Culture-Inclusive Action Theory: Action Theory in Dialectics and Dialectics in Action Theory

Lutz H. Eckensberger

in The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195396430
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Culture-Inclusive Action Theory: Action Theory in Dialectics and Dialectics in Action Theory

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The following chapter deals with the concept of Culture-Inclusive Action Theory (CIAT) and research the author and his coworkers conducted primarily in Saarbrücken (and later in Frankfurt) over the last 35 years in two (complementary) subject areas, which also form the roots of the chapter: cross-cultural research and development of moral judgment in the tradition of Piaget/Kohlberg. In cross-cultural psychology, the duality “person versus culture” is unavoidable. In moral development, the dualities “content versus structure,” “facts versus norms,” and “affects versus cognition” are likewise unavoidable. In both research fields, the assumption of a dialectical relation between these dualities and the role of action theory in relation to dialectics was and still is attractive. In the following this role is interpreted also within Dynamic System Theory, by the concepts of upward emergence and downward selection, which are synthesized by the human action. This theoretical orientation from the very beginning called for its justification vìs-a-vìs mainstream psychology by implying meta-theoretical reflections. After a short introduction into dialectics and action theory in psychology, a more detailed treatment of the two research subjects are presented. The first step in both topics was (biographically) a systematic theoretical analysis dealing with the meaning of culture for psychology and the deep structure of moral development. In both topics the (descriptive) application of action theory and the (interpretative) appropriation of dialectics was productive and lead to contextualized research by conceptualizing a “regional cultural identity” on the one hand and formulating “types of everyday morality” on the other. This cultural contextualization is the reason for calling our approach Culture-Inclusive Action Theory (CIAT). A later study on the process of coming to terms with cancer was based on the same theoretical model; developed in both fields (culture and morality), it was also methodically contextualized from the very beginnings.

Keywords: moral judgment; culture; action; dialectics; cross-cultural research

Article.  34469 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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