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[Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities

On 10 August 2013 16:13, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com> wrote:

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
> Date: 10 August 2013 15:51
> Subject: Re: [Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities
> To: Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>
> Huw, Leontyev is quite specific that needs are the product of activity.
> One of the distinctions he makes between human life and non-human life is
> that human beings produce their own needs, historically, as a community,
> whereas for an animal its needs are given. So we have a kind of duplicated
> world: needs and the means of their satisfaction (labour). Like stimulus
> and response: which comes first? or do we need a new concept which avoids
> this duplication of the world.

I would say it quite obvious which comes first for the new-born.

I guess if one wants to put activity within a framework of a single
fundamental concept, then one is going to have preference for defining
needs in terms of activity.

But the contingency of putting something on a single basis is that one does
not broach into natural phenomena (unless one is taking an Engels like

>From a natural science perspective (i.e. genetic domains etc) it does not
really matter whether needs are entirely contingent on activity.  But from
a dialectic theoretical perspective, perhaps it is.  Thoughts?

> There are different interpretations of Leontyev; as I read him, the motive
> (let's use this word rather than "need") is objective for a person, that is
> the motive of the activity, as opposed to the actions of an individual
> person who participates in the activity, who may have other motives. Even
> though the motive of the activity is produced culturally and historically,
> it is in the world, objective. It has always been a problem for me what on
> Earth can be an objective need (other than those elusive "vital" needs).
> Like, you work in a gun factory; your motive is to earn a wage so as to
> look after your family. But you know the motive of the work is to produce
> guns. But why does the community need guns? Where did that come from? And
> does the factory owner really care whether he is selling guns or toys, so
> long as he makes a profit. Others may do better justice to Leontyev's
> argument here, but I have trouble with this.

My reading of activity was that it all of these subtleties were manifest
within the activity, i.e. the motive having qualitative influence.

The object is the subject's construction, and from my incomplete reading
could be distributed across various things.  The object is only objective
in that is has objective qualities to it.  The distinctness of things to us
is their social object quality.


> Peg: yes, Leontyev starts off with single-cell creatures and works his way
> up. There *is* a big leap though, with tasks that are completed by multiple
> actions, potentially by different individuals, and most imporantly, the
> production of tools, means which become themselves needs. Tracing mind from
> its origins in non-human life is OK, but I have trouble with ANL's concept
> of "subject", which could be a microbe equally as a human.
> Andy
> Huw Lloyd wrote:
>> On 10 August 2013 15:12, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:
>> ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>     Well Huw, I didn't mean to introduce a diversion by taking
>>     computers as an example. I could have taken a stone tool just as well.
>> Yes.
>>     It seems, Huw, that in responding to my challenge you have made a
>>     start at developing a theory of human needs.
>> 'fraid not.  Simply asking the question.
>>     Viz., that there are certain "vital" needs, and all other "needs"
>>     are merely means to meet these vital needs. I don't imagine that I
>>     am going to be able to refute the claims for a theory of human
>>     needs in a single message, it is after simply the claim for the
>>     existence of human nature - a concept with a very long history!
>>     (Aristotle built his theory of biology on the basis of a theory of
>>     needs.) But "vital" human needs are very elastic and other than in
>>     very general terms are quite indefinable. But as we change our
>>     world, what you need to live in that world are very real and very
>>     specific, and those needs arise directly out of participation in
>>     that life-world. Which of the thousand different ways that there
>>     are to meet the "vital" need of, say, nutrition, becomes a real
>>     need for a person, is determined by the cultural context of a
>>     person's life and their activity.
>> But these "real needs" are known needs.  Which Leontyev calls motives,
>> does he not?
>>     So I prefer Activity Theory, in which needs are the product of
>>     activity, while, as conceived in any given activity, they provide
>>     the motive for that activity.
>> So it seems that we do not know whether needs are produced, or whether
>> they are exposed.   Did Leontyev make such a distinction?
>> Best,
>> Huw
>>     Andy
>>     Huw Lloyd wrote:
>>         On 9 August 2013 14:57, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
>>         <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>             I don't have any doubt that needs are produced. 25 years
>>             ago no-one needed
>>             a computer. Now it seems that everyone needs them. I don't
>>             see you r
>>             objection to this, Huw?
>>         Well, if you consider needs as primal (vital) such things as
>>         computers and
>>         the languages people speak are simply ways to meet such needs.
>>         >From a Marxian social perspective computing is interesting in
>>         this respect
>>         in that the needs met by the first generation workers is
>>         qualitatively
>>         different to the management saturated situation we have now.
>>          i.e. on the
>>         cusp of technological practice workers are more free from the
>>         tyranny of
>>         alienation.
> --
> ------------------------------**------------------------------**
> ------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
> Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts
> http://marxists.academia.edu/**AndyBlunden<http://marxists.academia.edu/AndyBlunden>