Ideology and Utopia: Social Psychology and the Social Imaginary of Paul Ricoeur

Langdridge, Darren (2006). Ideology and Utopia: Social Psychology and the Social Imaginary of Paul Ricoeur. Theory and Psychology, 16(5) pp. 641–659.



In recent years we have witnessed a number of new developments in social psychology that set out to offer an alternative to the dominant social cognitive paradigm. Whilst there is undoubtedly growing interest in these alternatives, they have not had the impact that many might have hoped. In this paper, I outline Paul Ricoeur’s work on the social imaginary, ideology and utopia, and use this as a critical hermeneutic to understand the failure of ‘new movements’ within social psychology to move the discipline forward. The social imaginary is the ensemble of stories possessed by all societies that serve to mediate human reality. Ricoeur uses this concept to understand and conceptualize the distinction between ideology and utopia. Ideology and utopia are reconceptualized by Ricoeur as integration/identity and rupture/critique, respectively. I argue that social psychology vacillates between these two positions and, as yet, has not been able to engage dialectically with both.

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