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Re: [xmca] Vygotsky and Behaviourism

Mike means, of course, that all systems leak. Russian just has a rather scatological way of putting it; I'm sure no aspersions on real persons or Buridan's best were intended.
Andy--there's a very good essay by Rene van der Veer in the Cambridge Companion called "Vygotsky in Context: 1900-1935" (pp. 21-50). The section on Kornilov (pp. 41-44) is particularly good. 
Rene van der Veer makes it clear that Kornilov was a very contradictory man, and that "reactology" was not simply (as Luria makes it sound) a relabelling of reflexes as "reactions". When Kornilov invited Vygotsky to join his laboratory, it was on the basis of real agreement.
First of all, both men agreed that biology was not reducible to physiology. Kornilov expressed this by saying that physiology was "objective" and biological processes were "subjective". Vygotsky, who for a while thought that the Buridan's ass problem could be solved by simply turning humans into dogs that ring their own bell, probably thought that consciousness could and eventually would be accounted for ("without remainder", as he liked to say) by biological processes, so long as these were not understood in a narrowly physiological way.
Second, both men wanted a materialist psychology and were profoundly suspicious of the data produced by introspectionism. Kornilov expressed this by calling his psychology "dialectical materialist" and even "Marxist", and by 1925 Vygotsky was, as we know, quite hostile to this kind of nomenclature (See History of the Crisis in Psychology). But Vygotsky, who for a while thought that Marxism was simply coterminous with scientific, was probably very sympathetic to the relabelling of responses as "reactions". When we read "Educational Psychology" it is easy to find whole chapters (e.g. 2, 3 and even Chapter 8, "The Reinforcement and Recollection of Reaction") that are part of this exercise.
But I think the main thing we learn from van der Veer's essay is how completely unformed psychology (and probably every other science too) was at that time. That's why I don't think it's at all correct to say that behaviorism was the "official" psychology of the period. In addition to inviting Vygotsky, Kornilov invited the well-known Freudian A.R. Luria to take part in his laboratory, and he was not at all sure that Freud's psychoanalysis was a nonmaterialist variety of psychology.
By the way there are also two good essays in the Companion about the resemblances between Vygotsky and Mead (Anne Edwards, and Holland and Lachichotte) and of course there's a similar essay in Daniels' "Introduction to Vygotsky" by Valsiner and van der Veer, where they trace BOTH men's thinking back to Baldwin. All of these articles suggest that there wasn't that much difference between social behaviorism and early Vygotsky.
Here are MY answers to your questions. You ask: 
"(1) By "social behaviourist" do you mean a follower of GH Mead? Or do
you mean someone thinking along the lines to which GH Mead would come? Can you
define the central idea?"
No, I don't. Vygotsky never read Mead or referred to him, as far as I know. But "social behaviorism" is a broader concept than Mead; to me it simply suggests that behavior is the explanadum and social organization is the explanans. You ask:

"(2) The idea of construction of self (I) via Other (me) is not sufficient basis
for calling someone "social behaviourist" is it? Whether you track
this idea to Hegel (1807), Mead (1932), Kojeve (1937), or elsewhere?"
No, it isn't. Bakhtin was not a social behaviorist, or a behaviorist of any kind as far as I can tell. I think saying that consciousness is a problem in the structuring of behavior is at least potentially a very different statement from saying that there is nothing more to consciousness than its ability to structure behavior. You say:

"(3) Do you agree that Vygotsky's January 1924 speech is a full-on attack on
Behaviourism, which was at that time the dominant creed at the Congress? He also
attack the other speakers at the Congress."
No, I don't. First of all, it wasn't the "dominant creed" at the Congress, as van der Veer makes clear. Secondly, as you say, it's not clear that this WAS the speech he delivered; the speech that others claim that he delivered is a fairly dull one on "The Methods of Reflexological and Psychological Investigation" (Vol. 3, 35-50). Thirdly, even if he did deliver the "Problems" paper, it's not clear to me that it is either pro- or anti-behaviorist.  
Vygotsky's "Consciousness as a problem in the structure of behavior" is really rather more bold than empirical but he does note that in deaf mutes conscious awareness of speech and social experience emerge together. To me this suggests that speech is in some very important sense prior, because speech emerges before consciousness of speech (except in second language learning). You say:

"(4) Do you think it makes sense to call someone engaged in a critique of all
existing views, who knows they do not yet have an adequate theory and are just
at the beginning of their critique, any "ism" ?"
He was a young teacher who was trying to run a psychological laboratory so he could train teachers. He wasn't in the position of someone who could simply attack everybody and look smart and leave it at that.He wasn't engaged in the sort of "epater les bourgeois" exercise that people do so avidly at academic conferences today. I don't think even the very young Vygotsky is reducible, without remainder, to chutzpah. 
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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