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[xmca] On Marxist and non-Marxist aspects of the cultural-historical psychology of L.S. Vygotsky by Nikolai Veresov
I would like to share some thoughts about this article by Nikolai Veresov.
When I finished reading the article, I could not be sure about its exact
I think of two possibilities. One is, as stated in the abstract, to present
some non- Marxist factors which influenced Vygotsky's ideas and to point out
to the fact that (as a useful warning to those who think that Vygotsky was
only influenced by Marxism) not only Marxism but other ideas also influenced
As regards this point, I should say that it was useful for me to learn other
dynamics - than Marxism- which were in operation for Vygotsky's theory (e.g.
to learn possible influences of some artists and intellectuals within the
Silver Age of Russian culture)
Second possibility I thought is that the article seems aiming at emphasizing
that Marxism did not influence Vygotsky so much as it is usually thought.
In this respect, the first one can be qualified as an enriching input while
the second can be said rather as an important intervention. Because this
latter would mean almost questioning the ties of Vygotsky's theory with
Marxism, even to locate Vygotsky and Marxism in remoter places. It can even
be said that there may be unintentionally some risks created of isolating
Vygotsky's theory from Marxism, which I believe will equal to a pause in the
further development of Vygotsky's theory.
(Meanwhile, I apologize for my English. I am not a native speaker and also I
am out of the academic area).
It is absolutely a real need to prevent any narrow outlook as regards
Vygotsky. Instead, we really need to understand other effects, roots which
influenced Vygotsky's ideas in order to enrich our outlook.
But this article created for me an impression that in fact Marxism was not
so much an important determining factor for Vygotsky, for which I need to
raise an objection.
After having read the article, you do not end with an understanding that "in
addition to Marxism, ..." but "instead of Marxism, ..." or "rather than
Marxism, ..." , "Vygotsky was influenced by this and that...". I think that
anyone who reads the article will think that the article puts an
interrogation sign about the effect of Marxism on Vygotksy's theory.
I hope I do not commit any injustice. And if so, my apologizes and please
ignore the rest.
I would like to enlist the following:
- The sole fact that Vygotsky was not in agreement with the Marxist
understanding of the period in some respects, points - and in my opinion
this is one of the most important points- to the fact that , Vygotsky's ties
with Marxism were much more powerful with respect to others (who easily
qualified their approaches as "Marxist"). This was at the same time what
made Vygotksy's theory so creative, influential, attractive and also
assertive. In other words, the fact that he did not obey to a mediocr
understanding of Marxism, is the most important point which links him to
- The importance he attached to the methodology is another sign for such a
stronger tie and structure. I firmly believe that as regards methodology
too, Vygotsky owes a lot to Marxism and that this latter does not have any
rival in this respect in Vygotsky's theory. A fact which is emphasized by
- It is already pointed to another important one in the article: Vygotsky
does not see development of a "Marxist psychology" in the application of
dialectical and historical materialism in the field of psychology. He is
above any such understanding as regards the questions of theory.
- There may be many diverse aspects in any theoretical system. Even in
Marxism itself, many people may see , rather than any genuine theoretical
revolution , a continuation of Hegelian thought etc. Therefore, I think
that, we can't get into the core of any system putting side by side all the
diverse aspects which influenced this theory. Also, there will be surely
ideas which are stated earlier by other scientists and which are taken by
the following ones. Veresov points to earlier understandings which emphasize
social origins of mind. I think that there is nothing strange in
incorporating earlier functional, scientific inventions into another new,
theoretical system. Marxism itself is full of these examples : Surplus
value. This should not make Vygotsky's theory non - Marxist or social
origins of mind a non-Marxist aspect.
- At least from what he wrote in "Historical Crisis", I suggest that it
should be obvious for anyone who reads Vygotsky that Marxism is not primus
inter pares for Vygotsky. But a method which operates through the specific
dynamics of the field of psychology. Therefore, it should be obvious that
the interaction between Vygotsky's ideas and Marxism is not so much direct,
- I would say that rather than "questioning" the ties with Marxism, putting
Vygotsky's theory in much closer relationship with Marxism, would be
beneficial not only for Vygotsky's theory but also for Marxism. It is
obvious that Vygotsky's theoretical effort has a revolutionizing effect on
- Finally, some elements which do not seem to be located in the core of the
theory but in fact, when it is a Marxist theoretican and Marxist theory they
are not less important such as the following:
"In future society, psychology will indeed be the science of the new man.
Without this the perspective of Marxism and the history of
science would not be complete. But this science of the new man will still
remain psychology". (Historical Crisis at the very end)
I strongly believe that a theoretician who writes these lines can not aim
any other thing than developing a truly Marxist theory of psychology.
And I think that it is clear by itself that such a theoretical effort should
place Marxism in the core of the theory.
I hope I did not commit any injustice.
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