The silence of psychologists

Dan Bar-On

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Unlike certain Israeli historians or sociologists who have developed a critical post-Zionist" approach, Israeli psychologists display few signs of this critical trend. This is especially disquieting in light of the latest back and forth movement between warfare and the peace process - a movement that created many new social and individual dilemmas that would benefit from an open debate within social and clinical psychology. This paper tries to account for this deficiency by looking at its possible historical, political, and cultural roots. The historical aspects relate to the influence of European and American psychological traditions. Two political aspects are presented: (1) Israeli psychologists, through their involvement in the military and their acceptance of the Zionist claim for security, tend to belong to the political mainstream (Gergen, 1973, 1989); and (2) a hyper-political atmosphere scared Israeli psychologists into neutrality and objectivism. This provided a convenient rationale for apoliticism, especially when Israeli political polarization in the 1980s and 1990s was perceived as threatening psychologists' professional authority. Culturally, the psychologists, like the European social strata from which most of them originated, tended to adopt the American tradition of individualism as a reaction to the strong collectivist trend that dominated Israeli society during its early years. This may account for their weak and delayed social response of humanism, feminism, and constructivism. Exceptions to this general trend are highlighted, and the question of how Israeli psychology might become more politically sensitive and critical is explored. This discussion may have relevance for the development of political psychology in other societies, especially those going through transition of values or suffering from long, violent conflicts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-345
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001


  • Constructivism
  • Hyper-political neutrality
  • Israeli psychology
  • Post-Zionism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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