Re: [xmca] Genealogy & the Evolution of CHAT

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Thu Sep 13 2007 - 12:55:26 PDT

Russian Psychology: A Critical History, David Joravsky. 1989. Basil
Blackwell, New York. 624 pages.

On 9/13/07, Worthen, Helena Harlow <> wrote:
> Good morning!
> I'm going to take up Cathrene's invitation to add some pieces to the
> broad portrait of the history of CHAT from my own idiosyncratic
> perspective.
> In 1962 I was a freshman at Harvard (then Radcliffe) and wandered into
> one of those 200-person lecture courses taught by Jerome Bruner, who
> assigned us Vygotsky's Thought and Language to read, translated by
> Hanfmann and Vakar, complete with the insert pamphlet containing
> Piaget's response. I have that copy on my desk as I write, with my
> 19-year old's comment, "An excellent book" in bright purple ballpoint
> ink on the flyleaf. Vygotsky, explained by Bruner, made sense in a way
> unlike anything else I had ever read about speech, language, learning,
> creativity and change. I had no idea at the time why it made sense; it
> just did.
> Bruner told us that in the 1940's and 1950's, both during the war and
> afterwards during the heyday of the Cold War, there were conferences
> where one might meet Soviet psychologists who would make presentations
> based on Pavlov but, over cocktails later, would say, "But the real guy
> is Vygotsky, we're just calling it Pavlov because we have to." Bruner
> said (and of course, 45 years later this is not going to be an exact
> quote),"But no one [in the west] knew who this Vygotsky was."
> "No one" can't have been strictly true, because there was quite a bit of
> cultural exchange back and forth between the US and the Soviet Union in
> the 1920's and early 1930's, including Dewey and a lot of people from
> the worlds of theater, film and art.
> But I heard that the way the news about Vygotsky "got out" was at least
> in part because of Bruner's connection to the Harvard Russian Project
> (which apparently is still going on), as described by Raymond A. Bauer,
> 1916-1977, who was the Field Director in Germany of this project (the
> Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System) and then became a Harvard
> Business School prof. Some of his books are still available through the
> MIT website. In the 1990's, when I was re-entering the world of
> education and trying to figure out why Vygotskian theory was so
> different, I read Bauer's book, "The New Man in Soviet Psychology,"
> which traces the development of Soviet psychology, from a particular
> point of view.
> The task of the Harvard Russian Project was to collect from Soviet
> refugees as much information as possible about what was going on in the
> Soviet Union. The papers from this project are on the web:
> Here is a quote from a letter on that site that conveys sharply the
> urgency of this research. It's addressed to someone who had apparently
> gone through the debriefing and wanted some kind of other help:
> "Since a clear and accurate conception of Soviet Russian is
> indispensable if we are to survive, I feel it a pity that your knowledge
> does not get the recognition it deserves. Unfortunately, as you know, we
> have no connection with government agencies and our field of action is
> limited to talking to Displaced Persons and making the results known to
> the American people."
> Part of that "clear and accurate conception" was apparently an
> understanding of how a Marxist psychology would contribute to the
> creation of the New Man, whom I guess we expected we might meet on the
> battlefield. In US propaganda films of that period, this "new man" is
> represented by robot-like figures marching or working in unison, to
> suggest the tyranny of the collective.
> Helena
> Helena Worthen, Clinical Associate Professor
> Labor Education Program, Institute of Labor & Industrial Relations
> University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
> 504 E. Armory, Room 227
> Champaign, IL 61821
> Phone: 217-244-4095
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []
> On Behalf Of Cathrene Connery
> Sent: Friday, September 07, 2007 4:21 PM
> To:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [xmca] Genealogy & the Evolution of CHAT
> [clip]
> What if everyone took a deep breath, typed the stem "In the
> beginning...." and wrote in a stream of conscious fashion knowing that
> there is a younger generation of scholars, an eager audience, who need
> and look up to your guidance? One or two paragraphs would be enough.
> [clip]
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Received on Thu Sep 13 12:58 PDT 2007

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