Positioning Theory


In general, psychology does not pay a lot of attention to the realm of what people can possibly do as the focus is on explaining what people actually do. A notable exception to this is Positioning Theory, a perspective on psychology developed by Rom Harré and collaborators. Positioning Theory stresses that understanding what people do and what they don’t do requires to look at what is permissible to do according to the local moral order that is followed and to the positions that people take in that order. “Positions” are clusters of beliefs that people have with respect to the rights and duties to act in certain ways. “Positioning” refers to the processes of assigning, appropriating, or rejecting positions. Every position both opens and closes possible actions. What people possibly can do is a function of three determinants: the capacities of people to do certain things, the restrictions imposed upon people to do certain things, and the intentions that people have to do certain things. One of the basic functions of society is to both stimulate and contain the possibilities of human agency. The study of the possible thus deals with the understanding of how a category of what might be possible in any given context has the chance of succeeding, yet might be denied due to a range of impermissible positions.