RE: Motives and goals: Leont'ev and Axel

From: Eugene Matusov (ematusov@UDel.Edu)
Date: Thu Feb 12 2004 - 18:17:17 PST

Dear Mike-

I think we may want to separate the two (if not three) emerging issues:

1) Difference (real or perceived) between Vygotsky's cultural-historical
approach and Leontiev's societal-historical approach;

2) Political event (real or imagined) of Luria/Leont'ev betrayal of

3) Critique of your understanding of Vygotsky by contemporary Russian

I think these are different issues requiring different approaches. 1 and 3
are conceptual issues and 2 is historical.

I'd not so easily dismiss Valsiner and Veer. Gita is one mediated source for
historical data among others. Also, Jim Wertsch in his latest book discussed
a difference between (direct or mediated by other people) remembering and
history. The later is dealing with conflicting data.

What do you think?


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mike Cole []
> Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2004 12:02 PM
> To:
> Subject: RE: Motives and goals: Leont'ev and Axel
> Eugene-
> Of course, it is important to distinguish intellectual debates in
> from political debates in the context of the purges in Russia. Davydov
> liked to tell about Luria calling him and everyone in his generation each
> morning wtih their tasks for the day, so that when he died, they missed
> him in a special way. He had principled critique of Vygotsky's notion of
> scientific concepts which in their positive form underpinned work at
> School 91 and elsewhere. I myself criticized Luria's cross cultural work.
> Tulviste and Tommela criticized my work. etc.
> The key "critique" in LSV's letter to Vygotsky was that mind is mediated
> through activity. So? In the Russian translation of my book it was said
> my main idea is that action is mediated through context. So?
> As I understand what makes the Vygotsky critique important in the context
> was that he was being accusse of being an idealist, signocentricist who
> denied importance of context/activity and he saw ANL as taking that route.
> Perhaps so, at the time. But not in later writings, as we well know.
> Recently, perhaps even in that streamed interaction saved here at UCSD,
> Gita Lvovna said how Luria was a constant presence in their house. You
> learned a story about how both ANL and ARL were alienated from Vygotsky.
> van der Veer and Valsiner never met ANY of the principles in this
> Their evidence in part comes from a little girl whose memory for events
> she was a small child has been mediated through this same, gossipy process
> which would be laughable if so many poeple's lives had not been
> by it.
> Pretty soon someone will be telling us that Vygotsky and Dewey spent
> the evening discussing psychology and education together! Seems like
> how to think about texting as a new form of literacy would be a better
> use of our time.
> Good luck coming down off your sabbatical. Its a tough transition.
> mike

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