Re: [xmca] Where is the historical dimension of the ZPD?

From: Paul Dillon (
Date: Mon Dec 04 2006 - 15:59:15 PST

Yes, mike, I'm very familiar with that work and have used it here in Ayacucho and the UNSCH. But I don't find Yrjo present here where these issues are being discussed and, with the exception of the work on the transition from traditional medical practices, Yrjo, who was an exchange student in Eureka, hasn't followed up this line, and certainly has never addressed it to the implicit class dimensions of the ZPD.

Mike Cole <> wrote:
  You might want to check out Engestrom's Learning by Expanding for a way to
think of zoped's in terms of cultural-historical time, Paul. Its on the web
at lchc.

On 12/4/06, Paul Dillon
> Sasha, mike, Mike, all,
> The braid that has developed around the initial issue of empirical
> evidence for Vygotsky's ZPD has delved deep into the foundations of
> CHAT. Throughout I have been wishing that my books weren't located in
> various storage spaces 9,000 miles to the north. Although there are
> internet archives (especially MIA) that contain the materials I wanted to
> consult, but they are so much more difficult to use than my already-read
> books with their dog-ears and underlines, highlighted passages and commented
> margins. I foresee the need to develop a much more digital orientation
> since dog-ears and underlines are really much easier in electronic/digital
> formats. But I don't have that at present so didn't participate much.
> But I found that several people, especially Sasha, posted detailed
> discussions of the fundamental theoretical bases and I've been content
> reading what others have posted; in particular, the recognition that
> Ilyenkov produced the most important body of work for expanding Vygotsky's
> dialectical materialist framework.
> But where is the historical dimension? History – tradition –
> culture. Vygotsky's ZPD, if anything, is a relation between someone who is
> being guided to functional competence within a cultural tradition (could be
> making a guitar, could be learning algebraic topology, could be cooking
> roasted guinea pig or making a pisco sour) and someone who already knows how
> to do it. And the person who already knows how to do it, in turn, learned
> from someone else, who was at one time on the other side of the
> relationship. And each one, yes, upon learning, added something, maybe in
> some cases totally transformed what was being learned. This is the
> historical dimension that extends across generations of human
> individuals. And this is what seems to be totally missing from the threads
> that make up the braid of the recent posts.
> Into Spinozan monism Hegel introduced History as an alienated God
> looking for itself; Marx adopted the Hegelian progression but following
> Feuerbach in that History had nothing to do with God trying to find itself
> again but with one class of people exploiting another in the process of
> dealing with the material necessity that all people experienced and how the
> oppressed classes' struggle against its exploitation put a motor into the
> process: all history is the history of class struggle (could it be possible
> that Vygotsky didn't accept this?). But history-tradition-culture is more
> than just a struggle of oppressed against oppressor, I think.
> Since Marx's time we've come to know a lot more about universal history
> and consequently also seen that such a dualistic vision of exploiter and
> exploited is much more complex than Marx depicted it; not as simple as
> feudal lord v. serf, capitalist v. proletariat, although the underlying
> insight has never been refuted in history, is still ongoing, as witnessed by
> the synchronistic agonizing of Pinochet as the emblem of archaic
> oppression and Fidel as the beacon of the universal liberation. As
> witnessed by Chavez' overwhelming and repeated victories in Venezuela.
> I´ve believed for a long time that Marx, not Kant, provided the
> Copernican revolution, but like Copernicus, needed/needs a Kepler to make
> the theory fit the experience. Vygotsky, working in psychology, began to
> provide that, but Ilyenkov put it on a firm theoretical footing. And
> Ilyenkov, emphasized the historical dimension as the indispensable element:,
> especially in his discussions of the emergence of the theory of value
> (Abstract and Concrete, page numbers unknown, but available bedrudgingly
> upon request) are key in this respect.
> So where is history in how XMCA/CHAT people are dealing with the
> problem of learning? CHAT=Cultural Historical Activity Theory. A lot is
> discussed about Activity, a little about Culture, but hardly anything at all
> about History. In thinking about this, Albert Schutz´s theories of the
> phenomenological dimensions of history are perhaps more relevant than Arnold
> Toynbee's or Fernand Braudel's or any other scholastic historians´, even
> Eric Hobsbawm or E. P. Thompson. Lived history, the history in which the
> ZPD must be situated.
> Some of the best presentations I've heard at conferences where CHAT folk
> present their research have had to do with the dimensions of
> cultural-historical relevance (eg, la Aula Mágica??) where it is absolutely
> clear that the historical oppression of one culture by another need be
> addressed to achieve what Paolo Freire discovered in his own version of the
> ZPD (> historical dimension . . . not empirically controlled laboratories aimed at
> generating understanding. (cf. Theses on Feuerbach)
> The fear of being labelled racist has led many to reject Luria's central
> Asian studies but something important is lost when the baby goes down the
> drain with the bathwater. All this might be easier to see in countries
> where people still live on the material bases of pre-capitalist
> organization, communities that will go on if/when the
> world-capitalist-system crashes and burns, tucked high away in the folds of
> Andean valleys (and other such niches) with intermittent petroleum based
> connections to Coca-Cola culture. Their resistance is understandable. Can
> 'empirical' implementations of the Vygotsky's ZPD deal with this? But this
> is the historical dimension.
> When I begin to learn something it is an object outside of me, like
> learning to ride a bicycle or play the guitar, it is a struggle against an
> external object. But once I have learned it, it becomes part of my own
> subjectivity, that is, part of the way I express my freedom. Subject and
> object dissolve into each other within a historical dimension of bicycles
> and guitars and other products of particular and universal histories. And
> in turn, history absorbs and dissolves the competent and a less competent
> participant in its processes into the cultures and traditions and struggles
> of which it composed, passed along from generation to generation. Or so it
> seems to me.
> Paul Dillon
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