Re: [xmca] Some comments from Anna Stetsenko

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Tue Nov 01 2005 - 21:03:44 PST

   Anna S,
   I am aware of your background. What I know of the history of the
   Vygotsky School is largely gleaned from your posts on xmca in the
   past. Apart form the respect I owe to you, I also know that there are
   many others on this list 100 times more qualified than I to speak on
   these topics, and it was with no irony at all that I designated myself
   as an outsider here. I will indeed re-read your paper but perhaps it
   would also help if you could succinctly clarify a couple of key points
   from your paper?
   In footnote 3 you say:

          "... a literal translation ("psyche," "psychic reflection")
          appears quite clumsy, and consistent with the goals of this
          article, the term human subjectivity is used as an

   So where you use the word "subjectivity" later in the article I should
   read "psyche". Is that right?
   So when, in the abstract, you say:

          "reformulating the premises of cultural-historical activity
          theory to include the notion that material production,
          intersubjective exchanges, and human subjectivity form a
          unified three-fold dialectical system"

   what do you mean by "intersubjective exchanges" and how is this
   consistent with unequivocally taking activity as the starting point?
   Perhaps your answers to these questions would help me see where I have
   misunderstood you, Anna.
   At 05:06 PM 1/11/2005 -0500, you wrote:

     Anna Stetsenko still cannot post directly to the XMCA listserve, so
     I ma forwarding her comments to the group.
     Ana M-S
     -------- Original Message --------
     Subject: could you please post for me on xmca?
     Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2005 16:25:20 -0500
     From: Stetsenko, Anna <>
     To: Ana Marjanovic-Shane <>
     References: < t;
     I am very glad that my paper has lead to some interesting
     discussions and will offer my comments on
     it in the next few days (I am not directly subscribed on xmca at
     the moment but have participated on
     and off since the early 1990s).
     For now, just a brief note with a suggestion to Andy. Why not read
     my paper again, because I do not see you referring to my arguments
     in any relevant way. Instead, you had caricatured my arguments and
     then went on to trample this caricature that you yourself invented
     (not an unknown tactic but it needs to be pointed out). In fact,
     all concrete comments and objections that you made have nothing to
     do with my paper. Specifically, you started by suggesting that I
     infer some kind of a sixth sense and then went on to present my
     view as stating that ONLY in AT (and Russia) the subject had been
     lost. In later posts, still apparently referring to my paper, you
     went on to say that it is wrong to take individuals as the starting
     point, to imply 'the individual on one side, and society on the
     other', wrong to imply subjectivity as a mental theater and 'start
     with Robinson Crusoes who then meet their Fridays' and so on. None
     of these indeed faulty ideas has anything to do with my arguments.
     What you suggest as an alternative is to take activity system as
     the starting point, without noticing that this is exactly what my
     paper suggests in an unequivocal way, again and again, throughout
     the paper.
     That there are profound problems with subjectivity in
     poststructuralist approaches is NOT denied in my paper, as Andy
     erroneously implied. On the contrary, this is referred to in
     footnote: "However, this does not mean that the views of these
     scholars [Vygotsky, Leotiev] somehow lose in comparison to
     alternative approaches that putatively attribute more agency to
     individuals, because these latter approaches... only address
     ephemeral agency as rooted in individualist and essentialist
     premises." I can refer to my other papers with extended discussion
     on the pitfalls of such views (MCA, 1997, with Arievitch), Theory
     and Psychology (2004), Critical Psychology (2004).
     I do not know what makes Andy so impenetrable to my arguments and
     do not want to speculate on this now. But it is deeply puzzling
     that instead of asking for clarification of my position, looking up
     my other works or something like this (especially as Andy himself
     stated his 'outsider status' in AT), he chose to caricature my work
     in such a bizarre way.
     On a lighter note, I find the following quote very amuzing (can
     already see it partly applicable to Andy's postings). Note
     especially the last stage:
     "Theories have four stages of acceptance:
         i) this is worthless nonsense;
         ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view.
         iii) this is true but quite unimportant.
         iv) I always said so."
                 &nbs= p; - J.B.S. Haldane, 1963
     Will be back soon,
     Anna Stetsenko
     PS. Just one hypothesis - I guess me being an 'unknown entity' is
     part of Andy's perception. To briefly introduce myself (perhaps
     helpful for others on xmca too), let me mention that my scholarship
     spans some 30 years of first studying and then working and
     publishing in Activity Theory, including in what was its hotbed at
     Moscow University from 1975 till early 1990s, and then
     internationally. I studied with ANLeontiev and other followers of
     Vygotsky, worked with AALeontiev and Davydov (e.g., publishing in
     several books that he edited). Perhaps adding this context would
     invite Andy to read more carefully my paper. Which would then
     perhaps form a basis for a meaningful discussion.
     Anna Stetsenko
     Professor and Program Head
     PhD Program in Developmental Psychology
     The Graduate Center, The City University of New York
     365 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016
     Ana Marjanovic-Shane
     151 W. Tulpehocken St.
     Philadelphia, PA 19144
     Home office: (215) 843-2909
     Mobile: (267) 334-2905
     xmca mailing list

   Andy Blunden, on behalf of the Victorian Peace Network, Phone (+61)
   03-9380 9435
   Alexander Surmava's Tour - September/October 2006


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