The Morals and Politics of Psychology

Psychological Discourse and the Status Quo

By Isaac Prilleltensky

Subjects: Psychotherapy
Series: SUNY series, Alternatives in Psychology
Paperback : 9780791420386, 298 pages, July 1994
Hardcover : 9780791420379, 298 pages, August 1994

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

George W. Albee


Part I. Psychology and the Status Quo

1. Introduction

2. The Status Quo and Its Preservation

3. Psychology in Modern Society

4. Ideology and Psychology

5. Framework of Analysis

Part II. The Politics of Psychological Discourse

6. Psychoanalysis

7. Behaviorism

8. Humanism

9. Cognitivism

10. Abnormal Psychology

11. Industrial/Organizational Psychology

12. School Psychology

Part III. Psychology and Social Ethics

13. Human Welfare and the Status Quo

14. Psychology and Social Change

15. Empowerment in Mainstream Psychology


Author Index

Subject Index


This book explores the moral, social, and political implications of dominant psychological theories and practices. The analysis entails the therapeutic uses of psychoanalysis, cognitive, behavioral, and humanistic psychology, as well as the practice of clinical, school, and industrial/organizational psychology.

It is argued that applied psychology strengthens the societal status quo, thereby contributing to the perpetuation of social injustice. Most discussions of morality in psychology deal with the ethical repercussions of practices on individual clients. This book is unique in that it deals with the social ethics of psychology; that is, with the social morality of the discipline. It is also unique in that it offers a comprehensive critique of the most popular psychological means of solving human problems.

The author does not stop at the level of critique but provides a vision for including the values of self-determination, distributive justice, collaboration, and democratic participation in psychology. He shows how some of these values have already been adopted by feminist and community psychologists.

Given the prominence of psychology in contemporary society, The Morals and Politics of Psychology should be of interest to mental health professionals and their clients, as well as to people concerned with morality and social justice.

Isaac Prilleltensky is Assistant Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.


"…provides a penetrating and challenging critical analysis of psychology's role in maintaining the status quo … fascinating…" — The Community Psychologist