[xmca] Zopeds at the cultural historical level

From: Mike Cole (lchcmike@gmail.com)
Date: Sun Dec 10 2006 - 13:19:13 PST

A while back Paul inquired into the issue of zone's of proximal development
at the cultural
historical level of analysis. I pointed to Yrjo's work in Learning by
Expanding, but Paul has
in mind far wider swatches of time.

In Yrjo's case, in some sense, a generalization of the method of dual
stimulation implemented
as cultural practices by a self-conscious group is the mechanism for
"changing oneself by
changing one's history" (where self may refer to Huck Finn or the Finnish 7
brothers or a group
of workers in some Finnish industry). I like the work a lot, but I agree
with Paul that it does not
answer to the question of Zopeds at the cultural historical level

The problem, for me, is that I am unsure that it is appropriate to seek any
such mechanism of
cultural historical change. A zoped, in my ( ipso facto flawed, mistaken,
and misguided understanding!)
is constituted in joint of activity of people with different resources
(knowledge, experience, courage.......)
for accomplishing a culturally valued task. In Vygotsky's rendering,
provided in the context of
psychological testing and pedagogical practice, the persona involved are a
more and less capable
person, sometimes referred to as more and less capable peers.

The difficulty at the cultural-historical level that bothers me is that it
is even more difficult than in the
ontogenetic case to figure out who the more capable person/social group
might be. For sure versions
of this idea that invoke some version of the "vanguard of the proletariat"
and associate notions of
false consciousness I experienced during the 20th century, did not impress
me as a useful
means for the development of humanity.

I should add that I also believe that uncritical evaluations of who the more
capable person is in the
ontogentic literature ought to be viewed sceptically, or at least bracketed.
In some cases (luria
seeking to help Zasetsky recover his blown-away intellectual functions so
that he can read and write
and live in his home town) the amazing zopeds Luria created seem
unproblematic ethically in terms
of almost anyone's view. In a lot of other cases I am less sure. Yrjo's
critique of unproblematic
"vertical developmentalism" in his "breaking away" article highlights the
dark side of educator's
good intentions even when they are, in some sense good, never mind the cases
in which psychopaths
are in charge of the classroom or the clinic.

But the question at the cultural-historical level remains in several

I am assuming that at the phylogenetic level no one wishes to claim that
there is any question of
the kind of teleology involved in issues surrounding the notion of zoped
within a CHAT perspective,
but this view is clearly in a tiny minority when viewed within the
contemporary ideological landscape.
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