general, particular Holzkamp, Engeström

From: Wolff-Michael Roth (
Date: Tue Oct 12 2004 - 15:55:49 PDT

Hi all,
I am in the middle of "Das Kapital," and have had many thoughts about
the recent exchanges concerning Engeström/Holzkamp, Il'enkov/Dubrovsky
etc. Two things in particular to be mentioned here:

1. I don't think that Yrjö attends to Marx's emphasis on the
particular/general (concrete/abstract) distinctions. This is clear, in
part, of Y's use of "community" rather than "society", which, in my
view, also leads to the problem Mike once stated to me that some in our
community don't distinguish activity and action. Within communities (if
interpreted in Lave's sense), there is no commodity exchange; division
of labor happens at the level of the society, to which work IN GENERAL
contributes so that it continues to exist. The analyses YE provides are
always of concrete situations, that is, not of activities in general
but of concrete realizations. So the upper triangle relates to the
latter case, the individual in his/her productive situation, the lower
triangle pertains to the society, activity in general. The ideal
implies society, lower part of the big triangle, activity in general;
but the individual always concretely realizes it thereby makes it
actually possible.
2. This is where my second point comes in, activity in school? Marx
clearly says that all activity implies the exchange situation ,
Leont'ev talks about the vision of the outcome. I was thinking that
anyone analyzing school situations without attending to the exchange
situation (grades) students are involved in, does not do an activity
theoretic analysis in the dialectical materialist sense. Perhaps the
French Frenet schools, where students participate in everyday out of
school (this is the adjective Marx and Holzkamp use) activities or the
situations we set up where students contributed to environmentalism,
open house events, etc. in a free and open exchange with other parts of
the town are better examples than most of the ones we read about.


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