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[Xmca-l] Re: labour and signs

Haydi, exactly what Vygotsky's idea was about this or that, at this or that time, is something beyond my powers to know. I just try to make sense as best I can of what I find in his writings. So I can only say what conclusions this has led me to. Participation in the labour process obviously conditions our activity and our thinking. But I take it that *true concepts* appear only through the use of signs. It will still be the case that such concept formation rests on tool-use - you can't eat words. Participation in the labour process (however broadly understood) necessarily entails using tools. I think the relation between tool and sign in concept formation is found in those two passages to which you drew our attention on "Word and Action":


I don't think these two lines of development are separate - they are *distinct*, but not separate.

I tend think that "historically" tool use was "prior" but it may not be the case, and I don't really think it matters. For example, according to Marx, the first phase of development of capital entailed gathering workers together in a workshop as wage workers, without making any change whatsoever in the labour process itself, and all the revolutionising of machinery only happened later.


So if that was how it worked in the dawn of humanity, that is, that the form of cooperation preceded the revolutionising of the means of labour, this would support the claim for sign use to pre-date tool-use in the formation of intellect. But I don't know and I doubt that anyone knows. The point is just that these two lines of development have their distinct bases and develop side by side in connection with one another.

Hope that helps, Haydi.

*Andy Blunden*

Haydi Zulfei wrote:

I'm no authority to say things act this way or that way but I'm allowed to display my understanding . In this very piece , V challenges "instrumental method" . In "Crisis" , he does the same . I wonder what you might take by encountering so much talk about the "New Psychology" or the "New Methodology" with lots of evidence he showers on us to document his sayings . Shortly , was he a Marxist of the Day or Not ? This could help us with many things . What seems to be ambiguous for me is the last three lines of the paragraph . Is that what you mean by pre-linguistic stage that after this stage , no use of tools is to be observed ? I'm sure you won't . Mike is all right with the term 'rudimentary' because the to-be MAN (primitive) acts on the instant , is interested in THROWING bones or dice not in their physical or chemical properties as is the case with later stages . Hence use of stimulus-device not sign-device . But with full use of tools and their sophistication we approach the appearance of language which converts the NATURAL functions . V even locates their due places , one the stem of the brain , the other the different layers of the cortex . We know about ANL saying a day might be reached when scientists become full workers and workers full scientists or quasi-scientists but that day has not yet arrived . Not to become lengthy , I refer to the important point that we do not internalize tools but we do internalize signs , speech and this is where V warns us against .
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.

Yes , yes , Vygotsky says , I parrot it many times . Then , I put the question where does it come from (before rudiments) . Let me once again stress on the fact that V asserts the two lines of development are separate one from the other in phylogenesis .

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.

What V says is use of tools finds its meaning within 'work activity' of which you are a master . But these lines smack of historic precedence of speech and co-constructing of speech over working activity . Where have I got wrong ?