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Rubinstein, Sergey Leonidovich


RUBINSTEIN, SERGEY LEONIDOVICH (1889–1960), Russian psychologist, educator and author. Rubinstein was director of the Institute of Psychology in Moscow from 1943 to 1945. His major work, Osnovy obshchey psikhologii ("Foundations of General Psychology," 19462), earned him the Stalin Prize in 1941. Rubinstein played a leading role in the efforts of the Soviet regime to construct an adequate body of psychological knowledge and theory based on Marxist materialism. While remaining faithful to Marx and following the physiological findings of Pavlov, he nevertheless came quite close to the theoretical interpretations of human behavior developed by European and American psychologists but met increasing criticism for relying too much on Western theories of psychology. In 1950 he was forced to resign in the wake of the "Pavlovianization" of Soviet psychology. Nevertheless his influence continued and he was greatly concerned with the place of psychology among the other sciences.

In his article "Voprosy psikhologicheskoi teorii" ("Questions of Psychological Theory," in: B. Simon (ed.), Psychology in the Soviet Union (1957), 264–78), he advocated a public debate in the press to decide whether psychology was a natural or social science or whether it had a special position as one of the humanities. He also gave impetus to the development of educational psychology, being sharply critical of the "two factor" or age and environment theory prevailing in the West. Soviet psychologists, influenced by Rubinstein, refused to accept the passive role assigned to the child in this interpretation of its development. According to Rubinstein, education and environment do not influence mental development automatically: their action is dependent on such other factors as the child's level of development, his relation to his environment, and the aims of his activity. Rubinstein's books include Bytiye i soznaniye ("Being and Consciousness," 1957), and Printsipy i puti razvitiya psikhologii ("Principles and Directions of Development in Psychology," 1959).


E.T. Chernakov, in: Voprosy Filosofii, 3 (1948), 301–15.

[Ernest Schwarcz]

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