. But neither can we formulate a social theory to explain the dynamics of oppression without considering its psychic dimension. We need a theory that operates between the psyche and the social” (Oliver, 2004, The Colonization of Psychic Space). “We cannot explain the development of individuality or subjectivity apart from its social context. But neither can we formulate a social theory to explain the dynamics of oppression without considering its psychic dimension. We need a theory that operates between the psyche and the social” (Oliver, 2004, The Colonization of Psychic Space).

3 Elements of a Social Theory of Justice and Well-Being 1. Link between the political and the psychological 2. Link between values and interests 3. Link between the epistemic and the ethical domains 4. Power as a central component of links 1, 2, and 3 above

4 Epistemic Dialectic Epistemic dialectic

5 Ethical Dialectic Power InterestsValues Ethical dialectic

6 Power at the intersection of epistemic and ethical dialectics Epistemic dialectic Ethical dialectic

7 Elements of Well-Being and Justice Well-Being consists of the synergy of Well-Being consists of the synergy of Personal Personal Relational Relational Collective domains Collective domains Justice consists of contextual considerations of Justice consists of contextual considerations of Needs Needs Merit Merit Equality Equality

8 The Synergy of Well-being There cannot be well-being but in the combined presence of personal, relational, and collective well-being There cannot be well-being but in the combined presence of personal, relational, and collective well-being

9 Complementary Principles of Justice

10 The Role of Context in Justice The principle chosen depends on the circumstances: The principle chosen depends on the circumstances: If equality prevails, merit and effort are rational choices. If equality prevails, merit and effort are rational choices. If inequality prevails, needs and equality take precedence: If inequality prevails, needs and equality take precedence: “Among citizens, certain needs matter from the point of view of justice because if they are not met, the equal status of some citizens is put at risk” (Miller, 1999, p. 32).

11 Justice Out of Context Societies aspiring to justice must seek equilibrium among needs, merit, and equality. Societies aspiring to justice must seek equilibrium among needs, merit, and equality. When context of inequality calls for need and equality, but culture favors merit, it’s because privileged groups benefit. When context of inequality calls for need and equality, but culture favors merit, it’s because privileged groups benefit. As a result, group interests that influence the choice of allocation pattern often disregard the context-specific situation. As a result, group interests that influence the choice of allocation pattern often disregard the context-specific situation.

12 Well-Being  Justice Well-Being is enhanced by Justice is enhanced, and contributes to well-being, by the power, capacity, and opportunity to Self- determination Experience voice and choice, participate in decision making Caring and compassion Experience nurturing relationships free of abuse Equality and freedom Benefit from fair and equitable distribution of resources and burdens

13 Elements of a Theory of Power 1. Power refers to the capacity and opportunity to fulfil or obstruct personal, relational, or collective needs. 1. Power refers to the capacity and opportunity to fulfil or obstruct personal, relational, or collective needs. 2. Power has psychological and political sources, manifestations and consequences. 2. Power has psychological and political sources, manifestations and consequences. 3. We can distinguish among power to strive for wellness, power to oppress, and power to resist oppression and strive for liberation. 3. We can distinguish among power to strive for wellness, power to oppress, and power to resist oppression and strive for liberation. 4. Power can be overt or covert, subtle or blatant, hidden or exposed. 4. Power can be overt or covert, subtle or blatant, hidden or exposed.

14 5. The exercise of power can apply to self, others, and collectives. 5. The exercise of power can apply to self, others, and collectives. 6. Power affords people multiple identities as individuals seeking wellness, engaging in oppression, or resisting domination. 6. Power affords people multiple identities as individuals seeking wellness, engaging in oppression, or resisting domination. 7. Whereas people may be oppressed in one context, at a particular time and place, they may act as oppressors at another time and place. 7. Whereas people may be oppressed in one context, at a particular time and place, they may act as oppressors at another time and place.

15 8. Due to structural factors such as social class, gender, ability, and race, people may enjoy differential levels of power. 8. Due to structural factors such as social class, gender, ability, and race, people may enjoy differential levels of power. 9. Degrees of power are also affected by personal and social constructs such as beauty, intelligence, and assertiveness; constructs that enjoy variable status within different cultures. 9. Degrees of power are also affected by personal and social constructs such as beauty, intelligence, and assertiveness; constructs that enjoy variable status within different cultures. 10. The exercise of power can reflect varying degrees of awareness with respect to the impact of one's actions. 10. The exercise of power can reflect varying degrees of awareness with respect to the impact of one's actions.

16 Elements of a Theory of Psychopolitical Validity Psychopolitical validity derives from the consideration of power dynamics in psychological and political domains of wellness. Psychopolitical validity derives from the consideration of power dynamics in psychological and political domains of wellness. The main objective of psychopolitical validity is to infuse in community psychology an awareness of the role of power in wellness, oppression, and liberation at the personal, relational, and collective domains. The main objective of psychopolitical validity is to infuse in community psychology an awareness of the role of power in wellness, oppression, and liberation at the personal, relational, and collective domains.

17 Psychopolitical validity In order to attain psychopolitical validity, investigations and interventions would have to meet certain criteria. These criteria have to do with the extent to which research and action incorporate lessons about psychological and political power. In order to attain psychopolitical validity, investigations and interventions would have to meet certain criteria. These criteria have to do with the extent to which research and action incorporate lessons about psychological and political power.

18 Psychopolitical Validity I: Epistemic This type of validity is achieved by the systematic account of the role of power in political and psychological dynamics affecting phenomena of interest This type of validity is achieved by the systematic account of the role of power in political and psychological dynamics affecting phenomena of interest Such account needs to consider the role of power in the psychology and politics of wellness, oppression and liberation, at the personal, relational, and collective domains. Such account needs to consider the role of power in the psychology and politics of wellness, oppression and liberation, at the personal, relational, and collective domains.

19 Table 1 Guidelines for Epistemic Psychopolitical Validity in Community Psychology ConcernsDomains CollectiveRelationalPersonal WellnessAccounts for role of political and economic power in economic prosperity and in creation of institutions that promote equality and public health Studies the role of power in creating and sustaining egalitarian relationships, social cohesion, social support, respect for diversity and democratic participation in communities, groups, and families Studies role of psychological and political power in achieving self- determination, empowerment, health, personal growth, meaning and spirituality OppressionExplores role of globalization, colonization and exploitation in illness and suffering of nations and communities Examines the role of political and psychological power in exclusion and discrimination based on class, gender, age, race, education and ability. Studies conditions leading to lack of support, horizontal violence and fragmentation within oppressed groups Studies role of powerlessness in learned helplessness, hopelessness, self-deprecation, internalized oppression, shame, physical and mental health problems and addictions LiberationDeconstructs ideological norms that lead to acquiescence and studies effective psychopolitical factors in resistance to norms that cause illness Studies acts of solidarity and compassion with others who suffer from oppression and illness Examines sources of health, strength, resilience, solidarity and development of activism and leadership

20 Psychopolitical Validity II: Transformational Transformational validity derives from the potential of our actions to promote personal, relational, and collective wellness by reducing power inequalities and increasing political action Transformational validity derives from the potential of our actions to promote personal, relational, and collective wellness by reducing power inequalities and increasing political action

21 Table 2 Guidelines for Transformational Psychopolitical Validity ConcernsDomains CollectiveRelationalPersonal Well-beingContributes to institutions that support health, emancipation, human development, peace, protection of environment, and social justice Contributes to power equalization in relationships and communities. Enriches awareness of subjective and psychological forces preventing solidarity. Builds trust, connection and participation in groups that support social cohesion, health and social justice Supports personal empowerment, health, sociopolitical development, leadership training and solidarity. Contributes to personal and social responsibility and awareness of subjective forces preventing commitment to justice and personal depowerment when in position of privilege OppressionOpposes economic colonialism and denial of cultural rights. Decries and resists role of own reference group or nation in oppression of others and deterioration of health in other groups Contributes to struggle against in-group and out- group domination and discrimination, sexism and norms of violence. Builds awareness of own prejudice and participation in horizontal violence Helps to prevent acting out of own oppression on others. Builds awareness of internalized oppression and role of dominant ideology in victim-blaming. Contributes to personal depowerment of people in position of privilege LiberationSupports networks of resistance and social change movements that pursue health and wellness. Contributes to structural depowerment of privileged people Supports resistance against objectification of others. Develops processes of mutual accountability Helps to resists complacency and collusion with exploitative and illness producing system. Contributes to struggle to recover personal health and political identity

22 Project I: New SPECs: Three-Year Action Research Project Island Youth Center Nazareth Center Healthy City John Snow Foundation MLK Center

23 Building on Strengths Focusing on Prevention Working to Empower Changing Community Conditions

24 Project II: Vision Implementation Project Three year research and action project with large government department of human services VisionImplementationProject Clarifying and moving the vision forward Clarifying and moving the vision forward Implementing vision through communities of practice Implementing vision through communities of practice Building the proper systems for learning and growth Building the proper systems for learning and growth

25

26 How Power Operates in Health and Human Services? Political power and psychological power interact in multiple ways Political power and psychological power interact in multiple ways Political and psychological power influence values and interests of players in the health and human service arena Political and psychological power influence values and interests of players in the health and human service arena The more power equalization within the organization, the higher the chances that the intervention will be transformative The more power equalization within the organization, the higher the chances that the intervention will be transformative Some aspects, like Strengths and Prevention, are easier to implement and less threatening but less transformative than Empowerment and Changing community conditions Some aspects, like Strengths and Prevention, are easier to implement and less threatening but less transformative than Empowerment and Changing community conditions Contradictory discourses about power abound in the discourse of participants in both projects Contradictory discourses about power abound in the discourse of participants in both projects

27 Epistemic Dialectic Epistemic dialectic

28 Ethical Dialectic Power InterestsValues Ethical dialectic

29 Power at the intersection of epistemic and ethical dialectics Epistemic dialectic Ethical dialectic

30 Stokols says…. The healthfulness of a situation and the well-being of its participants are assumed to be influenced by multiple facets of both the physical environment (e.g., geography, architecture, and technology) and the social environment (e.g., culture, economics, and politics). Moreover, the health status of individuals and groups is influenced not only by environmental factors but also by a variety of personal attributes, including genetic heritage, psychological dispositions, and behavioral patterns. The healthfulness of a situation and the well-being of its participants are assumed to be influenced by multiple facets of both the physical environment (e.g., geography, architecture, and technology) and the social environment (e.g., culture, economics, and politics). Moreover, the health status of individuals and groups is influenced not only by environmental factors but also by a variety of personal attributes, including genetic heritage, psychological dispositions, and behavioral patterns.

31 Stokols continues….. Thus, efforts to promote human well-being should be based on an understanding of the dynamic interplay among diverse environmental and personal factors rather than on analyses that focus exclusively on environmental, biological, or behavioral factors. (Stokols, 2000, p. 27) Thus, efforts to promote human well-being should be based on an understanding of the dynamic interplay among diverse environmental and personal factors rather than on analyses that focus exclusively on environmental, biological, or behavioral factors. (Stokols, 2000, p. 27)

32 Seligman says…… Seligman tells readers that, “even if you could alter all of the external circumstances above, it would not do much for you, since together they probably account for no more than between 8 and 15 percent of the variance in happiness” (Authentic Happiness, 2002, p. 61). Seligman tells readers that, “even if you could alter all of the external circumstances above, it would not do much for you, since together they probably account for no more than between 8 and 15 percent of the variance in happiness” (Authentic Happiness, 2002, p. 61). Really? Really?

33 Seligman Engages in Context Minimization Error “Tendency to ignore the impact of enduring neighborhood and community contexts on human behavior. The error has adverse consequences for understanding psychological processes and efforts at social change” (Shinn and Toohey, 2003, p. 428). “Tendency to ignore the impact of enduring neighborhood and community contexts on human behavior. The error has adverse consequences for understanding psychological processes and efforts at social change” (Shinn and Toohey, 2003, p. 428).

34 Context Minimization Error “Practitioners “should pay more attention to the community contexts of human behavior. Conditions in neighborhoods and community settings are associated with residents' mental and physical health, opportunities, satisfactions, and commitments.” (Shinn and Toohey, 2003, Annual Review of Psychology). “Practitioners “should pay more attention to the community contexts of human behavior. Conditions in neighborhoods and community settings are associated with residents' mental and physical health, opportunities, satisfactions, and commitments.” (Shinn and Toohey, 2003, Annual Review of Psychology).

35 It’s like Venice…..

36 Venice’s Lesson “The psychotherapist, social worker or social reformer, concerned only with his own clients and their grievance against society, perhaps takes a view comparable to the private citizen of Venice who concerns himself only with the safety of his own dwelling and his own ability to get about the city. But if the entire republic is slowly being submerged, individual citizens cannot afford to ignore their collective fate, because, in the end, they all drown together if nothing is done” (Badcock, 1982) “The psychotherapist, social worker or social reformer, concerned only with his own clients and their grievance against society, perhaps takes a view comparable to the private citizen of Venice who concerns himself only with the safety of his own dwelling and his own ability to get about the city. But if the entire republic is slowly being submerged, individual citizens cannot afford to ignore their collective fate, because, in the end, they all drown together if nothing is done” (Badcock, 1982)


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