The rise of humanistic psychology was led by Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), and others, also in line with Kantian precepts. This was called a “Third Force” in academic circles, adding to the first force of behaviorism and the second of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis has been continually and roundly criticized for its lack of grounding in empirical research. No academic department in the United States adopted a lasting Freudian or Jungian outlook, although most of them offered some course-work in these theories. Psychoanalysis was tied to institutes established outside of academia.
By the 1970s there was much criticism of the traditional interpretation of psychology as a physical or natural science. Critics felt that psychologists were wrong in modeling their discipline after the physical sciences. Some critics even held that psychology was not a science at all. Those psychologists who wished to humanize psychology. or to make it more relevant to everyday living, promoted alternative approaches such as qualitative research, hermeneutics, dialogue, transcendental meditation, and transpersonal psychology to mention a few of the leading recommendations. Much debate was carried on in this context regarding the philosophy of science embraced by psychology, with spe-cial emphasis on loosening the rabid empiricism of the old in favor of a more diverse approach that would bring greater interest to the field. Critics charged that traditional laboratory research was resulting in miniscule, arcane findings read by few and adding up to very little of lasting worth. Others were dissatisfied with the mechanization of psychology that we have already noted. A strong trend to so-called constructionist (or constructivist), theoretical formulations in psychology began to be seen in the 1980s and 1990s, leading to what is sometimes called a “postmodern” form of explanation.
Postmodernism is not a strict or formal point of view, but rather a kind of ubiquitous criticism of any and all traditionally authoritative outlooks. If you state a fact, even a scientific fact based on empirical evidence, the postmodern analyst will show you how you are actually construing this fact drawing on assumptions that are always open to question and negation. This is not simply cultural relativism—as merely suggesting that your assumptions would be unacceptable in another culture. The binding tie of many if not all postmodernist views is a conviction that it is impossible to arrive at a truth that is certain, either between or within a common cultural context. Postmodernists are likely to suggest that not only are we humans locked into a language system that gives us our thoughts (reminiscent of Skinner!), but we are locked into an ultimately undecidable course of linguistic exchange or dialogue. We can discuss and debate endlessly, but we cannot arrive at even a relative, arbitrary, culture-bound truth. Any meaningful text encompassed by a written account or verbal argument can be shown to bear the roots of its own negation. so that we can deconstruct this meaning and turn it into its very opposite. Critics of postmodernism say that it is a nihilistic formulation which fails to say what is to be done to clarify and correct such meaning-exchanges. Even so, many psychologists are fascinated with this challenging analysis of the human condition.
Thus, at the beginning of the twenty-first century we find academia seemingly poised to effect some basic conceptual changes in its theoretical approach. We may be seeing what Kuhn (1970) called a scientific revolution about to take place, going beyond what the cognitive revolution involved. Only time will tell. We next turn to the major professional developments that have taken place following World War II.