One way of starting the story is with a theoretical intervention that was also designed to be a political practice, with the journal Ideology and Consciousness which first appeared in 1977, before any of us in the Discourse Unit were psychology undergraduates, and disappeared in 1981 as some of us embarked on our postgraduate work. The journal translated writing by Michel Foucault and other French theorists, and although we found it at the time to be fairly incomprehensible it was the only Marxist psychology journal around. It also attempted a serious engagement with feminism, and it provided a focus for critical work. There were reading groups in different parts of the UK, but the journal quickly degenerated into the excesses of French Marxist 'anti-humanism' (a refusal to take people's own experience seriously) and then, as the logical outcome of that journey, into anti-Marxist anti-humanism. Even the terms 'Ideology' and 'Consciousness' became, for the editors, suspiciously close to the humanist-Marxist readings they were trying to avoid, and the journal changed its name to I & C to try and prevent this happening before it folded up. It lasted until edition number nine (though my subscription was paid through to number eleven). It veered away from an engagement with psychology in the process, and a group of the early editors dropped out at around edition number four. Something very important came out of that dissident editorial group, which was the 1984 book Changing the Subject (Henriques et al.).
Changing the Subject, which has recently been reissued (Henriques et al., 1998), elaborated a series of connections between a foucauldian account of discourse and psychoanalytic theories of language and subjectivity influenced by Jacques Lacan. The overall political slant of the book was still Marxist, but one affected by an engagement with feminism and anti-racism. We will return to the meaning and significance of these different theoretical strands later on. A day conference was set up in London to discuss themes in the book in March 1986, and around seventy people turned up. It should be said that there had been a flourishing radical psychology movement in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s around journals like Humpty Dumpty and pamphlets such as Rat, Myth and Magic. Humanism and therapy was more predominant in these publications, and some of the participants in the 1986 'Changing the Subject' day brought with them a variety of interests ranging from Social Representations theory to Tarot cards. Journals like Changes have continued to give expression to the more humanist and therapeutic strand of disciplinary dissidence, and have managed to keep an organization, the Psychology and Psychotherapy Association, alive too. However, Changing the Subject struck a chord at the time, and regional meetings were held. One, in Wolverhampton in June 1986, was called 'Psychology, Social Regulation and Subjectivity', which was also the subtitle of the book, and we also held one earlier that month in Manchester which attracted twenty five people, called 'Psychology, Subjectivity and Change: Critical Approaches in the Human Sciences'.
The first use of the name 'Psychology Politics Resistance' (PPR) dates from the follow-up national meeting in Manchester, which was held in October the same year. PPR is now a separate independent network of people who are challenging abuses of power in psychology, and while it is certainly challenging the social order its members have no particular commitment to discursive approaches. The description of the second 1986 event in the publicity, which captures well the theoretical basis of the group as it was then also makes it clear that we had a way to go before we could make the ideas accessible to psychologists from other critical traditions or to people on the sharp end of psychological practice: 'PPR takes its initial point of departure from the book "Changing the Subject" (J Henriques et al, London: Methuen, 1984) which attempted to criticise psychological practice from a position informed by post-structuralist theory, psychoanalysis, feminism and Marxism... The first goal of PPR is to provide a context in which the mystifications of liberal humanism may be dispensed with. PPR exists to facilitate a recognition of the political circumstances in which psychological knowledge is produced, disseminated and exercised. It is only when the specific effectivities of psychological practice are understood that adequate strategies for resisting, subverting, and overturning it may be implemented' (Leaflet for October 1986 meeting).
A follow-up meeting in Nottingham never materialised, and an attempt to relaunch the group in Manchester in February 1989 reformulated the aims of the group in a more open activist way: 'Psychology, Politics, Resistance will provide a radical forum for people committed to changing psychology as it is practised by workers in clinical, educational and academic settings. We aim to develop strategies for actively opposing the role of psychology in the maintenance and reproduction of power relations' (Leaflet for February 1989 meeting). We wanted to connect with 'real' politics, and we even had a break in the middle of that meeting to join a demonstration to protest against the recent forcible deportation of the Sri Lankan activist Viraj Mendis from the Church of the Ascension in Hulme, Manchester. Further follow-up meetings in 1989 experimented with more friendly names like 'Psychology and Social Responsibility' and, the worst yet I think, 'Psychologists for Social Justice and Equality'. But perhaps we should stop there for now and take stock of the theoretical resources that were being accumulated for our academic work.