I would like to propose the following tests for a unit of analysis. They
are all based on things Vygotsky wrote in the pedology.The examples, from
biology, political economy, and music, are my own.
a) It must be maximally simple. That is, it must be small enough to be
manageable in experiments, clinical settings, and observable using
"objectivizing" methods of research such as the functional method of dual
stimulation or the Zoped. For example, cells can be managed in a petri
dish, drawn from patients during examinations, and their genesis may be
provoked and observed with a microscope: the commodity can be abstracted
from an exchange for analysis, observed as it arises in production and
exchange, and elicited through barter and markets. The four note "theme" of
that opens Beethoven's fifth symphony is simple enough to play on a timpani
as well as a piano.
b) It must be minimally complex. That is, it must contain functioning
analogues of all the properties which are the object of investigation. For
example, cells have functioning analogues for metabolism, reproduction, and
equilibrium with the environment.Commodities contain, in a coded,
potential, or "embryonic" form, all the social relations of labor and
capital we find in a mature capitalist economy. Beethoven's "theme" is
complex enough to describe the structure of the symphony as a whole, and to
form its coda.
c) These analogues cannot be simple, miniaturized "recapitulations" of the
properties which are the object of investigation. The mechanisms of cell
metabolism, reproduction, homeostasis are not the same as the metabolism of
the human organism. A commodity cannot produce or exchange or invest
itself; it does not contain productive labour or finance capital in
anything but a coded form; these must be unfolded through the historical
process and that historical process is not infallibly predictable.
Beethoven's "theme" did not create its variations and permutations:
Applying these tests to the units that Andy proposes (with one exception,
number three below, they are also based on Vygotsky!) we find:
1. Word meaning is maximally simple but not minimally complex. It doesn't
contain analogues of interpersonal meanings, e.g. questions, commands,
statements, requests. It doesn’t contain analogues of textual meanings,
e.g. hypotaxis and parataxis, Theme and Rheme, Given and New information.
2. The social situation of development is minimally complex but not
maximally simple: it does construe the ensemble of relations between the
child and the environment at a given age stage, including the whole of
actual and potential language, but these cannot be managed in an
experimental or clinical setting, or elicited in complete form using the
functional method of dual stimulation or the Zoped.
3. Mediated actions are maximally simple and minimally complex, but not, as
far as I can see, structurally, functionally or genetically different from
the phenomena of activity they purport to explain.
Recent Article: Vygotsky, Halliday, and Hasan: Towards Conceptual
Free E-print Downloadable at:
On Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 10:37 PM, Andy Blunden <email@example.com> wrote:
Word meanings for the study of (verbal) intellect
Artefact-mediated actions for the more general study of the development of
Perezhivaniya for the study of personality development
(Defect-Compensation) for the study of disability or whatever
Social Situations of Development for the study of child development
See page 9 on https://www.academia.edu/11387923/
On 19/08/2017 10:47 PM, Martin John Packer wrote:
What are the five, Andy?
On Aug 18, 2017, at 9:07 PM, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Amazon have it for $38.21: https://www.amazon.com/Vygotsk
y-Marx-Toward-Marxist-Psychology/dp/1138244813 which is not too bad.
My chapter is available at https://www.academia.edu/11387923/ but so
far as I can see other authors have not posted theirs on academia.edu -
Thank you, Alfredo, for highlighting how I have pointed to 5 different
domains in which Vygotsky demonstrated the "method of analysis by units."
To me, it seems useless to identify a writer's methodological innovations
unless you can transport that methodology to a different context, and
pointing to five applications by Vygotsky himself seemed a good way of
showing how portable the method is. More recently, I used this method in an
approach to political science, taking a group of people in the room trying
to decide on what they are going to do together as a unit of analysis.
Personally, I think this method has proved very fruitful and original. How
lucky we are to be inheritors of Vygotsky's brilliant insights, still
generally so unknown to the general scientific audience. What a gift LSV
has given us!
But legacies are always problematic. Alfredo, I think you would be a
very good candidate to review this book. Beth?
On 18/08/2017 10:16 PM, mike cole wrote:
Peter, Alfredo Et al -
It seems that the readers of MCA would appreciate a good overview
the LSV and Marx book, but so far as I know, no one has proposed the
to Beth, the book review editor. (You seem to have a jump on the task,
Also, given the cost of the book, it would be nice if authors could
Andy's lead and make a draft available. Andy's article on units of
is on Academia, a click away. That way the many readers of XMCA around
world would not be excluded from the discussion.
Happy travels summer readers. :-)