Emotions and psychological development as political, civilized, cultural phenomena

The paradox of civilization is that it develops the most sophisticated social and psychological (mental) capacities which are often utilized in the most destructive manners. The anatomy of human destructiveness, as Fromm called it, is a civilized phenomenon, not an animalistic one. Civilization makes us the highest form of life and also the lowest (in terms of our unsurpassed destructiveness toward our own species and toward the ecological conditions that sustain all species including our own).
This seminar discusses human emotions and psychological development in these paradoxical terms. I shall draw upon socio-cultural psychology and macro cultural psychology to explain how emotions and psychological development are thoroughly civilized, cultural phenomena (different from animal analogues), and how this subjects them to the contradictions of human society.
I shall discuss culture theory that demonstrates culture is political; and I shall provide examples of how civilized emotions and psychological development are formed by, reflect, and promulgate cultural politics — which are often destructive to humans and nature.
This cultural-psychological approach has fruitful scientific and political implications. It shows psychology (psychological phenomena) and Psychology (psychological science) to be part of “A web of microscopic, capillary political power that had to be established at the level of man’s very existence, attaching men to the production apparatus, while making them into agents of production” as Foucault (1994, p. 86) said. This psychological perspective illuminates broad cultural politics, which subjects them to assessment and improvement. It takes us to “The real political task in a society such as ours [which] is to criticize the working of institutions which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight them” (Foucault, 2006, p. 37, 41).