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[Xmca-l] Re: Understanding/changing "something"
Mike, Peter, Annalisa, Miguel and David,
I wasn’t present when the CHAT acronym was adopted, but I wonder if the “historical” and the “activity” portions of it are relevant to your question. How does acting on history (object?) change the understanding (subject?) of history? I am trying hear to pick some brains about the CHAT network of enterprises, especially the role played by Marxist analysis in what we DO individually and collectively.
David raises the issue in his most recent post:
"Of course, Lewin was a socialist, but he wasn't a Marxist, and I very much
doubt that he ever thought that history was the plaything of human volition
to change. I think he saw history as a force field with absolutely
compelling valences. And so it was, for him.”
I have a personal story, part of my history, but embedded in a larger narrative of world history:
In 1969 was part of the Brigada Venceremos, a project that, among other things, took mostly young American radicals/revolutionaries (we were called radicals, we thought of ourselves as revolutionaries) to Cuba to engage with the Cuban people by cutting sugar cane. After cutting cane for some weeks the Brigada was treated to a bus tour of the island. During the tour I locked horns with a member of the Weathermen collective over how revolutionary we should try to be back in the U.S. His point was that sometimes circumstances of the moment require that you fire your gun at a live target to find how well adjusted the gun sights are set. (He wasn’t just being metaphorical, but it was a metaphor.) I pointed out that firing before you were reasonably sure of the results could result in terrible unintended consequences. Our discussion got very heated. Perhaps I overgeneralize, but I think my little story resonates with Mike’s question about MAKING and DOING history.
> On May 28, 2015, at 2:42 PM, David Kellogg <email@example.com> wrote:
> As far as I can figure out, this is one of the quotations ATTRIBUTED to
> Lewin by Charles Tolman (along with my own favorite non-quote, which is
> "There is nothing so practical as a good theory"). I can't find any actual
> source in Lewin for the quote. It would help if we had the German for it,
> of course.
> But if he did say it, it seems to relate to his late work on change, which
> was about organizational change: the famous "unfreeze", "transition",
> "freeze" model. I always interpreted this model as being merely
> descriptive; in particular, I thought it was descriptive of how people feel
> in response to a change. So for example, the third phase, "freeze", is
> often mistranslated as "refreeze", because the model is used in business,
> and businessmen see themselves as over-endowed with agency (among other
> Of course, Lewin was a socialist, but he wasn't a Marxist, and I very much
> doubt that he ever thought that history was the plaything of human volition
> to change. I think he saw history as a force field with absolutely
> compelling valences. And so it was, for him.
> David Kellogg
> On Fri, May 29, 2015 at 3:47 AM, Zavala, Miguel <
> firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> Hi Mike,
>> I don't know about great leaders but I interpret the work of Paulo Freire
>> along this strand, with his notion of praxis. It is also in the work of
>> Orlando Fals-Borda, Colombian sociologist and activist, often described as
>> the "father" of Participatory Action Research, with his concept
>> 'vivencia'. In both, I hear theorizations and interventions rooted in the
>> very dialectic between knowing/understanding the world (as spatial,
>> historical, etc.) and transforming it.
>> I was struck recently by Rigoberta Menchu's talk (Nobel Peace Prize
>> laureate; Guatemalan Indigenous freedom fighter) at our campus. She spoke
>> about social transformation as inhering in us, as unfinished
>> beings--becoming as Freire (among others) would say. Yet, she said that
>> reclaiming historical memories for Indigenous peoples is also transforming
>> history, it is to re/write it differently and thus transform it.
>> On a side and related note: how are our conceptions of "history" in turn
>> shaping how we see transformation? And whence spatiality, how we exist and
>> become as spatial beings, how is this dimension of being and becoming
>> theorized in our ideas of "history"?
>> On 5/28/15 11:08 AM, "mike cole" <email@example.com> wrote:
>>> For a current writing project I have been led to think about the fact that
>>> Kurt Lewin is widely quoted as telling his students and colleagues that
>>> you want to understand something, try to change it."
>>> I have long associated this idea with the notion that if you want to
>>> understand HISTORY, try to change IT. But either I am reading
>>> Lewin into Marxism, or hallucinating. Can it really be true that no Great
>>> Leader has ever said that you want to understand history (a particular
>>> "something") try to change it?
>>> There are well known major influences of Lewin on both Vygotsky and Luria
>>> that might be illuminated by this inquiry, one way or the other.
>>> Thanks for any help you can provide.
>>> All there is to thinking is seeing something noticeable which makes
>>> you see something you weren't noticing which makes you see something
>>> that isn't even visible. N. McLean, *A River Runs Through it*