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Re: [xmca] On Marxist and non-Marxist aspects of the cultural-historical psychology of L.S. Vygotsky by Nikolai Veresov

I thank both David and Mike for their remarks.

I joined xmca to learn on Vygotsky rather than to propagate or emphasize any
approach to Vygotsky :) (It seems obvious that m in xmca should = Mind
rather than Marxism)

I do not know if this theme may be uninteresting for or unnecessarily
occupying the group, but we can discontinue it any time.

I would like to mention some further points. But this does not mean any aim
for insistingly emphasizing the place of Marxism in  Vygostsky's theory.
Below remarks are just for sharing ideas. I felt them necessary to mention
against any misunderstanding which I saw may be caused by David's some
remarks. I would like , if possible, have responses about correctness of
my reasoning about them.

1. "Vygotsky called himself a Marxist when it was NOT mandatory, during the
period immediately following the Civil War. But he stopped calling his
psychology Marxist when it became virtually compulsory to do so".

Well this statement seems to me confusing. The reason is briefly as follows:
When you state it in this way, it comes to an idea almost which means
"Vygotsky rejected or gave up Marxism". Am I wrong?

- We know that "when it became virtually compulsory to do so" Vygotsky 's
work is full of Marxism. Isn't this correct? But he refrains to call his
psychology to be Marxist. I think, for those who are familiar with
Vygotsky's "Historical Crisis", the reasons stated there by him for not
calling his psychology Marxist, his specific reasons are clear why he does
not call it Marxist. Aren't they?

I will only cite two things:

- He is against any easy establishment of equality between psychology and
Marxism. He sees irresponsible, uncarelessness here at his time on this
relationship. In contrast, he says "psychology can only be Marxist, any
other psychology can't be thought" etc. Also, is it not a big courage "at a
time when it was compulsory to do so" not to call any psychology in Soviet
Union Marxist, not only his own one. I underline this point: He does not
only call the level attained of his psychology Marxist, but also he rejects
any psychology in Soviet Union at that time to call Marxist.

- Is it not clear that Kornilov's psychology = Marxism, this unsuccessful
attempt, taught him a lot about psychology - Marxism relationship. This
attempt seems to be somehow " hot milk  " for him. He saw that  pscyhology
does not become Marxist by only calling it Marxist.

Finally, to be Marxist and to call a branch of science at any given moment
Marxist are two different things. Sometimes, you may not call any given
state of a science "Marxist" not because you are not Marxist anymore, but
because that level attained does not deserve to be called Marxist in your
eyes (I remember that there should be some mention in again "Historical
Crisis" about this whether psychology's current status in 1930s deserves to
be called Marxist or not)

To sum up, these remarks about David's above statement do not arise from an
idea of insistence for Vygotsky - Marxism relationship but rather that the
statement is open to confusion in my eyes for the above reasons.

2. About the analogy with Trotsky's fellow travellers. First, as far as I
remember, this description was made by him for some intellectuals who did
not participate in Russian revolution but in some way or another they
admitted it.

Why Marxists should be fellow travelers for psychology which investigates
the man but non fellow ones for history, political economy? :)

I will not try to ask or try to prove historical prestige for Marxism. But,
after nearly more than one century of theoretical and practical work,
a science, like pscyhology, owes so much to a man in whose theory Marxism
possesses a core place- a man whose name deserves probably to be the founder
of the modern science of psychology in the future if not yet so - why then
to proclaim Marxism fellow traveler for this science?

I understand the reasons for current unpopularity for this theory who fed
Vygotsky's own. But I believe that today's and future theoreticians - I do
not point anybody as a person, but I intend to point to the effect itself -
in this area should emancipate their *minds* from the traumas caused in
1930s in Soviet Union.

These adverse traumatic and psychological effects..I think they should be
got rid of if there is any...

For this, there is really a genuine example: Lev Vygotsky himself and his

If he has arisen his voice against bad effects of a non creative Marxism on
the science of psychology at a time when it was almost impossible to do so,
why should not his followers to do it at a time when it is very easy to do
while to get use of a creative Marxism which was also obviously quite useful
for Vygotsky's theory.


About the analogy David established between Marxists and psychology, similar
to the one of Trotsky used for Russian artists' relationship to Bolshevik

On 21/02/2009, Mike Cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
> I am not sure how many folks on xmca have read the article, Ulvi, but it is
> readily
> available on the web, so those who care to certainly can.
> Your comments are a nice summary of a long standing discussion that has
> swung
> back and forth, in different directions, in different times, and different
> places: the role
> of Marxism in LSV's thought.
> David has some very pertinent things to say in his note. I would add just a
> couple
> of comments:
> 1. I personally like the both/and answer to this question, not the either
> or. Sure he was very much influenced by Marx,  no he did not think he
> fulfilled the idea of creating a Marxist psychology, and he drew upon many
> thinkers, some themselves Marxists and the others faux Marxists or
> non-Marxists or even anti-Marxist. This fact has been hashed, re-hashed,
> and
> pulverized. A science studies article on the very phenomenon
> would earn a PhD.
> 2. What people say about any of this depends enormously on time and
> geographical/
> political and personal position. Zinchenko 1983/84. Remember 1984? If not,
> check out
> what it meant to be a Soviet writing at that time. Or an American. Or a
> Spaniard, or a........ Or a Russian living partly abroad, partly at home in
> 2007 or whatever date
> Nikolai was writing in..... for an audience of Outlines. Who themselves, in
> 1968 or
> 1978, or 19844 or 1991.... were positioned in various relevant ways.
> 3. The  kind of serious readings and chronologies we have seen on XMCA are
> important, but I do not expect a definitive right answer because, like word
> meaning,
> I think LSV's thinking was polysemic and ever changing..... a process
> turned
> into
> a product and marketed so well you can buy it with a credit card or
> "borrow"
> it
> from the web.
> After The Word is said, it enters a socio-cultural-historical process over
> which the speaker has virtually no control. The thought is completed in the
> word, to be sure,
> but the word itself is always developing, on several time scales at the
> same
> time.
> Catch it if you can!!
> mike
> On Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 1:42 PM, ulvi icil <ulvi.icil@gmail.com> wrote:
> > 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
> > aim.
> >
> > 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
> > Vygotsky.
> >
> > 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
> > Marxism.
> >
> > - 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
> > Vygotsky himself.
> >
> > - 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,
> > apparently visible.
> >
> > - 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
> > Marxism.
> >
> > - 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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