[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] Vygotsky's Plural Discourse!!

Sorry that I only occasionally get to catch up these days with the stacks of email in my xmca folder.

I was interested to read the paper by Jussi and many of the comments on it. I had not realized, having never read LSV in chronological order, the nature of the development of his ideas over time.

As to whether these represent 'epistemological breaks', or just a more usual to-and-fro of the very sort of dialectical development LSV was trying to characterize, I can't quite say. But I do think that Foucault's view of such things, and perhaps Althusser's, can be useful if we remember that F at least is not talking about changes in how someone thinks about or writes about a topic, but rather in the emergence in the community of new possibilities and forms of discourse: new topics, new questions, new forms of argumentation, new grounds for evidencing, new limitations and taboos, etc. One might compare this with the perhaps more familiar 'paradigm shift' notion of Kuhn. And it would seem to apply to anyone who thinks LSV, or Marx, or Freud, were intellectual revolutionaries in this broad sense. So what Jussi seems to me to be saying is that LSV participated in the beginnings of such a shift as he altered or expanded the possibilities for talking about the development of higher mental functions beyond the discourse of behaviorism, indeed beyond all possible such discourses, to not just his own theory (or Leontiev's, etc.) but to a whole new class of possible theories in which development was central, development was dialectical in a practical and material-activtiy sense, and in which sign mediation and the role of social meaning had an articulated and critical role. Perhaps not the best summary (cf. the two obituaries Jussi cites), but at about the right level of abstraction to make the point about what 'new' or 'revolutionary' means.

Correspondingly, as for Foucault, and maybe Althusser, one does not expect the individual theorist or writer to necessarily be aware of the larger-scale, longer-term nature of the 'break' or introduction of new possibilities for discourse. LSV was of course very conscious of the theoretical and philosophical traditions and historical context of psychology in his day, but it's still likely quite difficult to see these shifts at the time as a historian looking backward from decades or a century after LSV would see them. I think today it's widely recognized that Darwin introduced new possibilities of discourse about the natural world, and indeed new modes of explanation, well beyond his own specific theories. But I don't think that was evident at the time, either. So for LSV it probably felt like two steps forward, one step back. And small or medium sized steps at that. While for Jussi or for us, we can see it as building up steam for a big jump.

I was also interested that Jussi identified, and claims that in late lectures LSV also identified the biggest shift as that towards semantic analysis, semiotics, and meaning. Of course we all find it familiar today to see the end of behaviorism in the rise of an emphasis on meaning, a historical and cultural change that in some ways feels very recent, perhaps not even completely finished yet. And Jussi may be influenced by this familiar narrative of our times. But it also seems likely that he is right, and that LSV was right if he did say this, because of the very natural fit that we seem to have found in the last couple decades between CHAT and other semiotically- based forms of discourse, such as Bakhtin's dialogism, or socioculturally informed methods of discourse and semiotic analysis. And I wonder if Jussi isn't rather subtly suggesting that LSV's final agenda, left unfinished, is still somewhat unfinished. Because integrating the necessary emphasis on practical material activity as the context and generator of developmental change (or expansion) with the key role of social meaning systems and the individual's participation in them, does seem to me to remain incomplete. Especially across the wide range of timescales from episodes of activity to historical changes in the possibilities for social meaning- making.


Jay Lemke
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

On Jan 29, 2009, at 9:57 AM, kangasoj@mappi.helsinki.fi wrote:

Dear all,

I'd like to start the discussion on Jussi's paper by a couple of words on the heuristic Jussi uses, namely Althusser's idea of 'epistemological breaks' in making a new science. Jussi is using the idea as Foucault used it in Arhaeology of Knowledge - by tracing the epistemic contradictions and transformations in the development of science.

'New scinece starts with concepts borrowed from the old theories, and because of this the demarcation line between the old and the new science is within the new theory'.

Jussi asks firstly: how does the transition to a non-classical or 'organic psychology' really occur in Vygostky's thinking. As far as I understand, this type of developmental analysis has only been possible for a relatively short time for the non-russian speakers after the collected works appeared in English.

Jussi identifies three phases: A socio behaviourist phase of young Vygotsky, the founding phase of cultural historical psychology and the late Vygotsky's work. I think one of the key contributions of the paper is how Jussi relates these phases to the 'current disputes about the continuity or discontinuity between key figures in the Vygotsky school.'

In this note I will not go further into Jussi's actual argument on how the contradictions and transformations occurred in Vygotsky's thinking - I hope others will soon pick up the thread regarding those - but rather I'd like to connect to a personal experience from last week: I went to listed to Uffe Juul Jensen speak at the Unversity of Helsinki on 'Do we need a new philosophy of medicine?'. Uffe started out with a self reflective account on how where he grew up and studied, and the shifting intellectual currents around him formed who he was and is as a person, and how this is connected with how his thinking has evolved. This account reminded me very much of Jean Lave's wonderful autobiographical/intellectual history speech at ISCAR (in Seth's session where Jean, Uffe and Ray McDermott all gave a talk).

As I read Jussi's paper I realized that the heuristic discontinuous change he is using is somehow related to this particular type of scholarly (self) reflexivity that is very powerful and liberating. I don't really know yet what to make of it, but I recognize it as something of vital importance.

best, Jonna

Quoting "Mike Cole" <lchcmike@gmail.com>:

Go to http://www.lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Paper/index.html
and read all about it! Jussi's new paper proposed for
discussion is now posted.
xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list