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Re: [xmca] RE: CHAT/SCT - A voice from the past


I think that Vygotsky's re-assertion of the need for the concept of "consciousness" to take its place as the central concept of Psychology marks the difference between CHAT and Behaviourism, Jorge, and Vygotsky marked out this difference right at the beginning, in the same speech where he expresses his solidarity with Wm James.


Jorge Fernando Larreamendy Joerns wrote:
I once had a conversation with Andy Blunden about  concepts and mentioned the fact that in the behaviorist tradition concepts are often interpreted as patterns of behavior, a definition that has fascinated me ever since I learned about it. Then, I realized that, within the behaviorist tradition, such a foundational notion (I mean, concept) was defined not in mentalistic terms, but in terms that refer, I have to confess, ultimately, to the person's actions, as opposed, say, to a set of mental representations of sorts (of course, behaviorists have no conception of person). I'm fully aware of the distinctions between the traditions (meaning, behaviorist and else), , some of which are related to the very opposition, in terms of Giddens, between action and movement. As you may recall, action in the behaviorist tradition was reduced to an externality, void of connections with history, goals, and context. But the point, is that no recourse was made i the behaviorist tradition to a representational, cognitive, kind of entity. I know the history in the American psychology, the raise and fall of Watson, but I wonder, historically, about the connections between the behaviorism in the Soviet Union and the emergence of Vygotsky's ideas. The two intellectual traditions seem to me, at some point, neighbors. Good or bad, of course, is a matter of perspective. Any thoughts?


On Nov 25, 2010, at 6:21 PM, Eugene Matusov wrote:

Dear Jorge–

-----Original Message-----
From: Jorge Fernando Larreamendy Joerns
Sent: Thursday, November 25, 2010 4:39 PM
To: ematusov@UDel.Edu; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] RE: CHAT/SCT - A voice from the past

Do you see any other similarities between Vygotskian approaches and
behaviorist ones besides being functionalists? I wonder.
Good question. Currently, I'm kind of fixating a bit on functionalism and I
see all "other" differences as related to functionalism, like:

a) focus on observable "external" behavior, actions, movements, mediations,
tools, constrains, schedules, and so on by people;
b) distrust to "spiritualism" and "metaphysics" and "retrospections";
c) focus on changing reality rather than just studying it;
d) "formative experiment", "double stimulation";
e) distrust to nativism and prioritization of nurture versus nature;
f) interest in history of processes;
g) what else? I probably missed a lot other important aspects...

and, of course, distrust to structuralism....

What do you think?



Jorge Larreamendy-Joerns, Ph.D.
Profesor Asociado y Director
Departamento de Psicología
Universidad de los Andes

On Nov 25, 2010, at 2:38 PM, Eugene Matusov 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
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
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 functional approaches).

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

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

email: ematusov@udel.edu

fax: 1-(302)-831-4110

website: http://ematusov.soe.udel.edu <http://ematusov.soe.udel.edu/>

publications: http://ematusov.soe.udel.edu/vita/publications.htm

Dialogic Pedagogy Forum: http://diaped.soe.udel.edu

Description: Journey into dialogic pedagogy Matusov, E. (2009).
Journey into dialogic pedagogy

8893> .
Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.


From: mike cole [mailto:lchcmike@gmail.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,
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).

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

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 intellectual merit.

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

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

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 contribute.

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

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*Andy Blunden*
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