13 Conclusion This paper sought to articulate the significant contributions of Kurt Lewin to postmodern perspectives on culture and critical theory. Following a brief introduction of Lewin, I described my interest in his research, and some merits of his field theory. Throughout the paper, I juxtaposed his thinking with those of other critical thinkers such as Geertz, Gramsci, Freire, Foucault, Schutz, Payne, Delgado, and Stefancic. The key ideas proposed by Lewin portrayed in this paper include: The psychosocial problems of leading and being led The futility of polarizing conflicts into us versus them The need to empower men and women in the working class The need to challenge our own thoughts, perceptions, reasoning, and privileges The need to delegate responsibility because it facilitates the growth of individuals The importance of discerning general patterns using field theory principles The importance of an individual s level of aspiration in accomplishing goals The importance of raising the self-esteem of the minority groups for improving inter-group relations The importance of cognitive dissonance through conflicts, tensions, and challenges for promoting individual and institutional growth In my view, Lewin s contributions described throughout this paper and summarized above as bullet points would make him a leading postmodern critic of our times. His conclusion that individuals are likely to succeed in group situations when they share a common objective, even though they come to the group with their own unique personal dispositions, is significant. My submission for a common objective in this paper has been
8 aspiration influences an individual s experience of success or failure more strongly than their capacity or performance. In a sense, I view my struggles with promoting science as a means of improving student achievement in schools as similar to Lewin s struggles and concerns with social problem-solving. Relevance of Kurt Lewin in the classroom If Lewin were alive today, his thinking would be akin to critics of postmodern perspectives such as Schutz (2004), Gee (2003), and others, who write extensively about social issues of oppression, domination, resistance, and privilege. To illustrate the relevance of these issues in a classroom, I use two concepts, pastoral power and pastoral control. Devadoss and Muth (1984) defined power as the ability of an individual to affect the behavior of another. They presented power in terms of a continuum Coercion Authority Influence to illustrate how force, legitimacy, and persuasion, respectively affect behavior. In general, power refers to the ability of individuals (or groups) to influence, induce, or prevent change in others. According to Foucault (1984a), power gained widespread acceptance because it produced things, induced pleasure, and formed knowledge. As Payne (1996) affirmed, a leading challenge for cultural and critical theorists today is bringing about a renewed reflection and subsequent informed action for resolving conflicts between aesthetic pleasure and social responsibility. Effective power results in control. Control, in general, refers to the process by which individuals (or groups) in society are influenced to adhere to values, principles, or proper behavior deemed appropriate for that society. According to Muth (1984), control demarcates power (p. 28), and describes the extent to which influence has been used to solve a problem.
Over the last two decades postmodernism, as one of these new philosophies, has become, as Harvey (1989, p.39) states, a concept to be wrestled with such a battleground of conflicting and political forces that can not be ignored. The origins of the philosophy is usually attributed to Lyotard and Jameson, who championed the belief that all modernist meta-narratives are based on trans-historical, universal truths. However, Warf (1993, p.163) contends that the endeavor to offer one worldview should not be included in the postmodern perspective. Rather than thinking in terms of an absolute, and one clear and coherent “center”, postmodernism urges taking into account disorder, incoherence, and chaos when attempting to determine why certain events occur. Applicable to basic societal organizing principles, postmodernism urges a great sensitivity to the “differences” that exist among phenomena in all sorts of ways both obvious and subtle (Cloke, Philo and Sadler, 1991, p.171). The main focus here is on attentiveness to the many differences that distinguish one phenomenon, event, or process from one another based on a request for not obliterating these vital differences in the force of theories (Cloke, Philo and Sadler, 1991, p. 171).