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Outlining Critical Psychology of Work in Latin America

Hernn Camilo Pulido Martnez

Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

This paper outlines some of the approaches that are constructing a critical psychology of work, in, for and from
Latin America. These approaches reveal that there is not just one body of knowledge in the region; on the
contrary, there are multiple conceptual frameworks and tools used to consider the local-global world of work.
This wide range of possibilities indicates the variety of appropriations, and hybridisations of knowledge which
are available in Latin America for researching, teaching and intervention in critical psychology of work. The
non-exhaustive examination of some of the main trends in academic production serves as an invitation for those
interested in furthering these perspectives. The studies that were examined can be grouped in three categories.
The first group of studies, in varied ways, points to geopolitics of knowledge about psychological objects. The
second group considers the problems of importation of psycho-technology to be applied in working conditions
for which they were not specifically designed, and the last group brings the category work to the centre of
Keywords: Work: Critical psychology of work, Geopolitics of psychology, Critical Psychology, Work

It is well known that psychology found a way for its expansion around the world by its
applications to work environments. It is an undeniable fact that the transplantation of
psychological jargons and strategies represented a silk road for the international
dissemination of psychology in many countries (Blowers & Turtle, 1987). The expansion of
psychology in countries where this knowledge is not produced but merely applied is much
celebrated by some local psychologists who praise the outcomes of its application. These
celebrations very often bring about mimetic processes in which the replica of psychology is
translated as the best way for the administration of business. That is to say, the application
of psychology in an acritical way implies modernization, well-being and progress (PulidoMartinez, 2008). As pointed out by Gonzlez-Rey (2004), this rationale is typical of a
colonized way of thinking. It allows psychologists to be satisfied with being loyal followers
of established psychological tendencies, rather than being producers of their own
psychological thought. Consequently, in Latin America it is easy to find that being a
politically correct psychologist is often associated with replication of psychological precepts,
observation of disciplinary boundaries, and disapproval of any critical and autochthonous
ways of thinking and solving problems. So, psychologists identities are linked to foreign
traditions whereby they are more concerned with the presupposed efficiency that their
interventions may bring about than with an open debate as regards the political implications
of their actions.
This situation, when considered in the light of geopolitics of psychology (Molinari, 2004),
implies that Latin America until recently has been no more than a terrain to be conquered by
Critical Psychology in Changing World


the universal psychological enterprise (Moghaddam, 1987; Castaeda & Sanchez, 1978).
Nevertheless, for some decades, this situation has been questioned by different scholars; but
these critiques have not had much resonance within the academic or professional
communities. Castaeda and Snchez (1978), for instance, argue that imported psychological
products are not pertinent for the Latin-American world of work. They maintain that work
psycho-technology was developed to solve particular problems of North Atlantic societies,
especially the US. Therefore, when psycho-technology is transferred to the Latin American
world of work it becomes irrelevant given that the local problems are very different. As a
consequence, it is possible to say that the psycho-technology accomplishes the function of
either hiding the local problems or subordinating them to the problems pertaining to the
foreign context for which it was originally designed (Castaeda & Sanchez, 1978). The
subordination effect occurs as if the working conditions and social relationships were the
same both at the place of application and at the place of production of such knowledge. In
other words, the psycho-technology becomes a vehicle for conducting interventions in the
periphery without any real understanding as regards the local logics of work settings. As
stated by Castaeda and Snchez (1978), when these psychological interventions are
implemented, they contribute to the perpetuation of intellectual dependency relationships
between centres of knowledge production and the local academic communities. Consequently,
the importation of psycho-technology contributes to techno-scientific domination which does
not allow detecting the necessity for a local and particular technology (Castaeda y Snchez,
This paper considers a series of proposals aiming to overcome the problems of the unreflexive
assimilation of psychology which invade many work settings and academic circles in Latin
America. It is not an attempt to exhaustively review the existing literature. The objective is
rather to outline some perspectives which are constructing a critical psychology of work, in,
for and from Latin America. Even though Latin American liberation psychologies have
gained a well-recognized place both in the society and within academia, critical perspectives
on work have not earned the same recognition. Until now the critical psychology of work
remains marginal under the shadow of American industrial and organizational psychology.
Furthermore, the fact that critical perspectives are dispersed throughout the continent with
little diffusion perpetuates their marginal status; as a consequence psychologists in Latin
America are not trained to understand and integrate this type of local knowledge. However
with the advent of new information technologies these obstacles may be overcome.
Critical gazes
Having a knowledge production which contemplates the problems of the world of work in, for
and from Latin America can be a crucial issue to overcome, especially considering the
colonial dimensions that the acritical expansion of psychology brings about. A local
production of psychology does not imply critical perspectives in action. All psychological
studies related to work have the intention of solving problems, but despite their intention, not
all of them can be located under the umbrella of what Walkerdine (2001) called critical
psychology. In this respect, it must be said that the local production on psychology in Latin
America, in most cases, perpetuates conventional knowledge models which do not formulate
different questions nor propose alternative conceptual tools (Santana-Crdenas, 2007). It is
also a fact that the regional knowledge production does not have the expected social effects
since articles and books written in the North Atlantic societies, especially in the US, are much
preferred than those produced by local authors (Santana-Crdenas, 2007).

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On the other hand, it should be noted that any critical psychological analyses of the world of
work are at risk of having the same fate as conventional psychology, because they can also be
automatically used for considering local phenomena under assumptions of universal
validity. In this sense, both conventional and critical psychologies assume that the expansion
of capitalism have the same nuances around the globe. Therefore, any local accounts
regarding the relationship between psychology and work could follow the same paths traced
by the North American and European societies. Some critical versions could thereby be
comprised within the following way of reasoning: here, as in any place, it is possible to see
what has been seen in the central countries (Caruso, 2003; Barrat, 2008).
For that reason, critical psychology should be vigilant in not leaving aside local questions in
order not to give prominence to foreign conceptual prescriptions as the correct way of
interpreting and criticizing. Opportunely, nowadays in Latin America an attitude of balance
is emerging which evaluates social, cultural and political implications of the processes of
expansion of psychology and weighs up the local uses of conventional and critical psychology
itself (Pulido-Martnez, Garca-lvarez, Carvajal-Marn and Gonzlez-Ortiz, forthcoming).
Geopolitics of psychological knowledge
In this perspective, a number of studies emerged indicating one of the paths taken by critical
psychology. This first group of studies, in varied ways, points to a geopolitics of knowledge
about psychological objects. These analyses are proposed as useful resources for dismantling
the supposed neutral and scientific power claimed by psychology and for questioning the
power relations that it entails. The analyses look at the long-lasting relationship between the
places in which psychology is produced, the North Atlantic societies, and Latin America
wherein psychology is basically just applied. The results show how the psychological way of
thinking contributes to bringing about international relations of subordination and
colonization. In this line, the role of psychology as regards the production of the modern
worker has been examined. That is, the role played by psychology in the constitution of the
employee as a central character of the salaried European societies and the production of its
other, the traditional worker, emblematic of the societies located in the South. This double
construction occurs in the midst of academic interchanges between psychologists in the North
and South. As a result of these apparently neutral academic transactions, there appears another
way of transforming developing countries. The traditional worker should disappear; his mind
should be transformed in order to achieving the desired progress of developing societies
located in the region (Pulido-Martnez, 2008; 2010). Studies also show how a kind of global
management is conveyed by the application of psychological knowledge. This happens when
problems related to both the international division of work and the historical economic
exploitation of Latin America are defined as problems of mentalities that are culturally and
spatially located in the South (Brock, 2006; Pulido-Martnez, 2010).
The question of the subordination of local knowledge and the conquest of workers identity
by the use of conventional psychological knowledge on the organization of work has been
considered by Ibarra-Colado (2006) who strongly criticizes the ways in which this knowledge
has been appropriated in the region. According to Ibarra-Colado (2006), in many Latin
American countries, translations of organizational technologies imply a naturalization of
such strategies. Consequently, organizational technologies became ready for being
indiscriminately applied in a different cultural environment. The proposal by Ibarra (2006, p.
464) seeks to decolonize organizational knowledge to confront the image of Latin America

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that was projected from the Centre with the authenticity of its own (native) practices and
ways of being.
From the Latin American locus of enunciation Salgado-Arteaga (2009) analyses the regional
critical production on organizational theories. In a discussion that encompasses the work of
Eduardo Ibarra-Colado, Fernando Guillermo Tenorio, Alberto Guerreiro Ramos and
Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, this study demonstrates how all these researchers
have contributed to the enterprise of elaborating conceptualizations pertinent to the Latin
America conditions. Salgado-Arteaga (2009) affirms that in these works it is possible to find a
constellation of conceptual elements indispensable for analysing the hybrid organizations
which have to perform their activities within the political (neo-liberal) frameworks of the
region. He also appeals to other Latin American researchers to conduct comparative studies
on knowledge production so that the local theoretical and empirical work can be
disseminated. This call is much relevant given the fact that many scholars interested in the
problems of work do not know these proposals, since the Latin American knowledge
production is only discussed in few academic settings and most of local conceptual
prescriptions and strategies remain unapplied. Moreover, the role of psychology in
developmentalism has been studied by Florez-Florez (2002) who describes the ways in which
conventional and Marxist psychological perspectives adopted the developmentalism
prescriptions, thus contributing to the construction of Latin American as underdeveloped in
a framework that reflects the role of psychology within modernity not as purely European, but
in relation to its manifestation in Latin America wherein developmentalism proposals were
acknowledged and psychology advanced acritically.
In general terms, these studies point to the fact that both the place and operations of
psychology ought to be considered from a local-global perspective. This means that
psychology has a peculiar place in Latin America and carries out some operations that go
beyond what is reported in cross cultural studies or in the universal accounts of the discipline.
Following claims that were formulated many years ago such as, those formulated by MartinBaro (1989), researchers are deliberating on the local political dimensions of the application
of psychology by using conceptual tools which situate this knowledge and determine its
practices in the region. Notwithstanding, these few studies demonstrate the need for
further research on the local application of psychology with regard to the characteristics of the
insertion of Latin America within the international context. In order to achieving this
objective, according to Crespo-Merlo (2010), the generic jargon' of psychological studies
ought to be put aside and researchers ought to discuss about the particularities of a region
which is characterized for not producing psychology but rather by coping it, replicating it and
applying it, even in critical perspectives.
Work Psycho-technology
Conventional work psychology is characterized by its emphasis on producing psychotechnologies for intervening in the world of work. However, it does not have the theoretical
tools for understanding the processes which occur in work settings beyond the pro-managerial
point of view (Baritz, 1960; Fernandez-Rios, 1995). Therefore, work psychology branches
such as industrial, occupational, organizational, ergonomics, organizational development,
organizational behaviour, coaching and neuro-linguistic programing, all focus on technical
aspects of the labour force administration in order to increase efficiency and productivity.
This technical issue locates psychologists in an ambivalent and subordinated position which,
according to Baritz (1960), only allow them to address questions formulated by managers.
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From this position, all psychological answers are acritical and apparently non-political, thus
psychologists become servants of power.
Conversely, the fact that psychologists are in a subordinated position does not imply that
psychological knowledge and strategies cannot be strategically used for critically intervening
in work settings. In Latin America, for instance, different quotidian situations impose
obstacles to social mobility wherein getting a job, being promoted and remaining hired are
strongly related to social class, race, gender, sexual orientation, physical appearance, and
social connections. In this context, if psychological interventions were appropriately carried
out, they could contribute in preserving liberal values. Therefore, merit, capacities, aptitudes
could be ensured, as well as a sense of social justice at work. Nevertheless, this alleged
advantage of psycho-technology is still in the hands of psychologists and social forces around
them, which does not prevent their interventions from being biased. In this respect, there are
some studies which evaluate the psychological practices in terms of uses and abuses.
Researchers argue that all psychological interventions are under the interest of some group,
consequently, they are either in favour of social processes destined to construct equity and
social justice or aimed at strengthening inequalities and social injustice. Bur (2003), for
instance, demonstrates that depending on psychologists understanding of the place and
operations of their discipline, psychology could be used either as an instrument of liberation
or as a tool for subordination.
Work as central category
A paradox is at the centre of conventional industrial/occupational/organizational psychology:
work as an important category for the constitution of human phenomena is excluded from
psychological approaches. Critical psychology of work has used the absence of the category
work for proposing what should be an appropriate psychology, in, for, and from Latin
America. Countries in the region share certain features as regards the world of work, which
opens up a space for envisaging a common Latin American critical psychology. With respect
to the Latin American world of work, there is some value in taking into consideration the
following shared features: the informal sector plays a significant role in employment and
income; trade unions have lost political influence; laws and regulations governing work have
been strongly flexibilised; there are many different types of employment contracts; low wages
do not allow many workers to meet their needs; there has been a process of deindustrialization; there are high rates of unemployment; social security has declined
considerably; there has been a massive migration of workers; and there have been processes
of precarisation and intensification of work (Weller, 2011; De la Garza- Toledo; 2000).
In this panorama and against conventional psychology, which is basically concerned with
interventions, critical psychology considers work taking into account history, economy,
culture and society. In this sense, as De Oliveira (2010) affirms, critical psychology deals with
the actual transformation of working conditions from the perspective of workers who are
immersed in peripheral capitalism. From this point of view, work is seen beyond what is done
in order to produce (technique) and becomes fundamentally a matter of relationships amongst
people (negotiations of meaning).
Conversely, this call for considering work as a category does not mean that there is a
consensus. On the contrary, there is a vast range of perspectives seeking to understand the
Latin American world of work given its peripheral and differential conditions within a global
capitalism. For example, critical psychology is seen by some researchers as posterior phase in
the history of conventional psychology (Pires de Freitas & Guareschi, 2004). This new stage
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would represent an evolution on how psychology is constructed, thanks to the drastic changes
within the world of work. Nevertheless, these analyses are somehow focused on the changes
of the employment conditions in formal organisations (Oliverira-Borges, Ferreira de Oliveira,
Almeida de Morais, 2005; Almeida-Gomes, 2009). According to other researchers, the
introduction of work as a focus of analysis represents a break in the way of thinking about the
questions and solutions, whereby tools from social psychology and other sciences are
appropriated in order to examine, for example, informal employment, community
experiences, alternative forms of organising work, solidarity and self-management as forms of
social action opposed to the global prescriptions of capitalism (Spinks 2004; Sato, 2007;
Garca-lvarez, Forthcoming).
In the first group it is possible to locate the proposal formulated by Armando Campos, who
back in 1981 claimed that psychology, in contemporary terms' critical', should link at least
three main aspects; psychological knowledge, work, and the practice of psychology. This is to
provide an integral vision without dissociating the different factors that influence the world of
work such as economics, history and politics. In order to achieving this goal, researchers
should go beyond conceiving economy, history and politics as a backdrop or operationalized
variables that can enrich the analysis such as in the visions that have proposed that the human
being is bio-psycho-social. Campos (1981) argues that the 'psychological' is not an embedded
reality in other disciplines; on the contrary, it is the specification of a total reality in individual
forms of consciousness and action. In this proposed critical psychology the aim is to link, for
example, something that has been dispersed in conventional psychological visions of work,
the biological question with the historical path that is specified in each of the
workers. Regarding the work itself, Campos (1981) suggests that a similar integration must
take place since the meaning of work has been dispersed among the different social sciences.
Then, this integrated vision should look at the meaning and scope of work in human
existence, individual and social. The possibilities proposed in this perspective for theorizing
take the Hegelian view in which work serves as a mean for humans to transform their social
and material world whilst constructing their own identity as intelligent and organised beings.
Once the integration that must be made between work and psychology is established, the
place and operations of the psychological practice change and should no longer be linked to
the transformation of behaviour, on the contrary, they should be linked to the transformation
of general determinants of labour. Nonetheless, these are the principles of a psychology that
still must be created. According to Campos (1981) a way forward is the construction of an
interdisciplinary knowledge to establish the role of work in human existence, as well as a
method that allows the integration of psychology within the social sciences.
Moreover, from a reflection on the conditions of contemporary knowledge production, RochaRomero (2006), also suggests that the critical psychology of work in Mexico, and by
extension in Latin America, should make a psychosocial integration and, therefore, must be
interdisciplinary. Once again the aim is to overcome the technical question "what is done" in
order to focus on "how should be done", and for this the following processes are investigated:
organization and division of labour; work organizations and their social environment; as well
as workers subjective evaluation of their own job. Similarly to other proposals which could
be included within critical psychology (Schvarstein, 1991; Hespanhol-Bernardo, 2009),
Rocha-Romero presents an analysis that seeks to understand the worker and his work amidst
economic and political dynamics both at national and international levels. These dynamics
take place in specific labour organizations which act as regulatory bodies constantly mutating
to produce a variety of subjectivities at work (see also: Stecher, 2011; Sacipa-Rodriguez,
2001; Peralta-Gomez, 2009).
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Obviously these perspectives consider work beyond a backdrop, to introduce it as a central

part of the analysis. Although questions about the contemporary conditions of work are
present, in a way, they are restricted to formal organizations, in which formal employment is
still present. It is worth noting that contrary to the vision of organizations as a matter of
rational organization of work, these proposals seek to examine the unique relationships that
occur within organisations in conditions of peripheral capitalism. So, the relationship between
employees and organizations conceived as an unquestionable truth is replaced by a historical
account of people negotiating their everyday working life immersed in power relationships of
the capitalist society.
In the second group, the way of conceiving the relationship between psychology and work
demands a critical examination of the history of this relationship as well as a change in the
ways of investigating and intervening with workers, so as to open the possibility of creating
new forms of subjectivity and resistance which leads to the transformation of social situations
of real people (Spinks, 2004; Veronese, 2003a, 2006, Pulido-Martnez, 2010). For this, the
heterogeneous world of work that exists in the region should be considered in plural. That is,
taking into account the various emancipations that correspond to the various situations of
oppression that exist in Latin America beyond those associated with market regulation
(Veronese, 2003b). It is about considering the conditions of the region in order to respond to
the question about what would be best for the social and economic organization, and how
critical psychology can contribute to achieving these objectives whilst building an ethical and
political project for the profession which leads to a fairer society (Verona, 2010, Oliveira,
The frameworks proposed for the study of work use a variety of conceptual tools. The
constructivist line intends to examine the idea of organization and organizational psychology
as phenomena that are concomitant to the ways in which work is organized within capitalism
(Pulido-Martnez, 2010b; Spinks, 2004). Spinks (2004), for example, proposes dismantling
the dyads: individual-context, psychology-sociology, theory-practice, which are typical of
conventional psychology to go beyond the conception of work as a field of intervention in
order to reconceptualise it as a complex phenomenon to be understood without the false
divisions between "technical dimensions" and human aspects of work (Spinks, 2004). It
follows from here that work as part of the analysis requires then, according to Spinks (2004),
a series of conceptual elements in order to examine the negotiations that occur in relation to
power, domination, ideology, social conflict and class. The result is a psychology committed
to social action and to the pursuit of more equitable social relations (Spinks, 2004).
From the existentialist framework, critical psychology should help the worker in the
acquisition of a reflective consciousness from the experience of work. Concepts such as
situated freedom and responsible consciousness are the basis for thinking and acting critically
in relation to the world of work, which allows workers to reflect on themselves, their
relationships at work, as well as on the continued reproduction of forms of exploitation. Thus,
the expected result gives rise to the construction of other forms of living that are based on
relations of solidarity in a way that allows the emergence of new forms of work organization
which can lead to a full life. From this point of view, the critical task of psychology would be
to help the individual cope with their context, so that he might be able to challenge and
transform it (Pires de Freitas, 2009).
Studies linking psychology, work and health in a critical framework in relation to
contemporary forms of work are becoming increasingly common. This triad represents a
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bridge between psychology that is concerned about employment and the psychology which
deals with ways of working related to phenomena, such as subsistence economy, that are
typical alternatives to employment in the region. As described by Sato (2010), this critical
psychology considers the "human problems of work" as an object and is informed by Latin
American social psychology and Latin American social medicine. As a result of the local
appropriation of Marxist framework, the concept of "labour process" makes room for
alternative analyses of the relationship between forms of work organization and health in
Latin America which differ from those proposed by the psychologists in North Atlantic
societies. Then, the worker's impairment, the degree of workers control on the work process
and the situation of class struggle are analysed in light of the exploitation and extraction of
surplus value. The conceptual framework proposed by Laurell (1978) serves to analyse the
work process in the different variations of work within the capitalist society. For this
reason, this framework does not consider a separation between the different forms of work,
but rather these are considered as forms established by capitalism to produce goods and
services that bring about different effects on workers health. Here the conceptual tools,
therefore, allow work to be analysed in relation to the global determinants such as economics
and social formations as well as with relation to particular work processes that jeopardize
workers health with diseases that are caused by the work itself (e.g. Martnez-Alcntara y
Preciado-Serrano, 2009). In this line of thought, the discussion about health as a right of
workers and not as a necessary resource for production, in which the psychologists have been
closely involved (Sato, Hespanhol-Bernardo, De Oliveira, 2008), has influenced public
policies regarding work thus generating improvements in working conditions (Crespo-Merlo,
2010; Martinez-Alcantara and Hernandez-Sanchez, 2005, Ministerio de la Proteccion social
de Colombia, 2010).
Perhaps the most characteristic critical psychology in, from, and for Latin America is in direct
relation to the various forms of work that are present in the region (Spinks, 2009; De la
Garza-Toledo, 2000; Sato, 2010; Fernndez, 2010; Ruiz-Soto, 2001; Huertas-Hernandez and
Villegas-Uribe, 2007). Most workers in the region are located in a wide variety of forms of
work, called solidary popular economy, rather than in the formal sector of the economy
(Buzzatti, 2007). The employment crisis and the delabourization have been important factors
for researchers in Latin America to be seeking appropriate conceptual and methodological
tools for understanding alternative forms of work. In this context, there is an argument for
bracketing the discussion about the mutations of contemporary work. According to this
argument, the debate on work put forward by the North Atlantic societies is domineering and
noisy, therefore, rather than shed light on the situation that occurs in the region, it prevents
the analyses of any particular Latin American forms of working that are not linked to
employment (Spinks 2011).
However, little by little, studies of the forms of work and the organization of alternative
employment, says Sato (2010), are in the midst of constituting a theorization that consolidates
a psychosocial view from multiple categories, multi-causality and transversality, which goes
beyond the effects of the development of nations proposed by international agencies.
It is important to note that this is not a critical psychology of work for the poor, although
poverty is a central concern. It's a psychology for the contemporary world of work in the
South, which uses typical cases of work not regulated by the state and concepts that are
framed within the historical particularities of the region. This is a psychology that looks both
at the everyday life of work and the survival strategies that flood the social life of countries
located around other countries that had a welfare state.
Critical Psychology in Changing World


Some areas of study

By way of illustration, some examples of "ways of being at work" (Sato, Hespanhol-Bernard
and De Oliveira, 2008), which have been considered by the critical psychology are presented.
These studies show specific cases of how critical psychology acts differently from those
conventional views of psychology that maintain a hegemonic position both in workplaces
associated with employment and training programs in universities.
Since the implementation of the neoliberal policies in the region, there have been a growing
number of factories rescued by their own employees. That is, the former employees have
taken over the running of organizations that were abandoned by their owners either because
the companies were no longer profitable or because they were in bankruptcy. Thus workers
were facing an uncertain future and in reaction to the news that they would be unemployed,
they organized themselves to continue operating the factories. Fernandez and Borakievich
(2007), for instance, have named the process that takes place in these organizations as selfmanagement anomaly. Critical psychologists focus on self-management anomaly in order
to understand and conceive how these organizations challenge the central assumptions of the
capitalist organizations. The studies show that in the rescued factories the self-management
opens possibilities for the transformation of social relationships. In these factories, there is no
formal authority; the discipline is replaced by a collective self-management regulation. As
consequence, the collective administration produces a completely different type of company
in which production and property are not connected, efficiency and discipline are detached,
the representative system is broken and a logic of multitude is installed (Fernandez, Lopez,
Borakievich and Ojam, 2008). According to Fernandez (2008) in the rescued factories some
aspects of the capitalist logics have been disconnected and the new connections have
conceived other ways of working, other forms of property, other factories, other procedures,
other political constructions. The rescued factories demonstrate that is possible to produce
better quality goods in a situation characterized by the absence of the following: bosses,
owners, clear divisions of working process, unions, and restrictive norms. As a result, these
more egalitarian and horizontal ways of relating bring about new subjectivities at work
(Huertas, Davila-Ladron de Guevara and Castillo, 2010; Ferrari and Cebei, 2010). Broadly
speaking, critical psychologists are looking at these processes aiming to create an
interdisciplinary conceptual framework to understand the collective force that have
emerged. For them the rescued factories represent a powerful contemporary way of societal
Critical psychology is also concerned with solidarity economy as another way by which
alternative forms of organizing work challenge capitalism. According to Veronese and
Guareschi (2005), there are other ways of self-organization that bring about the following: fair
trade, an economy that is neither colonial nor patriarchal, and more democratic relationships.
Like all anti-hegemonic forms, the solidarity economy is very fragile and is constantly in
danger of being absorbed or scattered by capitalism. Under these conditions, critical
psychology is concerned with the processes that promote and maintain self-management,
associative work and shared authority, because these processes bring about other forms of
subjectivity that do not revolve around concentration of power nor through subordination to
authority (Veronese and Giarechi, 2005). So critical psychology has to deal with these forms
of "cooperation and participation of all" that promote self-sustainability without pursuing
profit, but rather seeking a production of quality to meet social needs (Veronese & Guareschi,
2005; Guareschi & Veronese, 2009). In general terms, the "relational cosmovisions" are of
particular interest in this critical psychology. The reason for this interest is related to the
Critical Psychology in Changing World


assumption that they are at the basis of proposals for a cooperative, egalitarian and caring
society. The "relational cosmovisions" would, therefore, be opposed to both the cosmovision
of capitalism with its traditional emphasis on individualism and the totalitarian cosmovision
of communist regimes (Veronese & Carvalho, 2006). Accordingly, concepts such as
communitarian solidarity, paradigm of giving and culture of the partition (Veronese and
Carvalho, 2006) are creating a framework in which psychology begins to construct a different
standpoint in relation to the processes that emerge with disappearance of employment
conditions. According to Garcia-Alvarez (Forthcoming), these studies seek new ways of
constructing meaning in the face of the allegedly immovable hegemonic practices of
capitalism. Thus, the recognition of other practices in the world of work, through the eyes of
critical psychology, contributes both to dismantle realities, such as consumerism, and to
identify located practices which enrich the field of social experiences and hint at other
possible and concrete futures (Garcia-Alvarez, Forthcoming).
As in the rest of the world, the constitution of subjectivity at work is another area of interest
for critical psychologists in the region. Studies in this area emphasize the particularities of
being a worker in the midst of peculiar situations of uncertainty, precarisation,
unemployment, and delabourization in Latin America. The emphasis on subjectivity has
allowed psychologists to study the problems of work moving themselves away from the
hegemonic figure of 'free worker' proposed by organizational industrial psychology (PulidoMartnez, 2012). Instead of the figure of 'free worker', one of the objectives pursued by
researchers is to identify and understand the ways in which the worker is in a constant process
of reinvention (Walkerdine, 2005). The approaches share an emphasis on the political
problem as regards the constitution of contemporary subjectivity at work. In this sense,
subjectivity and identity are used to show how changes in the organization of work affect
workers, as well as to point out how forms of subjectivity facilitate actions for governing
workers. Needless to say, that this is a field in which there are tensions between agency and
structure, as well as between the social and the individual. Here researchers also point out that
foreign concepts are used to understand the processes of construction of subjectivity in the
changing conditions of employment in Latin America. However, even with the restrictions
that involve using a conceptual framework produced for other labour realities, these
researchers emphasize that the analysis of subjectivity allows leaving aside studies of labour
culture along with their centrality in employee, masculinity and industry. Researches now
consider identities and subjectivities in order to analyse the daily lives of workers (De la O
and Guadarrama, 2006), thus introducing issues not previously considered, such as gender.
Studies with different populations throughout Latin America indicate that the contemporary
worker is an expanded subject at the same time diffused and multifaceted who is the result
of the encounter with very contradictory working conditions that occur in the workplace
(Renteria-Perez, 2008). According to Renteria-Perez (2008), workers are forced to create
identities that enable a psychic economy consistent with the needs of businesses. In the same
vein, Wolff-Cecchi (2006) finds that individualism and autonomy, characteristics of the ideal
contemporary worker, allow certain workers to be adapted to these demands in the
construction of their identities, which makes them ideal according to the parameters of
organizations. Conversely, others are not so successful and are in clear contradiction with the
ideals proposed; they are anxious and are resisting the proposed model of identity. According
to Wolff-Cecchi (2006), there is no consistency between the ideal of subjectivity and the
everyday experience which contributes to undermine the identity; as a result life in general is
undermined. Sisto and Fardella (2008), using narrative analysis, examine how processes of
inclusion and exclusion as regards the construction of identities of workers are produced in
order to understand the forms of social ties that are emerging and also to think about forms of
Critical Psychology in Changing World


social action in work organizations. The impact of flexibility on workers who still have a
situation of labour certainty is also analysed. For instance, Diaz, Godoy and Stecher (2006)
found a radical change in the forms of social ties between workers who still retain some
certainties generated by a work contract. They conclude that the social ties associated with
work are now more functional, which is the reason why the collective processes that require
cooperation, trust, reciprocity and associativity are being affected. In a complex analysis to
understand subjectivity, Soto-Roy (2008) combines changes in work organization,
implemented management strategies, trade unions action and characteristics of the work
performed. The analysis shows how, even in a single working environment, subjectivity is
constituted in many different ways. The threatened worker, the frustrated worker and the
involved worker are different ways of being at work which strategically locate workers as
regards organizational authorities that promote the transformation of the workspaces in
accordance with the demands of labour flexibility. Following Peralta-Gomez (2009), in
general terms it can be said that the following factors, when socio-historically located, are
sources of subjectivity: workers life experiences, the meaning of work, ways of relating
between groups of workers, gender, age, social status, work practices, forms of recruitment,
and current national and international regulations on work. According to Peralta Gomez
(2009), studies on subjectivity consider the voice of workers and meanings that appear in
specific working conditions; they also illuminate the social reality in constant change and
show the possibilities of transformation of the world of work.
Psychology has been a major source of inspiration for personnel management. Historical
studies of work psychology have shown the ways in which jargons, strategies and
psychological ways of conceiving workers enable forms of conduct the conduct in line with
capitalisms needs (Rose, 1999). In this sense, the psychological management of work has
also been subject to analysis in the region. By way of illustration, Pulido-Martnez (2010b)
examined how the autonomous worker emerges by the use of psychological strategies that
were imported through multinational companies and spread in the work settings of the region.
Sisto (2009) examined the applications of management models that come hand in hand with
flexibility. In the encounter between competency model and employability, Sisto (2009)
demonstrates that there appears to be a form of management which favours individualisation
and presents uncertainty as a matter of course. These strategies for producing subjectivity give
raise to a portfolio worker who migrates from post to post autonomously acquiring more
power, which constitutes an asset with which to move up in the labour market.
A general reading of management as technology of government was conducted by Zangaro
(2011) who analyses articles recently published in a journal dedicated to this topic. She shows
how management is mutating to consider cognitions and feelings instead of bodies and tasks.
Similarly to other studies conducted around the world, Zangaro demonstrates that subjectivity
is the focus of actual government in work settings, but then she positions her analyses in the
context of Latin America when she looks at texts published by a regional journal. By the same
token, Grinberg (2009) considers the managerial era in the particularities of Latin America by
tackling psychological empowerment concepts used to manage the population, such as selfesteem, resilience, and coaching, which are analysed in light of the tension between
narcissism and abjection in order to make them relevant to the situation in Latin America.
The aim of this paper was to provide a non-exhaustive review of the trends in the critical
psychology of work in Latin America. The objective was to point out some of the paths that
Critical Psychology in Changing World


this psychology is taking in an area where its own production is not well known among
scholars and students of the region. As the trajectory shows, there is not just one body of
knowledge; however there are multiple conceptual frameworks and tools used to consider the
problems of work. This range of possibilities indicates the variety of approaches and
appropriations, which are available in Latin America, for researching, teaching and
intervention in critical psychology. In a way this brief description serves an invitation for
those interested in furthering the perspectives mentioned, which becomes an urgent matter
given the manner by which conventional psychology is rapidly colonizing workplaces in this
part of the continent. In this review it is possible to glimpse a range of elements that are
building a critical psychology of work, in, from and for Latin America, however following the
recommendations of De Oliveira (2010) a deep self-organization is still needed. This selforganization should comprise various academic and professional sectors, so that this area of
knowledge could become of vital importance to any Latin American psychologist seeking to
understand the world in which they live as part of a peripheral region that did not live the
dynamics of wage society to the fullest. Perhaps the complex analysis that psychologists can
do, in conjunction with the strategic place they have in the world of work, could contribute to
building a more democratic and egalitarian society.
Similar to other studies on the expansion of psychology around the world, this review shows
that the conceptual tools have been appropriated, enriched, translated, transformed, and / or
imported from the North Atlantic societies wherein both psychology and its criticism are
produced. Perhaps the notion of distillation proposed by Salgado-Arteaga (2009) may be the
most appropriate for a critical psychology that considers the world of work in the South. On
the one hand, this notion of distillation allows seeing which conceptual elements of
psychology and of other social sciences are pertinent, relevant, and useful. On the other hand,
it allows a reflection on the appropriation of psychological techniques that occurs in the world
of work.
In the near future, critical psychology of work will have to turn its gaze more closely towards
the Latin American critical production, not only as regards sociology of work, but also with
regards to cultural studies, labour studies and social studies of science, so as to incorporate
concepts which have been circulating in Latin American academia for several years. Critical
psychologists will have to devise new concepts which lead to interpretative frameworks
specific for a different society and a different world of work.
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Contact details:
Hernn Camilo Pulido-Martinez, Ph. D.
Coordinador rea de Psicologa del Trabajo y de las Organizaciones
Facultad de Psicologa
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogota, Colombia
E-mail: cpulido@javeriana.edu.co

Critical Psychology in Changing World