Re: Leont'ev-Vygotsky controversy

From: N*** (
Date: Tue Feb 17 2004 - 03:45:10 PST

My take is Leontiev's notion of Activity is both more and less than some
general activity. First, I am not at all clear on what this general
activity would be? Would it be simply the process of "activeness" or
would it include more.

My take is Leontiev used the term in the sense Marx used it in
examining Capitalist society. It was more than some simple activeness.
What is essential to both Marx and Leontiev is the notion of productive
labor / activity (labor=activity).

I think its true that there may be a tendency to confuse the more
general activeness with Leontiev's theory of activity. My preference is
to seperate action and activity theorists. Leontiev was mainly concerned
with productive, historical activity systems. Examples included play,
schooling, and work. El'konin expanded on these with direct emotional
contact, play, school, interpersonal relations, and work. Less fruitful
studies were activity of memory, activity of attention etc. As Davydov
mentions we do not organize society or our activities on the basis of
attention or memory. We do however on the play and work, and afterschool.

There are very important assumptions built into a Leontiev notion of
activity. One, is that historical, productive labor / activity plays a
central role (leading role) in our psychology and development. This may
or may not be true (psychology may be dependent on less productive
labor) but nevertheless it is an assumption built into Leontiev notion
of Activity.

I think Carl Ratner has some nice pieces on Activity worth reading.

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

Nate Schmolze
Vygotsky Project:
Email: nateatdotinfo

******************************************************* The flag is only a symbol of the fact that man is still a herd animal.

Albert Einstein *******************************************************

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Mar 01 2004 - 01:00:08 PST