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

From: White, Phillip <Phillip.White who-is-at>
Date: Sat Feb 23 2008 - 09:10:40 PST

Andy, i guess at times i do come across as a lout - let me trace by own history in regards to CHAT - after the usual dull consortium of college introductory classes to philosoph (i was an English lit major) i read Wittgenstein in the 70's, which for some reason led to Foucault in the early 80's and then through education conferences came across Vygotsky in the late 80's, which led to Cole, Wertsch, Engestom and Bateson. Then i turned to Bourdieu, Dewey, Latour, Bakhtin and Montaigne. i did read Marx, found bits of interest, but on the whole i found him as tedious to read as Thomas Carlyle. i bumbled my way through some Hegel - and found his "genuine concept" and "pseudo concept" to be an intellectual confabulation. it's not as if just saying some is so, makes it so. as for "unit of analysis", as an educator, i have come to much rely on Wolff-Michael Roth's and Gordon Well's and Michael Cole's work on unit of analysis - as well as Roth's work on action research and teacher education, which appears to me to be quite deeply founded in CHAT and i can understand it without having to have wrestle my way through Marx. i'm deeply suspicious of reading Lenin and Trotsky - their practice of the use of mass terror is to be abhored. i am equally suspicious of G.W.Bush, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. for the same reasons. I believe none of them come close to equalling the insight or brilliance of the "sixteen line death sentence" that Osip Mandelstam wrote.
as for Martin's paper, which is the reason for this conversation - i'm now planning to use it in a doctoral seminar - i see it as a wonderful position paper for my students to work from - and i won't divulge my own positions a i have here on xmca - and if someone wants to run with Marx or Lenin or Trotsky, they'll get my support. i may even have them read your writings first and follow up with email contacts - because clearly for you Marx is a personal lodestar in your universe, and i'll always respect that.


From: on behalf of Andy Blunden
Sent: Fri 2/22/2008 3:49 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Did the Butterfly Leave the Cocoon, and then what?

Philip, I've always wondered how someone who has not read Hegel understands
what LSV meant by a "genuine concept" as opposed to a "pseudo-concept" at
all actually. And how anyone who had not read Marx's Capital could
understand what LSV meant by a "unit of analysis." Self-evidently people
do, so I admit to an element of irony here, but what about it?
At 12:31 PM 22/02/2008 -0700, you wrote:
>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.
>xmca mailing list

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

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

Received on Sat Feb 23 09:12 PST 2008

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