RE: Leont'ev-Vygotsky controversy

From: Eugene Matusov (ematusov@UDel.Edu)
Date: Tue Feb 17 2004 - 09:16:48 PST

Dear Ana and everybody-


My 2 cents to the discussion of Vygotsky-Leont'ev about unit of analysis. I
think Vygotsky is also a part of "Activity Approach" ("deyatel'notnogo
podkhoda") with slightly different emphases. Andy and Steve and Mike are
right about German Hegel-Marx roots of such approach (but also with
influence of German Gestalt Psychology on Vygotsky that had its own
philosophical roots in Hegel and Kant). In my view, Vygotsky emphasized
semiotic aspects of activity while Leont'ev instrumental (and physical)
aspects. I also think that it is very appropriate to blur any difference
between Vygotsky and Leont'ev for certain conceptual purposes but to
emphasize it for others. I'm less familiar with Rubenshtein's framework but
from what I heard about it I could not find anything interesting (I can be
wrong and I'll be happy to learn from others more about Rubenshtein).


What do you think?



PS After Kohler's famous research on apes' intellect, Vygotsky and Luria
applied their activity approach to animals.

PSS It is not by change that Vygotsky's students (not colleagues) studied
how goal of activity (a "grocery list" kids playing shopping) shaped
children's memory.



From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane []
Sent: Monday, February 16, 2004 10:21 PM
Subject: Re: Leont'ev-Vygotsky controversy


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

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

- Steve




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


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