Re: [xmca] Emotion at Work

From: Mark Chen <markchen who-is-at>
Date: Thu Jul 26 2007 - 15:46:01 PDT

I got an error when I went to this url, but when I deleted the parameter
being sent to the page, it worked.
In other words, if it doesn't work try this instead:

sans the ?cookie thingie.

On 7/26/07, Steve Gabosch <> wrote:
> Looks like the article is now available at
> - Steve
> At 09:06 AM 7/25/2007 -0700, you wrote:
> >Right now you find it by asking me. I am asking Taylor and Francis to
> make
> >it available to all.
> >mike
> >
> >On 7/24/07, Helena Harlow Worthen <> wrote:
> >>
> >>Please remind me how to find the Emotion at Work paper by Wolf-Michael.
> >>
> >>Thanks -- Helena
> >>
> >>Helena Worthen
> >>Chicago Labor Education Program
> >>Suite 110 The Rice Building
> >>815 West Van Buren Street
> >>Chicago, IL 60607
> >>312-996-8733
> >>
> >>-----Original Message-----
> >>From: []
> On
> >>Behalf Of Andy Blunden
> >>Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 1:42 AM
> >>To:
> >>Subject: [xmca] Emotion at Work
> >>
> >>Here are some thoughts on your paper Wolf-Michael:
> >>
> >>Wolf-Michael's abstract is marvellous. If this project could be
> fulfilled
> >>it would indeed justify being seen as working towards a 'third
> >>generation':
> >>
> >> Second-generation cultural-historical activity theory,
> >> which drew its inspiration from Leont'ev's work, constituted
> >> an advance over Vygotsky's first-generation theory by
> >> explicitly articulating the dialectical relation between
> >> individual and collective. As part of an effort to develop
> >> third-generation-historical activity theory, I propose in this
> >> article a way in which emotion, motivation, and identity can be
> >> incorporated into the theory. ...
> >>
> >>I love the practical work that Wolf-Michael reports, too, as the local
> >>union rep. at work for most of my life I know these characters and
> >>situations all too well. It is great though that the epilogue seems to
> >>show
> >>a positive outcome.
> >>
> >>That said, I think there a number of serious problems with the general
> >>propositions that Wolf-Michael puts forward.
> >>
> >>On page 44 Wolf-Michael claims:
> >>
> >> "Consciousness, motivation, and identity are subordinated to
> >> orientation and emotional readiness because, from evolutionary
> >> and cultural-historical perspectives, the latter predate the
> >> former (Damasio, 1999)."
> >>
> >>I am really not sure what is entailed in being "subordinated," so my
> >>response must be qualified in that respect. But it reeks of a dreadful
> >>positivism. There is no logical basis for the general claim that the
> >>historically or phylogenetically later is "subordinated" to the earlier.
> >>Does it mean that the aeroplane must be subordinated to the
> horse-and-cart
> >>and civilization subordinated to jungle life? Modern life arises on the
> >>basis of rational institutions unknown to animals. To claim that
> >>civilisation is subordinated to animal life reeks of Konrad Lorenz,
> >>Desmond
> >>Morris and Robert Ardrey.
> >>
> >>Is it that identity (for example) "builds on" orientation and emotional
> >>readiness? Yes, but identity _transcends_ the animal functions of
> >>orientation and emotional readiness, doesn't it? The aeroplane utilises
> >>the
> >>laws of physics, but it also _flies_. So why do we say that the animal
> >>functions "subordinate" the higher functions?
> >>
> >>In fact I have a problem I think with Wolf-Michael's conception of
> >>identity. Wolf-Michael goes on:
> >>
> >> "Identity and motivation are _effects _of the psychic life
> >> of human beings, which require consciousness and collectively
> >> organized activity and became possible at the dawn of
> >> anthropogenesis, when human subjects found themselves as
> >> subjects, separate from other material things and fellow
> >> human beings (RicŠur, 1990; Roth, 2006b)."
> >>
> >>I question here the idea of individuality (if I understand Wolf-Michael
> >>correctly) being placed "at the dawn of anthropogenesis," the
> implication
> >>that "subject" is more or less synonymous with individual, and the
> >>omission
> >>of material culture from the list of pre-requisites for identity and
> >>motivation.
> >>
> >>Now, I would have thought that "identity" and subjectivity arise prior
> to
> >>individuality, at the beginning of anthropogenesis, only it would not
> have
> >>been _individual_ identity or individual subjectivity. Pre-modern human
> >>beings act on the basis of an identity tied up with their land, their
> >>social position, threats to their kin, and so on, in other words, with
> the
> >>forms of activity by which people live. Isn't it more consistent with
> >>to suppose that individuality is a later construct of the
> differentiation
> >>of subjectivity?
> >>
> >>Material culture is of course something which is not found amongst the
> >>animals, and I think it is fair to say that material culture is central
> to
> >>the formation of identity and _all _aspects of the psychic life of human
> >>beings. And what does it mean in this context to describe identity and
> >>motivation, which are surely psychic phenomena, as being "effects" of
> >>psychic life? Wolf-Michael distinguishes between psychic life on the one
> >>hand and consciousness on the other. I can understand this in terms of
> >>"psychic life" being simply the activity of the nervous system,
> something
> >>found in any organism with a nervous system. Is that right? And
> >>"consciousness" being something that arises, I would have thought, in
> >>connection with the use of material culture used in forms of activity.
> >>
> >>On history and philosophy:
> >>
> >> "Thus, as dialectical phenomenological philosophers point out,
> >> any explication of human consciousness that posits the subject
> >> to understand consciousness and knowledgeability - as
> >> philosophers (Kant, Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger, etc.) and
> >> psychologists (all but critical psychologists) have done -
> >> inherently is flawed because it does not take account of
> >> history, that is, the emergence of the human psyche during
> >> anthropogenesis (Derrida, 2005; Franck, 2001; Levinas, 1998)."
> >>
> >>I hope I can be forgiven for putting in a word for my favourite
> >>philosopher. I think it is a big mistake to include Hegel in this list.
> >>They all have different concepts of the subject of course, but Husserl
> and
> >>Heidegger share with Kant an individual, subjective concept of the
> subject
> >>while for Hegel the subject is not at all an individual. I like to
> >>describe
> >>Hegel as "the first cultural-historical psychologist" and via Marx he is
> >>the direct progenitor, in my view, of CHAT. And to mention Hegel as "not
> >>taking account of history" is novel. It was Hegel who invented the idea
> of
> >>importing history into a concept of subjectivity as constructed in
> social
> >>activity. True, of course, that Hegel knew nothing of "anthropogenesis";
> >>he
> >>thought that the human species was created in a flash of lightning all
> at
> >>once biologically exactly as they are. He ascribed everything else to
> >>_history and culture_ rather than biology. But then, he died in 1831.
> >>Wolf-Michael continues:
> >>
> >> "This recent work shows how intersubjectivity and subjectivity
> >> are the _results _of collective life and having a material body,
> >> which allows the dawning subject, mediated by its embodied and
> >> bodily nature, to be conscious of itself as but one among a
> >> plurality of subjects (Nancy, 2000)."
> >>
> >>Again, while it seems too obvious to mention that you have to have a
> >>material body before you have psychic activity, isn't it more important
> to
> >>mention that a material culture is a precondition _characteristic_ of
> >>human
> >>life, whereas "having a material body" and "collective life" is equally
> >>true of plankton and grapevines. By the by, it is to Hegel of course
> that
> >>we owe the idea that self-consciousness arises on the basis of becoming
> >>aware of ones own people as one among a plurality. But Hegel never used
> >>the
> >>term "intersubjectivity" because he knew the key role played by material
> >>culture which _mediates_ between subjects. And Hegel was not the last
> >>person to think that material culture plays an important role in human
> >>emotional life, from the patriot's flag to Linus's security blanket to
> >>Donald Winnicott's mother's breast.
> >>
> >>But I agree with Wolf-Michael, that understanding human feelings is tied
> >>up
> >>with practical social activity and practical reason.
> >>
> >> "Motivation and identity are not independent constructs but are
> >> derivative, an integral aspect of an activity system in general,
> >> and emotion - which is centrally involved in the shape of
> practical
> >> actions and practical reasons - in particular." {p. 54)
> >>
> >>Wolf-Michael, I presume you are using "emotion" in the Damasian sense of
> >>somatic-nervous activity, as distinct from the "interpretation" of
> >>emotions
> >>in terms of human feelings, which is derived from the socialisation of
> the
> >>individual? You mean that only beings with nervous systems, and
> therefore
> >>emotions, can have motivations? But it is meaningless to mention
> something
> >>that is a general precondition; why not mention the sun or hydrocarbons?
> >>The question is: what precondition provides the specific character of
> what
> >>is built upon it? Isn't it the point that motivation is acquired _from
> the
> >>activity system_, and that it is the activity system which imparts the
> >>specific character to the emotional response of individuals? So I agree
> >>with Wolf-Michael when he says: "Because emotions are an irreducible
> >>aspect
> >>of activity, they cannot be claimed to be the cause of other aspects of
> >>the
> >>activity." (p. 58) The question really is: should we be regarding the
> >>activity system "coldly"?
> >>
> >>On the question of identity, Wolf-Michael says:
> >>
> >> "In the context of cultural-historical activity theory, identity
> is
> >> a derivative construct in the sense that it presupposes the
> >> existence of the subject who, regulated by emotions, engages
> >> with an object of motive-directed activity, and who becomes aware
> >> of itself as self. Identity presupposes the presence of memory
> and
> >> consciousness (Ricoeur, 2004). The construct of identity pertains
> >> to who someone is." (p. 56)
> >>
> >>I think Wolf-Michael uses the term "subject" here in the Kantian sense,
> as
> >>the transcendental bearer of individual thoughts and actions. But even
> in
> >>this sense the claim is tautological, as identity is part of what a
> >>subject
> >>is, a subject without a sense of its own identity is unthinkable. With
> the
> >>Hegelian idea of "subject" being a self-conscious system of activity, it
> >>is
> >>still the case that identity is entailed in subjectivity, as is the fact
> >>that the human beings involved have nervous systems. But a system of
> >>activity is not self-conscious from the outset. According to Hegel,
> >>identity is something that arises only at a certain point in the
> >>development of an activity system. But human feelings also arise in just
> >>this way as does the specific character of individual identity, with a
> >>specific character drawn from the system of activity and the forms of
> >>material culture generated in the system of activity. Wolf-Michael goes
> >>on:
> >>
> >> "However, we do not know _who _a person is independent of the
> >> actions of that person. ... attributions about _who _someone _is
> _
> >> are made based on observable behavior (actions). Actions that are
> >> already means of expressing emotions and motivations also come to
> >> express identities." (p. 56)
> >>
> >>I think this is a mistake. Identity is in the first place
> >>_self-_consciousness, that is, how a person sees themself. The whole
> idea
> >>of the notion of "subject" going back to Aristotle, is that the subject
> >>exists "behind" all its contingent attributes and persists through
> >>movement
> >>and change. To claim that identity is derived from attributes is to undo
> >>the very meaning of subject and self-consciousness. Attributes
> (including
> >>perceived actions) are attributes _of_ a subject, which cannot be
> reduced
> >>to our experience of it. How we get to know something is not the same as
> >>what it _is_, and a subject does not get to know itself by perceiving it
> >>own actions, rather than mediately through the reactions of _other_
> >>subjects.
> >>
> >>The problem of the construct of "cold cognition" is a very real and
> urgent
> >>problem, but I think Wolf-Michael's treatment of emotion is coming from
> >>the
> >>wrong direction. Knowing is also embodied in biology, just as much as
> >>feeling, and feeling is tied up with material culture, thought and
> social
> >>activity, just as much as knowing.
> >>
> >> "The choices available in, and to, practical reasoning are
> >> always oriented toward higher emotional valence." (p. 59)
> >>
> >>This claim reminds me of Alasdair MacIntyre's discussion of "emotivism"
> in
> >>ethics, in his book "Beyond Virtue." People do not, like sea urchins,
> move
> >>up a gradient of gratification, short- or long-term. Why do people go to
> >>war? Because when they die, at least they won't be unhappy? I can't
> really
> >>see any way that this claim can be distanced from utilitarianism
> and the
> >>myth of rational economic agents maximising utility. People do things
> that
> >>they are unhappy about doing, but they do it nonetheless, and citing
> >>deferred gratification just defers the problem.
> >>
> >> "Identity, too, is an integral part of human activity and an
> effect
> >> of emotion. Who I am with respect to others and myself is
> >> fundamentally related to my participation in collective activity
> >> and to individual and collective emotional valences arising from
> >> (orientations to) face-to-face interaction with others." (p. 60)
> >>
> >>I think this formulation is a little mixed up. The second sentence is
> >>correct, but to claim that identity is an _effect_ of emotion is a kind
> of
> >>positivism. Emotion is somatic nervous activity and to describe identity
> >>as
> >>an effect of this nervous activity begs the question of whether bed bugs
> >>and jelly fish have an identity. If they do, then the whole discussion
> is
> >>at cross purposes. Systems of self-conscious activity arise only amongst
> >>sentient beings who _have constructed a material culture_, and the
> >>specific
> >>character of self-consciousness, feeling and identity arises from the
> >>nature of the activity system and the material culture, utilising _all_
> >>aspects of human biology, inclusive of emotional readiness but also, the
> >>capacities for nutrition, motility, sensation as well.
> >>
> >>However, I think Wolf-Michael's observation is very attractive when he
> >>says:
> >>
> >> "Third-generation cultural-historical activity theory constitutes
> >> a suitable framework for understanding the phenomenon of
> >> collective emotion and its relationship to individual emotion.
> >> My examples hint at a dialectical relation linking individual
> >> and collective emotion. The tacit aspects of emotion shape
> actions,
> >> which are observed by, and available as resources to, others.
> >> These others find themselves in emotional states, and
> >> interpret the actions of others in terms of the emotions
> >> they express; this interpretation is mediated by the activity
> >> system that frames the actions. In their own actions, these
> >> others may express the same emotions, which then gives rise
> >> to a sense of solidarity, which sustains and fuels individual
> >> short- and long-term emotional states." (p. 60)
> >>
> >>I would suggest that we need to insert material culture into our
> >>conception
> >>of how individuals generate emotion in activity systems, and trace how
> the
> >>participants identify themselves and the system of activity, "buy into"
> >>the
> >>emotion, and jointly construct emotional valences meaningful in that
> >>system
> >>of activity.
> >>
> >>comradely,
> >>Andy
> >>
> >>_______________________________________________
> >>xmca mailing list
> >>
> >>
> >>_______________________________________________
> >>xmca mailing list
> >>
> >>
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

Mark Chen | grad student | games researcher/designer | tech instructor | U
of Wa.
My games research and life in academia blog:
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Received on Thu Jul 26 15:47 PDT 2007

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