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[Xmca-l] Re: In defense of Vygotsky

Annalisa, this is a lot for the list to handle, but I will insert brief responses to each of your points.
*Andy Blunden*

Annalisa Aguilar wrote:
Hello Andy,

I hope this is received in the spirit it was intended, however to aid in my learning, I'm listing the eight charges in my own language, using your paper as my scaffold. I realize I am sticking my neck out, but I am motivated to jump into my zone of proximal discomfort because I would like to be clearer about the disparities between ANL and LSV once and for all, and perhaps in my stumbling I shall be caught by others who see this more clearly than I do, including you, of course. I hope there will be something good at the end of this exercise.

My process was to go down your prosecution list, which is made of 11 points (not 8). I've picked out what I detect to be these eight charges, but I am not sure if I have captured them correctly. Please take question marks set inside parens to mean the level or force of my cringing. In fact, the subject line of this post should be "One Big Cringe On a Tuesday Evening."

Here goes:

_1st charge_: Environment as productive force
ANL states that the relationship LSV claims a child possesses with the environment is based actually upon _productive forces_ the child has with the environment. I am guessing that this translates to what the child can do to transform the environment, or how the environment motivates the child to act? You make the observation that if ANL means "society" to be defined as "nation-state," then in the case of an adult, the relationship is not only with the environment, but with a society of others, and in mediation with them, in concert.

Your contention with this line of thought is that we cannot supplant the Vygotsky's outline of the problem of the environment by analogy of the Soviet political system of historical materialism because... [doubt sets in] LSV is talking about the development of children who's minds have not yet formed. (???)
My criticism is that analogies won't do. The psychological development of an individual is simply not the historical development of a nation's productive forces and an argument by analogy has no merit.
_2nd charge_: It is activity, not perezhivanie, to which the child relates
ANL in his assertion of the child relating to her environment, claims she can only relate to the environment (that is, nature) via objects available to her, and by acting upon those objects. For this reason, ANL challenges LSV's definition of perezhivanie as a unity of the subject and the object. Specifically, personality factors in the child and those "actionable" objects in the environment.

(I think you are crying foul here because perezhivanie as a theory had not yet been fully formed (?) or perhaps not fully understood by LSV's students, ANL being one of them.)
Perezhivanie is a Russian word which would have been well understood by Vygotsky's students, even if they had never analysed it before. No, the point is a subtle one: the mediated relation to Nature is not *instead of* an immediate relation to Nature, but *as well as* an immediate relation to Nature.
_3rd charge_: Perezhivanie is a faulty circular construct
ANL pushes against the legitimacy of perezhivanie as a _determining cause of development_ in the child, one of LSV's major claims, largely because it is circular. ANL claims perezhivanie in the definition actually takes the place of the personality, but how can perezhivanie both develop personality and be the personality? Therefore, ANL asserts that there must be _an activity_ external to the personality that exerts force for transformation upon the personality, making perezhivanie an activity, and not a relationship between the subject and the object/environment. ANL is saying the only pathway for the subject to relate to the environment is through nothing other than activity.
Yeah, ANL just really doesn't get it here.

_4th charge_: "Sense and meaning" really means consciousness, which really means intellectualism
For LSV, in order for perezhivanie to "happen," there is a dependency on the level of sense and meaning in the child in order to detect what presents in the environment. Well, ANL counters, sense and meaning present in the child is really consciousness present in the child. Consciousness is just another word for intellect, as interpreted by ANL, and this is problematic, I think because it implies... [doubt sets in] this is hereditary- or biologically-driven alone. (??)
The child's relation to the environment is whatever is appropriate at their level of development, not necessarily if at all, an intellectual relationship, that's all that Vygotsky claims.

_5th charge_: The unit of analysis is activity - perezhivanie doesn't exist in the world, while activity does.
ANL poses: Is the matter really about unity of the subject and the environment, or the relationship between the subject's consciousness and activity among objects in the environment (i.e. objective reality)? Thus LSV has failed to see the problem clearly, it is _activity_ that is the appropriate unit of analysis, not perezhivanie. ----------
Yeah, ANL is just posing his theory as against Vygotsky's.
_6th charge_: The fallacy of word-meaning
ANL believes that the mental representation in a child's awareness must _correspond_ directly to the object in reality, and not just perceptually, but also how the object may relate and associate to other objects and their meanings. The example is a table. Because of this definition of, what I will call here for convenience (i.e., my laziness) "object-awareness", ANL takes exception with LSV's rendering of a _single word_ to stand as a generalization to reference the meaning of the word and as an independent unit (word-meaning). Furthermore, ANL disagrees with the existence of these word-meanings, _as units_, but he also disagrees that they are what construct consciousness as a whole. ANL can say this because he considers consciousness and intellect to be synonymous.
ANL believes that motivation determines perception. The norm of perception, the "true" meaning of an object, is therefore the meaning it has for the community as a whole. I am questioning the validity of this concept of "community as a whole" in this contextt.
I'm not sure if this next is the same charge, if not, it is the...

_7th charge_: Over-complexity of concepts and projection of idealism
ANL attacks LSV's notion of concepts (scientific and everyday concepts) because the theory is too complicated (???), the reason being (per ANL) that LSV claims meaning is created through verbal communication --not speech, but communication-- of concepts alone (and not activity). This claim is in conflict with what you indicate is ANL's dogmatic concept of truth (as laid out in para above). The theory as posed by LSV can't involve material dealings, but "merely" communication using language. All this abstraction, according to ANL, effectively removes the child from the environment, rendering the child to be an "ideal subject" and the environment to be an "ideal environment," which, in interaction through communication, is supposed to develop the mind of the child. This is how it is ANL brands LSV an idealist and where the entire "bourgeois psychology" charge is derived.
_8th charge_: Reversion to subjective psychology
In a coup de tête (pun intended), ANL makes a last charge that LSV has shifted any "problem of the environment" onto an abstract level of the psyche, and as such, this move reverts to the realm of the subjective practices rampant in psychology studies of the day, making it, not only removed from the material methods vital to Marxist thought, but essentially unscientific and specious.
Yes, a false charge.

In my first run down the "prosecution line", I had seemed to miss two charges, that is, if I used your prompt for the "first charge" in your text. However backing up and going over it a second time, I tried to pull out the missing two from higher up the list. I'm fairly confident I did not do this correctly, and that I have failed spectacularly. I anticipate I shall be disabused from what I've set out here, which will make me glad.

For what it is worth, this exercise was somewhat painful to do, if only because of my inner speech was screaming, "YEAH, BUT..."
You did a reasonable job there, Annalisa. Go to the top of the class!