[xmca] Vygotsky's "objective" psychology

From: Peter Smagorinsky <smago who-is-at uga.edu>
Date: Fri May 18 2007 - 13:40:15 PDT

This summer I'm trying to catch up on some long-overdue reading. I've begun
with Vol. 3 of the Plenum series, the Collected Works of L. S. Vygotsky:
Problems with the History and Theory of Psychology.
First, Rene van der Veer's Foreword and introductory chapter are well worth
reading, particularly in informing our periodic discussions of problems with
translation from one language to another; and especially of translating
Vygotsky, who "never rewrote a text for the sake of improving its style and
readability" (van der Veer, p. v).
Vol. 3 of the English-language version is actually Vol. 1 of the Russian
collection, and it includes Leont'ev's introduction to the Russian series
(Leont'ev's intro is titled "On Vygotsky's Creative Development"). I'm
puzzled by some of the phrasing, and wonder if I'm coming up against a
translation issue (which happened when I first read of Vygotsky's "genetic"
method, which is developmental and not biological, as I'd originally
assumed). Leont'ev says that Vygotsky sought "to build a new, objective
psychology." I'm having trouble with the term "objective" here. My sense of
Vygotsky's project was that it involved what we now think of as
constructivism, which is typically positioned against objectivism. At the
same time, I know that some use the term "object" to refer to the
goal-oriented nature of activity. Can anyone help me with my trouble in
understanding the use of the term "objective" in this context?
One final thing: I'm aware that there's some disagreement over the extent to
which Vygotsky's work is Marxist. Leont'ev unambiguously describes
Vygotsky's work as inherently Marxist (e.g., "[Vygotsky's] new psychology
which dealt with the most complex phenomena of the mental life of man,
including consciousness, could only evolve on the basis of Marxism"
(Leont'ev, p. 15). I'm not sure why others would think differently--perhaps
someone who finds Vygotsky insuffiently Marxist could clarify.
In any case, I hope that your own summer work is off to a good start.
Peter Smagorinsky
The University of Georgia
Department of Language and Literacy Education
125 Aderhold Hall
Athens, GA 30602-7123
smago@uga.edu /fax:706-542-4509/phone:706-542-4507/
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Received on Fri May 18 13:41 PDT 2007

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