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[Xmca-l] Unreading Althusser
Although it is framed as a discussion of the Bakhtin "disputed texts"
question, Seve's article in "Contretemps" (see Juan's posting) raises a
much more important problem en passant. Seve would like us all to unread
Althusser, and he sees Vygotsky as a key figure in doing this.
Althusser argued that the early "humanist" Marx of the Manifesto and of the
German Ideology was entirely supplanted by a mature, anti-humanist Marx of
Capital and the Grundrisse. This anti-humanist Marx was essentially a
structuralist: the commodity was a little like the "Selfish Gene" of
Richard Dawkins, using the individual instrumentally to construct a society
in its own image.
As Seve points out, this kind of "Marxism" is particularly conducive
to Stalinism and even post-Stalinist ideas of how activity can structure
the human personality, but it is not at all conducive to understanding how
language can structure a human personality. It's conducive to Bukharinist
and even Foucaultian ideas of how society reproduces itself, virus-like, in
the individual, but it's not at all conducive to understanding,
contrariwise, a personality and even a whole socialist society as the
result of human individuation. That's where Vygotsky comes in.
I remarked earlier that Seve considers "Mind in Society" to be a
"characteristically Anglo-American" distortion of Vygotsky's ideas about
individuation. What I didn't mention was that Seve considers that this
distortion was at least better than the situation that held in France until
1985, when his wife brought out the first (!) translation of Vygotsky's
work into French (the French version of HDHMF is only now being brought
out!). Distortion is, after all, always better than outright suppression;
a careful reader can go along ways towards undistorting a text, but you
can't undistort silence.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
Seve also mentions, tantalizingly, that the heirs to the Vygotsky family
archive have sold all rights to a prestigious Canadian publisher, and this
publisher has yet to bring out a single volume. Does anyone know the
publisher in question?