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Volume 55, Number 1 Winter 2022
Edited by Douglas Perkins, Vanderbilt University and Olga Oliveira Chuna, NOVA University
Written by Liping Yang, Jiamin Chen, and Mengge Tan, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, China; and Houchao Lyu, Southwest University and the China Community Psychology Service and Research Center, Chongqing, China
In June 2021, People's Education Press (a large-scale professional publishing house affiliated with the Ministry of Education of China) published a textbook entitled Introduction to Community Psychology (ICP), edited by Professor Xiting Huang, a senior professor at Southwest University in Chongqing, China. Prof. Huang was vice-chair of the Chinese Psychological Association and a pioneer of the construction of community psychology in China. Twenty community psychologists from 16 universities, including Peking University, Beijing Normal University, Southwest University and Nanjing Normal University, participated in the compilation. This team is now the backbone force in community psychology in the Chinese mainland. Previously, Chinese community psychologists have translated and compiled several community psychology textbooks, such as Community Psychology Linking Individuals and Communities (Dalton, Elias & Wandersman) translated by Guangxin Wang (2010), Community Psychology compiled by Shixiang Liu (2013) of Beijing Union University but based on Western community psychology conceptions, and Principles of Community Psychology: Perspectives and Applications (Levine, Perkins & Perkins) translated by Liping Yang (2018). Nevertheless, there has been a lack of original textbooks in community psychology with Chinese cultural characteristics. The publication of ICP is considered to fill this gap, which is a milestone in the developmental history of community psychology in China.
ICP includes five parts, namely: the introduction and research methods of community psychology (Chapters 1 and 2), community climate and values (Chapters 3 to 8), subgroups in community (Chapter 9 to 12), applied psychology in the community (Chapter 13 to 17), and future trends in community psychology (Chapter 18).
ICP initially created the theoretical framework of Chinese indigenous community psychology
After 1908, 81 students going to the United States funded by the Gengzi (Boxer) Indemnity chose education or psychology as their major (Ye & Yang, 2021, pp. 428-429). After they accomplished their studies and returned to China,they created Chinese psychology. In the 1950s, with the changes in international relations after the war, China began to learn from the former Soviet Union and committed itself to establishing and developing Marxist philosophy and psychology. After China's reform and opening up in 1979, many Chinese students went to study in the United States. Since then, Chinese psychology has gradually attempted to align itself with Western psychology. Now, Psychology and Life by Richard Gerrig and Philip Zimbardo and Social Psychology by David Myers are used as textbooks in many Chinese universities, and some Chinese professors even choose their English versions as textbooks.
At the beginning of the compilation of ICP, editors are confronted with three possible paths. The first is to borrow the "shell” (frame construction) of Western community psychology and add the content and context of Chinese communities into it. The second is to organize and compile the textbook based on reality, using the actual problems of current Chinese communities as clues. The third is to create a compound and complementary framework by integrating top-down theoretical thinking with bottom-up community practice in accordance with the academic progress and application practice of community psychology in China.
Each of the three paths has their respective advantages and disadvantages (Huang, 2021, Preface p. 2). The first path, based on abundant Western psychological research and practice results, is relatively easy for editors to write, however it cannot exhibit the true ecology of Chinese communities. Moreover, this path aims to measure and evaluate Chinese communities on the basis of Western theories, values and practices, so it can not generate the authentic "Chinese community psychology." The second path starts from the actual problems that need to be addressed urgently in Chinese communities, roots the research in practice, and frames the contents of this textbook with real issues. However, it is difficult to establish a theoretical framework in this way, and it may lead to scattered fragmentation of the content. The third path proceeds from the actual needs of building Chinese community psychology, dares to be pioneering, and strives to create a discourse system of community psychology with Chinese characteristics, to meet the dual needs of theoretical innovation and development of practice. The editors finally chose the third path, which is to find the genetic code of traditional Chinese culture—learning from both the real problems faced by community workers and the achievements and experience of Western community psychology-- but realizing the theoretical innovation of Chinese community psychology and fully embodying Mao Zedong's philosophy of "starting from reality and seeking truth from facts," and implementing the practical orientation of serving community.
The contents of chapter 1 and Chapter 2 in ICP are the introduction and research methods of community psychology. Chapters 3 to 8 focus on the theoretical innovation. Among them, Chapter 3 focuses on community climate. Building a good community social atmosphere requires positive value guidance, thus from chapters 4 to 8 community values are discussed. Based on the "Five Virtues" of Chinese Confucian traditional culture, the authors construct the five Chinese community values of Benevolence, Righteousness, Civilization, Harmony and Honesty, respectively. Benevolence is considered as a universal value. It not only refers to a neighborly (friendly and helping) community atmosphere toward others and the surrounding environment, but also refers to the psychological quality, or virtuous personality, of individual residents in the community, which is considered the foundation of maintaining good interpersonal relationships and interaction within the community. Righteousness is regarded as the ideal belief perspective of community residents and is composed of three parts: the cognition of social justice, the value orientation of righteousness over profit, and the spiritual will to sacrifice. Civilization is a specific law that deals with avoiding or settling conflicts between person and person, and between person and nature within the framework of modern law and morality on the basis of conforming to scientific laws. Harmony refers to the harmonious coordination, common prosperity and positive co-existence between individual body and mind, between people and people, as well as between people and nature. Honesty implies that community residents should always be consistent in heart, words and behaviors. ICP regards the Five Virtues which reflect Chinese traditional culture as the core values of the construction of community psychology and applies them to guide community residents in dealing with the relationship between body and mind, between people and people, as well as between people and the community environment. This completes the theoretical innovation of Chinese community psychology.
ICP adheres to practice orientation of serving community
While achieving theoretical innovation, ICP is committed to providing guidance for the practice of community service. Chapters 9 to 12 are studies on the psychology of various subgroups in the community. These include community cadres: people who take charge of management and service work in the community and are directly responsible for the community. They are also the concentrated expression of the will of the community and are representative of the community's interests. Community cadres are selected through a combination of self-recommendation, democratic elections, and government appointments. Other key community subgroups include the family, the harmony of ethnic relations in the multi-ethnic community, and the social interaction and psychological problems of members of virtual (online) communities. Chapters 13 to 15 provide practical guidance for community psychologists on how to provide professional services for solving various community psychological problems, including how to offer psychological counseling to community residents, how to prevent and resolve community conflicts, how to promote the health of elderly residents and prevent their disability, how to carry out community corrections for criminal offenders, how to promote the rehabilitation of addicts, and how to cope with community emergencies. By studying the practical problems in Chinese community and satisfying the psychological needs of residents, the authors of ICP attempt to establish a community psychological service system with Chinese characteristics.
Although ICP aims to meet the needs of community residents in the context of Chinese community culture, many of its problems have cross-cultural significance in countries around the world, such as the service for the elderly and vulnerable groups with the advent of an aging society, various crimes and drug problems in the community, conflict resolution and harmonious coexistence among residents of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, as well as various virtual community issues with the growth of social networks. The research on these problems is of worldwide significance, and community psychologists in different countries have their own solutions. In the future, Chinese community psychologists are expected to carry out cooperative research with colleagues to address these issues.
Viewing the Future Development of Chinese Community Psychology from ICP
ICP provides a window for the international community to observe and understand the current development of Chinese community psychology. It inherits the traditional culture of the Chinese nation, focuses on the reality of the Chinese community, and pays attention to theoretical innovations. Meanwhile, Chinese community psychology adheres to the purpose of serving community practice. It constructs a community psychology theory and practice system with Chinese characteristics while critically learning and absorbing the research results of Western community psychology. These practices have provided learning experiences for the independent construction of indigenous community psychologies in other developing countries.
As an initial establishment of the framework and system of Chinese community psychology, there are still some remaining issues to be solved in ICP. These issues include: first, to gradually improve the theory of community psychology with Chinese characteristics. The five community values based on traditional Confucian culture need to be further studied from the perspective of community psychology in order to promote the community residents' recognition of the "Five Virtues," internalize them deeply into personality characteristics, and develop them into the community climate and people's firm beliefs. So how to integrate the "Five Virtues" into an organic whole is a topic that needs further research. Second, in guiding the practice of communities, two areas need to be focused on, namely, the construction of harmonious communities and smart communities. Some important community subgroups will be included in the research that is needed, such as urban new immigrant groups, new socialist countryside communities, and some marginalized people (the poor, the unemployed, and people with chronic diseases) in many communities, and others. It is necessary to establish a screening and tracking mechanism for key groups, provide psychological counseling, crisis early warning, and intervention. Thirdly, as innovative teaching material for community psychology in Chinese mainland, ICP has been used in many colleges and universities since its publication, which will attract more students to community psychology and promote development and innovation in this field. In fact, revision plans for the ICP is already in the making. There are two Chinese common sayings, one is "Everything is difficult at the beginning" and the other is "There is no turning the arrow back when you release the bowstring". ICP played an important role in laying the foundation for the development of Chinese community psychology. In the words of the editor-in-chief Professor Huang, “We just want to do something to promote the development of Chinese communities, so that the results of psychology research can benefit thousands of families in the community.” What he said expresses the wishes of all Chinese community psychologists.
In brief, ICP represents the Chinese experience of community psychology development, and it is a unique contribution to the international community psychology family. As a window for international community psychologists to learn about the current development status of Chinese community psychology, ICP has a predictive and leading role in the future development of Chinese community psychology. The publication of ICP indicates that Chinese community psychology will soon enter a period of vigorous development.
This research is supported by Jiangsu Provincial Social Science Foundation, China (19SHB007). Correspondence: Liping Yang, Professor of Psychology, Nanjing Normal University, Email: email@example.com.
Huang, X. (Ed.)(2021). Introduction to Community Psychology. Beijing: People's Education Press.
Ye, H.S. & Yang, L. (2021) History of Psychology (2nd Edition), Shanghai: East China Normal University Press.