Proving once again that it is always, always worth investigating the source of a classic quote (in this case: “A businessman once stated that ‘there is nothing as practical as a good theory’” (1943/1999, p. 336)) – very much like (to misquote):
Hacker: “neither a borrower nor a lender be, humphrey. William shakespeare”
Sir Humphrey: “Polonius, Minister”(PDF) The myth of Kurt Lewin and the rhetoric of collective memory in social psychology textbooks
The myth of Kurt Lewin and the rhetoric of collective memory in social psychology textbooks
- July 2015 Theory & Psychology 25(6)
This article examines how social psychology textbooks represent Kurt Lewin and his contribution to social psychology. Many textbooks describe Lewin as the father of social psychology, using a conventional, passive-voiced trope to do so. The rhetorical meaning of this trope is analysed to show that textbooks are invoking a collective memory, which closes down views of the past, rather than making a historical argument, which opens up the past for examination. This depiction of Lewin typically involves forgetting his critical views about statistics and experimentation. When textbooks cite Lewin’s famous motto “there is nothing as practical as a good theory,” they tend to ascribe it a special status. In doing so, they change its meaning subtly and treat it as a truth that needs no empirical validation. By their rhetoric, omissions, and avoidance of historical sources, textbooks recreate Lewin as a mythic figure rather than a historical one.