Re: [xmca] Subject: Verb, Object

From: Tony Whitson <twhitson who-is-at UDel.Edu>
Date: Tue Jan 01 2008 - 16:55:59 PST

I take it that Andy's asking why this would not be discussed within the
framework of Mike's book "Cultural Psychology," in which the meaning of
that terminology, within his framework, is elaborated.

On Tue, 1 Jan 2008, Paul Dillon wrote:

> great, but would someone please tell me exactly what "culture" means.
> Paul
> Andy Blunden <> wrote:
> Sure.
> Andy
> At 10:43 PM 1/01/2008 +0000, you wrote:
>> Andy
>> ... why not "cultural psychology"?
>> Luísa Aires
>>> Good question Mike. I never thought about that, and it is certainly in
>>> ignorance of how these terms are used in academia generally.
>>> I suppose by 'social psychology' I mean a current of psychology which
>>> utilises a concept of 'extended mind' as its foundational principle. It is
>>> always the case that other currents contribute insights which are not so
>>> easily accessible from one's own (so to speak) - even if you don't accept
>>> the principles of Psychoanalysis, there are still things to learn from it;
>>> and the same goes for all currents and schools of psychology. But by
>>> 'social psychology' I mean a real psychology, that is practical and useful
>>> in dealing with psychological problems and copes with the reality of
>>> individual difference and so on. A 'social psychology' which sees
>>> individuals as purely and simply instances of their social position does
>>> not warrant the name in my opinion. And 'social psychology' in the sense
>>> that Max Horkheimer (I think) used it, which deal only with the phenomena
>>> of crowds and so on, is also 'not worthy' of the name.
>>> So I am looking for a tool which can give me a way of understanding how
>>> the
>>> Zeitgeist is formed, how it is changed, practically how to intervene in
>>> it.
>>> I do not expect a 'social psychology' to go further and provide me with a
>>> social or political theory as such, but it need to be able to bridge the
>>> gap, so to speak. Let's face it! If we can change the Zeitgeist which gets
>>> people like George W Bush and John Howard elected in democratic countries,
>>> into one in which genuinely good people get elected, then the rest will
>>> look after itself and I can enjoy my retirement.
>>> Why not a meta-psychology? Apart form my idiosyncratic dislike of "meta" I
>>> don't want a metapsychology, I want a psychology which has a
>>> metapsychology
>>> which is sound and able to cope with the sociality of consciousness.
>>> Why not a "science of human nature"? "Human nature" is such a problematic
>>> term, it carries such a lot of unwanted 19th century baggage. And I am
>>> interested in consciousness, not "nature" in general.
>>> Sure, social psychology is a sub-discipline within psychology. There are
>>> things which belong to psychology which are not centre-stage for me. Sure,
>>> brain injury or other defects are a serious topic, as is child
>>> development,
>>> etc., etc.. I guess I am talking about a psychology whose central thread
>>> is
>>> a social psychology rather than a neurobiology, for example.
>>> I need a social psychology which recognises that social movements are not
>>> just large numbers of people with the same feeling, but subjects, and
>>> individuals are neither passive victims of social processes nor absolutely
>>> free agents. But a *real*, practical, living school of psychology, with
>>> people using it in designing curricula, healing depressed people, running
>>> half-way houses, training teachers, organising self-help groups, etc.,
>>> etc.
>>> and doing real, experimental science with it, critiquing and improving its
>>> concepts down the years.
>>> Does that make sense?
>>> Andy
>>> At 05:14 PM 30/12/2007 -0800, you wrote:
>>>> Andy-- This is the second time you have declared your goal to be
>>>> answering
>>>> questions within the framework of social psychology. Why do you use this
>>>> term? Why not a
>>>> meta-psychology? Why not a "science of human nature"?
>>>> I ask because I am used to social psychology being viewed as a
>>>> sub-discipline within psychology.
>>>> The only dept of social psych I know of that takes on your questions
>>>> seriously is at the LSE. One branch of cultural psychology in the US
>>>> comes
>>>> out of experimental social
>>>> psychology here, but I do not think you have that in mind.
>>>> This query is not to distract from the main line of discussion, but
>>>> rather
>>>> to locate what you are striving for better.
>>>> mike
>>>> On Dec 30, 2007 4:34 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>> I think David and Peg's messages were out of sync., yes?
>>>>> This all raises that most difficult of questions for a social
>>>> psychology
>>>>> that wants to deal with the tasks I am asking it to deal with, how do
>>>> you
>>>>> deal with the knock-on effect of an action, which is predictable from
>>>>> on-high, but unknown to the actors themselves? We rely on the basic
>>>>> insight
>>>>> that what goes on in the head first went on between people - whether
>>>> in
>>>>> the
>>>>> form given to it by Fichte, Hegel, Marx, CS Peirce or Vygotsky. What
>>>> is
>>>>> Hegel's Logic about? About the underlying "logic of events", how this
>>>> or
>>>>> that policy or statement or whatever ultimately leads to this or that
>>>>> problem which was at first invisible. Life experience will tell you
>>>> this,
>>>>> but if you don't have life experience, it will happen according to the
>>>>> logic of events anyways and you should learn. Basically, I think we
>>>> can
>>>>> only make sense of this if we get right away from the idea of the
>>>>> "individual-as-subject" but remember that no subject exists other than
>>>> in
>>>>> and through individual human beings.
>>>>> With the ANL example of the child and the father, I have always had
>>>>> trouble
>>>>> with "examples" and methods which presuppose a leader or a father or a
>>>>> facilitator, a person who knows what the experimental subject or
>>>> student
>>>>> or
>>>>> self-help group really needs to do, and organises things accordingly.
>>>> Of
>>>>> course, I understand that all you teachers and teacher-trainers, child
>>>>> psychologists, etc., work and have a responsibility to work in
>>>> precisely
>>>>> that circumstance. But I do not think this is the paradigmatic
>>>>> relationship. The father can only do his bit in "leading" the child
>>>> into
>>>>> an
>>>>> activity where its "best interests" will be served if the father can
>>>> act
>>>>> as
>>>>> a kind of transmitter of life experience, and kind of short-cut the
>>>>> process
>>>>> for the child. So it is not the father's technique which is the
>>>> paradigm,
>>>>> but the bitter life experience which the child may or may not have as
>>>> a
>>>>> result of choosing to do this or that.
>>>>> Andy
>>>>> At 07:54 AM 30/12/2007 -0800, you wrote:
>>>>>> Dear Andy and Peg:
>>>>>> Here's some stuff from my notes; I happen to know that Andy can't
>>>> get
>>>>>> ahold of a copy of ANL's Problems of the Development of the Mind. I
>>>> hope
>>>>>> I don't get those funny marks that always show up when I paste in...
>>>>>> p. 402 ANL points out how 'only understandable' motives for
>>>> homework
>>>>>> such as wanting to get a good mark can be replaced by 'really
>>>> effective'
>>>>>> motives such as doing it so you can go out to play. However, after
>>>> some
>>>>>> weeks of really effective motives, it is also possible that the
>>>> child
>>>>>> will find that the only understandable motives become really
>>>> effective,
>>>>>> e.g. the child will leave off doing homework because it¡¯s untidy
>>>> and
>>>>> the
>>>>>> child is now afraid of getting a bad mark.
>>>>>> p. 403: ANL writes: 'It is a matter of an action¡¯s result being
>>>> more
>>>>>> significant in certain conditions than the motive that actually
>>>> induces
>>>>>> it. The child begins doing its homework conscientiously because it
>>>> wants
>>>>>> to go out quickly and play. In the end this leads to much more not
>>>>> simply
>>>>>> that it will get the chance to go and play but also that it will get
>>>> a
>>>>>> good mark. A new "objectivation" of its needs come about which means
>>>>> they
>>>>>> are understood at a higher level.'
>>>>>> 'The transition to a new leading activity differs from the process
>>>>>> described simply in the really effective motives becoming in the
>>>> case of
>>>>>> a change of leading activity, those understandable motives that
>>>> exist in
>>>>>> the sphere of relations characterizing the place the child can
>>>> occupy
>>>>>> only in the next higher stage of development rather than in the
>>>> sphere
>>>>> of
>>>>>> relations in which it still actually is. The preparation of these
>>>>>> transitions therefore takes a long time because it is necessary for
>>>> the
>>>>>> child to become quite fully aware of a sphere of relations that are
>>>> new
>>>>>> for it.¡±
>>>>>> ANL compares a child¡¯s performance in a school play with the
>>>> child¡¯s
>>>>>> learning of study as an independent activity. The child begins the
>>>>> school
>>>>>> play as an assignment, and later continues for the approbation the
>>>> child
>>>>>> receives during a successful performance. As with learning to study
>>>> for
>>>>> a
>>>>>> good mark instead of just studying for the opportunity to go out and
>>>>>> play, a ¡°merely understandable¡± motive has now become ¡°really
>>>>>> effective¡± and a new activity is established.
>>>>>> But only in the case of independent study (according to ANL) is
>>>> the
>>>>> new
>>>>>> activity developmentally significant (¡°objectively¡±) because the
>>>> child
>>>>>> is not going to become a professional dramatist (if the child were,
>>>> then
>>>>>> the performance in the play would be study). Thus only in the latter
>>>>> case
>>>>>> can we say there is a new leading activity.
>>>>>> Here's what I make of this:
>>>>>> a) ANL really does NOT interrogate the subject as to the object
>>>>>> orientation of the activity: the object (study, the completed play)
>>>> is
>>>>>> indeed given in advance. As far as ANL is concerned, ONLY Chaiklin's
>>>>>> "objective" ZPD exists, and there is NO subjective ZPD. But Andy's
>>>> idea
>>>>>> of "immanent critique" is NOT an objective critique; it has to do
>>>> with
>>>>>> following up (just like Sarah's) the subject's way of seeing things
>>>> and
>>>>>> seeing where it leads.
>>>>>> b) In the development discussion (San Diego-Helsinki) Dr. Olga
>>>> Vasquez
>>>>>> raised the question of whether "leading activity" is the same as
>>>>>> "neoformation", and Dr. Pentti Harakarainnen really did not answer
>>>> it
>>>>> and
>>>>>> instead talked about Dr. Engestrom's even more general concept of
>>>>>> activity. But here we can see that "leading activity" and
>>>> "neoformation"
>>>>>> are quite different: LSV used "neoformation" to talk about
>>>> transitional
>>>>>> structures during crisis periods that COMPLETELY disappear (for
>>>> example,
>>>>>> the child's autonomous speech at one and the child's "negativism" at
>>>>>> three) as well as neoformations which become the leading activity
>>>> during
>>>>>> normal growth. Only the latter is a "leading activity" for ANL.
>>>>>> c) There is still a STRONG behaviorist streak in ANL's reasoning:
>>>> the
>>>>>> difference between the "really effective" and "merely understood"
>>>>>> reasoning can very easily be described, in ALL of ANL's examples, as
>>>> a
>>>>>> simple lengthening of the time distance between the behavior and the
>>>>>> positive reinforcement. Bruner, in a quote that I have long since
>>>> lost,
>>>>>> suggests that development can be described this way, but I don't
>>>> think
>>>>>> LSV ever would have done so: for LSV the key thing about humans is
>>>> that
>>>>>> they are dogs that can ring their own bells.
>>>>>> David Kellogg
>>>>>> Seoul National University of Education
>>>>>> ---------------------------------
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>>>>> Andy Blunden :
>>>> (H) +61 3
>>>> 9380 9435,
>>>>> mobile 0409 358 651
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Tony Whitson
UD School of Education

"those who fail to reread
  are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                   -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)

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Received on Tue Jan 1 17:04 PST 2008

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