Re: Leont'ev-Vygotsky controversy

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane (
Date: Mon Feb 16 2004 - 19:20:35 PST

Here is again a linguistic inquiry. I did not read Leont'ev in Russian,
but I have a hunch that he uses the word "deatelnost" for activity. I
am curious weather this word in Russian can be used as "activity" is
used in English to describe anything an organism does in a very neutral
sense, or, does "deatelnost" in Russian stand for a more
object/objective mediated kind of activity, which is probably something
more akin to what you are calling "productive labor".
Maybe Eugene can help us out here.
What do you think, Eugene, if you have time between your resumed classes??

Steve Gabosch wrote:

> 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

Ana Marjanovic-Shane
267-334-2905 (cell)
215-843-2909 (home)

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