Democracy in Danger

by George Hatjoullis

The title of this blog is taken from the June edition of The Psychologist. By virtue of a couple of degrees in Psychology and the annual fee I am allowed to use MBPsS after by name. I never do because I have never been employed as a Psychologist. I do however continue reading the magazine and follow-up any research or books that grab my imagination. The June edition is very interesting.

Psychology entered the political sphere a long time ago. It has actively supported specific groups to achieve ’emancipation’.Women, gays, racial diversity are among the many causes that have found active support from the Psychology community. The support goes beyond research. Of particular interest is a little note in this edition (p13) entitled Left and Right equally Blinkered and Biased by Dr Christian Jarrett. In this there is reference to research that indicates that liberals dominate the Psychology, and science, professions and that liberals are just as inclined to be biased and myopic as the alt-right. Anyone reading my blogs from inception may have noticed that I have been drawing attention to this repeatedly.

A little further along (p18) you will find another note, From Crisis to Cornerstones of Culture, referring back to an ongoing debate about the reliability of published research in the biomedical sciences. It has not been reliable if you are wondering. The article is about progress but the evidence is a bit sketchy that much progress has been made. So, so far we have left-leaning scientists are biased and in biomedical spheres published research may not be wholly objective. Comes as no surprise to me but odd that these notes appear in an edition dedicated to democracy in danger.

The lead piece is entitled Democracy in Danger by Roger Paxton, a retired clinical psychologist. He concerns himself with liberal democracy (individual rights and freedoms protected). He seems unaware of pluralist and representative democracy. His message has two components. First, research can help us link many of the developments that are endangering democracy (detachment and distrust) to objective economic conditions such as inequality. True enough but subject to the caveats above of course. Second, he argues, with others, that psychologists should work to build “…moral capital; interlocking but not necessarily identical sets of values and norms” and that this capital would “…be the moral ingredients of citizenship”.

He is arguing for a core set of moral values and for psychologists to actively work to construct. This goes a little beyond psychological research methinks and is typical of the normative actions of Psychologists observable for some time. Why should Psychologists have a better handle on values than anyone else? These are the same Psychologists that are as biased as the alt-right (according to their own research) and prone to publish false research (according to their own analysis).