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Hist Psychol. 2013 May;16(2):112-29. doi: 10.1037/a0030534. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Science in a communist country: The case of the XXIInd International Congress of Psychology in Leipzig (1980).

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  • 1Department of Psychology.


The XXIInd International Congress of Psychology (ICP) in Leipzig in 1980 is a case that illustrates the mutual relationship between science and politics, specifically of the role of science in a communist state. We focus first on the situation of the discipline of psychology within the (East) German Democratic Republic (GDR). Second, we provide a detailed description of the interactions between the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPS) and the communist regime of the GDR. The Psychological Association of the GDR was commissioned by the IUPS to organize the congress. The Communist Party, being an omnipresent authority in the state, both supported and tried to manipulate the Leipzig conference for its political goals. Based on archival materials and on recent reports, we reconstruct three positions: From their ideological position, the GDR expected the conference to improve their standing in international politics and to serve as a platform for promoting communist doctrines; from a pragmatic position, the IUPS sought to guarantee free access to the conference and political neutrality of the scientific program; from a humanistic position, no support should be given to a totalitarian system accused of human rights violations. We compare the formal organization as implemented by the Communist Party for ideological purposes with the informal organizational structure, which operated toward pragmatic solutions. Finally, we discuss the compromises between the IUPS and the communist authorities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

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