Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

Faculty/School

Faculty of Science

First Contributor

Isaac Prilleltensky

Contributor Role

Thesis Supervisor

Abstract

Through a humanist, socialist, and feminist lens this study is an exploration of the process of social change. Using a grounded-theory and narrative approach, and a mix of qualitative methods (field study, in-depth and informal interviews, and participant observation), eleven in-depth interviews were generated from the sociocultural and political context of El Salvador: a country which has chosen a revolutionary path to social change. The present study focuses on the personal and social transformation processes of eight exemplary individuals, six of whom the author has known through an extensive history of solidarity work and social action. The resulting narratives are situated in their socio-economic, cultural, and political context, which includes a discussion of the history of Latin American Marxism and the roots of armed struggle in El Salvador.

There were four main goals of the study: (a) to understand the process of social change more deeply, including exploring the links between personal and social transformation; (b) to learn about what motivates people to try to change unjust social conditions, including an exploration of pivotal life experiences and the inhibiting or facilitating role of one’s social context; (c) to elucidate the insights of exemplary agents of change through exposure to their values, the variety of their methods of work, and the depth of their social analysis; and lastly, (d) to attempt to inspire and encourage all those who seek to create a better world by addressing the root causes of poverty, oppression, and injustice and by engaging in the process of personal and social transformation.

Based on the lessons learned and synthesis of insights generated from the narrative analysis, a critique is made of the limitations of the conceptual paradigms which have dominated the field of community psychology and suggestions are made towards the formation of a new conceptual praxis. This praxis would include aligning ourselves and our resources with the most marginalized, offering our services for free when necessary and using our own resources, not relying solely on public funds, to pursue our social justice interests. Actions such as these would help to integrate the values of sacrifice, solidarity, and self-critique and would contribute to the creation of both a personal and social praxis.

Recommendations include generating a paradigm which acknowledges the necessity of confrontation with power-brokers, elites, and institutions which disempower others, while amassing power and privilege for a minority. The recommendations include acknowledging the social mandates of institutions, which implies engaging in work which is more overtly political. The study discusses the need to create a conceptual paradigm which values the dialectical tensions, paradoxes, and contradictions that a personal and social praxis would create. As well, the study points out that a new conceptual praxis would be comprehensive of the dialectical nature of change, which would help to articulate and delineate a relevant ideology of change and clarify paths of action.

Convocation Year

1998

Convocation Season

Spring