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[Xmca-l] Communication, Co-generalization, and Crises



Well, of course, Peg is really right--or at least half right. That is, the
American elections are not just a plebiscite on sexual assault, and using
the term "sexual predator" reduces the whole thing to the kind of
"tu quoques" argumentation which makes up the whole of the Republican case
these days. Actually, for the first time in my memory, the American
elections are about real issues that actually touch the lives of ordinary
people, namely sexism, racism, and the impunity conferred by real fame and
largely imaginary wealth.

But I would like to know that the other half is also right: that is, that
xmca's normal concerns with mind, culture, and activity do not require
radio silence in times of crisis. Let me talk about another crisis and see.
Unlike the USA, South Korea has had, since 1949, six different
constitutions. Until very recently (1997) the peaceful transfer of power
was the exception and not the rule: governments changed if and only if
people took matters into their own hands, either through mass
demonstrations or violent military coups or both (the one apparent
exception was when the current president's father, Bak Jeonghi, was forced
to call an election by the Nixon administration: on the verge of losing to
Kim Daejeong, he peacefully overthrew himself instead).

Now, Vygotsky also describes development in terms of six crises (Birth,
One, Three, Seven, Thirteen and Seventeen) and five more or less stable
periods of equilibrium (Infancy, Early Childhood, Preschool, School Age,
Adolescence). In fact, the Zoped (assuming that "ped" means pedological and
not pedagogical) really refers to the functions that belong to the NEXT
zone of development and not the actual one: if a child can simply take over
functions from the environment and make them his or her own, then almost by
definition they are functions that belong to the zone of actual, and not
the zone of proximal, development. That means that for every stable period,
the Zoped is going to be a crisis (and of course that, along with
prolepsis, accounts for the unpredictability of the Zoped which Peg noted).

Korean crises not when people are overexploited and ruthlessly suppressed;
that is a much better description of the stable periods in Korean history.
Crises happen just when people become superproductive and try to
self-emancipate. I think crises of development in the child also happen the
same way: that is, during normal periods, the environment is communicating
with the child and the child is taking over co-generalizations by
restructuring them to fit the child's extant psychological system. But
Vygotsky says that there are moments when this cannot happen, because the
psychological system itself must be restructured: the central neoformation
dissolves the social situation of development.

During normal times, the environment is the source of development and the
child's personality is only the site of development: but during these crazy
crises (the crisis of "autonomous speech", the crisis of the negativistic
"proto will", the crisis of the affected, manneristic, clownish
"proto-self"), it is almost as if the child, superproductive and active,
wants to "turn the tables", transforming the personality into the source of
development and adapting the environment to it instead.

One of the most puzzling things in Vygotsky's last lectures is the Central
Line of Development. On the one hand, these are always forms
of "communication" and "co-generalization". And on the other, because each
Neoformation is entirely new, what is Central in one period is Peripheral
in the next: perception, for example, is the maximally developing function
in Infancy, but memory is the leading function in Preschool. Speech is a
Central Line of Development in early childhood but Thinking in School Age.
How can BOTH of these things be true?

It seems to me that both of them are true.Communication represents contact
with the social environment, and this is always foregrounded during stable
periods and backgrounded during crises. Co-generalization represents what
we use to call "internalization", and this is foregrounded during crises
and backgrounded during stable periods. In addition, the content of the
communication and co-generalization changes as the child develops, from
doing things in Infancy, to saying things in Early Childhood, to feeling in
Preschool, and to thinking in School Age. When co-generalization becomes
super-productive, we get conscious awareness, and  with awareness, crisis.
With crises, worlds change.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University
Status: O