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

To let Hegel speak for himself. In The Subjective Spirit, after the "master-servant" narrative, he says:

   "To prevent any possible misunderstandings with regard to the
   standpoint just outlined, we must here remark that the fight for
   recognition pushed to the extreme here indicated can only occur in
   the natural state, where men exist only as single, separate
   individuals; but it is absent in civil society and the State because
   here the recognition for which the combatants fight already exists.
   For although the State may originate in violence, it does not rest
   on it" (1830/1971 §432n).


Andy Blunden wrote:
I have written/spoken eslewhere and at length on R R Williams (as well as Robert Brandom, Axel Honneth and others) and I regard their postmodern interpretation of recognition-without-culture. I regard it as the main barrier to an understanding of CHAT or Hegel of our times.

Functionalism is interesting in the way you mentioned, in that it prefigured more contemporary currents which also do away with any centre of power but cast power as flowing through "capillaries" - a more radical conception of power-wthout-a-centre actually.


mike cole wrote:
Thanks for providing a link back to the Leontiev/functionalism discussion, Andy.

The links appear to go right through your home hegelian territory and link us up to current discussions of "recognition." They also link up with ideas linked to Zygmund Bauman's "Liquid Modernity." And to the many other people whose work
I know too little of.

With respect to functionalism, casting national aspersions aside :-)) , it never occurred to me during my years getting trained to be a learning theorist in the Skinnerian tradition, to consider the question of "where does the function come from" or "who is exerting power here?" We starved the rats and they ran or died. Or coerced sophomores using grades as "part of their education."

Then I went to Moscow. Where the caste of characters under discussion were my hosts. Like I said. I am a slow learner on all these complicated matters. At the rate I am going I am never going to figure it all out!


On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 9:05 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    In my view, Mike, there were some basic questions asked and
    answered by A N Leontyev in launching the enquiry we know as
    "Activity Theory" are uneliminable, that is, he took a step which
    has to be valued and continued. But it was a step at an extremely
    fundamental level. It absolutely left open Stalinist-functionalist
    directions and well as emancipatory directions. Personally, I
    think the impact of the "planned economy" and the "leadership"
    which understood "the laws of history" and the state which
    represented a "higher stage of society" and so on, left a mark on
    the whole current. But its basics, its fundamentals remain intact.
    It only remains to agree on what those were.

    By-the-by, the home of "functionalism" is the USA.

    By-the-by again, in the early 80s I was a member of a Trotskyist
    party which put Ilyenkov on a pedastal, and published new
    translations of his work in English, which also came very close to
    endorsing Lamarkism. It debated it, but the Party perished before
    the debate was resolved.


    mike cole wrote:

        I am being very slow  here. How does this discussion resolve
        or help me to
        think more clearly about the issues in the subject line? the
        issues over
        different interpretations of Leontiev, their relation to
        stalinism, fascism, etc?

        On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 3:34 PM, Greg Thompson

            IMHO, you're hitting the heart of the matter with
            recognition and
            agency - self-assertion vs. self-emptying seems a nice way
            to think
            about the central problematic (and I agree with your
            preference for
            the latter). If you are interested in developing a more more
            self-emptying Kyoto-like notion of recognition, I've got a
            couple of
            suggestions (and I'm sure I've made these suggestions in a
            context before, so apologies for redundancy).

            First, I'd strongly encourage a read of Robert Williams'
            Ethics of
            Recognition. In Williams' read of Hegel, you find an
            articulation of
recognition that is much more like the Kyoto understanding of
            recognition and which is against the crass version you get
            from the
            existentialists where recognition always about a fight or
            struggle for
            recognition. As evidence of the cultural tendency toward
            self-assertion, it is very telling that one small
            paragraph in Hegel's
            oeuvre would get picked up as the thing that most people
            for most of
            the 20th century would equate with Hegel's notion of
            But that approach is shortsighted and Williams really
            nails this
            point. (although I am persuaded by Willaims'
            interpretation, I don't
            have any skin in the game of whether or not this is a more
            or less
            "authentic" interpretation of Hegel - I just happen to
            believe that
            the position Williams articulates is far more productive
            than the
struggle-for-recognition model that has been on offer from the

            Second, to provide some further support for this claim,
            I'd also
            suggest checking out Johann Georg Hamann, who is said to
            have been a
            significant influence on Hegel (but don't read Isaiah
            Berlin's stuff
            on Hamann, he misses the point). Hamann didn't really
            publish much. He
            was most noted for his letters to his friend, Immanuel
            Kant and in
            which he repeatedly tells Kant that he's got it all wrong
            (and does it
            in a style that makes the point through medium as well as,
            if not more
            than, message - a point which itself speaks to one of his
            points about the importance of poetics). In these letters,
            Hamann has
a wonderful sense of the intractability of human life, and the
            fundamental wrong-headedness of the desire for sovereign
            agency. I'd
            be happy to share more if there is any interest.

            Oh, and I forgot there is a third author of interest in
            this regard,
            Patchen Markell's Bound by Recognition gives a compelling
            portrait of
            what he calls "the impropriety of action" - the sense in
            which our
            actions are not our property alone. Markell's book argues
            that tragedy
            (and its twin, comedy) derives from this very human
            problem. Also
            great stuff.

            All three of these readings I suggest as a way of pointing
            out that
            within Western traditions there is a trope that is closer to
            self-emptying than self-asserting. Unfortunately it
            doesn't articulate
            as well with Enlightenment perspectives because it is
            often, as with
            Hamann, articulated through Christianity. This presents
            something of a
            marketing problem since the Enlightenment put Christianity
            as a thing
            of the past and as the kind of believing that small minded
            people do
            (the kind that tote guns and don't believe in evolution),
            and thus a
not very appealing thing for most Westerner's "natural" (i.e.
            "cultural") inclination to self-assertion. So I think that
            as a matter
            of packaging, Buddhism, with its stripped down religious
            probably has more appeal to most post-Enlightenment
            Western thinkers.

            And I wanted to add that I feel like your posts are
            speaking directly
            to me and maybe we can carry on this conversation in more
            somewhere down the road (in a different thread, I
            suspect). So many
            thanks for your words (even if they weren't "intended" for
            me - a
            fortuitous impropriety to be sure!).

            Anyway, hope all is well,

            On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 1:02 PM, Larry Purss
            <lpscholar2@gmail.com <mailto:lpscholar2@gmail.com>> wrote:
I'm enjoying this line [circle? spiral?] of inquiry.

                David,  you wrote

                The mind is a highly parsimonious thing; it is very
                tiring to believe one
                thing and say another. Vygotsky's genetic law predicts
                that eventually it
                is the former that shall cede to the latter.

                I want to go out on a speculative limb that tries to
                weave together some
of Wittgenstein's notions that are also expressed in John
                exploration of conversation.

                The question of the relation and distinction between
                "taking a position"
                and "developing dispositions"  In David's quote above
                "believing" one
thing [a position] and "saying" [practicing another] will
                over time eventually
                lead to the practice winning out over the belief.

                Their are a group of scholars in Japan referred to as
                "the kyoto school"
                who are engaged in the project of having an indepth
                conversation between
                Buddhism and German Continental philosophy.

                A central difference the authors of the Kyoto school
                are articulating is
                different notions [and values] of "intersubjectivity"
                as epressed in the
                contrasting concepts
                "self-assertion" and "self-emptying".

                They suggest many Western notions of intersubjectivity
                and recognition
are in pursuit of recognizing our assertoric stance or
                position towards
words, self, other, & world. This assertive position can be
                expressed in
                emancipatory notions of "finding one's VOICE" and
                overcoming being
                "silenced".  Anger and conflict leading to overcoming
                resistance from
                within classes, races, genders. Through recognition
                [being seen and
                listened to develops the capacity to move from a
                silenced "voice" to an
                assertive "voice"] one stands up and speaks back to
                the dominating
                constraints and the shame and humiliation that
                silences voices.

                As Shotter [in Christine's quotes above shows] the
                assertoric position of
                challenging dominant structures and power can be seen
                as expressing a
                particular "attitude" or "style" or "posture".

                This style or attitude valorizes "the assertoric
                stance" in the world"
                which develops into an enduring "disposition" if we
                keep "saying" this
form of recognition and emancipation.

                However, the Kyoto School, in deep conversation with
                this assertoric
                "position" and "disposition" suggests or gestures
                toward an "alternative"
                [not truer, more real, but an alternative]
                They suggest Buddhist practice and "saying" can guide
                or mediate another
                in*formation of "self" that they express in the
                concept of "self-emptying
                This is NOT a passive or resigned form of agency but
                rather an active
                intentional positioning of self that attempts to
                foreground the
                "fallibility" and "uncertainty" of ALL positioning and
stances. This is a deeply intersubjective practice of valuing
                "emergence" and
                "openning spaces" in which to INVITE the other to
                exist by the practice
of mving our self from center stage. Finding one's
                "voice" from this
position of ACTIVE INTENTIONAL self-emptying [and creating the
                openning space for
                the other's "voice" to emerge] is a very different
                "attitude" or "stance"
                or "posture" to take leading to a very different
                "disposition" from
within a very different form of "saying" and "practice".

                I "read" scholars such as Wittgenstein, Shotter,
                Gadamer, Buber, Levinas,
                as exploring this alternative in*formation of "self"
                that is less
                assertoric in finding one's "voice" and moving towards
                a posture of
                self-emptying that embraces FALLIBILITY, UNCERTAINTY,
                AMBIVALENCE, NOT
                KNOWING, at the heart of this particular way of
                becoming human.
                I do believe this is an historically guided
                perspective that embraces
                multiple perspectives and multiple practices.
                Intersubjectivity and dialogical hermeneutical
                perspectives and the
                multiple formations this conversation can take
                 [expressing alternative
                moral committments] is the concept at the center of
                this possible
inquiry. I'm not sure how "possible" it is for persons in North
                America to
consider such alternative moral compasses as explored by the
                Kyoto School. [it may
                be beyond our horizon of understanding to envision as
                a possibility].
                It is also difficult to grasp Wittgenstein's attempt
                to "see through"
                theoretical positions as a practice and disposition.

                Self-asserion is often viewed as the only path to
                intentional stances and
                postures in finding one's voice to participate in
                conversations.  Is there merit in engaging with
                another tradition
exploring agentic ACTORS actively practising "self-emptying"
                motivated by the deep
                disposition and committment to generative dialogical
                ways of practice.??
                As I said in my opening remarks, this is going "out on
                a limb". Is
conflict and anger the ONLY motivators that can be harnessed to
                transform the
                I'm also aware that my position as a "white male" with
                a secure job may
be calling me to take a naive "utopian" perspective. At the minimum I want to suggest that it is these types of "conversations" across "traditions" such as the Kyoto School scholars
                are engaged in
which invite us into a world conversation which puts into
                play the monolithic
                bias towards the assertoric stance in the world.

                I'm preparing for "challenges" to this alternative
                "attitude" but am
                putting it out there in a spirit of the holiday season
                to think outside
our Western notions of "self-assertion" and finding one's


                On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 12:04 AM, David Kellogg <

                    At the beginning of  the Philosophical
                    Investigations, Wittgenstein
quotes Augustine, who describes the indescribable
                    experience of learning a
first language in Latin, and remarks that his model of
                    language (a big bag of
                    names) is OK, but only for a very restricted
                    application; there are many
                    things we call language for which it is not
                    appropriate. And thence to
his famous discussion of complexes, in the form of
                    games and language games.

                    I think what I said was that Wittgenstein's
                    account of language is
                    pragmatic in a linguistic sense. Pragmatics is
                    about the use of
language, as opposed to its usage (which is more or less
                    what Augustine is
                    describing, language as a dictionary written in
                    some form of mentalese,
                    where every language is necessarily a foreign

                    And I think what Wittgenstein says about language
                    applies to every
account of language, even his own; it is appropriate, but
                    ony for a very
restricted application. In that way it is like a metaphor (as
                    we see in the
language games section, and the tool box section, it really
                    IS a metaphor). So I
                    think we need to ask the question where it stops
                    being appropriate.

                    As Andy points out, it doesn't describe conceptual
                    thinking very well.
But that is not because the pragmatic account of
                    language is a subset of
some larger conceptual account; I think that the
                    relationship is quite the
other way around: scientific concepts are a rarefied,
                    specialized subset of
                    semantic meaning, and of course semantic meaning
                    took many centuries of
                    billions of daily interactions to be precipitated
                    from everyday
pragmatics. Now it seems to me that on this scale of things,
                    the cultural individual
                    really is quite unchanging and hidebound, rather
                    like a bottle. We
rejoice that Western women do not bind their feet--and
                    instead mutilate their
                    chests with silicon implants. We rejoice in not
                    stoning women for
adultery and congratulate ourselves on no longer insisting
                    on the male ownership
of sexuality that this entails, but we so stigmatize
                    child sexual abuse
that children's lives, and not simply their putative
                    purity, are now at risk
                    from pedophiles, and nobody reflects that what is
                    really threatened
here is the parental ownership of sexual access to their

                    This morning's New York Times, just for example,
                    has a thoroughly silly
                    article on North Korea by one Nicolas Kristof. We
                    are told that
                    apartments in Pyeongyang are all equipped with
                    telescreens that
                    make propaganda announcements of, e.g., the
                    leaders' golf scores. We
have a similar telescreen in our apartment in Seoul,
                    which announces municipal
                    elections and tells where to find the local leader
                    of the anti-communist
                    militia. The difference is that when we do it is
                    feels normal.

                    Kristof certainly does not feel hidebound; he is
                    quite comfortable in
his own skin. Nevertheless, he tells a wildly
                    brainwashed account of the
way in which North Korea developed nuclear weapons. He
                    correctly remembers
that in 1994 an agreement was negotiated to build nuclear
                    power plants in North
                    Korea (he carefully omits to say that these would
                    be non-weaponizable
                    and built by South Korean companies). Now,
                    according to Kristof, the
                    Clinton administration only did this because they
                    fooishly assumed that
the regime would collapse before the reactors were
                    actually built! Wisely,
the Bush administration caught the North Koreans
                    "cheating", and tore up the

                    What really happened, as anybody with a memory
                    longer than the Bush
                    adminstration will tell you, was that the North
                    Koreans asked for, and
got, a codicil that would supply them with fuel oil for
                    energy as a stopgap
                    measure (if you look at the widely circulated
                    satellite picture of North
                    Korea at night you will see why they insisted on
                    this). The Clinton
                    Administration always boasted that the fuel oil
                    they supplied was
unusably poor, but that was not enough for the Bush
                    adminstration. They simply
                    reneged on the agreement. But the North did not
                    renege: they had
promised they would develop nuclear weapons if the deal
                    fell through, and that is
                    what they did.

                    Why does Kristof tell this transparent lie?
                    Doesn't it go against the
                    usual NYT ethos of telling the truth about
                    checkable and trivial
matters so as to be able to deceive with the necessary
                    authority when it comes to
the essentials? I think, alas, Mr. Kristof simply
                    cannot control himself any
                    more (see his WILDLY improbable tale about a
                    husband executing his own
wife for writing a highly implausible letter to Kim
                    Jeong-il himself). The
                    leather mask has become a face.

                    And I think that is probably what happened to poor
                    Leontiev as well. The
                    mind is a highly parsimonious thing; it is very
                    tiring to believe one
thing and say another. Vygotsky's genetic law predicts
                    that eventually it is
the former that shall cede to the latter.

                    It is that sense in which what Mike says is true:
                    Vygotsky's psychology,
                    as a scientific system, describes the development
                    of institutionalized
                    lying just as accurately as it describes the
                    development of higher
                    concepts. What I wanted to say was that his
                    earlier sense that ideas are
                    always embodied, and some bodies are gifted with
                    an extraordinary
                    foresight, is also true. I think Vygotsky knew
                    that he would die, but he
                    also knew that his ideas, so long as they were
                    true ones, would live.

                    David Kellogg
                    Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

                    --- On Wed, 12/21/11, Ivan Rosero
                    <irosero@ucsd.edu <mailto:irosero@ucsd.edu>> wrote:

                    From: Ivan Rosero <irosero@ucsd.edu
                    Subject: Re: [xmca] Interpreting Leontiev:
                    functionalism and Anglo
Finnish Insufficiences
                    To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
                    <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>>
                    Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011, 6:50 PM

                    David, if you agree with the summary Larry has
                    presented, I remain
confused by your analogy. I read Larry's presentation of
                    Kitching/Pleasant as
                    saying that action cobbles together further sense
                    within already-given
                    sense that is simultaneously ideal-material, and
                    therefore subject to
                    culturally and historically specific constraints
                    and possibilities.  But
                    surely, this includes the bottle and the person
                    too, both as moving
                    entities (the bottle, unless highly heated, a much
                    more slowly moving
                    entity).  I am not invested in any particular
                    reading of Leontiev, but
your analogy as presented suggests a kind of essential
                    fixity to the person
                    which I want to believe you don't really mean.

                    To be fair, your emphasis is on the wine in the
                    bottle.  But, in this
case, a slowly moving bottle is rather less interesting
                    than a human being,
with a rather less historically complex relationship to
                    the liquid it gives
                    shape to.

                    Does what Andy refer to help here?  What kind of
                    concept-complex (is it
                    enough to call it Stalinism?) helps to explain the
                    Leontiev at issue
here? Or, if the critique was there from early on, what
                    kind of
concept-complex would help to explain his writings' wide acceptance?

                    Or, do we forgo all this and just grab Leontiev,
                    as you say, "on a good


                    On Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 3:55 PM, David Kellogg <
vaughndogblack@yahoo.com <mailto:vaughndogblack@yahoo.com> wrote:
                                 Mike wrote that as he grows older, he
                        becomes less attached to his
                        position (expressed in his editorial
                        commentary to Luria's
autobiography, "The Making of Mind") that ideas really are
                        highly embodied things.
Mike says that as he grows older, he becomes more
                        and more attached to
Luria's position that only ideas matter.

                        But as I grow older, I become more and more
                        attached to Mike's
original position that individuals really matter. Wine
                        has no shape of its
own; it really depends on what bottle we put it in,
                        and the form of ideas
depends very much on the character of the individuals
                        wo carry them.

                        On paper, the theoretical positions of
                        Vygotsky and Leontiev are not
that far apart. So when Mike asks what presents
                        Vygotsky's ideas from being
                        pressed into service by the Stalinist state, I
                        think the answer has
to be referred to the individual who carried this
                        idea after all.

                        I think it is not accidental that one was
                        amenable and the other was
not, that one's ideas were deformed and
                        degenerated, and the others still
amaze by their freshness and color. Nor is it
                        accidental that one lived and
one died.

                        But of course death is simply the moment when
                        our thinking and spoken
                        speech must come to an end, and our written
                        speech, like a hermit
crab, must find a new home in the minds and mouths
                        of others. And by that
                        measure, it was Vygotsky who lived on, yea,
                        even in the mind and the
mouth of Leontiev. Well, Leontiev on a good day!

                        David Kellogg
                        Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

                        PS; I think I am (once again) with Larry. I
                        think that if we read
(late) Wittgenstein as a linguistic (not a
                        philosophical) pragmatist, that
is, as someone who believes that meaning in language
                        comes from sense in
activity, Wittgenstein is perfectly consistent with what
                        Marx writes in the
German Ideology (that language is practical
                        consciousness, real for myself
because real for others). Wittgenstein is
                        Vygotsky-compatible in other ways,
too, e.g. his argument about preconceptual
                        "families" and his argument
about the tool like nature of signs.


                        --- On Wed, 12/21/11, mike cole
                        <mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com>> wrote:

                        From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com
                        Subject: Re: [xmca] Interpreting Leontiev:
                        functionalism and Anglo
Finnish Insufficiences
                        To: "Larry Purss" <lpscholar2@gmail.com
                        Cc: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
                        <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>>, "Morten
                        Nissen" <Morten.Nissen@psy.ku.dk
                        Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011, 2:12 PM

                        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

                        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

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
                             It must fully agree with
REAL 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
                            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.


                            On Mon, Dec 19, 2011 at 7:39 PM, mike cole
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.

                                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
                                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
                                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.



                                When I first read these passages as
                                part of the attempted "swap of
ideas" that Morten and I tried to organize

                                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
                                (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.

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            Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
            Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar
            Department of Communication
            University of California, San Diego
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-- ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    *Andy Blunden*
    Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>
    Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857

*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857

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