[xmca] communicative action and labour

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at mira.net>
Date: Wed Oct 31 2007 - 20:57:55 PDT

So I'm reading Engstrom's Chapter 2 to try to understand the differences
between CHAT and Mead.

I was particularly struck by Engstrom's "elimination" of Habermas in the

                        "Instead of the original inner unity, Habermas
takes the division
                          of action into labor and interaction as his
starting point"

This is great. I had had the same thought but I had never seen it so
clearly and succinctly expressed.
But later in the chapter (2), he criticises Mead saying:

                        "But they (Leontyev and Thao) disagree with Mead on
the interpretation of construction
                        as mere communication and symbolization. For them,
the construction of
                        objects is above all sensuous, material
construction by means of tools,
                        i.e., production. Communication and symbolization
are seen as derivative,
                        though organically intertwined aspects of production. "

Either Engstrom/Leontyev is trying to have it both ways, or with Leontyev
he is overstating the case. I agree that the division of action into either
communicative or productive is unsustainable, especially nowadays, and I
think Habermas does do what Mead is being accused of doing. But I think the
"inner unity", i.e., _taking activity as a whole_, is the only possible
starting point, and that a dichotomy between labour and communication
_cannot be sustained_ at even a high level of analysis, e.g., political or
economic theory. I am suspicious of the idea of taking symbol-making and
communication as derivative from production, though I accept that this may
reflect Leontyev's view.

What do others think?


At 12:02 PM 1/11/2007 +1100, you wrote:
>Ha, ha, ha!! That's really thrown the cat amongst the pigeons, Ed! (well,
>if it was my cat, thrown a pigeon amongst the cats would be a more
>accurate metaphor). My knowledge of Dilthey is so slight, slighter even
>than my knowledge of Mead, that I am inclined to take your email as an
>excuse to concentrate on Engstrom instead.
>At 08:41 PM 31/10/2007 -0400, you wrote:
>>This may or may not be of interest, but here is a piece of an interchange
>>between two participants on another list about the connection between
>>Mead and Dilthey:
>>Ed Wall
>>>Dear ,
>>Perhaps you missed my earlier communication of September 30 with its
>>footnote regarding the false association of Mead with Dilthey. Your
>>comment below that "we know that Dewey understood Dilthey through his
>>friend Mead (who studied under Dilthey in Berlin)..." repeats and
>>expands this falsity. It is not even an apocryphal story but entirely
>>traceable to one false, unsubstantiated statement, totally unsupported by
>>a single shred of "evidence."
>>George Herbert Mead was enrolled at Berlin for five semester from Summer
>>1889 to Summer 1891. He took a lecture course in Ethics from Dilthey in
>>his third semester in 1890 and another in the History of Philosophy in his
>>fifth semester in 1891 (among four courses). This contrasts with six
>>courses, including two seminars with Paulsen in his first, fourth and
>>fifth semesters. He took three courses from Ebbinghaus in his first and
>>second semesters including spending the entire second semester working in
>>Ebbinghaus' laboratory in connection with his courses. I have a letter
>>in which Mead speaks of going to Berlin to find work in Ebbinghaus'
>>laboratory, apparently on James's advice. Mead's education in Berlin was
>>largely in physiological psychology and he took work in anatomy and
>>psychophysics. Further, his work with Paulsen was in good part devoted
>>to the relations between psychology and anthropology. I have been at work
>>on a biography of Mead for some time in addition to editing his writings.
>>I both corresponded with the Director of the Humboldt University Archives
>>and visited there examining Mead's records as well as the records of
>>the Dekan (Dean) from 1888 through the end of the 1890s with the aid of
>>the Director. I have copies of all of Mead's records at Berlin (as well
>>as those of his friend and brother-in-law Henry N. Castle and James H.
>>I repeat: there is absolutely no mention of Dilthey in anything Mead wrote
>>or in any lecture notes. And I find no mention of Dilthey in Dewey
>>either. On the other hand, descriptions of some of Mead's courses in the
>>University of Chicago catalog which he wrote (and in lectures I have
>>discovered) refer many times to Paulsen, particularly with regard to Kant
>>and post-Kantians and his book Kant is referred to and quoted.
>>Finally, you also wrote that "William James came to Germany and stayed
>>with Dilthey for a while." What is your source for this claim? Apart
>>from Axel Schlotzhauer's rambling and incoherent atempts to link James to
>>Dilthey during James early visits in Germany I find no other claims of
>>such an event or any direct or indirect connection of James with Dilthey.
>>Among the hundreds of names of philosophers and psychologists mentioned by
>>James in his _Psychology_, the Harvard critical edition of his collected
>>_Essays in Psychology_, or any other book James published -- or in his
>>correspondence -- I fail to find Dilthey's name mentioned once. Nor is he
>>mentioned in the two volumes of Ralph Barton Perry's _The Thought and
>>Character of William James_ which quotes extensively from James's
>>correspondence with German psychologists and philosophers. And when
>>James, writes about a rest trip to Berlin in 1880, he speaks of wanting
>>to hear Helmholtz's lectures, observe Munk's vivisections in the
>>veterinary school and of doing laboratory work with G.Stanley Hall, then
>>in Germany. (Perry, Vol. II, p.22).
>>Indeed, the only place the word "Dilthey" appears in a work presenting
>>James's writing is on p.109 of Vol I, of _The Letters of William James_
>>edited by his son Henry James, where a footnote to an unnamed "Herr
>>Professor" says: "The Herr Professor was later identified as W. Dilthey."
>>This refers to a printed letter of James to his sister Alice, dated in
>>Berlin, Oct. 17, 1867. It gives an account of an evening at the home of
>>Herman Grimm, son of the younger of the Grimm brothers of Fairy Tales
>>fame, and a Profesor of the History of Art as well an essayist and
>>novelist. James had written an account of a novel of Grimm's which he
>>had described in an earlier letter in 1867 and sent to his sister with the
>>idea of publishing it; and there is a footnote indicating that this
>>"notice" of the novel was published in the _Nation_ in 1867. James had
>>become friendly with the Grimms and he tells of arriving at their home
>>for a dinner and "... in a moment the other guest arrived. Herr Professor
>>------, whose name I could not catch, ..." The footnote identifying this
>>Herr Professor as Dilthey follows the word "catch." James describes this
>>man, not entirely in flattering terms physically, and says he "was
>>overflowing with information with regard to everything knowable and
>>unknowable... the first man I have ever met of a class, which must be
>>common here, of men to whom learning has become as natural as breathing."
>>>Thanks everyone. I knew I could count on xmca to come to the rescue.
>>>That should keep me out of trouble for a little while I think!
>>>At 11:21 AM 31/10/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>>>> Engestrom discusses Mead at some length in "Learning by Expanding"
>>>> which is available in the XMCA/MCA archives. I believe it's in the
>>>> second chapter.
>>>> Paul
>>>>Mike Cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> The Cambridge companion to Vygotsky has a good article by Anne
>>>> Edwards on
>>>>topic. Also work by Dottie Holland I believe and Valsiner among others.
>>>>NOTE:; Mead got his phd with Dilthey, a fact I take to be highly relevant.
>>>>See also philosophy of the present which is full of interesting overlapping
>>>>Go to it Andy!!
>>>>On 10/31/07, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>> Please understand Michael that my knowledge of Mead is very thin; I only
>>>>> know what have read in terms of a couple of hundred pages of his
>>>>> writings,
>>>>> a couple of biographical articles and of course I am familiar with the
>>>>> Progressive Movement, Dewey, Peirce and everyone, of which he was a
>>>>> part.
>>>>> But I get the impression that he worked out these ideas, as you say, in
>>>>> dialogue especially with Dewey and in the midst of that milieu, but I
>>>>> don't
>>>>> imagine that there was a lot of laboratory work involved, controlled
>>>>> experiments and observation, and so on, by Mead, during his own
>>>>> lifetime.
>>>>> The Vygotsky school on the other and incorporates today many decades of
>>>>> empirical and practical experimental work and observation by scores of
>>>>> psychologists. Yes? How many research groups or psychological
>>>>> practitioners
>>>>> use Symbolic Interactionism specifically today, as their comprehensive
>>>>> theoretical paradigm?
>>>>> Andy
>>>>> At 08:58 AM 31/10/2007 -0400, you wrote:
>>>>> >Andy,
>>>>> >
>>>>> >Mead's work was not just one man - he was surrounded by an entire group
>>>>> at
>>>>> >the University of Chicago that had come together under the umbrella of
>>>>> >this type of Pragmatic thought. John Dewey recruited him to the
>>>>> >University of Chicago from the Univfersity of Michigan, and they were
>>>>> best
>>>>> >friends - both intellectually and socially. There was also a large,
>>>>> more
>>>>> >application oriented group centered around Jane Addams and Hull House,
>>>>> and
>>>>> >the nascent labor movement. When Dewey went to Columbia, there was a
>>>>> >great deal of cross-pollination between the group he started at
>>>>> Columbia
>>>>> >and Mead who stayed at the University of Chicago and the remains of
>>>>> that
>>>>> >group. Mead's ideas are not the ideas of one man but a brilliant
>>>>> >philosophical movement that helped to create what we now call
>>>>> psychology,
>>>>> >and sociology, and qualitative methodology, and even to a certain
>>>>> extent
>>>>> >much of modern anthropology (Boas was also a marginal member of this
>>>>> whole
>>>>> >group).
>>>>> >
>>>>> >I'm interested, why would you think the ideas are so much more
>>>>> speculative
>>>>> >than say CHAT?
>>>>> >
>>>>> >Michael
>>>>> >
>>>>> >________________________________
>>>>> >
>>>>> >From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Andy Blunden
>>>>> >Sent: Wed 10/31/2007 8:21 AM
>>>>> >To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>>>>> >Subject: [xmca] George Herbert Mead. help please
>>>>> >
>>>>> >
>>>>> >
>>>>> >I'm currently reading a collection of George Herbert Mead, which
>>>>> confirms
>>>> > >my view that his ideas on social psychology were very close to our
>>>> own,
>>>>> >though inevitably, as the work of just one man, relatively speculative.
>>>>> >Can anyone recommend to me a critique of Mead by a CHAT person,
>>>>> perhaps a
>>>>> >message in the XCMA archive or a paper available in HTML or PDF? I know
>>>>> >that you guys cover him in your courses at UCSD.
>>>>> >
>>>>> >Andy
>>>>> >
>>>>> > Andy Blunden : http://home.mira.net/~andy/ tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>>>>> >mobile 0409 358 651
>>>>> >
>>>>> >_______________________________________________
>>>>> >xmca mailing list
>>>>> >xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>>>>> >http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>>>>> >
>>>>> >
>>>>> >
>>>>> >_______________________________________________
>>>>> >xmca mailing list
>>>>> >xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>>>>> >http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>>>>> Andy Blunden : http://home.mira.net/~andy/ tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>>>>> mobile 0409 358 651
>>>>> _______________________________________________
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  Andy Blunden : http://home.mira.net/~andy/ tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
mobile 0409 358 651

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Received on Wed Oct 31 21:02 PDT 2007

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