RE: [xmca] Material cognition

From: Worthen, Helena Harlow <hworthen who-is-at>
Date: Tue Oct 30 2007 - 08:50:44 PDT

Martin, could you give a concrete example of how "participation in the practices of modern society leads to MISunderstanding how that society works (false consciousness, alienation, etc.)?

I don't disagree but I don't want to respond unless I think I know better what you're talking about.


Helena Worthen, Clinical Associate Professor
Labor Education Program, Institute of Labor & Industrial Relations
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
504 E. Armory, Room 227
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217-244-4095

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Martin Packer
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 10:01 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Material cognition

Once again a thread on XMCA has intersected with something I'm currently
working on. I'm feeling stupid, so let me just throw out a question, perhaps
provocative, perhaps dumb. How do we reconcile the fact that tacit knowledge
is undoubtedly important but neglected by much mainstream research (and
devalued in society) with the suggestion that participation in the practices
of modern society leads to MISunderstanding how that society works (false
consciousness, alienation, etc.)?


> All of these hover around my central interest, which is the often unspoken
> (sometimes called "tacit") knowledge that people working develop and share
> about how to get the work done. For example: a class which we have been
> asked to teach in November will take place at a plant where the workers are
> represented by the grainmillers' union. This is an old plant. Under the
> original management, the workers essentially ran the plant -- they had the
> knowledge and the means to run the plant efficiently and safely. Then the
> plant was sold and new management came in. This new management took an
> adversarial position against the union and attempted to take over control of
> the work without fully understanding how it was done (without exploring the
> social practices related to the working knowledge of the plant?). A bitter,
> non-productive culture developed. Now another new management has taken over,
> and this new management has gone to the union and together they have
> approached us to teach a class to the supervisors that is essentially about
> getting them to respect the working material knowledge that the workers have
> developed. "Leave us alone and we'll run the plant better than you can ever
> do it," the union is saying.

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