Re: [xmca] Wrap up on discussion of paper

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Thu Jan 03 2008 - 17:49:22 PST

No I have plenty of time, Bruce, I was just picking a natural break.

Firstly, apologies to Peter, in that I forwarded his great message to the
list without his permission, so please David, tolerance for remarks which
were intended to be private and not offensive.

One weakness of this article which bears on points that both Bruce and
Peter raise. ...

Karl Marx and Margaret Thatcher agreed on one thing, that "society" does
not exist. Well, not quite because for Marx "society" meant as in Victorian
England, just the ruling clique, and for Thatcher it meant the bunch of
human atoms to which she was trying to reduce her country. In this article
I use the word "society" far too loosely, and in one crucial place I use
"society" instead of "activity" or maybe "social practice," i.e., the third
to individual psyche and material artefact. This error may have made one of
my points opaque.

Although Leontyev advises us not to talk of the individual as counterposed
to "society" this is a very frequent theme, everywhere. I think the notion
of "society" conflates both culture and activity, not to mention eliding
the fact that "society" can have no immediate existence other than in and
through individuals. But it is the failure to clearly distinguish between
the *material culture* which is shared by everyone in a certain society so
as to know what to do and what attitude to take, what genre to adopt, etc.,
and the *activities* that actually constitute the institutions, events,
practices, rituals, etc., of a society, which leads the word "society" into
such confusion.

So I am interested in drawing the insights of CHAT into the renovation of
social theory. Social theory always relies on some kind of psychology.
American social theory I think often draws on G H Mead, all kinds of
economics draw on a kind of naive psychology or some kind of behaviourism;
Coleman's social capital theory is explicitly based on a "theory of the
self", Marxism obviously, Foucauldian poststrucuralism, the various
Freudian "theories" of society, the Critical Theorists like Habermas use
Piaget as Freud, Axel Honneth uses Mead and Winnicott -- OK so all these
social theorists are using one or several psychologies - in every single
case, inadequate psychologies.

We need to make an effort to encourage our political science and sociology
colleagues to start "appropriating" or "mastering" CHAT. And we need to be
looking in the converse direction, critically.

At 12:03 AM 4/01/2008 +0000, you wrote:
>Oh.. I'd just got round to starting to write something. Late as usual.
>Does this mean you haven't really got time to carry on or just that you
>think things have come to a natural break?
>I ask as I think the issues I would raise perhaps haven't been the main
>ones in the discussion up to now (though I think they follow on from your
>response to Steve G, relating to the question of whether CHAT can be
>extended to be a general social theory and if indeed that is what your are
>trying to do). Is that a separate discussion perhaps? Or are you prepared
>to carry on?
>Bruce R
>Andy Blunden wrote:
>>Well, I think it's time for me to thank everyone for their input on my
>>paper. I knew that it was going to be difficult, and it was, but we
>>managed it, and I am particularly thankful for those of you who really
>>took the time to sweat over my arcane thoughts and crack them open for
>>you, whether you actually spoke up in the chat or not. I think Bourdieu
>>has really staked his claim for contributing to a resolution of the
>>problems I have had in mind, so thanks to those who introduced him to the
>>A final (?) response to Mike. Yes, one of the conclusions which is
>>implicit in this ontology is that the line between nature and nurture is
>>not one which can be set in principle from the outset. It is an
>>always-open distinction. Therefore, the category of "artefact" always
>>indicates a product of nature which has been worked upon for human
>>purposes. Whether it is 90% nature and 10% nurture or vice versa, will
>>always be, I think, an open question. Therefore an ontology cannot draw
>>such a line. But we can distinguish between what is material and what is
>>thought and what is a form of activity "trafficking" between the two. And
>>yes that adds up to a "circular definition." It could not be otherwise.
>>And that is, I think, a simple rendering of Hegel's "logical" rendering
>>of the same idea as Universal, Individual and Particular,
>>Thanks all,
>>At 08:15 AM 3/01/2008 -0800, you wrote:
>>>The conclusion I take away from this discussion is that there is an
>>>a "hazy borderland" where the borders of what we can imagine (a cultural
>>>process) and what is "really there" 'in the sense that it is resisting
>>>my actions"
>>>(a natural process).
>>>Is that an acceptable formulation of Andy's Hegel-derived ontology?
>>>On Jan 2, 2008 6:31 PM, Andy Blunden <> wrote:
>>> > This idea is something that has become clearer to me since completing
>>> this
>>> > article about a year ago.
>>> >
>>> > It is an ontology for the purpose of understanding human subjectivity,
>>> > Steve, so it is concerned with the kind of "things" we can perceive or
>>> > sensibly talk about. (Just like one has a "unit of analysis" for a
>>> certain
>>> > project, one has an ontology for a certain project.) So for example, you
>>> > can say that a certain kind of thing (such as a comet for example) exists
>>> > and we all understand that it would be absurd to claim that the existence
>>> > of the comet depended on us thinking about it. But if you get right down
>>> > to
>>> > what you mean by the word "comet" then I would have to say that while the
>>> > claim has a basis in nature, nature does not know about "things" or
>>> > "theories" or "forces" or any such thing. Nature is what is not a human
>>> > labour process. We know it is such that it constrains our activity,
>>> and we
>>> > test out that boundary in making and using artefacts - all of which must
>>> > obey "the laws of nature" - and engaging in practical activity - which is
>>> > also subject to the laws of physics insofar as we do anything with an
>>> > artefact (including our own body).
>>> >
>>> > Of course Steve, I am open to persuasion!! This idea is only a couple of
>>> > months old. But I really do think that if we establish this at the
>>> outset,
>>> > we can clear up a lot of confusion in psychology. There is nothing in
>>> this
>>> > claim that denies that nature exists and has its own ways
>>> independently of
>>> > us. But there is nothing that can be said of it which does not entail
>>> > reference to artefacts (such as instruments or bits of matter), ideas
>>> > (such
>>> > as theories, concepts) and practical activity. Theses on Feuerbach agrees
>>> > with me on that.
>>> >
>>> >
>>> the idea at
>>> > slightly greater length in the context of Hegel critique.
>>> >
>>> > Some people want an ontology that says there are signs and tools. An
>>> > ontology like that just generates confusion, IMHO. Some people use an
>>> > ontology which says there are ideas and matter. Equally, this leads only
>>> > to
>>> > confusion. Having the right ontology helps a lot in step two. But I am
>>> > most
>>> > certainly open to persuasion.
>>> >
>>> > Andy
>>> >
>>> >
>>> >
>>>xmca mailing list
>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>> mobile 0409 358 651
>>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
mobile 0409 358 651

xmca mailing list
Received on Thu Jan 3 17:50 PST 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Feb 13 2008 - 12:33:27 PST