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Tetrasociology’s prospects from the viewpoint of political psychology. Alexander Yuriev, Russia

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2.3. Tetrasociology’s prospects from the viewpoint of political psychology

Alexander Yuriev, Russia

This study examines tetrasociology's prospects from the standpoint of political psychology theory. Even an at-a-glance comparison between the Russian political psychology and tetrasociology (Semashko, 2002) shows a significant similarity between its theoretical underpinnings. Importantly, the two disciplines emerged in Russia independently from, and have had no influence o­n, each other. This fact is interesting in itself as a manifestation of the trend in Russian science to explore events systemically. And this trend is visible not o­nly in the study of human social behavior, but in natural science as well. For instance, chemistry has Mendeleev's periodic table of the elements, physiology, Pavlov's theory of higher neural activity, etc. It is likely that the systemic school created by the Russian researchers studying individuals and society will get the same kind of international recognition as the works of the chemist Mendeleev and the physiologist Pavlov. Especially since Russia's track record of socio-political cataclysms is almost without precedent in the world. Obviously, Russia provides such a wealth of study material for psychologists and sociologists, and the material is so diverse, that it can't be properly grasped and described without a systemic method.

For the analysis and evaluation of tetrasociology's key findings, the basic theses of political psychology theory, which are laid out in detail in our works (Yuriev, 1987, 1992, 2002) have been used. The subject of political psychology is bilateral interaction of political phenomena (war and peace, the conquest of space and workers' strikes, etc.) and psychological phenomena (political thinking, will, perception, etc.), woven into the global network of social and biological factors. Political psychology studies the "political" person, who acquires power in the process of social interaction. In politics and political psychology, the essential factor is the social system, whose societal life-support resources, processes, structures and states are explored by sociology. o­nly historical forms of political behavior and political psychology get changed in social space-time, while its psychological content does not. Political psychology can be adequately understood o­nly through a systemic approach, which we interpret as the system of categories: "individual, subject, personality, individuality," and this system, in turn, parallels the system of notions: "political activity, political efforts, political work, and political operation." All this, taken together, forms what is called a person's political behavior.

Political psychology rests o­n the foundation of certain premises borrowed from biology, psychology, sociology, and political science. Political psychology sees individuals possessing such inalienable, mutually mediating qualities, properties, and resources as biologism, psychologism, sociality, and politicality. o­n the basis of psycho-political phenomena of individuals' political behavior, psycho-political phenomena get formed: socio-political movements, parties, and other mass phenomena.

The search for an instrument for systematizing diverse continua of political phenomena and political thought has led to the application of Masters (1977: 69-110) four-dimensional model, within four dimensions and extremes of which the totality of the diverse "field" of political theory can be accommodated. Independently of Masters, St.Petersburg state university professor Ganzen (1974) developed a similar four-dimensional model, based o­n the principles of harmony. At the foundation of Ganzen's model lies four philosophical bases, - space, time, information, energy, - out of which a desire for harmony emerges. In Russian political psychology, systemic analysis rests o­n four-dimensional (tetrary) basic models/matrices of Masters and Ganzen, which are kindred and which supplement each other. o­n the basis of combinations of Masters' and Ganzen's four-dimensional matrices, we, o­n the o­ne hand, construct a classification of socio-political movements, and o­n the other, theorize four basic psychological categories (the basic categories of political psychology): subject, individual, personality, individuality, depending o­n what traits in a person's behavior are prevalent. These categories reflect the principle correlation of political phenomena and psychological phenomena in political psychology.

In accordance with the Masters/Ganzen models, political psychology posits four types of understanding: retrieval of destroyed information, reproduction of preceding information, anticipation of posterior information, and realization of presented information. Three criteria - emotional, empirical, and logical - get superimposed over each type of understanding, which creates a 12-dimensional psychological typology of understanding. This means that every political phenomenon has 12 types of understanding. Political psychology assumes that the structure of the human psyche determines the structure of a political subjects' activity. Ganzen's psychological scheme posits conscience as the psyche's supreme integrator, and factors it into attention and memory, which, in turn, are factored into perception, affect, will and thinking.

In political psychology, the structure of political activity corresponds to the individual's orientation of needs. Therefore, it's assumed that in this structure, political activity is determined by an individual's system of needs, which can be categorized in four groups, according to Knutson's scheme (Knutson. 1972). Orientational needs stand behind the political activity that serves these needs.

The above-mentioned models form the basis for the construction of models of the cycle of intellectual expansion in political activity (adequate and inadequate), of systemic-psychological analysis of political information, and of the influence of intellectual expansion o­n society's political stability, etc.

One of the most important hypotheses in political psychology posits parliamentary, and, generally, political, activity as o­ne of the most essential and indispensable types of socially useful and productive work, which has its object, product, resources, technologies, consumer and exchange values, a certain content and character, and the main productive force of which is people involved in politics. This hypothesis helps understand the mechanics of politics' functioning in society's organism, and also the four possible versions of society's political "split-up." Another conclusion to be drawn from this is that there are four types of individual's life space: physical, economic, legal, and informational; and they correspond with the types of psychological space: emotional, practical, motivational, and humanitarian states. The linkings between them create 16 types of psychological states, which political psychology studies, and which can be measured in different population groups.

Political psychology theory forms the basis for the foundations of psycho-political strategic planning, including the "Russian Project," and also contributes to new interpretations of political power in the era of globalization and network/informational society.

Such are the outlines of our vision of political psychology, from which standpoint we shall now discuss certain positive and negative aspects of tetrasociology.

One of tetrasociology's positive aspects is its multi-dimensionality, or, more precisely, four-dimensionality, which the Greek prefix "tetra" points to. Political psychology, in its basic Masters/Ganzen models and in the majority of its conclusions, is essentially four-dimensional too. The tetrar principle is the fundamental methodological principle in both theories, which makes them mutually complementary and creates a foundation for their constructive synthesis. What is noteworthy is that here we have different theories from different disciplines which have been developing independently from each other, and now there's a prospect for their interdisciplinary interaction and mutual enrichment. And the present circumstances seem to be as propitious as can be: political psychology needs a systemic multi-dimensional sociological platform, while sociology, if it is to go beyond purely technical sociological surveys o­n narrow topics of fleeting importance, needs a foothold in, and instruments of, psychology, in order to have an impact o­n real life. So the disciplines have a reciprocal interest in each other, and their union opens up unprecedented, "explosive" prospects for each. Thus, the parallels between political psychology and tetrasociology deserve a closer scrutiny: what are the advantages of each, and what are the drawbacks? It's a momentous question. We shall dwell o­n some aspects of it.

If political psychology posits four basic categories: space, time, information, energy, - tetrasociology elevates the first two categories to a level of high abstraction as "social space-time," which is identical with the social world and embraces all social phenomena. Similarly to physical space-time, social space-time is four-dimensional, but has specifically social dimensions (the axes of co-ordinates): resources, processes, structures, states. Of these, the first three are spatial dimensions (the axes of co-ordinates), while states are temporal o­nes. At the next, more specific level of abstraction, the premise is that there are four necessary and sufficient society resources: people, information, organization, things/energy. Thus, information and energy, which political psychology puts at o­ne level with space and time, are regarded in tetrasociology as constants of o­nly o­ne of the spatial dimensions (Semashko. 2002: 32-46).

Another aspect of tetrasociology, important for political psychology, is its fundamental "sphere" category, which is used for denoting the largest, eternal, necessary, and sufficient components both of society (spheres of social reproduction, social life, employment, etc.) and individuals. These spheres, which have different objects, products and technologies, are shared by society and individuals. Given that four groups of resources are necessary and sufficient for society and individuals: people, information, organization, things, - individuals and society are assumed to have four corresponding spheres of resource reproduction and four corresponding sphere groups of needs and abilities. Semashko, following Toffler, thus defines these spheres for society: sociosphere reproducing people, infosphere reproducing information, organisphere reproducing organizations, and technosphere reproducing things/energy. For individuals, these spheres are designated as character: reproducing people (including self), conscience: reproducing information (including self-awareness), will: reproducing organizations (including self-organization), and body: reproducing things/energy (including its own body/energy).  An individual's spheres are connected with society's spheres through corresponding needs (inlets) and abilities (outlets): humanitarian, informational, organizational, material/energetic.

Depending o­n their main reproductive employment, all populations can be categorized into four sphere classes, which doesn't preclude changes of their employment or class affiliation dimensions (Semashko. 2002: 53-77). Though the terminology may seem to raise questions, the system of individual's and society's spheres, and of sphere employment and sphere classes, opens up unprecedented opportunities for political psychology. Based o­n this, we can theorize spheres in politics, political employment spheres, social political psychology spheres, individual political psychology spheres, sphere classes in psychology, etc.

One of tetrasociology's key notions is that of social harmony, which is the highest but unattainable measure of equilibrium, balance and proportionality to which spheres and sphere classes aspire. Spheres and sphere classes function in accordance with the innate rule of harmony, which counteracts the rule of disharmony in branches and branch-based, antagonistic classes. Similarly to this, in political psychology there is an equally perennial desire for psychological harmony at the level of political individuals and political society, and efforts are made to overcome branch-based psychic disharmony, which destroys or warps individual and social psychology. As we see it, tetrasociology theory's author deserves credit for discovering fundamental elements of social and psychological harmony in society's and individual's spheres, and in sphere classes, sphere needs, and sphere abilities. Whereas previous discussions of harmony usually didn't touch o­n the key issue of harmony components ("WHAT is it that's able to harmonize?"), tetrasociology brings this issue forward. So, the problem of social-psychological harmony, no longer utopian, becomes solvable in practical ways, albeit in the very long run. The world and individuals aren't ready yet for systemic advancement toward harmony, because we are still an industrial society, branch-based. However, we are gradually becoming network-based and sphere oriented, approaching a boundary beyond which a harmonious world is inevitable, having created many pre-conditions for harmony.

For political psychology, tetrasociology's thesis about a natural transition from branch-based to sphere, or "tetra," democracy (Semashko. 2002: 80-89, 123-125) is very important. The essence of this democracy is that its social basis is formed not by branch classes, traditional for industrial society, but sphere classes of the network society of the globalization era. Their essence lies not in property, but in employment. These new classes, due to their equal importance and their desire for harmony, create a new democratic state, where all sphere classes are equally represented in all branches of government. Global spheres and sphere classes make sphere democracy global, eliminating many drawbacks of traditional democracy. Certainly, this tetrasociological hypothesis can be viewed as somewhat utopian, too. Yes, sphere democracy today is utopian, but will it not become a necessity and reality in 10-20-30 years? Every new technology began with utopian visions: television, airplane, computer, etc. For political psychology, the ideas of social-political harmony and global sphere democracy are examples of very forward-looking, strategic, systemic political thinking, examples of which, unfortunately, are almost totally missing from our lives.

From a political psychology viewpoint, tetrasociology also has many weaknesses. We'll discuss what we see as the major o­nes.

First: it seems very strange to us that a theory having harmony as its supreme social-psychological ideal doesn't supply a detailed historical and logical description, as, for example, was done by Ganzen. (Ganzen's harmony theory can be added to tetrasociology's research tools, without any detriment to tetrasociology's content.) Certainly, the problem of harmony is very complex and needs a detailed exploration, whereas the author has set for himself a task of providing o­nly "the most general" outline of his theory. However, the definition of social harmony as "equilibrium, proportion, balance" of spheres, sphere classes and sphere employment that Semashko provides in his book is obviously insufficient, and needs a more in-depth elaboration. In particular, the principles of harmony discovered by Ganzen can be applied - they fit very well into tetrasociology's society's and individual's spheres. We hope that the author will first of all try to do this.

Second: tetrasociology brings forward sphere classes as the key notion, positing them as the main producer (agent!) of social harmony. While proposing a satisfactory criterion of differentiation between the classes - sphere employment (i.e., an individual's main employment in o­ne of the four social reproduction spheres), the author doesn't provide a convincing and detailed explanation of the mechanisms of class formation. What remains unaccounted for is the transformation (and even the possibility thereof) from a class "in itself," as a mechanical aggregate of professional (or non-professional) branch-based groups employed in a certain sphere, into a new community of the "sphere class." The author realizes that processes of self-identification, class self-awareness, and self-organization are at work, here, but he says nothing of their content and specifics at the beginning of the new century. Obviously, these processes are totally or nearly totally different from those occurring at the beginning of the 20th and 19th centuries in the West and in Russia. There and then, totally different, proprietor/proletarian classes were taking shape, while here and now, the author speaks of the formation of radically different classes. Whatever it is, this is a cardinally new and extremely complex question. It has been formulated. But there's no satisfactory scientific answer to it, and, in our opinion, an answer cannot be found within the confines of sociology, alone, without an application of political psychology, because this question is, first of all, a psychological o­ne. Tetrasociology deserves credit for having approached political psychology, but it would have done better had it not stopped at the threshold. The opportunities offered by both theories should be synthetized in order to tackle the fundamental problem of the formation of new classes in the new era, which may lead to a major breakthrough in the whole system of social science in the 21st century.

Third: Semashko's work's obvious weakness, and the o­ne he himself admits to, is that, except for the enumeration of Russia's population in sphere classes, there is practically no empirical data. It's obvious that the large-scale, empirical research effort that tetrasociology requires, based o­n its new methodology and new statistical indices, is effort-consuming, and requires significant financial backing. The author is aware of, and stresses, this weakness in order to find the financing needed. But, alas, he's not the o­nly scholar who is searching for funding.

To conclude our dialog, in our opinion, these and other weaknesses of Semashko's work do not detract from his major accomplishments - recognizing and responding to new, fundamental, social-psychological problems in ways that open up cardinally new theoretical, practical, and also political prospects. This inspires and strengthens o­ne's belief in social science, and provides guidelines for young researchers. The author, himself, emphasises that his book does little more than formulate new problems. However, as o­ne is well aware, good formulation of a question contains half the answer.


Ganzen, V. (1974).  Perception of Whole Objects. Leningrad University. (Russian)

Knutson, J. (1972). The Human Basis of the Polity: a Psychological Study of Political Men. Chicago

Masters, R. (1977). "Human Nature and Political Thought," in Human Nature in Politics. New York.

Semashko, L. (2002). Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges. St. Petersburg: Technical University.  

Yuriev, Alexander. (1992). Introduction to Political Psychology. St. Petersburg University (Russian)

______________. (2002). “Russian Project: Claims o­n the Future”, in Bulletin of Political Psychology. # 2 (Russian)

______________. (2002). "Globalization as the New Form of Political Power, Changing Man and the World Order," in Russia: planetary processes. St. Petersburg University (Russian)

Alexander Yuriev, Doctor of Psychological Sciences, Professor, Chair of Department of Political Psychology, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia

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