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Juha Siltala

Juha Heikki Siltala
Born November 25, 1957

Master of Arts 1982 (general history) and PhD 1985 (Finnish history), University of Helsinki
Docent in History 1990–, University of Helsinki
Docent in cultural history 1995–, University of Turku

Professor of Finnish history 1997–, University of Helsinki
Research fellow 1985–97, Academy of Finland

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Membership of scholarly societies:
The Finnish Historical Society
Finnish Academy of Science and Letters
Association for Psychoanalytic Study of Culture & Society
International Society for Political Psychology
European Human Behavior and Evolution Association, Capitalism, State and Society research network

Awards and special achievements:
State Award for Public Information 1993
MTV 3 Award for Culture 1993
Researcher of the Year 1998
Väinö Tanner Foundation award 2000
Award of the Finnish Evangelical-Lutheran Church 2004
Award of the Finnish Social Forum 2005
Women Journalists in Finland award 2005
Membership of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters 2014

Photo: Eetu Sillanpää, WSOY
Written by Juha Siltala (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Psychohistory and its academic expansion

In the mid-1980s, the question of human beings’ tendency to act against their own interests and see reality in the light of their previous experiences seemed best answered by psychoanalysis. As a toolbox, I formulated a synthesis of the literature of the day, Dimension of Change in Psychohistory (1989). In the book, my critical focus is mainly French post-structural, constructivist and postmodern theories which, in my opinion, made people simply the sum of their present relationships and neglected natural limitations to flexibility and the weight of accumulated experience.

The search for a foundation for society’s assessment of human nature led me via developmental psychology to naturally accept evolutionary psychology and the results of both empirical social psychology and neuroscience. History was connected as a catalyst to species-typical or experienced-based behavioural frameworks with the situation and present relationships acting as mediating and moderating factors. The tension between constructivism and evolutionary psychology forced me to justify the foundations of my own work and at the same time the view of what it means to be human connected to each time.

In answer to these challenges, in a wide range of domestic publications and international articles I developed a synthesis of how conditions for life affect human development and typical psychological balance mechanisms, and how security is a precondition for flexibility.

In the photo is René Magritte’s oil painting Le Château des Pyrénés from 1959. The painting symbolises separate individual consciousness detached from emotions and is connected to the discussion about the autonomy of the self and its preconditions. Professor Juha Siltala has used the painting in his book Miehen kunnia, (1994.) Picture: Otava.


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