[xmca] The Lingering Blight of the Cold War

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Fri Sep 14 2007 - 18:00:59 PDT

I think both Professor Bruner's note and Eric's query about Marxism point us to an underdiscussed matter that is in many ways of more immediate relevance than, say, the effect of Stalinism on Vygotsky's legacy: the lingering curse of the Cold War on attempts to understand and carry on LSV's program.
  CASE ONE: Outright Censorship. Everybody knows by now that the first translation of "Thought and Language" by Hanfmann and Vakar deleted all references Marx, Engels, and Lenin. As result, the impression given of conceptual development is one of almost Piagetian stages--and this is exactly what Vygotsky was attempting to avoid. (I think THIS was the real significance of the publication of "Mind in Society"; it made it possible to re-read "Thinking and Speech" for the first time.)
  CASE TWO: "Scaffolding". Bruner describes how Soviet psychologists presented Vygotsky's ideas under the cover of Pavlov's in the form of a "second signal system". But how much greater (or at least more long-lasting) a distortion came from Bruner's own presentation of the Zone of Proximal Development as "scaffolding"! (Mike has done a great deal to redress this problem though!)
  CASE THREE: The "Bakhtin" Circle. I just got a very jolly letter from Gisele in Brazil (who I fervently hope will join us on these pages). She's doing a doctorate and she's EXTREMELY well read--well read enough to appreciate all the abstruse Paulhan stuff I sent her. But she never actually heard that the book which Ana Paula Cortez recently referred to as "The Philosophy of Language" was written by V.N. Volosinov.
  Yes, I know that Michael Holquist insists, without any material evidence, that Bakhtin is the author. But the question is why? Of course Bakhtin was the one who lived to tell the tale of these amazing men, and he was probably not averseto taking credit for a lot of the work of the so-called "Bakhtin Circle" (if that is what it really WAS called, which I rather doubt). After all, he took credit for the courses his brother took at Petersburg University, from which Bakhtin never graduated. But being the only non-Marxist of the so-called "Bakhtin Circle", Bakhtin was also the only one who is qualified to be called a genius today.
  Much has been made of the "totalitarian" atmosphere under which these great men worked and how it blighted their lives and works. But what about the lingering nightblindness of anti-communism in our OWN work?
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Fri Sep 14 18:02 PDT 2007

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