RE: [xmca] Did the Butterfly Leave the Cocoon, and then what?

From: White, Phillip <Phillip.White who-is-at cudenver.edu>
Date: Fri Feb 22 2008 - 11:31:45 PST

Martin, I found your paper a pleasure to read - provided for me multiple insights about LV, particularly about the intellectual-historical context that he matured in. What i'm writing here is rather a kind on running dialogue, based on your text, my experiences, other texts i've read.

I can't say that these are my final thoughts, or concrete - mostly thoughts that stochastically emerged in response to your text. (by the way, don't you think that Wertsch took history into account in the text in which he describes the history of pole vaulting, and the historical changes that emerged over time as practice and technology changed?)

so, what i'm about to put out here is a kind of muddle that's my initial start in working with your paper.

for me the answer to your title is "yes, Vygotsky is relevant." After reading your paper, my own conclusion is that Vygotsky's work has transcended Marxism. I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion that it's necessary for future scholars to read "Marx, Hegel, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky ...". I strongly agree that it is "perhaps na´ve to think that we can use the one (psychology) that Vygotsky fashioned unmodified", as you write in your final sentence.

I thought of Newton as I read your paper, all of his "natural laws" of motion and light that he constructed, and considered too that Newton was at heart and practice, an alchemist. To understand Newton, we do understand his historical context, but we don't read the alchemy texts in order to understand his work - even his construction of labeling his work "laws of nature", in order to avoid being attacked as a religious heretic, we understand - so that when Newton explains that he's merely revealing the laws of God, I don't think then that we turn to the bible for further illumination or Aquinas or Descartes.

So too with Vygotsky - the authors you, Martin, cite (Marx, Hegel, Engels, Lenin & Trotsky) - I look back to as situated in a word of positivism, with beliefs of utopianism (new society, new man & forces controlled by men themselves & the root of the content and disconent of mend, and which in that way determines their destiny & the new man could self-consciously grasp and master the laws of his own formation & time to change the world & fate & destiny & science of history & the natural laws of society's movement & lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society, etc.) and I consider what epistemological failures these beliefs were.

Instead, I consider Gregory Bateson (1904 - 84), who had many of the same concerns as Vygotsky (1896 - 34), or Foucault (1926 - 84), as well as Pierre Bourdieu and Bruno Latour, who emerged also out of the tradition of Kant, and Hegel, and yes, referred back to Marx and Engels, though certainly not Lenin and Trotsky, 'and struggled with the multiple questions of "mind in society" -

I find the greatest strength in your paper beginning on page 23 with 'Vygotsky's Account of 'Child History'" . I think Vygotsky's brilliant lies in picking out gems from Marx - as in your quotes - but then building a method of research that looks at consciousness, language, memory, change over time - and the utilization of the concept of 'sublated'. Vygotsky's exploration of consciousness is so much richer and grounded in the dialectic of theory and practice, than say Jung's or Freud's notions of consciousness. It is a brilliant insight, as you explain, in the understanding of "coming to act on oneself as one acted on others, or as others acted on one" (p. 28). (Which goes a long way in explaining why Russians failed at socialism - tracing their historical path of a multiplicity of repressions for 500 years - and why northern European nations did such a far more successful job of socialism - those nations did not have 500 years of state police, censorship, and power residing in a single person - they had a far greater source of flexibility of cultural resources to build on.) So, for a conception of history to build a new psychology on, a new pedagogy in my case, I'd much rather look to Foucault, Bateson, Vygotsky, Bourdieu, Cole, Wertsch, and read Tolstoy's "War and Peace" - for in Tolstoy one sees that the stochastic emergence of events assures that there is no developmental path of history, much less psychology and education.

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Received on Fri Feb 22 11:33 PST 2008

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