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Preface: is constructivist psychology still relevant?

Is constructivist psychology still relevant? Was it ever? Is it merely an obtuse cluster of theories bogged down in obscure epistemological debates of little to no relevance for most people? Why is it that constructivism is so often referenced in the clinical literature, yet organizationally it counts only a small number of people among its identifiable adherents and struggles to sustain itself as a coherent movement within the field?

Do constructivist theories offer genuinely practical and scientifically grounded models for conducting psychological research and psychotherapy? If constructivist approaches are firmly rooted in pragmatism's notion of ideas as useful, why do they so often seem ensconced in the ivory tower, aloof from the practical demands of everyday researchers and practitioners? Why is it that personal construct psychology, perhaps the original constructivist perspective in psychology, is all but extinct in the United States (its country of origin)? At the same time, how is it that the narrative and dialogical approaches, both deeply rooted in constructivist principles, seem to have infused the wider culture to such a degree that even politicians and pundits speak of the "dominant" narratives and discourses driving understanding of world events?

Finally, to what extent has constructivism simply become an ill-defined buzzword for "meaning" (as in the very title of this series, Studies in Meaning), with the result that many people call their work "constructivist" without understanding the theoretical bases from which the term emerges?

The rest of this volume takes up these issues by having prominent constructivist theorists put aside the usual topics of their scholarship and instead directly grapple with the very questions posed above. Borrowing the language of radical constructivism, the resulting contributions are intended to "perturb" the status quo and get constructivists and non-constructivists alike thinking about constructivism's past, future, strengths, weaknesses, and overall utility.

On a personal note, we would like to thank Emily Brown for her extensive assistance with name indexing. Her work in this regard was indispensable and we are so grateful to her for the time and care she gave to such a thankless task. We also wish to thank Alex Grover at Pace University Press for his tireless work on page proofs--especially in light of the seemingly endless litany of corrections we sent his way.

Finally, it has been a difficult few years for the constructivist community when it comes to the passing of important colleagues. We have lost many seminal figures since the last Studies in Meaning was published in 2010. Many of them were contributors to previous volumes (Stephanie Lewis Harter, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Donald Granvold, and Thomas Szasz), while others influenced the work found in those volumes (Hans Bonarius, Peggy Dalton, Joe Doster, Fay Fransella, Ted Hazelton, Dennis Hinkle, Bill Lyddon, Miller Mair, Peter Pisgrove, and Linda Viney). Each of these people perturbed the status quo in their own unique ways and for that we are forever grateful. We dedicate this volume to them.

Jonathan D. Raskin

State University of New York at New Paltz

Sara K. Bridges

The University of Memphis

Jack. S. Kahn

Palomar College

January 2015

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Author:Raskin, Jonathan D.; Bridges, Sara K.; Kahn, Jack. S.
Publication:Studies in Meaning
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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