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Article

The category of alienation in educational psychology

Russian Education and Society. 2017. Vol. 59. No. 5-6. P. 256-273.

This paper discusses the explanatory possibilities and limitations of the concept of alienation within the framework of  educational psychology studies. Research into various phenomena associated with alienation (frustration and burnout, extrinsic motivation, cynicism, etc.) is often limited by the ontological realm of the individual, whereas the concept of alienation refers to a whole range of processes characteristic of both individual and sociocultural levels. The study outlines the heuristic potential that the cultural-historical activity approach to meaning and meaning regulation has in the analysis of alienation phenomena. The author reviews findings of empirical studies of alienation in education, as well as the theoretical groundwork dealing with the triggers of alienation and ways to cope with it. The discussion reveals that as human knowledge expands and becomes more complex and multifaceted on an ongoing basis, this causes various manifestations of alienation to grow in their frequency and intensity across educational environments. However, what could potentially help overcome specific psychological instances of alienation is the individual’s conscious and more socially aligned self-identification that can be achieved through meaningful reflection on the contributory part they play in the broadest context of collective activity and societal progress as a whole. Although too abstract and heterogeneous for specific psychological studies to be based upon, the concept of alienation may be of great utility in interpreting psychological findings and integrating them into the interdisciplinary context, in order to more thoughtfully revisit and improve the existing institutional configurations and instructional practices.