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Abstract

Action research, as envisaged by Lewin, uses research to solve a social problem and provide theoretical knowledge. It involves a cyclical–spiral of planning, action, and evaluation with feedback between parties, taking into account power and value differences and empowering change agents. This has been all but abandoned by social psychologists today. Contemporary ‘participatory’ action research has migrated to fields like education and development and community studies that emphasize a social constructionist epistemology with a qualitative approach of recording bottom-up processes of social change and community self-awareness. The globalization of psychology affords new opportunities for a return to more top-down Lewinian traditions, where academics in the developing world – embedded within a cultural milieu of interconnectedness and relatively exempt from pressures to publish or perish – can work together with academics in wealthy countries to produce a process oriented psychology that is capable of making a difference under conditions of climate change and the end of cheap oil. Asian social psychology, where strongly indigenous psychologies have taken root in growing economies, may take a leading role in this movement.