Re: [xmca] Zopeds at the cultural historical level

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Mon Dec 11 2006 - 00:39:11 PST

Mike, surely the essential thing about ontogenetic development which
differs from historical development is that in ontogeny the subject is
growing into an existing dominant culture and activity system, whereas in
history (and evolution) the subject is pulling itself up by its bootstraps,
except for various kinds of cultural domination, colonialism, etc. where a
dominant subject forces the development of a dominated subject. So if we
see ZPD as essentially existing in the relation between more and less
capable subjects, then the only way we can see it in history is via
domination. Some would argue that domination of one subject by another is
in fact the norm, not the exception, in history: war, conquest,
colonisation, enslavement, take-over, .... This is what Hegel's famed
master-slave dialectic is about, the same dialectic which deals with the
emergence of rational thought (theory and practice, scientific concepts,
etc.) from non-literate life (for want of a better word). Hegel's
dialectic of the relations between dominant and dominated subjects is never
(so far as I know) conceived as that of learner-teacher ... an interesting
thought though ...


At 01:19 PM 10/12/2006 -0800, you wrote:
>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.
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435, AIM
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