RE: Leont'ev-Vygotsky controversy

From: Eugene Matusov (
Date: Fri Feb 13 2004 - 10:07:26 PST

Dear Mike-

Thanks for providing a more complex (and more accurate) picture. Although, I
think that THE "real" winner in psychology in Stalinist 1930s was not
Rubenshtein but Pavlov. Also, notice how the chances in Soviet/Russian
psychology followed and follow closely the changes in Soviet/Russian
politics up to our days... Disregarding this historical-political context
makes the conceptual debates almost incomprehensible. Rubenshtein's
framework should be also analyzed in the local historical-political

PS By the way, Davydov was highly aware of political implications of his
theories in 1970 and he was brave enough (and probably politically
protected) to talk publicly about that. His fall in 1984 immediately after
Brezhnev's death and the start of Andropov, pro-Stalinist, reign (Andropov
was a former chief of KGB) was not a complete surprise for him.
PSS Mike, I really like your 'PS' - keep your conspiracy to avoid
inter-national troubles ;-)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mike Cole []
> Sent: Friday, February 13, 2004 12:42 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Leont'ev-Vygotsky controversy
> I can contribute something to the different ways that potentials in
> cultural-historical psychology circa 1930 are differentially understood
> depending upon national context, Eugene. And I think your guess about
> why Leontiev's emphasis on activity/instrumentalism was more acceptable
> to vulgar marxism/Stalinism is plausible. But the real winner in that
> whole argument in the 1930's was Rubenshtein, not Leontiev. And then,
> in the 1950's, Rubenshtein was marginalized (perhaps helped toward the
> margin by Leontiev?), and then in the 1980's, Rubenshteinian ideas
> took over the Institute of Psychology in the Academy of Sciences and
> Davydov was kicked out of the Inst in Academy of Pedagogical sciences.
> So many cross-currents internal to Soviet/Russian society (even
> Leningrad/Moscow competition).
> But as I said in my last note, our time for seriously delving into the
> various questions is limited. Those who have the time and can bring
> new materials to think with should help us out by making them available.
> When i get the time I will try to post my response to a series of
> reviews os *Cultural Psychology* that were published a couple of years ago
> in Moscow. I can't provide the reviews in English, but people can read
> them backwards, so to speak, from the response.
> mike
> PS-- I promise not to tell Tulviste or Toomela that they were identified
> on xmca as Russians. Never cross an Estonian nationalist unless you are
> prepared to run like hell! :-)

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