Re: [xmca] Historical Development

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Tue Feb 19 2008 - 10:46:49 PST

But Martin!
  I didn't hear Paul say that class was irrelevant to LSV. I heard him say that:
  a) the problem of VIOLENT class contradictions could have reasonably been expected to disappear because the basic preconditions for socialism had been established in the USSR (this is why Leontiev, less reasonably, assumes that children need not undergo developmental crises in the USSR, while these are inevitable in the West), and that
  b) the problem of conflating cultural and historical differences could have reasonably been expected to disappear because the basic preconditions for a multi-cultural socialist society had been established in the USSR (this is why Leontiev completely rejects the idea that "primitive" societies represented less adaptive cultural systems in general; they were only less adaptive with respect to the tasks of socialism).
  Class is relevant to LSV in a number of ways:
  a) Directly! The 2004 monograph "Imagination and Creativity in the Child" carefully notes the class origins of all the children in the data (see pp. 90-92). This does not mean, of course, that LSV endorses the kind of "book keeping" of class that psychologists like Zalkind were doing; LSV explicitly says (and implicitly shows) that we cannot derive the creativity of children from the number of books in the house or the number of multi-syllabic words we find in parent-child bedtime conversations.
  b) Polemically. In his numerous and highly varied attacks on bourgeois psychology (Freud), individualistic psychology (Piaget), education that ignores the social dimension (Thorndike), teaching which requires teachers to substitute themselves for the social environment of learning (the "rickshaw puller", and the "fountain of sermons"), etc. Particularly the early works, Educational Psychology and the Psychology of Art, are rich sources of this material.
  c) Culturally and historically. I think that LSV, like most young Marxists of his generation, saw clearly that the Russian bourgeoisie (always numerically very small and never particularly attached to its homeland) was defeated as a social force in the civil war. So they considered that the main class contradictions left were not between a large working class and a small bourgeoisie, but between a VERY large peasantry and a quite small working class. LSV and Luria believed that the peasantry would eventually be socially absorbed into the working class (through the collectivization of agriculture) but that this process would be gradual and would sometimes lag behind their enculturation into the working class. I think that was why they became interested in the cross cultural work in Uzbekistan.
  This brings us to a very important point that Paul made. Marx actually KNEW that his work was too Eurocentric; his rather inept formulation of an "Asian mode of production" and his rather naive remarks about a "hydraulic" system of production in India were desperate attempts to suggest that there was not one single royal road through history (primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism).
  Marx DID believe that there would be a common endpoint, because he could see that capitalism had powerful homogenizing tendancies. Just as goods of all shapes and sizes could be converted into commodities and exchange values, all kinds of pre-capitalist social systems could be and were flattened (e.g., in the USA, through genocide and slavery) into capitalism.
  Marx knew this flattening was inevitable, but he was ready to support ANY social force that was fighting to resist it, no matter how "reactionary" it was: the Indian mutiny, the Taiping rebellion, even Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. (But it had to be a SOCIAL force. I think Marx would have any discussion of "What have YOU done to resist the rise of commercialism TODAY?" too close to individualist psychology.)
  I don't think "revolutionary" and "scientist" were different things to LSV either; he was a doer and not just a thinker. That's why he says that it's better to have other people call the psychology "Marxist". And that's where we find his most intense involvement with the class struggle; not so much in his fierce-browed defiance of the pointing fingers of bourgeois psychology, but in his wholehearted willingness to serve homeless and disabled children. No wonder Lois and Fred Newman called their book "Revolutionary Scientist".
  When I first went to China in my early twenties, I was assigned to teach English at a cancer research institute in Beijing. My "students" were all in their sixties, all of them veterans of the idealistic 1950s and the bloody 1960s. Some of them had only very recently returned from decades in Tibet or Xinjiang to do scientific research.
  Not ONE of them had been forced to "go to the countryside". They had ALL volunteered. Not ONE of them regretted the decision. They were ALL proud of the contributions they had made to socialism.
  I asked one of them, who had lost her husband to suicide in the cultural revolution, why they went, and why they came back. She looked terrifyingly young for a moment and answered, "We went to the countryside because we were revolutionaries." Then she smiled, "But I came back because I was also a scientist." When I remember how she changed the "women" ("we") to "wo" ("I"), I can almost see her eyes disappear in wrinkles.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Tue Feb 19 10:51 PST 2008

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