Re: [xmca] Historical Development

From: Lois Holzman <lholzman who-is-at>
Date: Tue Feb 19 2008 - 11:10:25 PST

A few years ago Newman and I wrote an article, entitled All Power to
the Developing, for a critical psychology journal. It was addressed to
Marxist psychologists and is rather polemical. Please forgive that, as
I've quoted from it below to both give a further sense of how I have
come to understand the importance of addressing the issue of human
development practically-critically and perhaps to add something to the
comments of Andy and Paul on individuals as social agents of change,
and David's on Vygotsky and class and revolution.

        Development—for individuals, for “the class” and for the species—
comes not from some abstract ideological commitment to being a better
person or to making a better world, but only from a participatory
process in which people exercise their collective power to create new
environments and new emotional growth.
As we said at the beginning, the events of the past century have shown
that people cannot produce revolution with Revolution alone. The
primacy of class struggle over revolutionary activity and the over-
reliance on a linear-causal model of revolutionary change has failed.
This is why, as revolutionaries, we concern ourselves with the
subjective transformations that are required in order to effect
revolutionary (developmental) social change and why we have tried to
come up with another way of looking at the world that does not invoke
a linear-causal model.

It is people—Marx made plain—who change the world. But what kind of
people? Some read Marx as saying, “The working class” or “The
proletariat.” We read him as saying, “People who are developing.” He
could not have put it more clearly than in the following passage from
The German Ideology: “We have further shown that private property can
be abolished only on condition of an all-round development of
individuals, because the existing character of intercourse and
productive forces is an all-round one, and only individuals that are
developing in an all-round fashion can appropriate them, i.e., can
turn them into free manifestations of their lives” (Marx and Engels,
1974, p. 117).

ALL POWER TO THE DEVELOPING! is, then, not a political slogan; it is a
postmodern “scientific” fact. Power, the only real positive antidote
to authority, is a dialectical product of the revolutionary activity
of developing. It is Marxism as revolutionary activity—not as
theoretical abstraction or mere deconstructive class struggle—that
will, perhaps, soundly eliminate all hitherto existing oppressive
conditions. The ultimate Marxist irony, it seems to us, is that class
struggle can only be engaged in “individualistically” (from the bomb-
throwing anarchist to Stalin). Revolutionary activity cannot.


On Feb 19, 2008, at 5:14 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
> This exchange about a really important topic is in danger of
> misfiring I think.
> Could I put it this way: if I were to evaluate my own education I
> could give it a score of 100% because at the age of 60 I am still
> working for social justice as well as anyone I know. But given that
> I still live in the same unjust capitalist society, I could give it
> 0%.
> The ultimate aim of an educator is social change, but only
> _mediately_, through the learners who have to do the actual social
> changing. Lois can only measure the effectiveness of her work by the
> extent to which her students have acquired a capacity for
> communicatively mediated self-determination. The rest is up to them.
> Andy
> At 12:05 AM 19/02/2008 -0800, you wrote:
>> Lois,
>> I think any grade school teacher who helps a child expand his or
>> her abilities does positive work in some senses but usually also
>> helps reproduce the world-devouring capitalist systrem in other
>> senses if by nothing more than encouraging the child to succeed in
>> the terms of the system itself. . I don't believe that
>> developing an individual's talents or abilitites, per se, leads
>> to social change, social change comes from social agents, not
>> individual. for me real transformation/develpment, at the
>> individual and social levels, has to do with the social agent
>> within the individual; that's my point about Freire's "situation
>> limits" and Vygotsky's ZPD. I think, Martin's point about the
>> lack of a class dimension in Vygotsky's analyses and theories
>> needs serious consideration, if for nothing more than being
>> somewhat realistic with oneself about what's being achieved through
>> the applications of Vygotsky's theories in a society where class
>> divisions (economic and
>> political) have only increased since the late 70s.
>> As far as you work I dont really have an opinion. Have you done
>> any long term tracking studies, say 10 or 15 year followups,of the
>> people who have passed through your programs . With thirty years
>> of experience with these approavhes, you should have some good
>> longitudinal material on which to evaluate what their contribution
>> has been to society or even where they ended up individually.
>> That's what I'd need to see to form an opinion.
>> Paul

On Feb 19, 2008, at 1:46 PM, David Kellogg wrote:

> 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
> ---------------------------------
> Looking for last minute shopping deals? Find them fast with Yahoo!
> Search.
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list
Received on Tue Feb 19 11:11 PST 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Apr 09 2008 - 08:03:11 PDT