RE: [xmca] New Book: Zones of Proletarian Development

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Tue Jul 22 2008 - 09:48:21 PDT

My world history professor at University of Chicago was a guy called MacNeill who wrote something called "The Rise of the West". That's all you really need to know about world history, according to MacNeill (and all you really need to know about MacNeill according to me).
Anyway, one of the games he used to play to while away the long hours before our final exam and his retirement was based on finding far flung parallels between cultures and then explaining them. He had a few tropes for doing this, but they were all unmediated; cultures learned things from other cultures, usually via direct diffusion (and yet when I suggested that all the books he had ever written and printed on paper were invented in China he scowled).
I think that Au, thankfully, avoids this; he pretty much leaves open the question of whether the undoubted influences of Lenin's work on Vygotsky's was direct or mediated. This is a wise move; they were doubtless both.
But it also leaves open the question of what the mediated sources of influence were, and whether there was any reciprocally mediated influence by Vygotsky or Vygotsky-like thinkers on Lenin or other state leaders.
An important means by which Lenin's work influenced Vygotsky was highly indirect: the Russian formalists and the futurists and the whole literary critical reaction to the romantic subjectivist view of language and meaning. By the late nineteenth century, there were already two important currents arguing that, contrary to romantic ideas of inspiration and philological lines of study that located meaning in texts, meaning really comes to language from outside the self. Not all of these were particularly "progressive"; T.S. Eliot, for example, argued that literary "inspiration" is a matter of building in almost imperceptible ways on a tradition that exists almost entirely outside the writer. Formalism and futurism took this to an extreme: meaning comes ENTIRELY from outside the self, and Lenin's and Trotsky's relationship to formalism and futurism (one of critical distance) is noticeably similar to LSV's own in Psychology of Art.
How did child psychology become important enough for the government to issue a decree banning pedology, intelligence testing, and LSV's work? A couple of months ago I read Bukharin's "Philosophical Arabesques", one of four books he wrote while awaiting execution. There is a great deal on how children learn language, some of it clearly directed towards creating the idea of a child who is almost entirely socio-culturally determined, a kind of human counterpart to the wheat that Lysenko was creating at that time.
Bukharin doesn't touch on one of the most obvious philosophical problems raised by Vygotsky's theory of child development, that is, the crisis. Crises are, of course, and inevitable feature of cultural historical change according to Lenin and they are equally unavoidable in child development according to Vygotsky:
"Facts show that in other conditions of rearing, the crisis occurs differently. In children who go from nursery school to kindergarten, the crisis occurs differently than it does in chidren who go into kindergarten from the family. However, the crisis occurs in all normally proceeding child development; the age of three and the age of seven will always be turning points in devleopment: there will always be a state of things where the internal course of the child’s development will conclude a cycle and the transition to the next cycle will necessarily be a turning point. One age level is reconstructed in some way in order to allow a new stage of development to begin." Volume Five, 1998: 295.

But not according to Leontiev:
"In fact crises are not at all inevitable accompaniments of psychic devleopment it is not the crises that are inevitable but the turning points or breaks the qualitative shifts in development. The crisis on the contrary is evidence that a turning point or shift has not been made in time. There need by no crises at all if the child's psychic devlopment does not take shape spontaneously but is a rationally controlled process, controlled upbringing." (Leontiev, A.N. (1981) Problems of the Development of the Mind. Moscow: Progress. 398-399)

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
Still thinking about that post you wrote on video games and changes in modern warfare. I was thinking that one of the main themes in the history plays of Shakespeare is the replacement of direct kingly combat (in which the king was an epic hero representing the nation) with war by proxy. Then I saw this:
Read and shudder!

--- On Mon, 7/21/08, Achilles Delari Junior <> wrote:

From: Achilles Delari Junior <>
Subject: RE: [xmca] New Book: Zones of Proletarian Development
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
Date: Monday, July 21, 2008, 10:44 AM

Thank you.

> From:
> Subject: Re: [xmca] New Book: Zones of Proletarian Development
> Date: Mon, 21 Jul 2008 18:17:26 +0100
> To:
> Here is the Au paper.
> Its great - very interesting application of Vygotsky's perspective on

> learning academic and everyday concepts with Lenin's on the
> imptorance of leading /teaching/instructing the revolutionary
> development of the proletariat.
> Shirley
> On 21 Jul 2008, at 18:07, Mike Cole wrote:
> > I agree. This looks like a REALLY relevant text to examine. Do not
> > know the
> > Vygotsky and

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Received on Tue Jul 22 09:50 PDT 2008

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