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Laszlo Garai

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Laszlo Garai

Hungarian scholar of theoretical, social and economic psychology

Garai Laszlo (b. 29 August 1935 in Budapest) is a Hungarian scholar of theoretical, social and economic psychology, doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and founding professor of Department of Economic Psychology of the University of Szeged.


Curriculum vitæ

Graduated from the Faculty of Arts of Budapest University, philosophy and psychology (1959); Academy candidate's thesis (1968), on the specifically human basic need (Personality dynamics and social existence, Academic Press). Academy doctor's thesis (1988), on the social identity and paradoxes of its psychic elaboration '(A psychosocial essay on identity, Central Hungarian Library.


After teaching theoretical psychology at Moscow State University. (1969), social psychology at Nice University (from 1981 on),and economic psychology at California State University, Bakersfield and San Bernardino (1990) -- Dr Garai returned to Hungary where he founded the Department of Economic Psychology at the University of Szeged (formerly: Attila Jozsef Univ.), was head of that dept (from 1997-2000) and prof. of economic psychology (from 1994-2005).

Professional work

Laszlo Garai started his career as editor at the Encyclopaedia Department of Hung. Academic Press (1959-1961). After finishing his PhD studies (1961-1964) where he begin a research about the specifically human needs he finished this research as a fellow of the Institute for Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1964-1971). Invited (as a Keldysh grant winner) to the Department of scientific discoveries’ psychology in the Institute for History of Natural Sciences and Technology in the Soviet Academy of Sciences (Moscow, 1969-1970)). In the Institute for Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences dr. Garai founded (in 1970) a research department that became the first in Hungary research team of economic psychology and a center of Vygotskian theoretical research [1]. Head of that department (1971-79) and research advisor (1998-2002). He worked at the Laboratoire Européen de Psychologie Sociale (Paris, 1971, 1973 and 1977) and directed psycho-economic research supported by the National Scientific Research Foundation (1990-2005). He was a member of the Advisory board of the (Hungarian) Ministry of Finance (1991-1994).


  1. "Tool and Sign" Vygotskian Research Network


Theoretical and general psychology:

   * Split psychology        * Vygotsky and the Vygotskians: A cure of the split psychology            * Marx' economico-philosophical anthropology and a psychological meta-theory        * Brain and culture;     * Paradoxical psycho-social configurations        * Specifically Human Basic Need (SHBN): Need for a needfree activity;
Personality dynamics and social existence [In Hungarian]; Budapest: Academic Press, 1969.
A hypothesis on the specifically human basic need (SHBN about a structure that is isomorphic with a specifically human basic activity: the work as an activity of arranging in a structure ends and means and transferring that structure to various parts of its universe. The hypothesis is based on the Leontievian activity theory completed by a critical chapter about what is omitted from the Leontievian interpretation of Vygotsky ("Social relation: Self-evidence or probleme?").
Positivist and hermeneutic principles in Psychology: Activity and social categorization (co-author: M. Kocski). Studies in Soviet Thought. 1991/1. 97-110.
About two complementary theories (a "What does he?" type theory and a "Who does it?: type theory) being given in Vygotsky's heritage. The psychology gets disintegrated onto two hemi-sciences: one applying the positivistic methodology of natural sciences (experimentation) and another one that applies a "hermeneutic methodology of historical sciences" (interpretation). A Vygotskian methodology provides the possibility to reintegrate the psychology by dealing with "signs" and "tools" within the same structure)
The brain and the mechanism of psychosocial phenomena. Journal of Russian and East-European Psychology. 31:6. 1994. 71-91.
Vygotskian implications: On the meaning and its brain.
A keynote paper at a conference dedicated to the 100th anniversary of L. Vygotsky. Moscow, 1996. A Russian version
Another crisis in the psychology: A possible motive for the Vygotsky-boom (co-author: M. Kocski). Journal of Russian and East-European Psychology. 33:1. 82-94.
The invited lecture of the 3rd Activity Theory Congress (Moscow, 1995). Deals with disintegration of the psychology to a science based on experimentation according to the positivistic methodology of natural sciences, and another one founded on interpretation according to the hermeneutic methodology of historical sciences. Considers the possibilities to reintegrate the psychology by a Vygotskian methodology that would deal with signs and tools as functioning within the same structure.

Social and historical psychology::

   * Social identity, social categorization        * Ethical mediator and transaction cost modifier        * Psychosocial case study on the Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef
Vers une théorie psychoéconomique de l'identité sociale. Recherches Sociologiques. 1984. 313-335.
On the complementarity of socio-economic factors determining the more tolerant or the more ruthless manner of imposing valued models of social identity, and, on the other hand, psychosocial factors identifying positions in a system of distribution of means of reproduction.
Social Identity: Cognitive Dissonance or Paradox? New Ideas in Psychology. 4:3. 311-322.
On the cognitive dissonance as emerging between the social identity of persons and that of their acts. Paradoxical consequences of the two identities' double bind are analyzed: without doing A no one may pretend to the identity B and without being subjected to this law no one may pretend to the identity B either.
A psychosocial essay on identity (in Hungarian). Budapest: T-Twins, 1993. 231 p.
Deals with social categorization elaborating social identity and with the deformation of technically appropriate individual performances by an unconscious process making out of them markers of this categorization on the background of the paradoxes which make social categorization either impossible or unnecessary. Applies the presented psychosocial theory for a case study of the great Hungarian poet Attila József who's both works, acts and diseases' symptoms including his suicide are analyzed as markers of his social categorization on the background of the paradoxes of his expulsion from his main reference group.

Economic and political psychology::

  * Social identity as transaction cost modifier  * Human resources, human capital  * The second modernization       * Bolshevik-type constructions for the second modernization
Determining economic activity in a post-capitalist system. Journal of Economic Psychology. 1987. 77-90.
Contends that the main tendency of (both planned and market) post-capitalist system is considered to be the production of personal (and not only material) conditions of functioning of that system. That includes not only production of technical disposition to master things but also that of social disposition to master (or, at least, be superior to) other persons. These are as important organizing factors for an economic system producing its personal conditions as are value in use and value in exchange for the one producing its material conditions. Typical cases are cited when the economic activity is not determined by the price of the item produced by it, but, rather, by the social identity of the person producing it.
To the psychology of economic rationality. In: Understanding economic behavior. 12th Annual Colloquium of IAREP, the International Association for Research in Economic Psychology. Handelhoejskolen I Aarhus. 1987. Vol. I. 29-41.
Argues for the impossibility of deriving rationality criteria from substantially given human needs. Instead, it proposes a Lewin-type formal approach to the structure of human activity whose ends, whatever they are, become quasi-need and determine the value of other objects becoming means or barriers, depending on their position in that field. For the specifically human activity taking into consideration a further factor structuring the field is proposed: taboos. Thus, the formal rationality criterion is: gaining ends in spite of barriers that are surmounted by means got in spite of taboos.
The Bureaucratic State Governed by an Illegal Movement: Soviet-Type societies and Bolshevik-Type Parties. Political Psychology. 10:1. 1991. 165-179.
Soviet type societies evolve the universe of their ideological appearances in relation not to matter as in a capitalist society (according to Marx: reification) but to persons. Traditional Marxian criticism of such an ideology claims persons in Soviet type societies to be but personifications of positions in a bureaucratic structure. The paper argues that the organizing principle of these societies is not bureaucracy but charisma originated from 20th century's radical anti-bureaucratic mass movements. The social power that is set not to the positions persons occupy but to persons directly gets provided in those societies' structures not only to a charismatic leader but to the whole headquarter, the whole party as a van of the revolutionary movement and even the whole revolutionary movement. The paper analyzes the paradoxical structure of that collective charisma: the person gets (and loses) his glamour that is independent from his office by being invested with (and, resp., dismissed from) it just like with (from) an office. Democratic centralism is described as the principle of such a paradoxical organization where the "Centrum" gets its social power by being put in its charisma by a "Demos" being put in its one by that social power. The connection of such a paradoxical structure with the mass-production of social relations is analyzed.
The paradoxes of the Bolshevik-type psycho-social structure in economy
The keynote paper opening the international conference of the Gorbachev Foundation (Moscow, 1993) “Origins of the persistence of Bolshevik-type totalitarian structures”
Identity Economics: An Alternative Economic Psychology. Tas Editor, 2006. 294 pp. [In Hungarian]:
A theory about a second modernization that has imposed upon the socio-economic system the necessity of manufacturing (and not only exploiting) human (and not only material) conditions of its functioning, about these manufactured conditions analyzed in terms of human capital. The theory makes a distinction between two kinds of psychologic phenomena turned into economic factors: technical dispositions of mastering things' attributes and social dispositions of mastering persons' relations. It states that unlike the material production depending only on technical attributes of both producing and produced factors, the modern human production is determined also by the factors' social relations. These are conceptualized in terms of the economic agents' social identity that is considered as the main psychological mediator of economic processes: it determines who from among the agents of an economic activity turn out to be its principals.

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