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[Xmca-l] labour and signs


I will try and respond to your point 2., on the relation between the "labour (tool) paradigm" and the "semiotic paradigm". This is a complex question because the two lines of development implied here are distinct but interconnected in the history of Marxist psychology and in Vygotsky's own theoretical development, as well as in both phylogenesis and ontogenesis. On top of this, the question has become entangled in disputes involving the counterposition of Activity Theory and Vygotsky's original work. So the first and most important thing to note is that both these lines of development have their place in all the relevant processes and they are interconnected throughout, and I personally would be very hesitant to ascribe an unambiguous priority to one or the other.

I think the "labour paradigm" is what Vygotsky is referring to when he writes to ANL about instrumental psychology being an "unprofitable pursuit", but in the same group of letters we see that he advocates and promotes "the instrumental method". There is no question that offering subjects artefacts which the subject can use as symbols to control their own behaviour is a central part of Vygotsky's unique approach (emulating in the laboratory the cultural process of providing symbols for people), and I presume this is what "the instrumental method" means. But even in Thinking and Speech, he finds a place for tool-use in the development of intelligence, but he describes this as a "pre-linguistic" stage, both phylogenetically and ontogenetically.

The reason that Vygotsky gives us this story about the knot in the handkerchief and the coin-toss is that he wants to suggest a genesis of the semiotic use of artefacts which does *not* originate from the use of tools for working on matter. His claim is of course entirely speculative and I take it to be a rhetorical move. So far as I know, Vygotsky is in agreement with the idea that collaboration creates the situation in which people need to share generalisations and thus "invent" speech properly so called. Here is in agreement with Engels, but I think he wants to assign only a very early (pre-linguistic) role to the tool, holding that the tool can only give rise to the *potential concept* and not a *true concept* as such. This idea is consistent with what the distributed cognition people want to do and also with the phylogenetic story told in the labour paradigm. In our own day, the role of tools in the formation of mind is really unmistakable. But I think we need to be just as flexible as I think Vygotsky was on these questions.

*Andy Blunden*

Haydi Zulfei wrote:
2. Mike is so and for good reasons enchanted in "rudiments" of culture phenomena (throwing dice and bones , knots , notches in the wood to remember speech) . Good for him and us all . Yes , Buridan's ass gets spoilt in its indecision But man through inventing stimulus-device gets to salvation . But the problem is how many times has Mike , our Boss and confirmed global figure no need for it to be documented , asked himself what went before that juncture of time for the man to become 'MAN' ?? At this moment we are with LSV and at a very critical point of time . No more return to 'culture' to prove 'culture' . LSV says the error for some is to recount the story of mental through mental while they should know that mental processes go parallel with 'social' processes . What I gather at this very point is that he expects us to infer that the 'our present man of some will' owes his man/ness and decisiveness to his previous work activity necessitating use of tools . It seems we cannot take the idea to the uterine because V focuses on use of tools for a baby of 6 or of 10-12 months of age . It seems , both phylogenetically and ontogenetically , that it's not the case that 'gestures' ' eye contacts' come of their own and because of the man/ness and for the tuning-up with the universe through sounds and hymns and angels , etc. Man worked for life , performed ups and downs , shook his extremeties (one pair of hand) , consumed ! collective yellings and gesturing (as concomitant of work) . V says we can distinguish independent history of natural processes and independent history of cultural development separately 'phylogenetically' but not ontogenetically . In ontology , nature and culture work simultaneously contrary to phylogenesis . One cannot with ease and comfort say whichone goes with whichone .