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date: 08 April 2020

Summary and Keywords

With roots that range from medicine to politics, to jurisdiction and historiography in ancient Greece, the concept of “crisis” played an eminent role in the founding years of Western academic psychology and continued to be relevant during its development in the 19th and 20th century. “Crisis” conveys the idea of an imminent danger of disintegration and breakdown, as well as a pivotal turning point with the chance of a new beginning. To this day, both levels of meaning are present in psychological discourses. Early diagnoses of a state of “crisis” of psychology date back to the end of the 19th century and focused on the question of the correct metaphysical foundation of psychology. During the interwar period, warnings of a disintegration of the discipline reached their first climax in German academia, when many eminent psychologists expressed their worries about the increasing fragmentation of the discipline. The rise of totalitarian systems in the 1930s brought an end to these debates, silencing the theoretical polyphony with physical violence. The 1960s saw a resurgence of “crisis literature” and the emergence of a more positive connotation of the concept in U.S.-American experimental psychology, when it was connected with Thomas Kuhn’s ideas of scientific “revolutions” and “paradigm shifts.” Since that time, psychological crisis literature has revolved around the question of unity, disunity, and the scientific status of the discipline. Although psychological crisis literature showed little success in solving the fundamental problems it addressed, it still provides one of the most theoretically rich and thought-provoking bodies of knowledge for theoretical and historical analyses of the discipline.

Keywords: crisis, revolution, history of psychology, history of science, unity, disunity

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