RE: [xmca] Book entitled Zones of Proletarian Development

From: Margaret Woodruff-Wieding <mwieding who-is-at>
Date: Thu Jul 24 2008 - 12:56:40 PDT

Well, I certainly wasn't voting against a review by Jonna and Bruce. I just
wanted all of us to buy the book and start talking about it in our regular
listserv here. I get a lot out of this listserv.


To answer your question about what I meant when I said "I am really pleased
that she (Mastaneh Shah-Shuja) understands the importance of the work that
people associated with xmca are doing."


1. What work are people associated with xmca doing? An alternative
praxis. On pp. 8-10 of Zones of Proletarian Development, Shah-Shuja
evaluates what she calls "contemporary literature regarding proletarian
movements" quite critically. She finds Karl Marx, Karl Korsch, Rosa
Luxemburg, Gramsci, and Hardt and Negri useful, but ignores or dismisses
many other well-known social critics. She chooses to "begin the
reconstruction of an alternative praxis" with Vygotsky, Volo¹inov, Bakhtin,
and proponents of Activity Theory." She explains carefully that "the
amalgamation of these writers, once encased in a sound historical
materialist epistemology, transmutes into an approach commensurate with the
aim of turning the world upside down. Why should this be? Well, for one
thing, [these authors] seem to intuitively cover up each others'
shortcomings, as if embarrassed by their fellow-travellers' lack of insight
into certain fields of investigation. Thus Vygotsky covers up for Bakhtin's
lack of knowledge regarding development and learning; Bakhtin returns the
compliment in relation to Vygotsky's rather anaemic conceptualisation of the
social; and contemporary Activity Theorists cement both Vygotsky and Bakhtin
by providing a framework of analysis for various political and economic
imperatives. Moreover, all these approaches have a richness about their
textual and conceptual tool-making kits which makes them productive
theory-generators across a multiplicity of disciplines."


Now, that's pretty much what I have understood from months of reading the
xmca listserv and a number of the recommended essays, as well as some work
by Vygotsky and by Cole. So, I like it that Shah-Shuja is excited about the
same work that I find exciting.


In her list of references at the end of the book, Shah-Shuja cites Bakhurst;
Blunden; C.H.A.T. (The Activity System, 1998); Cole's Cultural Psychology
(1996); Beyond the Individual-Social Antinomy in Discussions of Piaget and
Vygotsky by Cole and Wertsch; Cole's "The Zone of Proximal Development" in
Wertsch's Culture, Communication, and Cognition (1985), Wertsch, del Rio,
and Alvarez; Wertsch and Tulviste; Engeström; Kozulin; Leontiev; Newman and
Holzman; Valsiner; van der Veer; van Geert; Veresov; Volo¹inov; and eleven
items by Vygotsky.


2. To what end are people associated with xmca conducting their
research and writing? Well, as she said, "Turning the world upside down."
That is, creating a society in which "the free development of each is the
condition for the free development of all" (Marx [and Engels]
1847-48/Middlesex: Penguin, 1986:105, The Communist Manifesto). These quotes
are from pp. 10 and 12 in Zones of Proletarian Development.


3. As part of what overall idea is xmca work important? Well, surely one
would have to name more than one idea. First, the idea that what humans
should be doing is to understand their culture(s) as something that is
created and transmitted by people working together in activity that is made
possible by a variety of tools that can be developed only cooperatively.
Second, the idea that there is something terribly wrong about restricting
access to understanding this essential human activity by using people's time
and lives as tools for power and profit instead of helping them to develop
their capacities through playful educational activity. Following from that,
the idea that capitalism in its present global form needs to be changed
because its exploitation of human and natural resources for war and profit
interferes with people living fully self-actualized lives.


But please, let me know if I am reading my own Marxism and my own philosophy
of education into what I read on the listserv. Perhaps I don't understand


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Mike Cole
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2008 1:34 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Book entitled Zones of Proletarian Development


Fascinating! So you are voting for a collective review that is a summary of

the discussion, Margaret?That also sounds interesting even if not a printed

book review. We had the idea of eletronic review section a long time ago,

but this is a new context. (Of cours, this does not

preclude a printed review by Jonna and Bruce, of course)>


Can you summarize for us what this means: I am really pleased

that she understands the importance of the work that people associated with

xmca are doing.


What work,

to what end,

as part of what overall idea?




On Thu, Jul 24, 2008 at 10:30 AM, Margaret Woodruff-Wieding <> wrote:


> I would appreciate it if we could begin discussing Zones of Proletarian

> Development on the listserv as soon as possible. I have already received

> from and have begun reading it. Although the style is

> unconventional, the author's thinking seems to be clear; if not, I would

> like for someone to point out to me where it is unclear.




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Received on Thu Jul 24 12:58 PDT 2008

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