University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 13 Feb 2016: Searching for the Human Factor: Psychology, Power and Ideology in Hungary during the Early Kádár Period (Laine-Frigren)

Start date: Feb 13, 2016 12:00 PM

End date: Feb 13, 2016 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, H320

Tuomas Laine-FrigrenM.A Tuomas Laine-Frigren defends his doctoral dissertation in General History "Searching for the Human Factor: Psychology, Power and Ideology in Hungary during the Early Kádár Period". Opponent Associate Professor Greg Eghigian (Penn State University, Pennsylvania) and Adjunct Professor, University Researcher Anssi Halmesvirta (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

During the 20th century the social and cultural significance of the psychological sciences grew as they were applied in a number of contexts such as schools, families, hospitals and the workplace. In Western and Northern Europe especially, psychological expertise was also closely linked to the building of the welfare state after WWII, but Eastern European perspectives have been missing from these narratives until quite recently. This dissertation examines the role of psychological expertise in the politics of social control in Hungary during the early Kádár period. From the ashes of the 1956 revolution, a paternalistic regime arose which increasingly supported sociological and psychological research and expertise in trying to build its legitimacy and future viability. The position of ‘individualist’ psychology within the collectivist regime was problematic however, as it became stigmatised as a bourgeois pseudo-science after the communist takeover in 1949, and this took some time to fade, especially with the retrenchments after 1956. This study nevertheless shows how psychologists managed to carve out meaningful professional spaces for themselves, where they could act and create within the context of a party-controlled science and cultural policy. Psychologists could utilise, for example, the political urgency attached to juvenile delinquency in the shadow of 1956, and argue that existing practices of socialist upbringing be humanised. For instance, while struggling for the establishment of child guidance centres, psychologists adopted a critical approach to those social and psychological conditions which produced neurotic symptoms and adaptational problems among socialist youth. Also, despite the public hostility towards Freudianism, pre-war psychoanalytic traditions were reinvented and negotiated at the local level. The workplace was also quite a natural field of intervention for socialist psychology. Thus, in line with the general tendency in the Eastern Bloc at the time, Hungarian psychologists were also engaged with ‘rationalising’ the management of work. Some quite interesting and even original work-related discourse was produced also in the political margins. In social psychology especially, Ferenc Mérei’s thinking embodied the promises attached to psychology as an emancipatory discourse. The developments followed in this book thus throw more light on larger changes that were occurring in science and learning in the Eastern Bloc, and eventually in socialist society itself. It should also contribute to a more balanced understanding of the history of the psychological sciences in Hungary during the Cold War.

Keywords: Hungary, East Central Europe, Twentieth Century, Cold War, History of Human Sciences, History of Psychology, State Socialism, History of Mental Health

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Tuomas Laine-Frigren