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Serge Moscovici

Nikos Kalampalikis
Denise Jodelet
Michel Wieviorka
et al.

– IV – Influence et minorités

‘La dissidence d’un seul’: Relations between Social Representations and Minorities’Innovation

Ivana Marková

Texte intégral

Social representations and minorities’ innovation

1During his life-long career, Serge Moscovici created and developed two major theories in social psychology: the theory of social representations and the theory of active minorities or of minorities’ innovation. He treated these two theories as being more or less independent of one another and viewed them as contributing to different domains of social psychology. He claimed that these two theories belonged to his different life experiences and that they were concerned with different problems (Moscovici and Marková, 2000). Since Serge Moscovici treated his two theories as independent of one another, social psychologists too, have continued viewing them as belonging to different domains of social psychology. These two theories are often taught by different lecturers, they form parts of different courses in social psychology, and research in one area rarely refers to the other.

2Serge Moscovici created the theory of social representations in the 1950s and early 1960s. He thought that social psychology was a discipline that had the potential of finding solutions to the post-war political, economic and industrial problems, and he articulated social psychology as a discipline in movement. It is doubly orientated with respect to several kinds of dyadic micro-social and macro-social relations in tension (Faucheux and Moscovici, 1962). Among these doubly orientated relations in tension, those between the ‘individual’ and ‘social’ were vital features of the theory of social representations. They shaped the theory of social representations as a theory of social knowledge. Moscovici aimed to show that forms of daily thinking and of common sense characterised human rationality. He argued against Lenin’s doctrine that ‘le peuple ne pense pas’. Marxists and Lenin in particular thought that spontaneous thinking of ordinary people is erroneous and irrational and must be replaced by the materialistic and scientific thought. Moscovici aimed to rehabilitate common sense and common knowledge based in daily experience (Moscovici and Marková, 2000). The theory is underlain by questions about the epistemology of natural thinking and communication and about the circulation of knowledge. Social representations usually concern the study of concrete phenomena in ‘real life’ that are embedded in history and culture. They are less likely to be subjects of laboratory experiments.

3Concerning his second theory, Serge Moscovici started working on minorities’ innovation in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Problems addressed by this theory were partly related to Moscovici’s political interests; and partly Moscovici attempted to develop an original European theory in face of the dominant American social psychology. Minorities’ innovation was concerned with the creation of conflict, with group dynamics and the role of communication in processes of social influence and change. From the beginning, Moscovici conceived two forms of minorities’ innovation: one form was studied by laboratory experiments, and the other was concerned with activities of political dissidents in the past Soviet bloc, and in particular with activities of ‘la dissidence d’un seul’ (the dissidence of one).

4Moscovici’s laboratory studies of minorities’ innovation formed highly original contributions to experimental social psychology and they attracted a great deal of interest both in Europe and in the United States. These studies were often conceived as an inverse of Solomon Asch’s (1956) explorations of minority’s compliance to majority’s influence. This is what Moscovici himself endorsed (Moscovici, 1985a: 10). The topic of minority and majority influence, comparing and contrasting Asch’s and Moscovici’s perspectives, has become part of textbooks in social psychology (e.g. Cardwell and Flanagan, 2005; Gross, 2010; and many others). Moscovici however objected that the theory became known in the English speaking world as the theory of influence. His book on minorities’ innovation was published originally in English in 1976 under the title Social Influence and Social Change. It was translated into French (1979a) with the title Psychologie des minorités actives.

5Let us note that both in Asch’s and Moscovici’s laboratory experiments the concepts of minority and of majority were abstract in sense that it was not really important what kind of individuals constituted the minority and majority. Moscovici assumed that although social norms and psychological resources activate meaning “only in and through social interaction”, “the behaviours of individuals and of groups have effect as behaviour per se, quite apart from the content and intention of the behaviour” (Moscovici, 1976: 4). And of course, this is what Moscovici demonstrated in the laboratory. The behavioural style of minorities was the source of influence and of the transformation of the majorities’ perspectives. Behavioural styles were characterised by consistency in repeating same messages or behaviours over time, by rigidity of minorities’ conduct, their capacities to sacrifice themselves for the cause, and their independent expressions of attitudes and judgement.

‘La dissidence d’un seul’

6Serge Moscovici viewed his studies on ‘la dissidence d’un seul’ as belonging to the domain of minorities’ innovation as they stemmed primarily from his interest in group dynamics (Moscovici and Marková, 2000: 270). His research on dissidence in the past Soviet bloc carries a substantial ethical significance because it highlights dissidents’ social responsibility, their commitment to human rights and freedom of expression. Moscovici based his studies of dissidents on literary sources and political analyses of dissidents’ conditions. Dissidents, the minorities of one, throughout their activities transformed both themselves and others. The term ‘others’ included several kinds of people: those living under the same oppressive regime as did the dissidents, representatives and leaders of the oppressive regime and, very importantly, international audiences. Moscovici’s specific explorations concerned the personalities and dissident activities of the writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and of the physicist Andrei Sakharov. He was also well familiar with activities of other dissidents in the Soviet bloc, such as Petro Grigorenko, Roy and Zhores Medvedev, Jan Patočka and Václav Havel among others, on whose activities he fleetingly commented (e.g. Moscovici, 2001a).

7In contrast to laboratory experiments on minorities’ innovation, Moscovici’s analyses of dissidents did not attract much interest of social psychologists. These studies were published only in French and since they were based on literary sources, they did not fit into the well-defined field of the social influence studies carried out in the laboratory. Moscovici first presented his ideas on dissidents at a conference of the Committee on Transnational Social Psychology in Hungary in 1974 (Moscovici and Marková, 2006). His lecture was criticised both by his Western colleagues and by the Soviet psychologists who participated at the conference. After the World War II and during the Cold War, social psychologists emphasised the study of topics such as social relations, conflict negotiation and conflict resolution (e.g. Deutsch, 1973) rather than conflicts created by minorities. Yet the issue of political dissidents had important theoretical and political significance during the Cold War.

8For Moscovici, the work on dissidents was a matter of personal, political and social-scientific interest. He had experienced himself as a dissident both in his youth in Romania, and then as a social scientist in France where, at the beginning, his work was frequently misconstrued. This was due both to political and social scientific reasons. Concerning the former, many of his colleagues during the 1950s and 1960s were Communists and could not comprehend how he could have left the ‘Communist paradise’ in Romania and immigrate to the capitalist France (personal communication). Concerning the latter, Moscovici’s original thoughts on the theory of social representations were largely misunderstood. Denise Jodelet (2008) comments that in France, in the early 1960s, dominant social scientific approaches were structuralism, semiology and linguistics. In contrast, the theory of social representations was associated with common sense and with disputes about psychoanalysis and Marxism, and such issues were treated with suspicion.

9Social psychologists not only ignored Moscovici’s research on dissidents but when they referred to it they misunderstood the significance of this work. For example, Robin Martin and Miles Hewstone (2010), in their volume on Minority Influence and Innovation: Antecedents, Processes and Consequences, acknowledged Moscovici’s theory of minority influence as one of the two Europe’s major contributions to social psychology (the other being Henri Tajfel’s research on intergroup relations and identity). They devoted their book to Moscovici as the ‘maître à penser’ (the master of thinking) and yet, the volume presents fundamental incongruities. On the one hand, it is based on the classic experimental paradigm of research on minorities, yet using terminology such as ‘information processing’, ‘consensus information’, ‘source-position congruity’, and ‘heuristic versus systematic processing’. Moscovici never used this kind of terminology that was part of information processing approaches in psychology.

10On the other hand, Hewstone and Martin are excited by what they call the ‘romantic’ perspective of influence processes. They point out that this romance “has something to do with Serge Moscovici himself” (Martin and Hewstone, 2010: 369), with his style of writing and arguing, and with examples he gave to explain social, political, and scientific changes due to minority influence. They state: “He even added a case study on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as an appendix to a later French edition of his monograph Social Influence and Social Change, a salient example of a dissenting minority” (ibid.). The authors fail to see that the work on dissidents was not an appendix of Moscovici’s romance but a central feature in his work on minority innovation. Politics was always in the centre of Moscovici’s attention and he believed that “the analysis of literary texts based on dissidents is one way of progressing with the study of minorities. Laboratory experiments could sometimes become no more than a series of little studies, one leading to another, one a refinement of the previous one and so on, all together a kind of a closed intellectual world” (Moscovici and Marková, 2000: 267). Moscovici wished to reduce the discrepancy between events in the laboratory and those in the real world. He noted that “our minority of a single individual has made more progress in the real world than in the laboratory” (Moscovici, 1985a: 10).

Behavioural style

11As I pointed out above, Moscovici treated the theory of social representations and the theory of minority innovation as more or less independent of one another. The only issue that brought them together, he insisted, was behavioural style. Behavioural styles, he argued, are derived from social representations of intention to act in a particular manner, and from the rules of behaviour established by the concerned groups. If minorities and majorities did not share the same representations of these intentions and rules, behavioural styles would have no effect, and no influence would take place. Behavioural styles of minorities, expressing firm conviction, consistency, and unfailing repetition of specific actions, must be understood as such by majorities. Behavioural styles are conditions of minorities’ success (Moscovici and Marková, 2000).

12Moscovici argued that behavioural style was equally important in political activities of dissidents. The Soviet dissidents such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov, the two historical and exemplary personalities to whom Moscovici devoted most of his attention, defeated the totalitarian regime by creating and sustaining conflict. Just like the successful laboratory minorities, dissidents displayed the moral and intellectual strength and personality characteristics in and through their rigid and consistent behavioural styles (Moscovici, 1979a, 1979b, 1997b) that made their activities highly effective. They made themselves extremely visible, unfailingly repeated their actions and avoided compromise in and through their courageous stance.

13Solzhenitsyn had served in an artillery position during the war and was imprisoned towards the end of the war for writing disrespectfully about Stalin. He was sent to a detention camp for eight years and afterwards he was exiled in Kazakhstan. He was rehabilitated after Khrushchev’s crushing the cult of Stalin. Nevertheless, after his rehabilitation he was strongly critical of the political regime and had difficulties in publishing his novels and stories. Moscovici (1979b) described social psychological features and behavioural style of Solzhenitsyn (1962/1963) during the period from 1962 when he published his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch until 1974 when he was expelled from the Soviet Union. Moscovici analysed tension, conflicts, open and hidden polemics, forms of language and communication between Solzhenitsyn and the Politburo, and mutual effects these conflicts had on both opposing parties (Marková, 2003).

14In contrast, Sakharov was a Communist in his youth and he became a highly distinguished and talented scientist who, after the World War II, worked on the development of the hydrogen bomb in the top-secret scientific department. The problem for him started when he became aware of danger of the project in which he was taking part and when he realized he no longer agreed with the Soviet ideology. He vehemently fought against the Soviet Academy supporting the non-scientific Lysenko’s project in biology, and he rejected the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Instead, he propagated civic rights, searched for guarantees of scientific and economic progress, of cooperation, which, he believed, would become a guarantee of political progress. Such views were divergent from technocratic and Marxist perspective which emphasised material and economic conditions as the guiding forces in the history of humankind. However, let us not forget that laboratory experiments on social influence take place in here-and-now situations and therefore, they ignore sociocultural contexts as well as personal and historical features of experimental subjects. In contrast, the dissident activities of Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov took place during the Cold War in the post-Stalinist era. While Stalinism was an era of invented political trials during which any protest against the regime was severely punished, the Soviet regime of Solzhenitsyn’s and Sakharov’s epoch did allow the existence of dissidents. Although it treated them harshly because their activities posed threat to the regime, the mere fact that the regime tolerated dissidence, was sufficient for the system to gratify itself with benevolence.

15Let us conclude that while the focus on personality of the dissident and his/her behavioural style is important, it is equally important to consider tolerance of the regime in which the dissident lives. The dissident’s visibility, the consistent style and rigidity can be effective if and only if the sociopolitical conditions allow for their forceful impact. Therefore, the behavioural style is no more than one of the factors contributing to the dissidents’ success.

Split responsibilities of dissidents

16From the dissidents’ point of view, their protests against the violation of human rights, their fights for freedom of personal and religious expression, and for lawful institutions, were only one kind of responsibilities with which they had to cope. Equally important, their activities placed at risk their families and friends. The Soviet regime followed the tsarist habits of punishing everybody who was associated with the offender. This tsarist habit was historically known as the ‘krugovaja poruka’ or collective responsibility, according to which a village community was held responsible for actions and obligations of each member. While their conscience dictated dissidents to be truthful to their mission, they had to weigh up the contrasting responsibilities between their conscience and other people who were endangered by their political commitments.

17In depicting Sakharov’s activities Moscovici (1997c) refers to his torments due to problems with the family, with children and his dying wife with whom he never was in love. Neither his wife, nor his children appreciated his dissident activities. Sakharov eventually found his comfort with his second wife who, like himself, was a dissident. In his autobiography that featured in his lecture during the Nobel Prize ceremony, Sakharov described that during his dissident activities he had been removed from the top-secret work and deprived of his privileges. However, it was the social issues that put pressure on his personal responsibilities and laid claims on his physical and mental powers: “For me, the moral difficulties lie in the continual pressure brought to bear on my friends and immediate family, pressure which is not directed against me personally but which at the same time is all around me” (Sakharov, 1997: 119).

18Sakharov recalled that he had written about these issues on many occasions; they kept forcefully returning and he was obsessed with the question as to what was the purpose of his activities as well as those of his friends. He concluded that it was “only moral criteria, coupled with mental objectivity, can serve as a sort of compass in the cross-currents of these complex problems” (ibid.). Conflicting responsibilities, to which Sakharov referred, related to a number of factors such as dissidents’ moral stance, their families, personal sacrifice, the commitment to masses of people living under the same regime, among other issues. Much of the dissident literature comments on relations within families, friends and acquaintances, on dissidents’ isolation and the marginalized status they created for themselves. The punishment depriving the dissident’s child of education by not allowing him/her to pursue scholarly interests, was among the greatest.

19A Czech historian Jaroslav Mezník (2005) describes his relations with his daughter in a book about his life during Communism. He had divorced his wife and his daughter lived with her mother. Yet despite not living with him, his daughter was not even allowed to attend the secondary education of her choice. Her life was ruined by her father’s dissident activity and because of that she did not speak to him for many years. Another Czech dissident Milan Šimečka (1984) talked about daily life of citizens forced to adapt to the regime. Economic, political and cultural absurdities, “which are an affront to common sense” (Šimečka, 1984: 137), dictated what could and could not be done in order to survive. The world was divided between friends and enemies; assent was rewarded, dissent was punished. The regime did not require that the individual internalized the Party’s demands. It did not require the whole person: it was sufficient to play the game and to pretend agreement on the surface, and to project agreement in the public life. In other words, the regime survived on passive loyalty of general public and on the acceptance of basic rules of its authoritarian government. As Šimečka maintained, a major incentive to adopt the attitude of passive loyalty was that citizens did not see any alternative. Adaptation provided some security and a relatively bearable existence. This was what most citizens were inclined to choose. In contrast, the only reward for a brave dissident stance was the preservation of one’s dignity and integrity. The majority of citizens as well as of some dissidents, however, kept moving back and forth with respect to different responsibilities according to circumstances and the daily problems with which they had to cope.

20In such struggles to cope with different kinds of responsibilities we can find a mixture of Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1993) perspective that there can be no ‘alibi in being’ as well as Emmanuel Levinas’s (1974) perspective of taking responsibility for other people in defending freedom (Marková, 2016).

Dissidents and their political and cultural contexts

21While the most extreme totalitarian regimes, such as Stalinism, do not allow the existence of dissidents, those regimes that tolerate the existence of dissidents, have several possible options how to respond to them (Moscovici, 1979b). The first possibility for the regime is to ignore the dissident and pretend that his/her activities are not important. This is hardly possible in case of dissidents such as Solzhenitsyn or Sakharov, who make themselves loud and visible. They break down all bridges between themselves and the regime’s institutions, vehemently express themselves, and fight for their convictions. The idea that dissidents create a conflict is essential in Moscovici’s perspective: social psychology pays a lot of attention to conflict resolution but not to conflict creation (Moscovici and Marková, 2000).

22The second possibility for the regime is to negotiate with dissidents and persuade them to compromise or at least to soften their positions. If we consider historical cases, we see that individuals, for example Socrates, Giordano Bruno or Jan Hus, had a chance to renounce their views. However, they did not relinquish their positions and were sentenced to death. Others did renounce, such as Galileo Galilei who had been threatened that should he not disclaim his views concerning the rotations of the Earth, he would be burnt to death just like Giordano Bruno some decades ago. Likewise, modern dissidents, such as Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov or Havel, were pressured by the regime to surrender or to ask for pardon. Although the post-Stalinist regime no longer sentenced dissidents to death, it submitted them to physical and mental torture. This involved long-lasting repeated interrogations, lying to imprisoned dissidents about their family circumstances or not providing them with proper medical care. This, again, had no effect in cases of personalities such as Solzhenitsyn or Sakharov. An uncompromising dissident Solzhenitsyn was a fierce critic of Marxism and he wanted to destroy the Soviet regime. For him, truth could not be conceded. Solzhenitsyn stated in a BBC interview in 1976: “To fight against untruth and falsehood, to fight against myths, to fight against an ideology which is hostile to mankind, to fight for our memory of what things were like—that is the task of the artist. A people which no longer remembers has lost its history and its soul.”

23The final possibility of the regime is to exclude dissidents from community and this, in fact, turns out to be the only successful way of coping with them. The regime can treat them as mentally ill and lock them in psychiatric institutions (e.g. Grigorenko, the brothers Medvedev); or it enforces upon them an involuntary emigration abroad (Solzhenitsyn); or it detains them involuntarily somewhere in the countryside (e.g. Sakharov, Havel). Since dissidents were well aware of the regime’s intention to isolate them and so make them invisible to the public, both Sakharov and Havel rejected invitations from abroad or the regime’s offers of letting them to travel abroad. They knew that they would not be allowed to re-enter their countries.

24The kind of the regime’s response to dissidence is co-determined by a number of factors: how important is the outside international pressure for the regime? Do masses of people living under that regime care about dissidents? Do masses create threat for the regime or are they obedient and submit themselves to the regime’s rules? Answers to such questions differ at various stages of dissidents’ activities. For example, they would be answered in one way during Solzhenitsyn’s (1962/1963) publication of his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch in the Soviet Union; they would be answered differently after he had been expelled from the Soviet Union; differently again during his life in the USA, and after his return to Russia after the collapse of Communism, and so on. In other words, the regime and dissidents live in numerous conflicting commitments, interdependencies, beliefs and in diverse social representations.

The interdependence between social representations and the theory of minority innovation

25The interdependence between dissidents and their sociopolitical conditions leads me to bring up the question of the key relationship between the theory of social representations and the theory of minority innovation. This question was explicitly raised, for example, by Orfali (2002) and Seca (2015) in France; and in the UK by Gerard Duveen (2008), who discussed this matter with respect to different communication genres, and by Martin Bauer and George Gaskell (2008) in their studies of group relations and common sense.

26Despite Moscovici’s claim that the only link between the theory of social representations and minorities’ innovation is behavioural style, there is a principal epistemological and conceptual unity between Moscovici’s two grand theories. Throughout his whole career Serge Moscovici’s theoretical points of departure were the concepts of interaction and communication. Interaction or better interdependence between the Ego (the minority, the Self, the individual, the group) and the Alter (the majority, others, groups, society) was Moscovici’s ontological stance in his struggle to answer his life-long question: what does it mean to be the individual and the society? He adopted this ontological stance both in the theory of social representations and in minorities’ influence (Moscovici, 1972a, 1984). Moreover, the interdependence between the Ego and Alter (or minorities and majorities) always concerns something, that is, an Object. As Serge Moscovici states: “The triangular model calls into question the dualism. The emphasis is on relationships, on interaction… Introducing the third aspect into this is different. What matters is the relation and interaction” (Moscovici, 2005a: 22).

27He emphasised (ibid.: 17) that in social psychology there has been too much emphasis on the dual relationship between the knower and the objects or things to be known, but not on processes. For example, for Fritz Heider (1958: 1) a person is “the basic unit to be investigated”. And although Heider is concerned with interpersonal relations, he studies these from the perspective of a single person. One person perceives another person and is aware of being perceived by the other, and therefore, feels restricted by the look of the other (see also Sartre, 1958). But such two individuals are in a dual relation: each of them knows that he/she is perceived by the other. Since according to Heider the unit of analysis is a single person and not a dyad, we learn about perception of each person separately, but not about the process of this mutual interdependence. This kind of duality Heider projects into the perception of objects: perception is the relation between the individual and object. In contrast, Moscovici’s idea of triangularity constitutes the fundamental epistemological and conceptual unit both in the theory of social representations and in the theory of innovation. It defines both theories in terms of the relations between the Ego-Alter-Object, although triangularity displays some differences in the two theories. Laboratory studies of minority and majority influence are based on internal interaction and mutual transformation of beliefs or perceptions due to consistent behavioural styles. In these studies, the Object of influence remains in the background. Instead, it is the interaction (influence processes) between the Ego and Alter that is foregrounded. In contrast, in the theory of social representations, these internal relations are more fluid. Thus, it could be the Object of knowledge that is in the foreground, while relations between the Ego and Alter could be in the background. In such a case, social representing is largely formed on the basis of education. Alternatively, the relations between the Ego and Alter could be foregrounded and representing would be based on beliefs or trust of the Other. In contrast to laboratory studies that take place in here-and-now situations, the theory of social representations is embedded in sociocultural and historical contexts.

Nomic and anomic minorities and majorities

28Although the book on Social Influence and Social Change is empirically based on laboratory experiments, theoretically, Moscovici’s ideas on minorities refer to broader sociocultural environments and to formal and informal social systems. Since interaction and agency were his basic concepts in studies of minorities’ innovation, he classified both minorities and majorities into nomic and anomic, depending on their adaptation to norms of the societal system: “Adaptation to the system and environment by individuals and groups is only the counterpart of adaptation to individuals and groups by the system and the environment” (Moscovici, 1976: 4). This thesis expresses mutual interdependence between minorities and majorities and it is particularly relevant and visible in the societal context.

29Nomic minorities are committed to their cases and they struggle for their social recognition. They create and maintain conflict; they change the system by their active stance, expressed as their opposition to the large social system. In contrast, anomic minorities passively accept their status of discrimination and persecution without opposing their inferior status. Equally, Moscovici claims that majorities can be nomic when they internalise norms and common rules and enthusiastically accept the system, e.g. churches or political parties. On the other hand, anomic majorities passively accept the system without rebelling against it, such as silent masses and anonymous and lonely crowds that kept the Communist regime in power. As noted above, the regime did not require masses to internalise its norms and rules, but it only requires them to pretend that they internalise them. Both kinds of majorities, nomic and anomic, suppress conflict. They boost up the status quo. Acceptance and rejection of the system are not accidental phenomena. They are products of history, culture, and of the organisation of the system which allows “encroaching and evading control” (ibid.). These issues clearly refer both to the theory of social representations and to minorities’ innovation.

30I suggest that Serge Moscovici was implicitly aware of the theoretical and methodological gap between laboratory and real-life studies of minorities’ innovation. Nevertheless, in the final paragraph of his book on Social Influence and Social Change, he admits that “no new set of experimental designs have been developed in this book; but a new methodology must certainly be created. A model alone, notwithstanding the effect required in elaborating it, cannot lead very far. It may guide research in directions that could be interesting, raise questions, and outline answers. But it gives no conditions in which a particular effect will occur, offers no detailed predictions, and does not even offer rigorously defined concepts. Only if theories spring from the model can these gaps be filled and the fruitfulness of the model demonstrated” (ibid.: 223).

31Moscovici’s followers have not created any new set of experimental designs, neither have they developed a new methodology. Instead, they continue testing hypotheses involving single dependent and independent variables amenable to statistical analyses. Throughout his further career, Serge Moscovici became increasingly critical of the fact that experimental social psychology defined itself by its method based on hypotheses testing rather than by phenomena to be discovered (Moscovici, 1992b; Moscovici and Marková, 2006). Without any explicit acknowledgement of that, Moscovici’s research on minorities became gradually conceptualised more and more in relation to social representations as he got involved in the studies of racism and ethnic minorities. Different minorities are interrelated with different sociohistorical contexts and therefore with different social representations. Since 1990s, important societal changes took place concerning the relations between minorities and majorities. A new concept appeared in politics and social sciences: anomic minorities were relabelled as victims. Victimisation of minorities in the past, such as slavery, discrimination of ethnic groups, and extermination of Indians, of Jews and of many other minorities became officially acknowledged by governments, churches and institutions. The recognition of victimisation was part of the growing struggle of oppressed and discriminated minorities for human rights. On the part of majorities, this recognition was accompanied by the admission of social culpability, guilt and shame for the past atrocities.

32These new societal phenomena induced Moscovici to further develop the theory of minority innovation, to broaden it with respect to focusing on different kinds of minorities and to take into consideration social values and the evolution of cultural ethics (Moscovici, 2005b). Together with his collaborators, Moscovici explored in the laboratory some features of gypsies as victims (Moscovici and Pérez, 2007; Pérez, Moscovici and Chulvi, 2007), but it was clear to him that proper understanding of victimisation required a deep anthropological understanding provided by the theory of social representations. The study of victims enabled him to further develop the theory of minorities and majorities. Active minorities and minorities as victims differ in terms of actions and their effect on majorities. Active minorities provoke an external conflict with majorities. They refuse to accept norms and beliefs of majorities and they induce latent conversion rather than overt influence. They form conditions for social change, for an alternative way of dealing with societal problems as discussed above with respect to political dissidents. In contrast, anomic minorities as victims create an internal conflict within majorities, but they do not create a conflict with the majority. The internal conflict within majorities expresses itself as guilt with respect to beliefs, prejudice and invoked actions: it creates conflicts within and between social representations of majorities.

33These societal dynamics and changes lead to practical questions about the ways in which Moscovici’s analyses of dissidents, of active and passive minorities and majorities in relation to social representations could be further pursued along ethical and legal roads in their historical and cultural contexts.


34Since the time Serge Moscovici had worked out both his social psychological theories, the social, political and psychological conditions have dramatically changed. Dissidents in China, India, in the United States and elsewhere in the world carry out their activities under different conditions than those in the post-Stalinist regime. For example, while during the Cold War, it was the political circumstances that determined the success and failure of dissidents, today, it is the market and financial interests that prevail over ethical, intellectual and even political issues. These interests dictate whether human rights and dissidence are relevant in the competition for the financial and market dominance. And of course, this also applies to universities, health services and to all traditional institutions that, in the past, were guided by loyalty and by moral values. Pertinent examples of an increasing pressure on dissident voices are recent requests from the Chinese censors to remove articles with ‘sensitive’ contents from journals published by the Cambridge University Press such as Journal of Asian Studies and China Quarterly. These respected academic journals were requested to remove from website articles about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Tibet, and Tiananmen Square in 1989, among many others. Cambridge University Press backed down to Chinese censorship since China is now a strong financial and economic power, although with a very poor record of human rights. Only strong protests from academics all over the world including China led to reinstating these articles.

35Such issues form new challenges for social psychology that builds on Moscovici’s interactional epistemology. They raise questions about the ways in which his analyses of dissidents, of minority innovation and of social representations should be further developed in order to respond to the contemporary and rapidly changing world. This is why it is important to re-analyse the links between Moscovici’s two theories and re-evaluate as well as propose new concepts within his epistemology.


(université de Stirling, Écosse)

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