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Re: [xmca] The theoretical reason of the "ban" on Vygotsky
Thank you Steve.
Even though, I do not share some of the ideas in this quotation, it helps to
have an insight into that period.
On 17/02/2009, Steve Gabosch <email@example.com> wrote:
> [The lengthy passage below is quoted from pg 17-19 of _Vygotsky Today: On
> the Verge of Non-Classical Psychology_, by Alexander Asmolov, 1998, Nova
> Science Publishers. I am just now reading this book and am struck by its
> insights and eloquence. Asmolov's reflections on some of the excellent
> questions Ulvil poses about the 1930's seem like a good way to kick off that
> discussion. He explains his reasoning for concluding that "The program of
> cultural-historical psychology clearly diverged then with the program of
> building a totalitarian socialism." Btw, AA includes an excerpt from a
> private letter by Vygotsky that some might find interesting. - Steve]
> [From Vygotsky Today, 1998, by A Asmolov:]
> For D.B. Elkonin, L.S. Vygotsky's transition from an interpretation of
> social environment as "factor" to the understanding of the "social as the
> "*source*" of personality development symbolizes the beginning of the
> *nonclassical psychology of consciousness*.
> And it is the strength of L.S. Vygotsky's cultural-historical psychology
> rather than its weakness that this theory is often perceived as closer by
> spirit to art than to psychology based on classical rational thinking.
> The secret of L.S. Vygotsky's contemporaneity in the history of science was
> nearly found by S. Toulmin, A. Puzyrei, A. Kozulin who, while speaking about
> "the phenomenon of Vygotsky" as a riddle of twentieth century, come very
> close to the solution in their characteristics of L.S. Vygotsky. S. Freud
> taught that metaphors have hidden meaning. These authors compared Vygotsky
> with Mozart, and his fate with the fates of literary characters by
> M.Cervantes, T. Mann, H. Hesse and B. Pasternak, thus presenting a key to
> the understanding of the "phenomenon of Vygotsky" and his special path in
> science. Vygotsky always, even when his texts were clothed in behavioristic
> or reflexological scientific terminology, maintained the profound position
> of Master, genuine artist concerned with the construction of cultural
> concrete human psychology. Cultural-historical psychology thus became a
> product of a new culture of understanding the human being, generated in the
> creative workshops of L.S. Vygotsky and his companions. In terms of the
> poetic typology of Osip Mandelshtam, so much appreciated by Vygotsky
> himself, one can say that Vygotsky was the "meaning-seeker" rather than
> "rational formalist".
> It is true, that the ideas of Vygotsky's school have been later put, as
> some philosophers note, into anabiosis for years. But this was so not at all
> because these ideas dealt with the spheres of logic, philosophy or
> culturology, and psychologists had not understood their significance. The
> cause of the delay of the development ofcultural-historical theory, its
> slowing down and dividing into many outflows from the main channel, that
> sometimes seem not connected to each other, lays in the social history of
> society rather than in science itself.
> In order to understand the social biography of cultural-historical
> psychology, it is necessary first of all to place the mosaic of cultures
> through human history at two poles - the pole of *usefulness* and the pole
> of *dignity*. *In the culture of usefulness* the idea that the universe is
> like a huge clock started by a wise watchmaker prevails. Everything is
> measured, predictable and subordinated to the order of social activities
> given once and forever. In fiction such a rational social world was
> precisely depicted in the utopias "We" by E. Zamyatin and "1984" by G.
> Orwell. But, as was sung in a Soviet song "we're born to make a tale come
> true". Utopias of E. Zamyatin and G. Orwell have come true, become embodied
> in the impersonal culture of usefulness. Any concrete human psychology to be
> sure, humanistic cultural-historical psychology was alien to the essence of
> this culture. By the fact of their existence they threatened the foundations
> of this culture and thereby were dangerous and excessive for it.
> The culture of usefulness is "equipped" with the sort of ideological
> filters which sensitively determine which "human image" has a right to exist
> in mentality and society, be a subject of scientific research. The image of
> "marionette person", "behavioral robot", even if it was not realized by
> researchers, was mostly justified by works in the field of conditional
> reflexes, reflexology and reactology. It was just this image of
> "reflexological robot" that was finally demanded by the
> command-administrative system of totalitarian socialism.
> In the 1930's a shadow of the totalitarian socialist culture of usefulness
> slowly but consistently crawled into genetics, the philosophy of the
> noosphere and pedagogy. Alongside with genetics and philosophy preaching
> the "principle of solidarity", even human science was ostracized.
> Vygotsky's school of cultural-historical psychology had been rapidly
> forming in those years as practical developmental psychology, the basis of
> pedology - science of child development and education. But the
> command-administrative system built in 1930s did not need psychological
> research for the development of individuality, assessment of individual
> abilities in children. It was a time when in the atmosphere of total
> unification barrack-like pedagogy began to affirm. The program of
> cultural-historical psychology clearly diverged then with the program of
> building a totalitarian socialism.
> The culture of usefulness claimed to have the exclusive right to decide
> where a person should go, where to be, what to think about. A sharp contrast
> to the imperatives of culture of usefulness were the letters written by L.S.
> Vygotsky in 1930 and 1931: "Every person must know where he/she is. You and
> me - we also know it and must stand firmly. Therefore the result: you,
> rather than someone else, should write about the reaction of choice, this
> chapter about the developing human freedom from external constraints of
> things and their will ... ". " ...It is impossible to live without
> conceiving life spiritually. Without philosophy (own, personal, living)
> there may be nihilism, cynicism, suicide, but not life. But everybody has
> one's own philosophy. It is necessary to grow it in oneself, because it
> supports life in us .... What can shake a person seeking truth? How much
> inner light, heat, support is in this seeking and striving! And the most
> important is the life itself - sky, sun, love, people, suffering. This is
> real, not just words. This is genuine. This is interwoven in life. Crises
> are not temporary states, but a path of inner life. When we pass from
> systems to fates fates.... birth and death of systems, we will see this
> ourselves". ("It is impossible to live not conceiving life spiritually":
> L.S. Vygotsky's letters to his disciples and colleagues. Published by A
> Puzyrei, Znanie - Sila, 1990, N 7, p. 93-94). To comment on these lines,
> their amazing irrelevance and absurdity in 1930's, would be like retelling
> poetry in prose. This is enough to feel the drama of both L.S. Vygotsky's
> fate and the fate of a whole program of cultural-historical psychology.
> *The culture of usefulness does not need people and sciences oriented to
> personal fate, to that what underlies each person - capacity to change,
> variability, unpredictability. Such sciences, be it Vygotsky's
> cultural-historical psychology, Vernadsky's noosphere or Vavilov's genetics,
> are dangerous for the totalitarian system, because they assert the right for
> unpredictability, variability in the society.* By that, they call into
> question the basic model of a transparent world which can be handled by an
> all-seeing watchmaker according to a plan.
> <end of quote>
> [All the above is from pg 17-19 of _Vygotsky Today: On the Verge of
> Non-Classical Psychology_, by Alexander Asmolov, 1998, Nova Science
> On Feb 17, 2009, at 1:41 AM, ulvi icil wrote:
>> I would like to ask any reference book or article about the*
>> theoretical*reasons of why Vygotsky was not recognized in Soviet Union
>> starting from 30s
>> until 60s (it seems that, according to Mike (Cole) , his students were
>> in a situation of dissidence even around 1990s.
>> I know that there may be many absurd political reasons about the ban on
>> Vygotsky and his colleagues.
>> But rather than the political ones, I would like to know the theoretical
>> reasons: What the Soviet power did not like in Vygotsky's theory and
>> approach? Did such a reason exist which belonged not to politics but to
>> science of psychology itself?
>> I know that Vygotsky rejected to qualify psychology "Marxist" easily ,
>> without truly obtaining a scientific, Marxist science of psychology (He
>> emphasized that psychology can only be Marxist in "Historical Crisis").
>> May be authorities did not like his approach in this regard. Also, in that
>> period, authorities did not like people look also to the West in various
>> areas, including the art and they preferred people create science, art etc
>> which belong only to Soviet Union...etc
>> So, is there any hint about there any big theoretical difference beween
>> what Soviet authorities preferred and what Vygotsky followed?
>> Is there any memoirs from Luria, Leontiev about this?
>> Ulvi Icil
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