Voelklein, Corina and Howarth, Caroline
A review of controversies about social representations theory: a British debate.
Culture and Psychology, 11
Since its inception more than forty years ago, social representations theory has been subjected to several criticisms, particularly within British discursive psychology. This paper reviews four major controversies that lie in the areas of (a) theoretical ambiguities, (b) social determinism, (c) cognitive reductionism and (d) lack of a critical agenda. A detailed discussion and evaluation of these criticisms reveals that while some can be regarded as misinterpretations, others need to be treated as serious and constructive suggestions for extending and refining the current theoretical framework. The main argument underlying this review is that many of the criticisms are based on the difficulty in understanding and integrating the complex, dynamic and dialectical relationship between individual agency and social structure that forms the core of social representations theory. Engaging with the critics is thus thought to provide clarification and to initiate critical dialogue, which is seen as crucial for theoretical development.
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