Re: [xmca] On "Leading Activity": Once Again, Lenin and Vygotsky

From: Wolff-Michael Roth <mroth who-is-at>
Date: Thu Aug 28 2008 - 12:21:27 PDT

Hi David,
why not go to Alexei Leont'ev and see him concerning the notion. As
far as I can see, he uses the term leading activity or leading plane
when he takes about instruction---in the German version of Activity,
Consciousness, Personality, where there is an additional chapter that
does not appear in the English version, and he gives concrete
examples what happens when you change activity to actions and what
and how students learn, expansive learning in the sense that Klaus
Holzkamp advocates it (he was a close reader of Leont'ev)
        The second way in which he talks about leading activity is when he
describes development from the single cell to human culture (in
Problems of the Development of Mind). Here, development FOLLOWS
activity, that is, as in the analogy of artificial neural networks,
participating in activity PRECEDES development. This is also why it
does not make sense to say that students participate in ZPD and THEN
transfer to the intra-psychological plane. Participation REQUIRES
that the intrapsychological plane is active---a reading that people
like Felix Mikhailov and others seem to produce.



On 25-Aug-08, at 6:06 PM, David Kellogg wrote:

I'm talking about LSV's 1933 talk on play tonight. For those of you
who ONLY know the truncated version of the conclusion of this talk
included as Chapter Seven of Mind in Society, it's well worth looking
at the version that Andy has on MIA:

This is much more complete and easier to follow (particularly if we
compare it with the rather poor Korean translation of Mind in Society!).

There are still some very puzzling passages though! LSV has a really
confusing habit of saying he's going to talk about two or three
things and then getting terribly interested in the second or third
one and completely forgetting the first.

At the very beginning, for example, he announces that he's going to
talk about the origins and genesis of play and then about the role of
play in development, viz. Is play a "leading" activity or simply a
"predominant one"?

Well, you really have to LOOK for the answer to Question Number One,
because LSV gets so excited about Question Number Two and he really
only invokes the origins and genesis of play en passant.

One by one, LSV's pawns take the knight, bishop, rook and queen of
Piaget, Groos, Koffka and Freud and all those who would argue play is
the predominant activity. That's why the title of his talk says
nothing about Question Number One and only mentions Question Two.

Then about ten pages later we've got this, all on ONE page.

"Let us begin with the second question (?), as I have already briefly
touched on the problem of the connection with affective incentives.
We observed that in the affective incentives leading to play there
are the beginnings not of symbols, but of the necessity for an
imaginary situation; for if play is really developed from unsatisfied
desires, if ultimately it is the realization in play form of
tendencies that cannot be realized at the moment, then elements of
imaginary situations will involuntarily be included in the affective
nature of play itself.

"Let us take the second instance first – the child’s activity in play

I've SORT OF found out what the first "question" was (it's really a
complaint about Piaget's notion of "symbolic" play, the idea that
play involves arbitrary symbolic relations). But I haveen't a clue
what he means by 'the second instance'. The second instance of what?
What was the first instance? Help!

In one sense, though, the editors (or maybe the grad students, or
maybe it was LSV himself) are absolutely RIGHT to give this talk the
title that they chose. LSV's central point is not the origin and
genesis of play. It is the argument that play is not the predominant
activity in preschool but rather the leading activity.

In fact, the predominant activity is NEVER the leading activity.
Never! This is really a matter of principle, a matter of method, a
basic postulate which I think I have STUPIDLY ignored in my own data
coding (where I tend to look at central tendencies too much!)

But this basic postulate makes perfect sense, particularly if you
think about Victor Au's work on Lenin and Vygotsky. The VANGUARD of
the proletariat can NEVER be the predominant level of consciousness
of the proletariant. Never!

So initially revolutionary consciousness HAS to come to the working
class from the outside. Later, it's true, the working class creates
its own leaders, but these are always LEADERS, and cannot simply be
representatives, because if they were representatives they would not
be the VANGUARD.

I think this is one of the KEY mistakes we find in Karpov's book on
the "Neo-Vygotskyan Approach to Child Development". He simply doesn't
distinguish between the leading activity and the predominant one.
This smells of neo-Piagetianism!

Play does not actually SATURATE the child's attitude to reality until
the child arrives at school. And sure enough, it is precisely at
school that play is no longer a leading activity, though it may
indeed be a predominant one as far as the child is concerned.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

PS: Paula, I've not forgotten (and if I had then eric, fresh from
doing battle with trout and mosquitoes in Northern Minnesota would
have reminded me). But I won't have time to really give your very
thorough and thoughtful defense of Sakharov the attention it deserves
for another week or two. (For one thing, I've got to go back and re-
read Sakharov!). Sorry!


xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list
Received on Thu Aug 28 12:23 PDT 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Sep 01 2008 - 00:30:03 PDT