What is Postmodern Psychology?
This is not an easy question to answer. First, it should be acknowledged that this web site mostly provides one primary view on postmodern psychology–my view on postmodern psychology. However, in being a good postmodernist I try to present resources on many different perspectives on postmodernism. I will also try to place links to other sites which may provide different perspectives on postmodernism.
A primary assumption I make in my approach this topic is that it is more accurate to discuss the postmodern philosophies rather than postmodernism (see Richards & Bergin, 1997). This provides the first major challenge to defining postmodern psychology. There are at least 2 broad categories to postmodern psychology, which could also be considered phases in the development of postmodernism.
First, there is the deconstructivist postmodern approach, which has a primary focus of critiquing and deconstructing modernism. This approach a formal, constructive epistemology. As I have argued elsewhere, many people have misunderstood these deconstructive approaches as the only approach to postmodernism (Hoffman, Hoffman, Robison, & Lawrence, 2005). A second, more emergent approach builds a constructive epistemology off the principles of epistemological pluralism. It is from this perspective that I write and it provides the underlying basis of the primary position articulated.
Building upon the assumptions of epistemological pluralism, postmodern psychology can be defined as an approach to psychology that questions the ability to know ultimate truth and uses multiple methodologies in its attempts to know. The use of any singular approach to knowing is viewed with suspicion and assumed to oversimplify the complex reality that is a more accurate view of the world.
Why a Web site on Postmodern Psychology?
My motivation for developing a web site on postmodern psychology is multifold. This is not just a web site on postmodernism. As postmodernism tends to favor interdisciplinary approaches, this this site is designed to incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to postmodern psychology. Now, why a web site on postmodern psychology?
First, when teaching discussions of modernism and postmodernism, as well as sometimes pre-modernism, have become increasingly common. Yet, many students have struggled to understand what constituted each of these paradigms. This website was partially developed as a resource for my students.
Second, I’ve repeatedly found myself in situation where people are curious about, but do not understand, postmodernism. This is a resource for many other people with curiosity about postmodernism.
Third, when the topic of postmodernism comes up, I have found that many people have many misunderstandings about postmodernism. I wanted to help set the record straight.
Fourth, I greatly enjoy postmodernism! This topic has long enthused my intellect. This began when I was a strong opponent of postmodernism (with a great deal of misconceptions about what it was). Through time, I began to become more open to it. The better I understood the postmodern perspectives and the more I was able to debunk the misconceptions I had been taught, the more I found myself agreeing with it.
A fifth reason is the primary reason for why this web site is being created now. One of the classes I frequently teach is the History and Systems of Psychology. I believe it is imperative for future (and current) psychologists to understand the philosophical systems underlying the field of psychology. Hopefully this website will help students and professionals give consideration to these issues.
Finally, I hope that this website can influence the future direction of postmodernism! Yes, this is an ambitious goal, but an important one. I do not believe it is beneficial for postmodernism to reach a full agreement on its basic tenets; the diversity of approaches benefits postmodernism. However, I hope to help carve out what I think is an important perspective on postmodernism.
How to Use this Site
My hope is that this web site stimulates thoughts about postmodernism. It is not intended to be the definitive guide to postmodernism and psychology. In fact, it is rather intentionally written not to be this! At its best, postmodernism is open to continual revision and integration into individual approaches. No two postmodern theories can or should be alike. If postmodernism is something that may fit you, I hope this site helps you construct your own approach. I hope this site is never used to constrict people’s understanding of postmodernism, and I hope no one read these pages and agrees with everything that I have written. Rather, I hope it encourages people to consider postmodernism and the ways it can be conceived, including the limitations and opportunities inherent in the postmodern philosophies.