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Re: [xmca] Interpreting Leontiev: functionalism and Anglo Finnish Insufficiences

Dear Mike, Larry  Andy, and others,

Mike, coming from within the woods !  I have enjoyed the responses in this thread very much - a pleasure- I don't quite know why , as I haven't read the text..
All the same just thought I'd say Andy - yes the notion of 'cultural' and transformative ( around 'value'?) seems basic enough to transform all the rest .  

 Larry, I was reminded of the quotes of Wittgenstein  chosen by Shotter on a paper you flagged a while ago :Cartesian Change, Chiasmic Change:

The Power of Living Expression, John Shotter, Janus Head, 6(1), 6-29. Copyright © 2003 by Trivium Publications, Pittsburgh, PA

Understanding a sentence is much more akin to understanding a theme in music than
one might think. (Wittgenstein, 1953, no.527)
Sometimes a sentence can be understood only if it is read at the right tempo.
(Wittgenstein, 1980, p.57)
A theme, no less than a face, wears an expression . . . Yet there is no paradigm apart
from the theme itself. And yet again there is a paradigm apart from the theme: namely
the rhythm of our language, of our thinking and feeling. And the theme, moreover, is
a new part of our language; it become incorporated into it; we learn a new gesture.
(Wittgenstein, 1980, p.52)
You really could call it [i.e., a work of art], not exactly the expression of a feeling, but
at least the expression of feeling, or felt expression. And you could say too that in so
far as people understand it, they resonate in harmony with it, respond to it. You might
say: the work of art does not aim to convey something else, just itself. (Wittgenstein,
1980, p.58)
((meaning is a physiognomy)). (Wittgenstein, 1953, no.568)

I commented at the time:
Choice of Wiitgenstein's quotes:

At first theme in music appears,
 is being thematic a question of temporal unfolding,. He didn't mention 
that understanding was predicated on order- but that is what now seems 
was the assumption that is being drawn out for question. ( e.g PI 98)

Theme acquires possibility of 'wearing an expression' - this is static 
in reading. Theme is self-producing in actuality, temporal unfolding has
 ruptures and continuities calls rythm forth, theme producing itself 
(understanding a sentence) becoming in corporated : we learn a new gesture.

We move with gesture to work of art, gesture is pivotal, turning 
examination around. Understanding a sentence to reading expression of 
feeling.. So far as people understand it they resonate, attune.

... Haydi's 'beasts' on the other thread!

Very helpful, Larry. Thanks.

As I read the Leontiev materials what was at issue in 1949 is whether there
is any "third space" of the self in the "unity of consciousness and
activity." I take Stalinism
in these materials to refer to the way that idealism is joined with belief
in some sort of "autonomous" realm of thought. Zinchenko's work on
micromovements of the eye and perceptual action seem to me now significant
in exactly this respect: they point to a rapid simulation process which is
not mechanically connected to externalized action (as one example). If you
know the future of history and what is good for everyone, all such
processes risk deviation from "the true path." The motives of the "healthy"
individual are supposed to coincide with those of the "collective" (as
represented by the general secretary of the central committee of the
communist party). Functionalism as command and control statism.

If we accept THIS version of CHAT, seems to me that Phillip is corrrect -
Use the ideas for something called communism, fascism, ANY form of
collective social project.

David says this is Leontiev's (AT) problem, not Vygotsky's (CH) problem.
Larry points
to Wittgensteinian marxism that appears to provide a way to select wheat
from chaff (or discover a different level of chaff!).

My guess is that German, Russian, and other thinkers have already carried
this conversation pretty far.... Morten's citation of German work points to
this conclusion.

But how are we poor non_Russian, non_German reading unfortunates wandering
in the woods to find our way?


On Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 12:08 PM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi Andy, Christine, Mike
> I have been hibernating on Mayne Island, a small Island between Vancouver
> and Vancouver and Vancouver Island. [school break for the holidays] No
> internet except at the small library]
> I was interested in this comment from Morten Nissen on Andy's book
> Blunden, as it were, attacks it from the “opposite” side: the functionalism
> of Leontiev’s way of relating subject with society. This has to do with how
> objects and motives appear to coincide in Leontiev’s idealized image of the
> true society, that is, the society of original communism and that of the
> Soviet Union.
> Andy, it is this notion of "coinciding" that I have difficulty with when
> reading about Activity Theory.
> Leontiev's statements such as "Education is the decisive force which forms
> man intellectually. This intellectual development MUST CORRESPOND TO THE
> human needs"
> I'm been browsing through an edited  book by Gavin Kitching and Nigel
> Pleasant titled "Marx and Wittgenstein: Knowledge, Morality, Politics."
> These authors take an interesting perspective on materialism & idealism
> that gives idealism its place in our human being [in contrast to how I read
> Leontiev}
> These authors are exploring a Wittgensteinian Marxism that examines Marx's
> notion that "The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a
> nightmare on the brain of the living" A Wittgensteinian Marxist reading
> [from the authors perspective] would make 3 points.
> 1] Tradition and circumstances cannot be understood in ABSTRACTION FROM
> the traditions and understandings that people have of these circumstances.
> 2] WHATEVER  such varied understandings may consist (class, culture,
> gender etc) nonetheless some KINDS of actions by historical subjects
> [agents, actors] will prove impossible IF these actions are entered into in
> disregard to the traditions and circumstances directly GIVEN, ENCOUNTERED
> and transmitted from the past
> 3] A principle WAY in which the TRADITIONS OF THE DEAD GENERATIONS weighs
> like a nightmare on the brain of the living is that ANTECEDENT historical
> circumstances often make it IMPOSSIBLE TO THINK AND FEEL (and therefore
> act)in certain ways. Historically created material culture restricts and
> enables the making of PARTICULAR KINDS of history. People do not try to do
> things and then for "material reasons" find they cannot do things. ( cannot
> make history as THEY PLEASE ) Such traditions and circumstances DEEPLY FORM
> what it is that present generations can DESIRE TO DO. and CONCEIVE OF. (as
> well as what actions they can conceive of as being possible/impossible,
> feasible/unfeasible)
> It is human action in and on the world that inextricably LINKS THOUGHT
> (and language) TO MATERIAL REALITY. Historical traditions and circumstances
> are the outcomes of previous generations actions [intended & unintended]
> which place constraints on present generations. Constraints on what they
> can think, feel, desire (and how they act)
> By keeping these 3 points in mind the authors suggest we can avoid falling
> into the DEEP CONFUSIONS which have always attended the material/ideal
> distinction.
> The most DIRECT and comprehensible way to SEE THROUGH this material/ideal
> distinction is to see that all action is simultaneously mental & physical,
> material & ideal.  Neither material or ideal is an "epiphenomena" of the
> other.
> In my reading of Leontiev in the chapter from the book posted I don't see
> the nuances recognizing the depths of the "ideal" within Marx's theory.
> This edited book, by putting Marx into explicit conversation is
> elaborating a Wittgensteinian Marxism or a Marxist Wittgenstein.
> Larry
> On Mon, Dec 19, 2011 at 7:39 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Below are two quotations from Morten Nissen's review of Andy Blunden's
>> book
>> on activity theory. Full review in
>> current issue of MCA.
>> After presenting the quotation, a comment.
>> mike
>> -------------------
>> Morten Nissen on Leontiev, functionalism, and Stalinism
>> ….behind this terminological trouble lies a deep theoretical problem in
>> Leontiev’s social theory. This problem was identified in the German and
>> Scandinavian reception (Axel & Nissen, 1993; Holzkamp, 1979; Osterkamp,
>> 1976) but almost completely ignored in the Anglo-Finnish (with Miettinen,
>> 2005, and Kaptelinin, 2005, as the noble exceptions to the rule)—and
>> Blunden, as it were, attacks it from the “opposite” side: the
>> functionalism
>> of Leontiev’s way of relating subject with society. This has to do with
>> how
>> objects and motives appear to coincide in Leontiev’s idealized image of
>> the
>> true society, that is, the society of original communism and that of the
>> Soviet Union.
>> >From the perspective of this functionalist utopia, a psychology could
>> become relevant only in the face of the undeveloped and the deviant: as in
>> fact, according to Leontiev (1978), children and disturbed provide the
>> tasks of psychology in the institutions of the Soviet Union. To
>> paraphrase:
>> The child who puts down her book still has not grasped the harmony of
>> society’s needs with the desire to learn that she *must*
>> develop—she has not yet developed those “higher cultural needs.” Bourgeois
>> society is another matter, where sense and meaning are divided in
>> principle, but this matter—that of ideology and social critique—Leontiev
>> sets aside and forgets. An elaborate critique of Leontiev’s functionalism
>> was given already in 1980 (Haug, Nemitz,& Waldhubel, 1980), and the
>> background was explained by Osterkamp (1976) in her groundbreaking work on
>> the theory of motivation.
>> --------------------------------
>> Comment.
>> When I first read these passages as part of the attempted "swap of ideas"
>> that Morten and  I tried to organize around
>> our reviews of Andy's book in Outlines and MCA, I commented how sad it was
>> that the elaborate critique that goes back to
>> 1980 is not in English and fully engaged by both European and
>>  "Ango-Finns"
>> (although how poor  Viktor got into that category
>> I do not know!).
>> Seems like real interchange around these issues is long overdue. But given
>> the progress of the last couple of years, I'll not be
>> holding my breath!
>> --------------------------
>> But thinking about the issues as well as my limited language (and other)
>> capacities allow.
>> mike
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