RE: Leont'ev-Vygotsky controversy

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Mon Feb 16 2004 - 13:22:22 PST

I need to go over all the posts in this fascinating thread - which I have
reluctantly had to sit out and only skim due to time crunches - but Andy's
post woke me up to one central issue I don't want to let pass by.

I am puzzled by the concept of viewing "activity" as a unit of analysis of
human nature. Leontiev was among other things a comparative psychologist -
a central core of his theory about human activity derived from comparing it
with the activity of other species, and viewing the evolutionary
development of animal activity, from insects to lion hunters. As I
understand Leontiev, activity is a defining unit of analysis of all animal
species, not just human.

Drawing on the Marxist concept of human nature, to zero in on what is
uniquely human about human activity, we may need to begin with productive
labor as a core unit of analysis. As Mike emphasizes, and others agree,
there are other units of analysis, such as word-meaning, that become
powerful tools of analysis, depending on what we are studying. "Activity"
in general is certainly one of them - humans are certainly an active animal
species. But to discuss "human nature" I think we may need to focus on
what is truly human about human activity, and not just use the general
category "activity".

- Steve

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