Social sciences in the 1990s are turning increasingly towards consideration of culture in its different forms as a relevant aspect of human psychology. Psychology as a discipline, however, has at times actively dismissed -- or at least not considered -- culture as an integral part of psychological phenomena.
This tradition is undergoing a radical change in the 1990s. Efforts to integrate culture into the core of psychology have emerged from different networks of scholars (e.g., cross-cultural psychologists, cultural psychologists of various kinds, personality psychologists of cultural persuasion, etc.), who have begun to use cultural terminology in their discourses. Social psychologists have turned to the study of discourse as a promising alley of overcoming old problems that have plagued their field. Meanwhile, cultural anthropologists have (re)discovered the relevance of personal agency in the work of culture, and have begun to address issues that largely have belonged to psychologists' world. Sociologists can be observed to use the notion of culture at times, while trying to make sense of human psyches in their social roles. All in all, the renewed interest in culture and a relevant part of psychological discourse is gaining interdisciplinary momentum.
This new interest in culture and psychology leads to the need for an authoritative forum of scholarly interchanges, which would be representative of the international and interdisciplinary nature of the active search for solutions to the problem-- how can science conceptualize the role of culture in the reality of psychological functioning of human beings, within their social life contexts, and in development over personal life courses.
Any effort to provide solutions to such complex problems needs to be interdisciplinary in its nature. I hope that on the pages of this journal, the notion of interdisciplinary synthesis of ideas is going to take place. All too often do we hear talk about "interdisciplinary collaboration" in the social sciences-- only to realize later on that interdisciplinary rhetoric has either been empty organizational talk, or a clever colonization of a neighboring area of expertise. As far as our knowledge is concerned, we are not better off by talking or playing scientific missionaries to colleagues in other disciplines. All of the disciplines involved in this journal-- psychology (developmental and social), anthropology, sociology -- can benefit from substantive efforts to discuss our unsolved problems from a constructive (rather than mutually destructive) point of view.
When trying to focus on a complex issue like culture in psychology, a general editorial focus that could serve as a starting point needs to be set up. I define that focus as that of a general historical orientation that is expected to serve as the basis for interdisciplinary integration here. As is currently known from the philosophical underpinnings of the modern physical sciences (e.g., nonequilibrium thermodynamics), historicity is at the basis of all biological, social, and cultural systems. Therefore, the central unifying line that is represented in Culture and Psychology is the historical (that is-- in a general sense-- developmental) perspective on culture, in its many specific manifestations: social conduct, discourse, semiotic mediation of psychological processes, etc. That the need for such turn to historicism in the social sciences is necessary is evident from contemporary discourse in science. Much of the currently widespread social constructionist talk has emphasized the lack of historical orientation-- and a great need for it-- in all of the social sciences. In order to actually introduce the historical orientation to the interdisciplinary coverage of culture in psychological issues, explicit focus on development (as a theoretical background) in conjunction with a wide realm of issues in the social sciences is beneficial.
How could culture fit into the conceptual inventions and research practices of psychology? This is the investigative focus of our new journal, and the editorial process around the journal will be geared towards uniting contributors' efforts to provide a variety of possible solutions to that general question. Two main (and equally important) directions are charted out for Firstly, Culture and Psychology covers the usually overlooked theme of culture in human development over the whole life course. Similarly to the curious fact that culture has been rarely taken into account in existing psychology, the general focus on development has not been explicitly considered in that discipline (even in areas where it should be considered primarily-- such as child psychology or education, and in neighbouring ones-- sociology, anthropology). In this new journal, we assume that all human beings-- of any age-- are continuously developing dynamic systems. In a similar vein, social groups, communities, social institutions, and societies are viewed as developing systems, which may for a while remain in a relatively stable "steady state," but can move out of that state under specifiable circumstances and surprise us with emergence of their novel organizational forms.
The second relevant theme in Culture and Psychology is that of social discourse, which likewise constitutes a dynamic process at different levels of its organization. First, we will include efforts of making sense of the dynamics of social discourse of ordinary persons in their culturally organized (semiotically mediated) situated activity contexts. However, more importantly, the journal will feature analyses and discussions of the processes of discourse in the social sciences. It is in the latter-- the realm of talk of scientists-- where progress, stagnation, and regress of the social sciences is actually worked out. An explicit effort to know what social scientists are doing in their situated activity contexts-- of talking with one another as well as with lay public, and "doing research"-- should illuminate future efforts to make sense of psychological issues as culture-inclusive in nature.
It is obvious that the focus of Culture and Psychology is on the systemic and dynamic nature of culture in psychology, and psychology in culture. Through this focus, the journal's meaningful self-identity will be built up. Three themes that guide the journal's expected self-identity are worth mentioning here.
Firstly, Culture and Psychology is not another journal for publishing merely empirical papers on cross-cultural, or developmental, or social psychology. It is a journal where the contributors are expected to make explicit their underlying theory of the systemic functioning of culture in psychological phenomena. Culture is not an "independent " (or "dependent") "variable", but a label that denotes a systemic organization of the semiotic and historical nature of human psychological processes in their wide range of manifestations.
Secondly, the Journal emphasizes theoretical integration of our understanding of culture in psychological processes, which may be aided by empirical evidence, but does not follow the widespread belief that complex theoretical solutions just emerge from "good data". It is primarily a theoretical journal, with clear expectations to the contributors to support their arguments with relevant information of empirical kind. Hence we will see a variety of empirical materials published in the journal, ranging from qualitative in-depth analyses of research materials to quantitative versions of data derivation. However, all these materials will be in service to the theoretical arguments of the authors. In order to guarantee that, the peer reviewing system is geared particularly to analyze the conceptual linkages between the author's theoretical arguments and the empirical proof included. A manuscript in which mismatch between empirical data and theoretical arguments is detected (e.g., the data are presented in a traditional quantified form, while the theoretical argumentation calls for qualitative data) is unlikely to be found fitting for the journal (at least without a major modification). In sum, Culture and Psychology encourages rigorous work at the intersection of the theoretical and empirical realms in psychology. Such rigor could be seen in the past of psychology, but has become displaced by a social proliferation of the "empire of chance" over recent decades (cf. Gigerenzer, G., Swijtink, Z., Porter, T., Daston, L., Beatty, J., & Krüger, L., The Empire of Chance: How probability changed science and everyday life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). In the case of each submission to Culture and Psychology, the adequacy of the methodology <--> method <--> phenomena chain of inference will be carefully examined by the initial selection and substantive peer review process, from the standpoint of the author's claimed (and explicated) theoretical basis.
Thirdly, the coverage of issues on culture in psychology will be oriented towards constructive interdisciplinary integration of perspectives. Ideally, Culture and Psychology will be a sophisticated professional and interdisciplinary journal, where the quality of intellectual contributions of the published papers will be high, and jargon-uses from different disciplines that cannot be understood by peers will be reduced by the editorial process (by a regular editorial policy of selecting cross-disciplinary reviewers from countries other than that of authors' academic affiliations). We will include contributions from psychology, education, sociology, ethnography, anthropology, and social history in ways that would create intellectual ties between these disciplines within the journal itself (by a very specific feature of commentaries attached to most contributions). As an important aspect of such interdisciplinary endeavour, no particular discipline's dominant discourse on the "scientific method" will be given an opportunity to monopolize the theoretical or empirical presentations within the journal. Thus, psychologists' widespread habits of unwarranted quantification of complex psychological phenomena, or beliefs in inductive generalization from samples to populations are often as illusionary as anthropologists' opposite beliefs in the fullness of knowledge about "a culture" as reflected in the discourse of those few informants who have happened to establish friendly or pragmatic relations with the fieldworker.
Culture and Psychology will be highly international in its scope. Each issue includes an internationally representative cross-section of work. The use of published commentaries will make it easy to gear the journal to be an international meeting place of minds. In the editorial process, representatives of traditions of social sciences in different countries will be equally involved. In case relevant contributions are submitted in other internationally used scientific languages (French, Spanish, Russian, German, etc.) they will be initially screened by the appropriate Associate Editor who is responsible for the given geographical area, and submitted for review in the original language -- if possible-- to reviewers who are competent both in the topic and the language. Only after acceptance will the need for the translation of the paper into English really emerge. It goes without saying that the possibilities for providing such editorial services are limited by the active list of multi-language competent participants in the editorial process.
In line with the editorial philosophy of intellectual openness, instead of the regular "blind peer review" used by most journals, Culture and Psychology will introduce a semi-open peer review/commentary system. The identity of both the author(s) to the reviewers, and of the reviewers to the authors, will be made known -- unless the specific author or reviewer indicates otherwise. The reviewers will be encouraged to communicate directly with the author(s) about specific issues concerning the manuscript. The option is provided for the reviewers to produce a publishable version of their review (as a short 1 to 3 page commentary) that could be published together with the target article, in case of its acceptance.
Culture and Psychology will also regularly include a Book Review section, where we try to provide informative and intellectually challenging information about new books. We will be bringing information about relevant books published in languages other than English to the attention of the international readership-- through short overviews of their content. We will also include a number of special features on specific books that are considered of key relevance for the field. These features may include multiple (or dialogue-like) reviews of the given book, longer analytic review essays, and interviews with the author(s) about the book. The latter may be included in the regular rubric of interviews -- titled Investigation into Ideas -- with different thinkers in the area of culture and psychology. The goal of these interviews is to bring to the readers of the Journal an analytic self-view of the authors, assisted by the intellectually curious interviewers.
I hope that our readers will join us in making this journal a truly intellectually productive endeavor, and look forward to joint and satisfying intellectual interchange in (and around) Culture and Psychology, which may lead to real innovations (as opposed to new fashions) in the contemporary social sciences.