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[Xmca-l] Russian Humanism and Positioning Theory

In the other post we are discussing Donna's article which has a focus on
exploring discourse and collaboration.

 I thought it may be interesting to share an article on  the origin of
positioning theory and the central influence of Russian Humanism as a
tradition. I have pasted sections from the article into this post but
formatting changes when I do this

The article article by Dorothy Howie explores her reading of the origin of
positioning theory and credits Vygotsky with having a profound influence on
Rom Harre's  development of positioning theory
Dorothy wrote:


Rom Harre, in conjunction with a  number of others, has recently been

instrumental in developing the notion of Positioning Theory as the basis of

new social psychology. The concept of positioning is considered as a dynamic

alternative to the more static concept of role (Harre and Langenhove, 1991:

393) and it draws explicitly on an emergent ontology of social entities.

acts, including speech acts, are seen as the 'matter' of social reality
(Harri: and

Van Langenhove, 1991: 394). People are viewed as the location for social

and the social realm is viewed as involving three processes: conversation

most basic substance), institutional practices and the uses of societal

These three processes are *all *viewed as forms of discursive practice.

Harre points out that it is in the very nature of the discursive acts that

mental phenomena are to be found."

Three aspects are intertwined [conversation, institutional practices, and
the uses of societal rhetorics]. Harre's positioning theory includes
societal rhetorics as the collaborative storylines we share ABOUT  our
societal processes and relates to Vygotsky's Russian Humanism. Dorothy

"That Harre is drawing very closely on Vygotsky's model of the cutural

imbeddedness of thought and language is indicated by his assertion that

conversation includes both public displays of language, and language

to oneself (Harre, personal communication). Here, Harre. is drawing on

thesis that individual and private use of language derives from its social

public use:"

Dorothy then inserts a quote from Harre to support her reading of  the
origin of positioning theory. Harre writes:

"Our generally Vygotskian approach to the relations between conversation
structures and

patterns of thought inclines us to propose an initial hypothesis that
private acts of self

positioning conform to the tri-polar structure of public acts of self and
other positioning " [Harre]

Dorothy also brings in Bahktin and Wittgenstein as influential origins of
positioning theory. Dorothy's article explores her understanding
that positioning theory has emerged from engagement with Russian Humanism
as a tradition [storyline, genre].

This article may or may not contribute to Donna's article under discussion
so I started a new thread. The article can be accessed at

Positioning Theory: Vygotsky, Wittgenstein and

Social Constructionist Psychology

Status: O