Re: [xmca] LV Quote on the importance of meaningful work in learning and development

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Fri Jan 11 2008 - 11:16:48 PST

This brings up a good point from the San Diego-Helsinki seminar on development. Olga Vasquez asked it and nobody has really answered it.
  "What is the difference between neoformation and leading activity?"
  I can't find ANY mention of leading activity ANYwhere in LSV. In Vol. 5 he does talk a lot about neoformations, but they are clearly not the same thing as "leading activity".
  For one thing, periods of crisis have neoformations which then completely disappear. For example, the crisis at one is characterized by so-called "autonomous speech", that is, a speech that nobody but the child can understand. This completely disappears when the child learns socialized speech.
  The crisis at three is characterized by "negativism", that is, the curious and undoubtedly transitory phenomenon of will without volition, e.g. the tendency to say no even to activities that the child wants to engage in simply in order to assert will. These critical neoformations disappear, but "leading activities" do not.
  Neoformations are also NOT the main activity of a particular period of the child's life. So for example in Chapter Seven of Mind in Society (and elswhere) LSV resists the idea that play is the main activity. It's a new activity, and it's developmental properties derive from its position at the leading edge, and not the centre, of the child's zone of proximal development.
  I have an explanation, but it's a little sad, particularly in the light of what Mike said earlier about the things ANL had to do to stay alive. I've got a copy of something called the "Benjamin Rush Bulletin", vol. 1 no. 4 (Summer 1950) apparently a publication of the Communist psychologists in the USA in the McCarthy period. The leading article is a self-criticsm by Leontiev, "The Most Important Tasks of Soviet Psychology" (pp. 6-18).
  In it he explicitly renounces the idea of crises. There's also an "anti-crisis" passage in ANL's Problems of the Development of the Mind". He also fawns on Lysenko and denounces his colleague Rubinshtein and himself. Yet even in the darkest part of the article, there's a glimmer of the light left by the master.
  "...(I)t is necessary to orient oneself, not only on the present possibilities of the chid, but also on the perspective of further deelopment. At the same time, the very process of transition of the child to a new type of vital relations, to his new 'position', must take place not spontaneously but under the guidance of education. It is necessary to place before the child, at the opportune time, new tasks and to include him in a new type of relationshp. In an adverse case, this transition may take place in the form of a 'crisis of development' which in bourgeois psychology is incorrectly described as the 'transition age' itself and is considered inevitable." p. 15.
  Of coure implicit in this paragraph (and quite explicit in other parts of the article) is T.D. Lysenko's quack insistance that epigenesis is inheritable. But there is also the spark of the ZPD. The repetition of "new" might be a sop to the Stalinist censor, but it is also a reminder of LSV's original formulation, the "neoformation".
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Fri Jan 11 11:19 PST 2008

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