Re: [xmca] Fwd: could you please post this for me on xmca? thanks.

From: Lois Holzman (
Date: Mon Nov 07 2005 - 21:00:14 PST

Anna, thanks. I think we agree more than we disagree...and I look forward to
discovering more in our continuing conversation.

> From: Mike Cole <>
> Reply-To:, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
> <>
> Date: Sat, 5 Nov 2005 08:54:16 -0800
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
> Cc: "Stetsenko, Anna" <>
> Subject: [xmca] Fwd: could you please post this for me on xmca? thanks.
> ---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: Stetsenko, Anna
> <> Date: Nov 5, 2005 8:51 AM Subject: could you please
> post this for me on xmca? thanks. To: Cc: "Stetsenko,
> Anna" <> I wrote my comment below yesterday morning but
> then my university's server was down for much of the day (right, Joe?) and I
> could not post it. There are many new things today but I still think my
> yesterday's response is relevant. One addition only, because Mike and others
> again asked for clarification of my central terms. It would be impossible to
> explain what I meant by intersubjectivity and subjectivity (and I would also
> have to go back to Greeks, Hegel etc and do some historical excavations) if
> not that ŠI use them from within the CHAT tradition, i.e. works by Vygotsky
> and Leontiev who had done much of such historical excavations already (with
> some variations due to the difficult task of finding a suitable
> translation, because for example, 'psyche' in English is not the same as
> 'psihika' in Russian; 'consciousness' is not 'soznanie', and on and on ­ just
> to say that translating is a highly theoretical work in itself). To discuss
> all the details here would be a separate, tedious and lengthy work. I suppose
> that one quote from Vygotsky should be helpful to illustrate the usage of
> terms: 'Any function in the child's cultural development appears twice, or on
> two planes. First it appears on the social plane, and then on the
> psychological plane. First it appears between people as an interpsychological
> category, and then within the child as an intrapsychological category...
> Social relations or relations among people genetically underlie all
> higher functions and their
> relationships.' -------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------------------- Now, my comment from Nov 4, 2005. Mike has suggested
> that the discussion on xmca moves on to new topics. I totally agree and now
> want to thank all the participants for their time and effort. I do need to
> make up on my promise to comment, not to start a new round of discussions but
> to highlight a couple of things. I start with a response to Viktor ­ because
> this is a good way to sum up the main points -- and then make a few more
> general comments. Viktor: You presented a fascinating analysis of Ilyenkov
> and I find myself agreeing with the main thrust of your arguments. In fact, I
> think there is much more agreement between what you are saying and my paper
> than you seem to imply. Let me explain this, necessarily briefly. First. My
> treatment of Ilyenkov is very sketchy in my paper (as you noticed) whereas you
> presented a much more detailed and, already due to this, a more fair account
> of his views. However, all the sketchiness of my treatment of EVI
> notwithstanding, my main argument does not depart that strongly from yours.
> Namely, I imply that it is a puzzle that EVI's dialectical ­ as I directly say
> -- view is not consistently pushed through and that it is often, de facto,
> does not say what needs to be said (your take) or is in contradiction with his
> own passages on ideality as reified in objects (my take). I attribute this
> puzzle, and you do too, to the difficulty of Ilyenkov's position in the
> sinister atmosphere of his society and the related impasse of not being able
> to fully integrate creative agency of individuals into the picture. Yes, you
> are right, because that would have threatened the status quo of the then
> established presumably perfect social order, which in reality was a stifling
> bureaucracy (I admit, you say it more openly than I did). Secondly and more
> importantly, regarding your central claim: <<For Marx (and Ilyenkov),
> subjectivity, the object, and the ideal develop simultaneously as the outcome
> of the special conditions of human sociality; the voluntary (in the sense here
> of non-instinctive) collaboration of mostly if not entirely socialized
> individuals for the purpose of producing the means for satisfaction of
> collective and individual needs. >> What I did in my paper was to show that
> it is indeed this central Marxist idea (my formulation of it, also attributing
> it to Marx, differs from yours in phrasing only rather than in essence) that
> is at the foundation of CHAT ­ Vygotsky, Leontiev Š and Ilyenkov's works. We
> are much in agreement here again. In addition, I addressed how CHAT theorists
> differed in that they placed more relative emphasis on some of the links
> within this system but not others (see details in paper; also note that some
> aspects are explained better in my Theory&Psychology paper - these two are
> really complementary). But all in all, this is the foundation and this
> foundation is indeed good, as I said many times in my paper. We agree here
> too, no doubt. I did not take anything away from this foundation and from all
> the great CHAT theorists, I believe, in my account. However, my central claim
> was that the concomitant idea -- of subjectivity, ideal, intersubjectivity
> being not ONLY THE OUTCOME but also the SOURCE for human condition and life ­
> was either downplayed or neglected by ANL, EVI and other AT theorists. Or, in
> other words, that they did not consistently pursue the flexible and
> dialectical relations within this system taken in its totality. Therefore, I
> argued, the manifold relationship among material production, subjectivity
> (psychological processes) and intersubjectivity (culture, politics, ideality
> etc.) needs to be emphasized, re-instated (if not introduced anew) into AT and
> CHAT for us to move ahead. Thus reinstating both the materialist ontology of
> human subjectivity and the humanist ontology of material practice ­ together,
> at once, and not one instead of the other. This is especially urgent given
> TODAY's context where postmodernist and poststructuralist accounts with their
> rampant moral relativism (as well as the outright biologizing of human
> development a la evolutionary psychology and other brain-reductionist
> approaches) are winning, and winning big, over dialectical and consistently
> materialist views. ((though not directly addressed in my MCA 2005 paper,
> critique of reductionist biologizing views is part of my works, as reflected
> e.g. in my recent talk at Penn State where some of xmca'ers where present)).
> Incidentally, I also focus on the importance of not loosing a
> developmental stance (this has not been noticed in previous discussion of my
> paper on xmca) ­ as when I speak of MATURE forms of practice that
> simultaneously produce and are produced by subjectivity and intersubjectivity
> and when I say that this multi-fold relation gradually emerges in history of
> humankind and ontogeny. This is the bare bone of my argument. Now, addressing
> the xmca community more broadly. I realize that the paper, due to space
> constraints, does sound to many as too abstract (i.e., too few examples) and
> very dense. This is indeed the case and I can only vindicate myself by saying
> two things. One is that my argument has already found its way into
> interpreting some very concrete research findings ­ in Rejo Miettinen paper in
> the same MCA issue (as Rejo gracefully acknowledges there). Two is that I am
> now working, together with Arievitch on a book where many issues will be
> addressed in much more detail (integrating also important contributions by
> Galperin, so far grossly misunderstood). Are there lessons to be learned from
> the discussion in general? Clearly there is one for me ­ I see better where I
> need to elaborate more on my arguments to avoid misunderstandings. There is
> also one more general lesson, I believe. As it transpired in the discussion,
> the very foundations of AT and CHAT are in need of more work (e.g., we can't
> quickly make general claims such as that mediation or activity or culture is
> important or something like this and think that all issues are resolved to
> then simply move to concrete investigations). This work on the foundations of
> CHAT is a difficult one but it is necessary. As bb (I use the initials only
> because this is how I know the author, not having seen the full name ­ is it
> Bill Barrow?) pointedly stated, this kind of work is inherently difficult
> because it requires 'taking in' all the previous theorizing and then moving
> from there. Also, this work needs to be collaborative, not confrontational,
> as happens too often, leaving activity theorists in limbo due to incessant
> arguments among themselves and thus letting really opposite views take over
> in mainstream science and popular consciousness. Collaboration does not
> exclude contradiction and challenge (which is good and necessary) ­ it only
> excludes flat out dismissals based in misunderstandings and biased
> perceptions (including those that are gender biased ­ to use the mildest
> of expressions), or the combination of the two. Collaboration is not
> easy because it entails leaving aside our personal ambitions and becoming
> more open minded and generous ­ not an easy task by any count. I want to
> thank many of you and especially Mary Bryson and Vera John-Steiner for
> being exactly this ­ open minded and very generous. As to gender biases,
> since this has been in the focus, here is one comment. It is a well
> established finding that they are still alive and well in academia (e.g., see
> discussions around Larry Summers' 'remarkable' talk; MIT study by Hopkins and
> also research that shows that ONE AND THE SAME PAPER is perceived starkly
> differently if presented as authored by an apparently male or female scholar).
> This is the case everywhere in the world, though more in some places than
> others, with for example Russia now developing egregious forms of sexism. A
> great topic to be discussed in any account of what is going on in that country
> (I have written on this and have done some research; this is another area that
> I feel strongly about). I still think, and want to emphasize it again, that
> LSV and ANL and EVI is a great foundation, at least I do not see a better one,
> and I have invited the CHAT community, having made one step in my paper, to
> re-examine and critically evaluate the very core of their work, expanding and
> strengthening it, so that we can move ahead, taking these very theorists with
> us, into today's context with its really formidable challenges. Thanks again
> to all, Anna Stetsenko PS. To Lois Holzman: Lois, thank you for your comment.
> I would need to explain more but don't want to take too much space here ­ we
> sure will meet some time soon, our paths seem to cross very often. For a
> position close to mine (in one important part), I refer you and others with
> similar questions to your recent discussion with Ian Parker in Theory &
> Psychology and my paper with IA in Critical Psychology). One quote from my
> paper: "Since the Špurpose of and meaning of science are seen as grounded in
> its role and ability to contribute to inevitably determinate pursuits
> undertaken in a certain direction and with certain GOALS OF CREATING CHANGES
> in the world, knowledge too turns out to be determinate and directional. This
> is NOT the old-fashioned, positivist-type, ahistorical determinacy of scienceŠ
> Neither is it a complete indeterminacy and uncertainty of constructivist
> accounts. Instead, it is a kind of a historically and culturally
> foregrounded determinacy of science that has to do with it being
> practical, goal-oriented, and therefore, transformative and value-laden
> pursuits of always determinate versions of the world". So, no disagreement
> that science is about changing the world. Our disagreement appears to be that
> I think changing the world entails having goals ­ i.e., direction, knowledge
> of where one wants to get that is value-laden -- whereas you seem to avoid
> talking about this kind of knowledge (goals, orientation, directionality).
> And just one more thing. Many views and issues from 19th century are
> indeed still prevalent today as well asŠ those from 17th and even earlier
> ones. I respect your efforts to develop what you call a tool-and-result
> approach. Indeed, the answers can't be found by putting together few quotes
> from Marx or anybody else, I would think, but by developing one's own system
> of ideas to address major issues that are not going away any time soon ­ those
> of knowledge, mind, human development, learning, teaching, human condition
> and so on. _______________________________________________
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