RE: Motives and goals: Leont'ev and Axel

From: Carol Macdonald (
Date: Fri Feb 06 2004 - 02:50:37 PST

Hi Ricardo
I come from Michael Cole's stable (as well as work with local colleagues);
when Vygotsky's work fell into political disrepute (because some people were
more equal than others), then the activity theorists "took over", and
largely displaced the focus on cultural tools (mediational means) as
semiotic (specifically language) as creating consciousness, and focused on
the cultural artifact (tools) as creating consciousness, and thus AT was
developed. My reading is that because LSV's work was largely programmatic,
it has taken some different turns; one is to education, where it has
softened in (what I consider unacceptable) theoretical ways e.g. the
hijacking of the ZPD. The new generation of sociocultural theorists such as
Lave I haven't followed, because of my interest in formal schooling.
Activity theory ( e.g. Engestrom's work) lends itself beautifully to work
in systemic educational evaluation.

So much for my simplistic antipodean analysis: the question remains, when
does one theory shade into another and then become a different object. Jim
Wertsch might be the person to ask about this. My own proclivity is to try
to keep them apart, and then develop them from within, but perhaps that is
not what others would do.

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Cole []
Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2004 10:45 PM
Subject: Re: Motives and goals: Leont'ev and Axel

Hi Ricardo.

I agree with you. Certainly Yrjo does not see himself working outside
of the Vygotskian tradition, but rather as someone who is working
in the context of several generations of development of the ideas.

I am pretty sure, however, that many would disagree with me. The reasons
for disagreement could be varied, but they would include conflicts between
key players in the 1930's and changes (sometimes considered distortions)
introduced into LSV's ideas when they became popular outside of the USSR/

However, I am still struggling along trying to understand the meaning
of "object" in AT/German/English/etc, so perhaps someone with more certain
knowledge could help out here.

On Thu, 5 Feb 2004, Ricardo Japiassu wrote:

> I have not being dedicated to the systematic study of Engeström's approach
> to activity (activity theory as work-ATW?).
> I do not see Leontiev's AT or Engeström's ATW as things that should be
> separated from or put out of Vygotsky's original theoretical-methodologic
> frame.
> My current understanding is that CHAT would be considered as a broader
> in which Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory of human development,
> Leontiev's AT, Engeströms' ATW live side by side in a confortable way.
> Am I wrong?

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