Re: mailbase dialogue

Hemant Desai (
Thu, 28 Jul 1994 23:24:13 -0500 (CDT)

Dear Suzanne:

You are appreciated too. In fact, one of the reasons I was glad
I made it to Indy was meeting with students like you, David Nightingale,
Adrian Fox, Brad Kelly, & James Grice, though some others I didn't get to
visit with much this time. One point could be made, the top-heaviness
of the NAPCN meet...

For example, out of 73 attendees, only 15 did not have PhDs.
This is in contrast to other conferences I've been to where there are
more students. To me, the spread of personal construct psychology is just
as important as networking among a circle of enthusiasts. The mention
that is made about pcp being a semi-closed community may be somewhat
applicable, however, (IMHO), PCP IS NOT A CULT! It is a group of
specialists, perhaps, pursuing a line/s of work stemming from an
unusually rich and useful work (kelly, 1955).

A portion of my masters degree in sociology was done looking at
cults comparatively across cultures. Cults have features which can
not be found in the pcp/pct movement. The central feature of a cult is
the adherence to dogma and ritual. Even if Kelly's work was
interpreted literally and applied secretively, which it is not, it
could not be called authoritarian or anarchic. Having met
with some of the N. Am. pcp folks, I would say they are warm, friendly
people who do not qualify as adherents of some weird commune/religion.

Examples of cults that I've studied are the Hare Krishnas, the
Children of God, and Scientology. And pcp is nothing like them in any
way since it based on work by a well respected psychologist and not a
David Koresh-like persona. So my verdict, for what its worth: PCP is
a vital movement which by definition (constructive alternativism) is
open to new ideas and dialogue [some might call it debate!].

But, indeed, it does need to be reflexive; focus on expanding its axioms
and applicability; elaborate its scope without sacrficing metatheoretical
focus; integrate the incredible work done in its name over a generation,
and encourage newcomers as well as those who haven't heard of it yet.

Hemant Desai

P.S. Suzanne, don't worry about me taking any of the debate personally,
especially from you. You're a lovely person and add so much to what's
happening in this forum. I think a lot of nice things do appear if we are
open to constructive (pardon the pun) criticism. hd


> Dear Hemant,
> I hope my remarks on the mailbase today didn't feel like I was criticising you
> personally - I can't tell you how much I admire what Rue characterized as the
> kind of guts Kelly had. You ask the tough questions and the major figures in
> PCP answer them - which benefits us all. Here's my deal, and feel free to
> share with the mailbase any or all of this... First, I find that intonation,
> pauses, body language, etc. can be better indicators of superordinant
> constructs than any analysis I've ever performed. When people are invested in
> something they manifest it in many ways, some of which aren't revealed in the
> grid or written story. My second point is tied up in Ken Ford's concern that
> we're a cult. See if you can follow me here. The last time Robert Merton
> addressed ASA, he seemed bemused that he could apply Obliteration by
> Incorporation to his focussed interview technique - folks in sociology were
> discovering this great tool in marketing and not citing him and Paul L.
> (don't know the right spelling, but you know who I'm talking about.) Well, I'm
> not bemused when I'm asked to do a "Focus Group" by people who wouldn't know
> intersubjective "reality" if it kicked them in the butt, and I take great
> offense at those who use this exquisite technique to sink to the lowest common
> denomonator of survey and ethnographic methods. So, here's my political
> concern, if you will - what risk is there of people abusing Kelly's theory and
> methods if we've got macgrids and macstories and neither of them requires any
> understanding of the ontological and epistemological underpinnings?
> Yeah, I think I do better work when I have to take paper and pencil to the
> task, but I think there's something more - if you think I'm nuts, believe me,
> Hemant, I'll appreciate your views. An alternative to the question you
> presented would be having your students do their own analyses - I'd be
> delighted towork with you on this. Take care and know you're really
> appreciated -
> Suzanne