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Re: [xmca] Leading activity as distinct within stages

Hi Larry and Dear All,
Larry, I think it is important to remember that hiding behind the scene is a notion of "ideality" that could make this discussion tricky for some. Because dialectical materilist understanding of the specific nature of the social human relationship to the world is ... well, different.  

Look, for example, at the Marx quote that I've stolen this morning from Il'enkov:
"The animal is immediately one with its life activity.  It does not distinguish itself from it. IT is its life activity. Man makes his life activity itself the object of his will and his consciousness".  This mean that when we discuss the activity of a child, it is activity directly also towards her own forms of life activity, towards himself.  This is why I think Vygotsky stressed child, confronted not only with tangible external world but also with the world of culture,  "arms-and-rearms" herself with different cultural tools available in different social situation of development. And those tools could sometimes bear no relationship to biological development because they are directed towards mastering "ideality" of culture through activity. And, yes, will and consciousness thus are very specifically human in its essence. 

Now, do you know how "ideality" is interpreted in other traditions you try to compare/contrast in this thread?  Because if we read the same text with, say, Platonic notion of ideality in mind, it make take us into different direction. 
P.S. By the way "Nataliya" or "Natalia" question of yours -- eigther is fine. 
----- Original Message -----
From: "Larry Purss" <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Sunday, 1 August, 2010 05:49:40 GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: [xmca] Leading activity as distinct within stages

In previous posts Vygotsky's concept of "leading activity" was discussed as
suggesting possible "regular" age related "stages" that predictably manifest
characteristic modes of thought. Mike and Nataliya's article "Vygotsky and
Context: Toward a Resolution of Theoretical Disputes" in Martin & Kirshner's
edited book explores further the relevance of the idea of leading activity
in the section of their article labelled "Synchronic Variation
Reconsidered" (p.271)  As they point out Vygotsky's notion of  "Leading
activity" in relation to stage models of development may have the potential

"bridge between Russian cultural-historical developmental theory and
approaches placing heavy emphasis on synchronic variability that derive from
non-Russian developmentalists sympathetic to Vygotsky's ideas.  However, as
currently formulated, the Russian proposal, in the same spirit as the notion
of 'social situation of development' tends to ASSUME that there is an
INVARIANT SEQUENCE of leading activities and that only a SINGLE kind of
activity can play a leading role in ORGANIZING cognitive performance at a
given time." (p.272) [emphasis added]

If leading activities are viewed as proceeding in an invariant sequence and
only a single kind of activity DOMINATES at each "stage" then this
"perspective" will influence and constrain what is "seen" as the dominant
form of activity required for further development at each stage and regulate
the types of institutional structures assumed neccessary at each stage of
the child's development.

Mike & Nataliya contrast this focus on invariant sequences of leading
activities with the "narrower interpretation of the 'social situation of
development' in the American literature". (p.269)  American researchers tend
to focus on the small variables of  local activity" [microgenesis] as
contributing crucially to the manifestation of various CAPACITIES.  Recent
American research recognizes that development becomes more COMPLEXLY
MEDIATED and results in HIGHER levels of achievement as children grow older
but American research also suggegst the level of cognitive development is
not INVARIANT and the local context is crucial to the manifestation of
various capacities. This approach suggests that multiple perspectives
[orientations] can co-exist within a single "stage" of development and
challenges the notion of INVARIANT stages with a more "layered" model of
development. This alternative model of leading activities focuses on the
possible heterogeneity of "leading" activities in particular local social
situations of development.  As Mike and Nataliya point out the possible
heterogeneity of leading activities suggests,

"the possibility that multiple forms of activity (and modes of conception)
can COEXIST in the same persons in the course of time spans too brief to be
considered as candidates for general changes in STAGES of development.

This last quote suggests, using neo-Meadian language, that "multiple
perspectives" can co-exist in the same persons in the course of time spans
too brief to be considered as candidates for general changes in stages of

 The concept of GENERAL CHANGES [which lead to changes in manifestation of
CAPACITIES] as developing within multiple heterogenetic "forms of activity"
[Vygotsky] or "SOCIAL ACTS" [Mead] which "lead development" seems to have
many parallel ideas. The American re-visioning of Russian
cultural-historical"stage theory" to embrace a notion of development as
"layered" may find support in the neo-Meadian engagement with reflection as
the capacity to coordinate multiple perspectives [orientations to life

I will end with a quotation from  Vygotsky which Mike and Nataliya quote in
their article.

"The various genetic forms co-exist, just as STRATA representing different
geological epochs coexist in the earth's crust. This is more the RULE than
the exception for the development of behaviour generally. Human behaviour is
not consistently characterized by a single higher level of development.
Forms of behaviour that emerge very recently in human history dwell
alongside the most ancient"

If the various genetic forms co-exist, our models of development need to
reflect the VALUE JUDGEMENTS we envision in this co-existence.  The terms
"higher" and "lower" may reflect a particular bias that privileges
"theoretical scientific" forms as higher than affiliative forms of leading
activities that are "lower".  The term "distanciation" as indicating more or
less complexity in coordinating heterogenetic "perspectives" may support
notions of genetic co-existence that recognize affiliation, not as a "lower"
but rather as a more concrete experience within social ACTS or social
situations of development.

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