According to Painter & Blanche (2004) the development of psychology in South Africa follows a path that closely parallels the discipline’s history worldwide. It imported and adapted various psychological tools and technology, such as intelligence tests (2004). In South Africa, these tests were used to test the mental ability of blacks and whites in order to establish the differences that were argued by the apartheid system. The discipline also focused on matters of race and racial discrimination as those were the critical issues at the time. As a result, the discipline became a tool for the apartheid system and was used to justify its oppression and contributed to its existence for such a long period of time. In the following paragraphs, political and psychological literature on apartheid will be critically analysed and discussed. The discipline of psychology in this country is defined by cultural and political shaping and this is evident in its progression from an instrument of oppression to its current emancipatory aspirations. This essay aims to broaden this statement by its analysis on what apartheid was and how did it contribute to the first shaping of South African psychology. It demonstrates how this discipline played a role in reconstruction South Africa into what it is known today.
According to Abraham (1972) apartheid was a monstrous system of class exploitation which was reinforced and intensified by racial divisions of black and white. This system allowed for the exploitation of the majority of South Africa’s population under the grounds of race – being exploited by the minority. This was achievable through the political mechanism of social control (Horrel; 1969). Social control is able to exist in society because of the class structure that exists and promotes inequality between people. This mechanism was then used to impose the apartheid laws and rules upon black people with succeeding results; it is only exercised in order to gain the necessary acceptance of something without protest. Abraham (1972), argues that social control takes two forms; coercion where the use and threat of physical violence and legitimation. These two forms work in hand in hand where legitimation is the act of making the apartheid system lawful and coercion is used upon those who protest it and refuse to abide by it.