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The Hidden Roots of Critical Psychology

The Hidden Roots of Critical Psychology
Understanding the Impact of Locke, Shaftesbury and Reid

Other Titles in:
Psychology (General)

February 2008 | 232 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
`Billig's is a fascinating work of brilliant scholarship. It is written in an elegant style, spiced with humour, and gives one the feeling that it was a labour of love. It can be recommended without reservation' - Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology

`This is a quite extraordinary and original book. Billig has managed seamlessly to interweave History of Philosophy, History of Psychology, Critical Psychology and a deep grasp of the social nature of language and, moreover, do so in a very readable fashion' - Graham Richards, Formerly Professor of History of Psychology, Staffordshire University and Director of the British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre, London

`I can't quite capture how much I enjoyed this book. In beautiful, witty prose and through exemplary scholarship, Billig has produced an historical work that engages with profoundly important ideas not just for contemporary critical psychology but for psychology in general. Books as good as this are rare' - Alan Collins, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Lancaster University

Today new forms of critical psychology are challenging the cognitive revolution that has dominated psychology for the past three decades. This book explores the historical roots of these new psychologies. It demonstrates that their ideas are not quite as new as is often supposed.

In the early modern period, thinkers like the Earl of Shaftesbury and Thomas Reid reacted against Locke's cognitive psychology in ways that were surprisingly modern, if not post-modern. However, until now, they have been virtually written out of psychology's history. It is now time to recognize the great originality of their psychological thinking.

Writing in a non-technical style, Michael Billig seeks to overturn the dominant views of psychology's history. In so doing, he gives a fascinating account of the times, bringing psychology's hidden past vividly back to life.

History and Psychology
The Father of Cognitive Psychology

Locke's New Way of Ideas
The Rebellious Foster-Son

Moral and Social Sense

Almost a Pre-post-modern Figure

Thomas Reid
A Common Sense Psychology

Concluding Remarks
Psychology in the Age of Discoveries


"Billig (Loughborough Univ., UK) provides a fascinating, thought-provoking history of the early origins of contemporary critical psychology. The author characterizes critical psychology as an approach that assumes the mind is socially and historically constructed. He contrasts this with mainstream cognitive psychology, in which the mind is reduced to the processes of individual thought. Although this debate is commonly viewed as having a short history (origins in the mid-20th century), Billig traces its origins back to the early-modern period (17th century), when John Locke's conception of a cognitive-based psychology first appeared. Locke's individualistic perspective was challenged by the socially based conceptions of the Earl of Shaftsbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper, Locke's foster son) and Thomas Reid. This book is especially valuable because it uncovers hidden lines of intellectual influence, which thus challenge assumptions about the founding of psychological schools of thought. In his conclusion, Billig points to the need to revise the history of psychology and to bring social and historical inquiry back into psychology. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, and faculty."

H.L. Minton
Emeritus, University of Windsor
CHOICE magazine

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ISBN: 9781412947244
ISBN: 9781412947237

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