Generalizations in Situated Practices

  • Ole DreierEmail author
Part of the Theory and History in the Human and Social Sciences book series (THHSS)


The chapter addresses basic issues about generalization from the perspective of Critical Psychology. It is framed by a critical analysis of the mainstream notion of generalization in psychology because psychologists are educated in this notion and constantly confronted with it in the research literature and in discussions, reviews, and evaluations of their work. This complicates the development of an alternative notion of generalization which does not, implicitly or explicitly, take over key features of the mainstream notion. The purpose of the chapter is to present such an alternative conception of generalization in Critical Psychology by focusing on its key characteristics, accomplishments, issues, and revisions. Human beings are theorized as participants in structurally arranged, situated social practices. Their psychological processes unfold in, and hang together with, their participation and conduct of everyday life in such social practices. So, their psychological processes are always affected by being directed at and part of situated nexuses in subjects’ lives in social practices. We must, therefore, generalize about subjects’ psychological functioning in situated nexuses. But, while it is necessary to establish generalizations in capturing concrete nexuses, it cannot be the sole purpose of research. We must capture how general and particular aspects hang together dynamically in nexuses and how their situated composition affects the qualities and status of the aspect or problem we study. Case studies offer unique possibilities for accomplishing this which is briefly illustrated by an example. It is, finally, argued that grasping phenomena and problems in situated nexuses of social practice is necessary in basic theorizing as well as in knowledge-based expertise and professional interventions in subjects’ problems in the nexuses of their everyday lives.


Situated generalization Critical psychology Situated nexus Commonalities and differences Variations 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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