Frosh, S. “Psychosocial Theory”.
Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology. NY: Springer Reference, 2013.
University of London
Doctoral student in Social Psychology at the Psychology Institute at USP
Social and Environmental Psychology Laboratory and Intervention (LAPSI)
In the text “Psychosocial theory”, the author seems to part from perspective that all human subjects have in some dimension the power and agency on their lives in steady of asking how can all human been and human groups have some agency or control over their own lives on the conjuncture of the contemporary world.
In our research laboratory, we work from perspective of postcolonial critical theory based on the presupposition that the imaginary is the locus of political domination in the contemporary world so that it is doubtful to think that all human groups or human subjects really have access to the orders of power, decision and control over their lives and destinies within the established social order, first due to the external forces of ideological control and second because of the external forces of economic control which limits the space for the action of the ordinary human subject on the own life.
At the same time, it is doubtful to think that the term power (does not understood in the sense of energy) can be considered the essence of human subjectivity as the text makes mention. In the modern society, it is hard to think the word “ power” without associate it with the strategies of domination applied to personal, utilities and coercive interests although it is possible to associate with words like “can” and “energy” with which, depending on context, the word “power” can also relate to. But, in the purest sense of an external control, the word “power” does not complete the great human quest neither fill the human subjectivity.
The author seeks to articulate elements which are taken separately in the analyses of the integral constitutive process of human subject. The researcher seems departing from perspective of an internalist model for solving the problem of the separation between what is regarded as analytical dimensions of the human development - social, individual and biological - which underlie the analysis of the integral constitutive process of the human subjects in according to innate formative orders.
The text seeks to develop an analysis on the separation of the formative and constitutive orders of human subjects, as such biological, psychological and social, through an intellectual exercise that approximates itself of the quest for solving the great epistemological problem of human sciences and the paradox that underlies the structure of capitalism in according to Hobsbawm (2010) and which the author makes a weak reference.
On the contrary from the way the author understands the social psychology, we don´t work from a theoretical perspective not deconstructive of the individual subject, but we considering the social psychology field as a reference for the formulation of analytical methods which would allow the seizure of components (subjective) of the discursive contents, leading to their causal explanations (motivational) and semantic interpretations of its political provisions from a historical and critical perspective. Thus according to Professor Fernandes (1972), "social psychology is a hybrid field, located at a point of confluence of the psychology, sociology and anthropology; this hybrid would be necessarily marginal and interdisciplinary”.
Thereby the social psychology has much to say about “the nature of the social itself” and the field for which unfortunately has been reduced does not define as a whole its explanatory power on the social processes, but it is a result of historical conditions that have privileged strategic knowledge applied to the world, the nature and the things, making confused the great role of social psychology and human sciences in this techno-scientific world.
Robert Far (1996) has interpreted the development of American psychology from an individual perspective while the European psychology would have developed from a social perspective. Thus this qualifying premise of the psychology development is not new, but it is questionable to think that the Psychology´s development can be fully understood from an individualistic conception, being more reasonable to think about the external forces responsible for the individualization of some theoretical lines of psychology is spite of the author recognizes that the great problem is exactly the definition of the “individual-social separation”.
The main epistemological issue looks to be how the psychologist´s activity came back itself strictly to the applied techno-scientific knowledge. It was not by chance that John Watson lost the investments to work with animals and from there he started on to research human behavior in a totally strategic psychological perspective.
From this perspective, the Psychology would not have focused exclusively on the individual subject as an ideological and political investment face some kind of separation supposedly perceived as already given. Authors such as Solomon Asch, for example, understood and demonstrated the role of the human groups on the psychological interaction and in the subjectivity constitution. Thereby the viability of scientific research in psychology does not depend on the epistemological separation from sociology. From a different position, the process of individual-social separation could become ideological itself justly in the transposition of processes that separate, cut and edit the reality and determine the interpretation models of the world from some conveniences, interests and ideologies.
In this sense, the critical psychology is not an internalist formulation of Psychology field on the own individualization of its objects so that the goal is not holding together seemingly opposite entities, as the text clearly makes mention, but to develop analytics models on imperialist forces, such as epistemological, ideological, political and economic, seeking from this to search on the clarification of consciousness, the development of participatory means and collective action.
Thereby the author makes a timid allusion to this perspective which is qualified as an internal relevance of psychosocial theory, weaving a role for the psychosocial theory as a consideration to the scholars of how the knowledge-imperialism has become a social experience and existential truths.
According to the author, the preservation of the hyphen would distinguish "psycho" and "social" categories and would indicate the clarity analytical on the different components of a whole immanent once that the critical would require the use of distinctions.
However on the perspective of socio and environment psychology, the critical thinking is worried to understand how the nature was expelled out from the human survival sphere, being commonly understood as a thing that is out there - usually in the forest. Thereby its epistemological commitment is to understand how the environment began to be studied also as something outside of man.
On the "public" and "private" spheres, they are not directly comparable with the "subject" and "social" categories, as the author alludes. From the political perspective, the distinction is analytically necessary, but by the psychological point of view, it is arbitrary. The political separation between "public" and "private" establishes the human rights and the civic duties as well as its political subordinations, considering the historical process responsible for the privatization of State and of the public sphere such as Hannah Arendt argues. But the separation between the “psycho” or “subject” (psychological subject) and the “social”, on the contrary, can reduce the power of the epistemological analyses on the formative processes of integral human development.
The exercise of the author seeks to think how the constitutive dimensions of the human subject have been established, moving on toward a deconstruction and analytical separation of these categories as the signal of a criticism that starts to act on its own process once that, in according to the author, to think purely from indistinction between the "subject" and the "social" would require to talk about their intrinsic relations which couldn´t be questioned about how they really were built.
On the question of the role of reflexivity in psychosocial studies, providing a critical attitude to the production of their own knowledge, we recall Hegel´s attention on the mediation process of the self, remembering the danger of establishing truths by opposition, such as the author also states, "'in here" and "out there"; "subject" and "object"; "psychic" and "social". From the Hegelian heritage and dialectically Socratic, we assume the understanding of the critical thinking as an activity of border, in the foucaultian sense.
On the perspective of social psychology, in according to Tassara and Ardans (2007), it establishes “the defense of human diversity as an ethical prerequisite of scientific understanding on the human”, what makes the object of social psychology and its method ontologically interdisciplinary.
As Roland Barthes speaks (1988), the interdisciplinarity involves the creating of a new object that does not belong to anyone. Thereby the interdisciplinary nature of social psychology would not occur due to a theoretical location and internal, but mainly because to produce knowledge in social psychology should be assumed unknown dimensions on the object so that makes possible to consider it as an new object seen from a border thinking and vanguard.
 “How the human subject is both formed as an entity through the social order and yet has agency within it? (…) This paradox, that one can be both ‘subject to’ the workings of society and yet also be a ‘subject’ in the sense of being an agent with power to act on the world, is a core issue for psychosocial theorists, as it is for many in the broader field of social theory”.
 LAPSI IP USP - Social and Environmental Psychology Laboratory and Intervention.
 “The individualising tendency of psychology can thus be seen as a particular kind of intervention in social science, paralleling the separation of ‘private’ from ‘public’ and ‘personal’ from ‘political”.
 Florestan Fernandes, Comunidade e Sociedade no Brasil. Leituras Básicas de introdução ao estudo macro-sociológico do Brasil, p. XI.
 “(…) investigations of cognitions in social settings (attitudes, prejudice, social judgements, etc) and of people’s behaviour in groups and other social situations”.
 Robert M. Farr. The roots of modern social psychology. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
 “The conceptualisation of the individual/social divide is itself the problem here”.
 “(…) In fact these (´person´ and ´social´) are not distinct entities, but simply ways of carving up the research field to make it manageable, with the effect of reproducing ideological assumptions about the nature of the social world”.
 Eda Tassara & Omar Ardans. “A Relação Entre Ideologia e Crítica nas Políticas Públicas: Reflexões A Partir da Psicologia Social”. Revista de Psicologia Política, 7 (14, 2007).