Re: [xmca] Zopeds at the cultural historical level

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Sun Dec 17 2006 - 04:37:20 PST

I don't know, Hegel was theorising modernity not multiculturalism. But
according to Hegel social learning is not a process of imitation, or
civilisation "rubbing off" on people, but of the production and use of the
artefacts of a society in the production of the needs of that society
according to its laws. True, Hegel does not talk about "assisting" the
learning subject, but rather of subordinating them.
At 06:07 PM 15/12/2006 -0800, you wrote:
> I totally agree with your extended analysis of Hegel. The problem is
> that when we look at the reality of the relations that arise between
> conquered and conquerers the patterns of assimilation are really quite
> different. The conquered often "shuck and jive", move slowly, withdraw
> into smaller and smaller universes where they preserve the core of their
> identity prior to being conquered. Eric Wolf called this the "gods
> beneath the altar". As I remember Benjamin's "Theses on Historical
> Materialism", he pointed to this: histories are stopped but not
> necessarily eliminated, these chronological frameworks within which the
> phylogenetic zopeds exist, but they are waiting to begin again. History
> isn't unilinear, something Marx saw quite clearly in the ethnological
> studies he was undertaking at the end of his life. For Hegel, history
> was unilinear and Reason was the telos toward which everything cultural
> and historical moved. Not so Marx.
> Another important thing I remember about the hegelian master-slave
> dialectic concerns the role of work in developing the universal essence
> that later becomes the basis of the post-feudal civilizations. Very
> materialistic really.
> The question I think about a lot, especially in light of the "andean
> cosmovision" movements, of which Evo Morales is a happy surfer, is
> whether the elements that have been conserved can be developed again with
> their own dynamic, that the "other" way of putting the pieces together
> can become a dynamic in it's own right. There is a very advanced
> movement down here in that direction. Right now, the City of Villa el
> Salvador, originally a "squatter's settlement" to the south of Lima
> (something very comparable to El Alto's relationship with La Paz in
> Bolivia) is hosting a "Reawaken the Native Gods (wakas)" reunion,
> inviting shamans from the highlands to Paracas (the third most important
> ceremonial site at the time of the Conquest) for three days to pray and
> dance and revitalize those spiritual forces. A lot of people here move
> in that direction which isn't a simple nationalism since it is
> pan-Andean, refers to the non-European, to another ontology as one friend
> puts it.
> Like I said, I don't think Hegel sheds much light on this process or
> how the conquered manage to preserve that sense of identity in codes that
> resist rational penetration.
> Paul
>Andy Blunden <> wrote:
> Paul, I let my contribution to this thread drop, because I wasn't sure how
>much a compare-and-contrast of Hegel's master-servant and Vygotsky's ZOPED
>was useful. But anyway ...
>The essence of the master-slave dialectic is this (IMO): the master
>incorporates the material energies of the servant into its own system of
>needs and their satisfaction, so that all the artefacts of the conquered
>subject are destroyed as artefacts and their materiality (the land,
>products, etc and the bodies of the human individuals) is re-organised as
>part of the subjectivity of the coloniser (their meaning is changed), by
>virtue of the dominated people labouring under the direction of the master,
>meeting the master's needs according to the methods of the master, the
>servant's lands and bodies being redefined as resources for meeting the
>needs of the master. The servant not only loses all control of their own
>activity, but are forced into activity which they neither understand nor
>see the need for. Thus the "unhappy consciousness." But as Paul says, by
>performing the activity defined by the coloniser's subjectivity, they
>become officienados in that activity, thus arises (development and)
>The servant's material activity mediates between the master's needs
>(consciousness) and their satisfaction in the form of culture; the master's
>culture and consciousness mediates between the slave's activity and their
>consciousness of that activity.
>The shared core of this conception with Vygotsky's ZPD is that of the
>dominant culture, represented by a dominant subject, determines both the
>activity that the 'learner' must perform and the needs being fulfilled;
>doing without understanding leads to understanding of doing, ultimately,
>the non-subject becomes a free and equal member of the dominant activity an
>culture by learning to reproduce it by their own activity.
>For Hegel this is the dialectic by which *self-consciousness emerges*; it
>is the dialectic relating subjective consciousness and objective
>I don't know if that help anything or not. I'm not sure.
>At 01:45 PM 15/12/2006 -0800, you wrote:
> >mike,
> >
> > I've just gone back to read some xmca posts -- been computer deprived
> > for a bit and stuck to using internet cabinets in Lima for very brief
> > stuff. I had erased a lot of messages but found that I hadn't read the
> > one you originally posted, to which I'm now replying, probably postponing
> > it until I could read more carefully. Then I went to the xmca website to
> > check the thrread in detail and found it had bifurcated, someone posted a
> > reply, changing the subject name to something about more competent
> > peers. That thread grew a lot and I haven't read all those messages so
> > I'm not sure whether the original thread concerning cultural-historical
> > zopeds continued there.
> >
> > The way you phrased the problem was quite clear and Andy's response
> > about conquest and colonization most interesting. resonating with an
> > earlier exchange around the book about native american science. In the
> > 1500s the conquering Europeans were arguably less culturally advanced in
> > many fields of human practices (engineering, mathematics, astronomy,
> > agriculture, institutional administration, just to mention a few) than
> > the people they conquered. They really only had an advantage in
> > weaponry. And there was absolutely no zoped functioning in either
> > direction it seems, just a master-slave relation. For Hegel that
> > relation turns into a pyrrhic victory followed by the esse"Unhappy
> > Consciousness" in which the dominated slave realizes its own nce to be
> > the negation of the Individual and the true universality of consciousness
> > as something trans-individual. The slave realizes that s/he is the truth
> > of the Master. I always recall the scene from the movie Spartacus when the
> > Roman general asks: Who is Spartacus? and one by one all of the
> > rebelling slaves stand up and claim to Spartacus. Then they are all
> > crucified, of course. But that transition isn't an example of a zoped so
> > Hegel isn't much help here.
> >
> > The problem of more advanced cultural forms is certainly an important
> > one, but when I wrote the query concerning the historical dimensions of
> > the zoped, I wasn't really thinking about the problem in quite the way
> > you phrased it, that is I wasn't really thinking about more or less
> > advanced cultures as defined in terms of specific practices (I don't
> > think it would be possible to specify that one culture is superior to
> > another in any absolute sense, but yes at the level of specific
> > practices), I was really wondering about the transmission of customs and
> > habits that seems to occur without any conscious teaching involved, but
> > which is part of the package when a child is learning the basics, that
> > historical dimension that moves at the backs of people, without their
> > knowledge or awareness. I don't see how we can doubt that this goes on;
> > e.g., learning racism implicitly in nursery rhymes, learning the
> > individualism (looking out for good old number one first) also seems to
> > qualify as something that isn't so much taught as a specific skill
> > imparted by a more knowledgeable member of the group, but as a corrolary
> > to learning itself within certain cultures, just as learning that the
> > family comes first is dominant in others. It's very clear to me that
> > there is a big gap between people's real morality and their ideal one and
> > that practicality (living in the world with the skills we've learned) is
> > usually the reason given to explain the difference between the
> > two. Yeah, it'd be great to turn the other cheek but in reality no one
> > does because that's just not the way the world works.
> >
> > If such is the case, that these dimensions, primarily moral and ethical
> > ones, are transmitted first in this kind of "blind" way , then the
> > modification of these levels must depend on something other than the kind
> > of direct teaching that characterizes a zoped.
> >
> > Perhaps the examples given by Yrjo point in this direction more than I
> > realized and I'll have to go back and look at that: but as I remember,
> > these "expansions" involved breaking out, destroying old structures, and
> > clearing a space for new ones. What bigger space than a raft on the
> > Mississippi River? The idea that a zoped is a conversation with a future
> > seems very useful to me, the question of course: what is that
> > future? Andy's statement that phylogenesis is about "pulling oneself up
> > by the bootstraps" enters here. But really, how is it possible to avoid
> > teleology?
> >
> > Lately I've been very much impressed what could be called "historical
> > traumas", events and processes extending over a period of time, that
> > leave what I can only describe metaphorically as topography within which
> > the rivers of consciousness/mind flow. This a result of living again in
> > the Andes where a suppressed past is constantly whispering beneath the
> > present day-to-day activities. There are major traumas: the Conquest in
> > the Americas , extirpation of idolatries=attempted destruction of
> > indigenous belief systems, whose effects are still reverberating after
> > 500 years, and there are lesser ones, like the social-political violence
> > that lasted in the Central Andes for about 15 years (1980-1995) but whose
> > effects shape the way parents relate to their children, silences, all
> > those things left unsaid, The same song sung by both sides of the war:
> > Flor de la Retama. .
> >
> > When Zlatcko addressed my initial post in which I suggested that Paolo
> > Freire's notion of situation-limits (something he got from Karl Jaspers)
> > had a bearing in the question of what happens in a zoped, he brought up
> > the point of sufficiently grounded evidence as to what might be the
> > phylogenetic strands of development. This is quite difficult to address
> > obviously. The vanguard of the proletariat lacks any meaning when one
> > can't really identify a proletariat. China inundates the world's markets
> > with well-made and embarrrasingly inexpensive goods that undermine the
> > industrial working classes of Europe and America. We come back to
> > cultures--where do we find the universal basis? is there one?
> >
> > Hegel's unhappy slaves found the universal meaning through work which
> > was of course social activity. Perhaps the very course, as Ilyenkov
> > suggested, is something that's laid out there before us, that some groups
> > of the larger society will instinctively understand in its teleology just
> > by their position within the system.
> >
> > This all written in the old notion of xmca where half-baked ideas were OK.
> >
> > Paul Dillon
> >
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