Revitalizing Political Psychology
The Legacy of Harold D. Lasswell
Psychology Press – 2004 – 272 pages
The goal of this book is to recapture the diminished roles of affect, psychological needs, and the psychodynamic mechanisms that are crucial for understanding political behavior by explaining and extending the contributions of Harold D. Lasswell, the dominant figure in political psychology in the mid-twentieth-century. Although Lasswell was best known for applying psychodynamic theories to politics, this book also demonstrates how his framework accommodated for cognitive processes and social interactions ranging from communications to policy-making. The authors use Lasswell's contributions and the debates over his ideas as a springboard for examining current policy, political, and leadership issues.
Revitalizing Political Psychology presents and extends four aspects of Lasswell's contributions to the field: the psychodynamic mechanisms drawn from psychoanalytic theory, the use of symbol associations to understand political propaganda, the analysis of "democratic character" for both the public and the elites, and the structure of belief systems. In so doing, the authors link personality and political communication theory to democratic practice. The authors also critique leadership studies using Lasswell's concerns over the risks to democratic accountability and the current preoccupation with strengthening the roles of charismatic and transformational leaders.
Intended for researchers, practitioners, and students in the areas of political and historical psychology, political strategy, and political communication, the book's emphasis on psychodynamics also appeals to psychoanalysts and the material on leadership appeals to professionals in management and industrial/organizational psychology.
"… the potential of this book [is] to bring Lasswell's work to the careful attention of academics and policy analysts for whom his framework and formulations have, for whatever reasons, either fallen beneath the intellectual radar screen altogether or, perhaps more commonly, been filtered and partially eclipsed by renderings of those ideas which have been uneven at best… At least two things are clear: one is the immense burden of debt owed to Harold Lasswell by all who currently study and practice at the intersection of psychology and politics; the other is the debt of gratitude owed by all who seek a more vital and useful future for this field to Ascher and Hirschfelder-Ascher for revealing how such a future might be realized…[this book] is nothing less than a tour de force… " - Dan B. Thomas in Policy Sci
"Provides guidance for how to think about crafting personal, community, regional, national, and international programs for the problems that confront us. …it has the potential to revitalize political psychology." - Andrew R. Willard, Yale Law School
"…a fine piece of scholarship that… should contribute significantly to the fields of political psychology, policy sciences, political science, and even applied psychoanalytic psychology….[it] reintroduces… a…body of work that is as serviceable for today's problems as it was for those a half century ago….a very good book that is much needed by the field of political psychology." - Steven R. Brown, Kent State University
"The authors' approach to Lasswell's manifold contributions is well-designed, and the comparisons with other studies and the effort to show the policy applications of various theories are admirable. The writing is clear, examples are well-chosen." - Doris A. Graber, University of Illinois at Chicago
Introduction. The Displacement Hypothesis. Symbols, Personality, and Appeals: Lasswell's Contribution to the Political Psychology of Propaganda. Democratic Character. Political Psychology and the Risks of Leadership. Political Climate, Mood, and Crisis. Integrating Lasswell's Contributions: Brief Applications. Conclusion: The Role of the Political Psychiatrist.