reflection 4:community psychology in postmodern world

W. Newbrough (1992) discusses issues that face community psychology in the “postmodern world.” Please describe the key issues of The One, The Many, and The One and The Many. Then, show how the principles of equality, fraternity, and liberty can be used to solve the paradox of The One and The Many.

Definitions of social problems and the solutions to these problems change with the growth of knowledge in psychology.  The field of community psychology questions the value and methodology of traditional psychological inquiry, and establishes system-oriented approaches in the hope of realizing social justice and community improvement.  It is and has been a hard task, however, for the field to integrate the research and practices that address the individual and community well-being at the same time.  It is Newbrough’s aim to explain the dynamics of social problems from the perspective of The One, The Many, and The One and The Many, bringing both individual and community factors into the picture.

The key to the concept of The One is the notion that community benefit or well-being is given the highest value, with individual loyalty being the utmost virtue.  As a result, community harmony is assumed to be maintained as a whole.  Basic problems arise, however, when The One is brought into practice, namely the problem of central dominance.  Addressing the problem of central dominance as its antithesis, The Many shifts its focus from the collectivity to the individuality, claiming the freedoms of individuals from inappropriate community responsibility.  In The Many, individuals are encouraged to obtain their own rights and autonomy, and their behaviors are maximized in the form of social contract.  Nevertheless, The Many become problematical practice when individuals try to pursue their own interests or well-being, and do so by at the expense of others – causing the basic problems of fragmentation and alienation.

Given the problems originating from the aforementioned two positions, The One and The Many attempts to exceed the dualism between The One in opposition to The Many, and provides a way out of the imbalance originated by each other’s problems.  The One and The Many approaches the social or community problems by integrating the solutions of The One with those The Many, employing both community and individual levels of analyses in accordance with the ecology and systems theory.  What is recognizable is the principle of The One and The Many that the postmodern viewpoint acclaims, and it is this principle that community psychology is after.

The fundamental tenet on which The One and The Many is based involves the enhancement of individuals and community at the same time.  To serve this end, Newbrough set forth an individual-level principle (i.e., Liberty), a community-level principle (i.e., Fraternity), and a combination of both (i.e., Equality).  Liberty and Fraternity can provide individual and community development, respectively; while Equality can provide the resources for the growth and development of individuals in the community.  It is Newbrough’s argument that these three principles need to be considered independently, yet employed simultaneously, in order for the system to work effectively.  On the other hand, it is also his concern that this seemingly promising approach contains a basic problem: the possibility of social chaos and confusion.  As a consequence, it becomes a challenge to the field of community psychology to solve this basic problem using the logic underlying the principle of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality.

First of all, Liberty can provide opportunity for individual development by self-determination, enhancing the will to obtain goals.  In other words, the principle of Liberty supports one’s self-actualization, and the systematic provision of Liberty can at least promote individuals’ actualizing tendencies.  Thus, Liberty can play a role in increasing individual’s physical and psychological resources for his/her self-actualization.  Secondly, the principle of Fraternity enables a group or community to pursue its goal; hence I call it, “community actualization.”  What I mean by community actualization is that the current state of community changes in the direction of a goal set by the members of the community.  Similar to the manner in which an individual’s “real self” attempts to achieve an “ideal self” (i.e., self-actualization) (Rogers, 1961), community actualization in a given society entails the maximization of community potentials, resulting in its autonomy in a given society.

Although individual and community actualization, promoted by Liberty and Fraternity respectively, offer rules for the process and outcomes of each types of actualization separately, the important question still remains: How can these two types of actualization be practiced at once in a so-called zero-sum society, such as the United States?  It is Newbrough’s contention that Equality can provide opportunity for individual and community growth at once via individuals’ meaningful and useful participation in the community.  In other words, individuals can pursue their own well-being by actively participating to a community, thus, in principle, individual and community actualization can occur at once.  Moreover, given that community actualization can be realized through the appropriate goal-settings as well as effective community action carried out by community members, it is important for community psychologists to employ the integrated frame of reference that Equality, Fraternity, and Liberty adhere to, with Equality being the conceptualization of the role of members in a given community, and Fraternity and Liberty being the monitor of community and individual behavior, respectively.   It is important to remember that promoting individual well-being in the community is the ultimate goal of community psychology, and an intervention for community well-being is a means to that end.



Rogers, C. R. (1961).  On becoming a person Boston, Houghton Mifflin.