Socialization, Language, and Scenic Understanding. Alfred Lorenzer's Contribution to a Psycho-societal Methodology


  • Henning Salling Olesen Roskilde University
  • Kirsten Weber Roskilde University



hermeneutic, scenic understanding, socialization, interaction forms, unconscious, experience, symbolization, language game, utopian imagination, constructivism


The article is a guided tour to Alfred LORENZER's proposal for an "in-depth hermeneutic" cultural analysis methodology which was launched in an environment with an almost complete split between social sciences and psychology/psychoanalysis. It presents the background in his materialist socialization theory, which combines a social reinterpretation of the core insights in classical psychoanalysis—the unconscious, the drives—with a theory of language acquisition. His methodology is based on a transformation of the "scenic understanding" from a clinical to a text interpretation, which seeks to understand collective unconscious meaning in text, and is presented with an illustration of the interpretation procedure from social research. Then follows a brief systematic account of key concepts and ideas—interaction forms, engrams, experience, symbolization, language game, utopian imagination—with an outlook to the social theory connections to the Frankfurt School. The practical interpretation procedure in a LORENZER-based psycho-societal research is briefly summarized, emphasizing the role of the researcher subjects in discovering socially unconscious meaning in social interaction. Finally an outlook to contemporary epistemological issues. LORENZER's approach to theorize and research the subject as a socially produced entity appears as a psycho-societal alternative to mainstream social constructivism.



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Author Biographies

Henning Salling Olesen, Roskilde University

Henning SALLING OLESEN graduated in Nordic language and literature; research fellowship in adult education research; professor, Roskilde University, and advisory professor at East China Normal University, Shanghai. He is the chair of the European Society of Research in the Education of Adults and co-editor of the Eur. J. for Res. In the Educ. And Learning of Adults (RELA). His research interests include theory of learning; life history and psycho-societal methodology; work related learning and work identities; adult education and adult learning; lifelong learning policy; cross cultural comparative learning research.

Kirsten Weber, Roskilde University

Kirsten WEBER graduated in theoretical pedagogy; Ph.D. about social learning and trade unions' worker education. Professor Roskilde University. Research interests: Adult learning and gender; professional learning and work (child care and social work); worker education and trade unions; development of life history approach and empirical methodology on the basis of thematic group discussion and psycho-societal interpretation. Co-founder of the International Research Group on Psycho-societal Analysis.




How to Cite

Salling Olesen, H., & Weber, K. (2012). Socialization, Language, and Scenic Understanding. Alfred Lorenzer’s Contribution to a Psycho-societal Methodology. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 13(3).