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RE: [xmca] RE: CHAT/SCT - A voice from the past
- To: "'Lisa Yamagata-Lynch'" <email@example.com>, "'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: RE: [xmca] RE: CHAT/SCT - A voice from the past
- From: "Eugene Matusov" <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 25 Nov 2010 17:53:48 -0500
- Cc: "'Luis Moll'" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Dear Lisa and everybody-
Let me reply to Lisa's important questions in the text below.
From: Lisa Yamagata-Lynch [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, November 25, 2010 3:06 PM
To: ematusov@UDel.Edu; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Cc: email@example.com; Luis Moll
Subject: Re: [xmca] RE: CHAT/SCT - A voice from the past
You have articulated several issues I have been wondering and not had been
able to put them to words yet myself. My main questions to everyone are:
1. Is there a problem that there are differences between CHAT and SCT?
What do you mean by "problem"? Do you mean paradigmatic fights that can
spill out in instructional, political, and personal fights? If so, I do not
know about that but I can be wrong as my experiences with CHAT and SCT are
limited. In my observations, the scholars who gravitate to these different
approaches are rather friendly and respectful of each other:
In my view, it is rather productive to reflect on the differences and they
are substantive. However, I belief that these are not the only important
differences in Vygotskian family of approaches. I wrote a paper on that in
Culture & Psychology in a few years ago.
Matusov, E. (2008). Applying a sociocultural approach to Vygotskian
academia: "Our tsar isn't like yours, and yours isn't like ours". Culture &
Psychology, 14(1), 5-35.
2. Is one believed to be more legitimate than the other? If yes who for what
It depends for what and for whom and where: In my view, people across the
world have faced with different historically emerging sociocultural and
political problems and develop different ontological projects of dealing
with them. Again I discussed that in my C&P paper with specific examples
considering how differently Ian Moll (not to be confused with Luis Moll), a
Vygotskian scholar from South Africa discusses Vygotsky from Peter
Smagorinsky in their papers published in the same year.
3. Do the two views need to come to an agreement to engage in more
collaborative scholarly exchange, if so why?
Again, in my view, there are more than just two partially competing
perspectives. As Mike may confirm, when, for example, you visit Russia and
speak with many Russian Vygotskian scholars, they often complain on how
"Westerners" constantly misunderstand Vygotsky:
I'm not sure what you mean by "more collaborative scholarly exchange".
Paradigmatic differences often lead to common complains that the other side
"speaks off-topic" ("не об этом") and does not reply to "important charges."
This lack of the common thematic focus does not mean that their exchanges
are useless, although, in my view. Their mutual charges and occasional
replies to them are important as they help to develop their own approaches
Seems to me like CHAT and SCT developed in very isolated locations with
similar core ideas, but among very different people, culture, and history.
It is understandable that there would be differences. Is our current
question asking whether we can embrace those similarities and differences?
Who are "we" ;-) ? What does it mean "embrace"? Make them "balanced", like
in "balanced approach, balancing phonics and whole language"? Being
I do not think that the issue of fragmentation but different locations and
people often lead to different ontological problems and projects that the
people face and put forward in their work. This makes different emphasis on
history (diachronic differences) and culture (synchronic differences) and so
What do you think?
Lisa C. Yamagata-Lynch
ETRA Department IT Program Coordinator
On Thu, Nov 25, 2010 at 1:38 PM, Eugene Matusov <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Dear Mike and everybody-
Here is my two cents on this interesting topic besides minor correction that
the Sociocultural conference in Madrid was I think in 1992, not in 1994 (I
1) You seem suggest that the differences between CHAT and SCT as they
have emerged in the "West" (i.e., outside of former Soviet Union) have been
historically rooted in the Soviet debates. Am I right in understanding of
your point? If so, I'm not sure that it is true or fully true. I want to
hear more from you about your reasoning connecting these two debates.
2) I think in your original message, you were alluding that, at least,
in part the disagreements among the Soviet scholars were caused by their
political squabbles within the "Stalinist science" (the term that was coined
by Krementsov, I think) or in the "post-Stalinist science". In any case,
what makes you think that way? Also, do you think that there was any
"substance" in these debates or not? For example, you wrote, "At the same
time, they criticized Leont'ev for placing too much emphasis on activity as
external conditions, likening him to a behaviorist (Abulkhanova-Slavskaya,
1980)." It can be a fluke, but I have noticed that some former behaviorists
became Vygotskians. Mike, can you, yourself, be an example of this pattern?
If my observation is correct, it can suggest some interesting affinity
between behaviorism and Vygotskian family of approaches (e.g., both are
3) I have noticed, and I can be wrong, that you want to diminish
differences in Vygotskian family of approaches rather than explore possible
differences and differentiations among them. For me, even this posting goes
along with this tendency. Am I right about that? If so, can you elaborate on
that? Basically, I want to ask you if you PREFER that there are no
differences rather than you do simply do not see any differences but would
be EQUALLY HAPPY if the differences really exist.
What do you think?
Eugene Matusov, Ph.D.
Professor of Education
School of Education
University of Delaware
16 W Main st.
Newark, DE 19716, USA
website: http://ematusov.soe.udel.edu <http://ematusov.soe.udel.edu/>
Dialogic Pedagogy Forum: http://diaped.soe.udel.edu
Description: Journey into dialogic pedagogy Matusov, E. (2009). Journey into
Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
From: mike cole [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 2:37 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity
Cc: Luis Moll; Eugene Matusov
Subject: CHAT/SCT - A voice from the past
I know some people who care a lot to distinguish CHAT and SCT. I wonder if
there is any consensus on what the critical differences
are between them. Here is what I wrote at the Sociocultural Conference in
Madrid about 1994 where Jim Wertsch, who edited the 1981
book on Soviet activity theory, as a major player and lead editor on the
subsequent volume - socicultural theories of mind.
More than 15 years have passed since this was written. I may have been dead
wrong then and making the same argument now
may seem really mistaken. You will see traces of this same discussion in
various messages being posted around the P&L article.
How should I proceed to find out?? Where are all the L2 people here to help
us out here? Other than publishers in applied linguistics preferring SCT,
what's in those names that makes people get irritated with each other? Who
are the bad people? What are the
special virtues of the good people?
For the past several years I have been striving, with rather limited
success, to understand the intellectual issues that divide the Vygotskian
and activity theory approaches, as well as the division between activity
theorists who follow Leont'ev and those who follow Rubinshtein. This task is
complicated because, insofar as I can understand, contemporary followers of
Leont'ev continue to adhere to the major principles articulated by Vygotsky,
Luria, and Leont'ev in the 1920s and early 1930s, arguing in effect that
Vygotsky was an activity theorist, although he focused less on issues of the
object-oriented nature of activity than on processes of mediation in his own
work (Engestrorn, 1987; Hyden, 1984). Followers ofRubinshtein, on the other
hand, deny that Vygotsky was an activity theorist and tax him with
"signocentricisrn," which in the overheated debates of the last decade of
Soviet power seemed to
be roughly equivalent to "idealist," a sin at that time (Brushlinsky, 1968).
At the same time, they criticized Leont'ev for placing too much emphasis on
activity as external conditions, likening him to a behaviorist
I do not want to minimize the possible scientific benefits to be derived
from attempting to understand these disagreements more thoroughly, although
I am not certain how productive such attempts will
be for non-Russian psychologists. From existing historiographical evidence,
debates among Russian adherents of these various positions appear to have
been tightly bound up with the wrenching political
upheavals that racked the Soviet Union repeatedly between 1917 and 1991 (and
which arc by no means over) (Van der Veer & Valsiner, 1991). What I am
almost positive of, however, is that it would not be
productive for adherents of the various positions to carry those battles
into the international sphere except insofar as they have international
What most concerns me is that for whatever combination of reasons, there has
not yet been close cooperation on an international scale among psychologists
who work under the banner of activity theory and those who use some version
of the concept of sociocultural psychology as
their conceptual icon. At the first Activity Theory Congress in Berlin in
1986, there was only one major address that took the work of Vygotsky and
Luria to be coequally relevant to the proceedings with that
of Leont'ev, and individual talks that proceeded from a more or less
Vygotskian perspective were relatively rare. At the second Activity Theory
Congress in 1990, there was a far richer mix of viewpoints, but many of the
people prominent in organizing the current meeting in Madrid were
preoccupied with preparatory work for the current meeting and did not
It would be most unfortunate if adherents of the various streams of
psychological thinking whose history I have sketched were to continue their
work in isolation from each other. The common intellectual issues facing
different streams of cultural-historical, sociocultural, activity based
conceptions of human nature are too difficult to yield to piecemeal efforts.
It is time for those who have come to questions about the
socio-cultural-historical constitution of human nature to join in a
cooperative search for their common past and to initiate cooperative efforts
to address the difficult intellectual issues and staggering national and
international problems facing humanity in the post-Cold War era.
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