[xmca] How to conceive of the Social Situation of Development.

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at mira.net>
Date: Thu Jun 19 2008 - 21:52:14 PDT

Mike and David K. and I have been discussing how to
conceptualise the "Social Situation of Development" as in
"The Problem of Age":


"[A]t the beginning of each age period, there develops a
completely original, exclusive, single, and unique relation,
specific to the given age, between the child and reality,
mainly the social reality, that surrounds him. We call this
relation the _social situation of development_ at the given
age. The social situation of development represents the
initial moment for all dynamic changes that occur in
development during the given period. It determines wholly
and completely the forms and the path along which the child
will acquire ever newer personality characteristics, drawing
them from the social reality as from the basic source of
development, the path along which the social becomes the
individual. ... The social situation of development specific
to each age determines strictly regulates the whole picture
of the child's life or his social existence."

I think we agree that the SSD (for short) can be likened to
the Gestalt as understood by Hegel in the Phenomenology, an
idea which had its origins in Goethe, to whom the Gestalt
Psychologists also owe their idea of Gestalt, although it is
a different idea.

I think we agree that the child is a participant in the SSD
(or Gestalt), so the SSD can be said to be "both inside and
outside the child," although it comes form society and those
around the child, and represents the expectations on the
child and the social arrangements put in place around those
expectations as well as the child's response.

Some of the issues include: does a child face just one SSD
at a given time in their life, and how broadly should this
be conceived, is it just the immediate family or are we
talking about the culture as a whole?

Now, here's the question:

I am proposing that the notion of "project", as an
interpretation of Gestalt and SSD answers to what is needed
for a precise understanding of the SSD. By "project" I do
_not_ mean something which the individual sets themself to;
the USA is a project, so is Education, so is the Democratic
Party, so is the child's family.

By "project" I understand an historically articulated series
of interrelated practices in which the participants see
themselves as actors having a certain place or role and
entitled to certain rewards for furthering what is seen to
be the aims of the project, and as continuing and/or
perfecting the work of those who have gone before. People
get recruited to projects or are born into them ... or fight
against them.

Obviously this concept fills a hole that is filled by some
concept or other in any social theory. I see it as an
interpretation of Vygotsky's SSD which would be an ensemble
of such projects, as an improvement on Leontyev's concept of
activity, which IMHO is ill-defined and suffers from the
aroma of functionalism. I take it as continuous with Hegel's
concept of Gestalt, consistent with the interpretation of
Gestalt of people like Terry Pinkard, like Alasdair
MacIntyre's conception of a rational tradition. Whether it
is like Sartre's "ontological project" I cannot say.

The point is that to understand a child's learning and
development we have to know what expectations are placed
upon the child, what resources are made available to them,
what conditions trigger a change in expectations, what new
social position is open to them and what kind of functioning
will be required of them.

Do people think this idea of "project" is sufficiently
clear? Do people think this idea of "project" has unwanted
baggage, and if so what? Or is it altogether misconceived?


Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435 
Skype andy.blunden
xmca mailing list
Received on Thu Jun 19 21:53 PDT 2008

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