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[Xmca-l] Re: In defense of Vygotsky

Hi Andy,


Thank you. I found your paper to be very helpful in cutting away some of the circular and uncomplimentary language.

Now digesting...

More soon...

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 5:32 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: In defense of Vygotsky

Responding to your questions, Annalisa:

1. I counted 8 distinct charges. All of them are argued in theoretical
terms, not politically, even if we all believe they were politically

2. Activity Theory does add a few insights relevant to psychology,
especially to do with motivation, which are additional to what Vygotsky
had done, but mainly, it opens the way for the theory, grounded in
Psychology, to a wider domain of investigation, that is, not only to
study the development of the person in connection with their social
situation, but also the formation of the social environment in which
that situation is located.

3. Yes, why should the difference in UoA be controversial, indeed? ANL
introduced new UoAs, and they give insight into new problems, but that
in no way invalidates the insights provided by other UoAs such as those
that Vygotsky used.

4. It was the shortcomings in ANL's understanding of UoAs which risk
making AT reductionist. A UoA has to be an individual entity (by
"individual" I do not mean personal, I mean "single"), but for ANL,
"activity" is actually particular, rather than single ("a type of
activity"). Also, the motive/goal of an activity is external to the
activity, and this is where the whole "unit" approach breaks down and
tends to an environmental reductionism. AT actually fails to deliver on
its potentiality to deliver an interdisciplinary theory, that is, a
means of bridging between psychology and social theory. But I believe
these shortcomings are fixable and worth fixing.

5. The question of political freedom, or rather the lack of it, ought to
just make us a little more forgiving in assessing the work of these writers.

*Andy Blunden*

Annalisa Aguilar wrote:
> Granted, and I have not yet read your paper on Defense of Vygotsky, and so I will do that after I send this.
> But the questions in me that rise immediately are:
> 1. What exactly is the critique? (filtering out the political issues, if that is germane).
> 2. What is "good and useful" in the Activity Theory in relation to Sociocultural Theory? They seem to have different applications. Or is this the point? Or, was this a philosophical difference of what _should be_ THE unit of analysis? Arguing over UOA (in terms of which unit to pick, not the method) seems silly, unless I suppose, one is subject to Stalin's whims.
> As they say in Monty Python, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition."
> 3. If the UOA is different, should that difference be controversial? The UOA depends upon what is to be analyzed as a whole. So if ANL has a different objective (of the whole) from LSV, which seems to be the case, the UOAs will of course differ.
> Respectfully, I am ignorant about the nuanced politics of the time and only know a little, so I hope I am not inadvertently trivializing the matter.
> 4. I do understand UOA is difficult to conceive if one's method is to reduce things to the smallest parts (Thank you, Descartes). However I don't think ANL was attempting to do this by choosing activity as his UOA, so I'm a little lost when you say:
> "Leontyev's Activity Theory is in danger of collapsing to a reductionism that actually explains nothing."
> 5. Further, I am interested in the way intellectual freedom (or rather, the lack of intellectual freedom) shaped these theories. It seems that if we can separate out the forces that encourage or restrict intellectual freedom, we can be left to see what value is there. Like David Kellogg described, the slender reed of Vygotsky's theories seem to be what we are attempting to retrieve. However, it seems you are saying ANL has his own slender reed, as well.
> (I can't help thinking about Spinoza right about now and the way he was marked an atheist. I wonder if it might be worthwhile to compare LSV and ANL with Spinoza and Leibniz. More thinking out loud...)
> Kind regards,
> Annalisa