Re: [xmca] déjatel¹ nost¹

From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch who-is-at>
Date: Wed Sep 03 2008 - 02:04:59 PDT

LOL!! :-))

I followed your discussion with David K. closely, rereading Ch 7 in
the Plenum (1987) edition. Should have contributed to the
discussion. Maybe next time; these are important issues. I really
appreciated your posts and work with the Sakharov blocks, which I was
very curious about when I first read the 1962 version of T&L maybe
about 30 years ago, and had the same inspired reaction you and Eric did.

I look forward to meeting you in San Diego.

And thanks for the good laugh, made my day!

~ Steve

On Sep 3, 2008, at 1:47 AM, Paula Towsey wrote:

> Dear Steve
> Thank you for your hugely inspiring posting. Don't ever be tempted
> to let go of that youthful need to understand, which you have framed
> so beautifully here.
> Can I vote for you as president of the world?
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:xmca-
>] On Behalf Of Steve Gabosch
> Sent: 03 September 2008 05:19 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] déjatel¹ nost¹
> Andy, your quote from Hegel reminds me of some of the debates going on
> over the Big Bang Theory I have read about in places like Scientific
> American; debates and theories about what preceded the big bang - how
> could it possibly have emerged from nothing to the core universe that
> lit up with brilliant suns in a mere 100 million years that we can
> still detect the vestiges of today; or what exactly is a vacuum, and
> what kinds of vacuum are there; or what is out there beyond the
> farthest extents of the known universe; and are there multiple
> universes which might occasionally collide and produce new universes
> like ours - but where did all those universes come from and what
> preceded them? - and lots of other intriguing and mind boggling
> questions and theories.
> I suppose it may be a part of my youth I refuse to let go of, but I
> still want humanity to understand all these things, from the farthest
> reaches, earliest times and smallest particles, to each neuron in our
> brains, and how they combine with being human to enable us to pursue
> the truth about everything we see and imagine; and especially, learn
> how we can each contribute something to the self-transforming social
> species that we are. Creating a general science of psychology that
> integrates with all the social and natural sciences, as Vygotsky
> imagined, is a goal that inspires me, and I believe is possible. It
> is just one of countless ways to try to contribute.
> But each one of us can only play a tiny part in creating and applying
> our understandings, whatever they may be, doing whatever we each do,
> for what we each see as our own generation, and perhaps future ones.
> Individually, we can only create small dents in the universe and
> "organize the world and our knowledge of it a bit at a time," as you
> say. And that is okay. We are, after all, only human. But that
> doesn't stop us from dreaming big!
> And then, looking beyond the individual to the collective, we should
> not lose sight of the question Marx posed about what might happen if
> the workers of the world united ...
> - Steve
> On Sep 2, 2008, at 4:59 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>> Steve, your post is indeed *very* long.
>> (1) Apologies for the arcane sentence structure in that comment.
>> Marx was saying contradictions of material life generate changes in
>> the Zeitgeist and not the other way around. Of course Marx is right
>> against Hegel on this point! The distinction I was making was
>> between Zeitgeist and the "finer grain" of individual consciousness.
>> (2) Continuing my advice against a "unit of analysis" for
>> everything, or what Albert Einstein hankered after, a unified
>> science of everything and world government to boot. I think it is
>> better to try to organise the world and our knowledge of it a bit at
>> a time, so to speak. And I would probably be the first person to be
>> accused of ognoring that advice. :(
>> Hegel claimed:
>> “The beginning cannot be made with anything concrete, anything
>> containing a relation within itself. For such presupposes an
>> internal process of mediation and transition of which the concrete,
>> now become simple, would be the result. But the beginning ought not
>> itself to be already a first and an other; for anything which is in
>> its own self a first and an other implies that an advance has
>> already been made. Consequently, that which constitutes the
>> beginning, the beginning itself, is to be taken as something
>> unanalyzable, taken in its simple, unfilled immediacy, and therefore
>> as being, as the completely empty being.” (Science of Logic §114)
>> I.e., if you want to roll everything up in a single science, you
>> have to start with a really, really, really abstract concept. Better
>> to take the sciences one at a time, I think.
>> Andy
>> Steve Gabosch wrote:
>>> This is a long post. I am indulging in this to expand on some
>>> things that have been brought up, and to try to articulate some
>>> ideas that have been half-forming in my head for a while. I
>>> appreciate the opportunity to participate in this discussion and
>>> offer my thoughts out. Xmca continues to be a vital part of my
>>> education.
>>> This discussion of units of analysis has been especially
>>> stimulating for me. It began with Andy's excellent question about
>>> Leontiev's use if the term "molar," in the thread Molar, Molecular
>>> and Additive Behavior (somehow the title of this thread got
>>> switched). That we went from molar and molecular perspectives to
>>> units of analysis at multiple levels is logical.
>>> *****************
>>> What I am questioning is whether "activity" is really the "simplest
>>> component of something which exhibits all the properties of the
>>> whole," to use Andy's definition of unit of analysis.
>>> Does each and every activity exhibit all the properties of the
>>> mechanisms of social and individual development? Is every
>>> activity - activity in Leontiev's sense, where a motive drives a
>>> series of goals requiring actions that are comprised of operations
>>> driven by conditions - a "microcosm" of the aggregate "mechanisms"
>>> or forces of cultural-historical change? I am not at all imagining
>>> that activity theory would be set aside based on negative answers
>>> to these questions, but rather, it would be better understood by
>>> seeing activity in its larger context, within a larger "component"
>>> of human existence.
>>> What could that larger component be?
>>> I am entirely open to the possibility that activity does indeed
>>> exhibit all the properties of the whole. Pursuing this kind of
>>> questioning, looking "upward" to larger components, can help
>>> demonstrate that. The other possible direction to investigate is
>>> also worth looking at - is there a component smaller than activity
>>> that is the simplest unit that still exhibits all the properties of
>>> the whole? Some CHAT researchers have thought about this and
>>> advocated action, others, the act. But if we follow a Marxist
>>> sociology, looking upward from activity might lead us to class
>>> struggle, which in turn could lead us to the largest contradiction
>>> of social development, the contradiction between the material
>>> forces and social relations of production, which at times can
>>> become so tense and strained that social revolutions break out and
>>> usher in new social structures and relations.
>>> The consensus in CHAT today is that activity is the simplest such
>>> component of human existence. It may be. In trying to understand
>>> that, I am asking questions about alternatives.
>>> I agree that thinking along the lines of grander contradictions
>>> than just activity, which is based on the motives of individuals,
>>> is a "huge leap" from the usual framework upon which psychology is
>>> usually based: the individual.
>>> Even activity theory as it is presently theorized is considerably
>>> farther outside the comfort zone of most approaches to psychology,
>>> in the way it views human psychology as a convergence of biological
>>> and social lines of development that is driven by the cultural-
>>> social, and mediated by the biological, with activity as the
>>> context of all behavior, interaction and development. This
>>> approach views human psychological development as driven by social
>>> relations, which includes the individual's reactions to, acting
>>> upon, and self-transformations by these relationships and
>>> activities.
>>> But does the level of analysis of the "unit" activity, essential to
>>> understanding the contexts and mechanisms of any human operation or
>>> action, give us full access to understanding these social
>>> relations? This is what Elhammoumi is addressing - he says the
>>> basic unit of analysis must be the social relations of production,
>>> not just activity.
>>> Looking the other direction, does activity theory give us all the
>>> tools we need for a "finer grain" of analysis? Some CHAT-oriented
>>> critiques suggest that activity theory so far has not done well at
>>> providing explanations about subjectivity, emotions, etc.
>>> Important beginnings have been suggested by Vygotsky, Leontiev and
>>> others, but this area of study is much less developed in CHAT than,
>>> for example, the concrete analysis of learning, work, more
>>> recently, play, and close looks at many kinds of actions and
>>> sequences of actions in the context of activities.
>>> What units of analysis and explanations could CHAT develop, in the
>>> context of activity, which could study and explain the so-called
>>> "subjective"? Vygotsky's "perezhivanie," roughly, emotional
>>> experience, has been suggested as one. Wolff-Michael Roth
>>> intriguingly suggested identity, motivation and emotional valence
>>> in a recent article on emotions at a workplace. This is very hot
>>> territory to explore in CHAT these days. This problem is what
>>> motivates me to look both "down" and "up" the levels of analysis
>>> CHAT offers or could develop for new questions and possible
>>> answers. For me this includes looking beyond the accepted edges
>>> and boundaries, wondering what might be discovered on the other
>>> sides.
>>> As Wayne suggested as a thought question, perhaps even the social
>>> relations of production idea is not quite "there" yet. This is
>>> where the idea of looking at the convergence of the social
>>> relations and the forces of production for clues emerged.
>>> As for Andy's suggestion that "it is a big mistake to look for a
>>> 'unit of analysis' for everything," this is precisely the mistake I
>>> am making, and trying to make, and encourage others to make. It is
>>> not clear to me why this mistake should be discouraged. It strikes
>>> me as one of the important ways that science advances. To be sure,
>>> many units of analysis that are mistaken, that is, not adequate or
>>> appropriate for a given phenomena or area of inquiry, have been and
>>> will be proposed. Perhaps I am or will make such mistakes. But
>>> creating a division of reality where units of analysis can be
>>> discovered, and others where they can't, does not feel at all right
>>> to me. I wouldn't know where to begin doing that.
>>> But these kinds of "mistakes," proposing analytical units and basic
>>> units of analysis for phenomena, can provide vigorous dialogue and
>>> cause many to ask questions in new ways, which in turn can provoke
>>> new discoveries, not infrequently by accident and in unexpected
>>> places, which in turn can open up new lines of thinking within that
>>> overall dialogue. As I see it, the quest for the "right" units of
>>> analysis for each and every phenomena and each "level" they exist
>>> on ("right" in the sense that the contemporary body of world
>>> scientific knowledge is being fully utilized) is one of the central
>>> activities of scientific work. As the general body of scientific
>>> knowledge progresses (or gets sidetracked), units of analysis are
>>> constantly revised and debated, providing still more sources of
>>> constant conflict over what are the "correct" units of analysis for
>>> various phenomena and the various "levels" and perspectives these
>>> phenomena can be seen from. Many mistakes are indeed made along
>>> this road, which become the basis of many debates, sometimes quite
>>> heated. But this is the nature of the scientific process, is it
>>> not?
>>> As for the relationship between activity, class struggle, and the
>>> conflict between the forces and relations of production - and what
>>> analytical units and basic unit(s?) of analysis could encompass all
>>> of these - that is a good question, and a difficult one. A special
>>> problem with the pursuit of a unit of analysis suitable for all
>>> three "levels" is that we are interested in being able to apply
>>> this unit of analysis on the individual, psychological level. That
>>> is a tall order. This challenge involves trying to take large
>>> macro-historical processes and view them on the micro-individual
>>> level without losing the integrity of these macro processes, or
>>> lose sight of the individual and all its parts, including the
>>> subjective. Daunting. Since I am not a genius - and even geniuses
>>> need a lot of help and teamwork - I know I very much need help and
>>> guidance to pursue this kind of inquiry. And that it could take
>>> some time to make real progress, and that it could be a detour from
>>> a better set of questions.
>>> I want to emphasize that trying to add in class struggle and the
>>> conflict between the forces and relations of production on top of
>>> activity is intended to also help discover units of analysis, again
>>> from the starting point of activity, mediation etc., for
>>> understanding subjectivity and emotions and other interior
>>> processes. By looking at the macro and sharpening our tools there,
>>> perhaps we can make more headway into the micro.
>>> I tossed out, without strong arguments to back it up, the
>>> suggestion that "social situation," in the way Vygotsky used it,
>>> might be a candidate for a such a macro-level unit of analysis.
>>> Other possible candidates and insights that occur to me to look at,
>>> off the bat, are certain units of analysis for these macro levels
>>> that are used extensively in sections of the Marxist left and
>>> elsewhere, such as "political consciousness" and "class
>>> consciousness." These political "sub-cultures" also tend to use
>>> the concepts of "subjectivity" and "objectivity" extensively, not
>>> just as ways of critiquing various points of view, but of
>>> psychologically evaluating modes of individual participation.
>>> And there are other terms and concepts along these lines in these,
>>> and other political tendencies. Given the roots in Marxism and
>>> other ideologies many of these groups have, there may be conscious
>>> ideas and cultural repertoires in such arenas that could provide
>>> new scientific clues for how to view and describe the psychology of
>>> an individual in the context of activity, class struggle, and the
>>> conflict of the forces and relations of production.
>>> Of course, the huge examples of the USSR, China, and other
>>> countries that have been officially "Marxist" have developed
>>> numerous "official" answers to these kinds of questions, albeit in
>>> the context of a highly deformed class struggle, where workers were
>>> violently disenfranchised from political power and participation as
>>> a social class, and where "Marxism" was used as the official
>>> ideology to justify the continuation of a bureaucratic caste with
>>> its iron boots standing on the throats of workers, oppressed
>>> nationalities, intellectuals, and many others. Thought control,
>>> censorship and brutal repression of alternative views was the norm,
>>> not to mention large losses of many lives and talents. In my
>>> opinion, Stalinism was a great setback for Marxism, and most
>>> importantly, the development of the world working class. I believe
>>> we are still experiencing repercussions of that massive defeat of
>>> working class consciousness, allegiance, and power. The break in
>>> the continuity of CHAT following Vygotsky's death is an example.
>>> Oops, I am digressing ...
>>> Cuba, which has remarkably managed to avoid the development of such
>>> a bureaucracy and the crushing of working class consciousness and
>>> activism, might be another place where ideas and terms that address
>>> how these macro-levels of social organization and conflict can be
>>> applied on the individual level might be found. Some of Che
>>> Guevara's writings point in this direction. Wayne Au's article
>>> relating Lenin's views on the current reality of consciousness and
>>> more advanced levels of consciousness to Vygotsky's zone of
>>> proximal development is another example.
>>> And there are many other places to look, including many ideas
>>> floating around within CHAT and related sub-disciplines.
>>> Now, Andy, as for your first sentence in your post earlier today,
>>> about Marx, the contradictions of material life, and the Zeitgeist
>>> of an age, it sounds to my ears like you are not reflecting, you
>>> are disagreeing with the quote from Marx I pointed to. You seem to
>>> be saying that the "means of the contradictions of material life
>>> etc." **IS** [my emphasis] the "*consciousness of an age*, what an
>>> epoch thinks of itself, the Zeigeist". This sounds to my ear that
>>> you are consciously equating material contradictions and
>>> consciousness. That seems to be what you mean by "is" and the way
>>> your sentence is structured. If I am reading this wrong, please
>>> correct me.
>>> Marx clearly explained that he believed these two things were not
>>> only different, but the contradictions of the existing material
>>> conditions must be explained in terms of this consciousness.
>>> Here is the Marx quote again:
>>> "Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about
>>> himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its
>>> consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be
>>> explained from the contradictions of material life, from the
>>> conflict existing between the social forces of production and the
>>> relations of production."
>>> This discussion about the relationship of consciousness to
>>> conflicting conditions is important in any look at units of
>>> analysis on the psychological level, as well as in political,
>>> cultural, sociological, economic, historical and other approaches.
>>> It is also critical on the philosophical and methodological level.
>>> It could be argued that this is precisely one of the areas where
>>> Marx turned Hegel "right side up," that Hegel's idealism, which
>>> tended to view consciousness as determining being, was corrected by
>>> Marx's materialism, which saw social being as determining social
>>> consciousness. At the same time, as Vygotsky explained, this
>>> relationship can get reversed on the individual level, which
>>> operates under different laws of motion and development than the
>>> historical and cultural, which Marx was investigating.
>>> Marx very clearly explains in this quote how at least certain forms
>>> of consciousness must be explained in terms of the contradictions
>>> of material life. I asked a question yesterday about how
>>> generalized we can get with that idea - can we say, and what would
>>> justify saying, that **all** forms of consciousness must be
>>> explained in terms of the contradictions of material life?
>>> It is fine to take Hegel's or anyone's side over Marx's, or any
>>> position in between, of course. I always find your views and
>>> questions and scholarship refreshing and full of insights, Andy. I
>>> am very glad you are on this list, I have learned a lot. Maybe
>>> Hegel was right over Marx on certain things, or correctly addressed
>>> things Marx didn't, and much can be learned by studying all that,
>>> as you do. Of course, maybe both were wrong on various, or even
>>> many things. And for sure, quoting Marx himself or trying to be
>>> "consistent" with him hardly makes one automatically right! We can
>>> learn much from Hegel, Marx, and many others, and interpret and
>>> side with or against them on various issues, but what counts, of
>>> course, is what we do. And that is one of the things I like so
>>> much about CHAT: it offers some new ways to not only think about,
>>> but do something about the world.
>>> - Steve
>>> On Sep 2, 2008, at 6:38 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>> My response Steve, is that what Marx says is to be understood by
>>>> means of the contradictions of material life etc, is the
>>>> *consciousness of an age*, what an epoch thinks of itself, the
>>>> Zeigeist, if you like. This is a fair call. It is a huge leap from
>>>> there to claim that every passing individual thought is determined
>>>> by these grand contradictions. Clearly, a finer grain of analysis
>>>> is needed. I think it is a big mistake to look for a "unit of
>>>> analysis" for everything, so to speak.
>>>> BTW, and I am sure you have noticed as well, that Marx refers to
>>>> the rather austere conflict between forces of production and the
>>>> social relations of production as what is driving this historical
>>>> change, not "class struggle" - despite what he says elsewhere
>>>> about "The history of all societies histherto ... etc" - though
>>>> some people do take issue with Marx on this!
>>>> Andy
>>>> Steve Gabosch wrote:
>>>>> Yes, exactly, Mike, that is just what I was thinking. This very
>>>>> useful quote you offer may be Marx's most succinct statement of
>>>>> historical materialism. It is from the preface to the 1959 "A
>>>>> Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy."
>>>>> The following sentences after your quote are interesting to
>>>>> examine closely. I have a couple questions about them.
>>>>> Here is the first sentence. When he refers to "this conflict" he
>>>>> is speaking of the conflict between the material productive
>>>>> forces of society with the existing relations of production.
>>>>> "In studying such transformations it is always necessary to
>>>>> distinguish between the material transformation of the economic
>>>>> conditions of production, which can be determined with the
>>>>> precision of natural science, and the legal, political,
>>>>> religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms
>>>>> in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out."
>>>>> In the second sentence, he explains that one cannot explain
>>>>> revolutionary transformations in terms of consciousness, but
>>>>> rather, the consciousness of those times must be explained from
>>>>> the conflict ..."
>>>>> "Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about
>>>>> himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by
>>>>> its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must
>>>>> be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the
>>>>> conflict existing between the social forces of production and the
>>>>> relations of production."
>>>>> Consider this modification of the second part of the above
>>>>> sentence, which attempts to generalize the above to the highest
>>>>> level to all historical periods, and not just during
>>>>> revolutionary transformations:
>>>>> **All** "consciousness must be explained from the contradictions
>>>>> of material life, from the conflict existing between the social
>>>>> forces of production and the relations of production."
>>>>> Do you think this modification might be true? What would it take
>>>>> to demonstrate or negate it?
>>>>> I ask because if this statement is arguably true, it might
>>>>> contain a clue regarding this unit of analysis/analytical units/
>>>>> concrete universal discussion we are having.
>>>>> Brainstorming a little, a possible form this contradictory
>>>>> conditions approach could take at the psychological level might
>>>>> be an individual's "social situation," as in Vygotsky's "social
>>>>> situation of development." The researcher would be tasked,
>>>>> according to this line of reasoning, with methodically analyzing
>>>>> where a person "sits" and develops within and with the world of
>>>>> contradictions around them, especially tensions between the
>>>>> social forces of production and the relations of production - and
>>>>> perhaps also the class struggle - even if these aspects of
>>>>> society appear remote or hidden at the level of the individual,
>>>>> using currently available tools of observation and analysis.
>>>>> Finding ways to understand how these very large, cultural-
>>>>> historical processes psychologically impact each individual in
>>>>> very specific ways would be a major problem to solve. Perhaps
>>>>> new or modified tools and methods are needed. Knowing the
>>>>> analytical units, especially the basic unit of analysis or the
>>>>> concrete universal, (if I am using these words correctly), would
>>>>> of course be essential.
>>>>> But first, one would need to look at the veracity of the above
>>>>> broad statement about consciousness before proceeding with this
>>>>> line of thinking.
>>>>> - Steve
>>>>> On Sep 1, 2008, at 10:48 AM, Mike Cole wrote:
>>>>>> Steve -- As in
>>>>>> In the social production of their existence, men inevitably
>>>>>> enter into
>>>>>> definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely
>>>>>> relations of
>>>>>> production appropriate to a given stage in the development of
>>>>>> their material
>>>>>> forces of production. The totality of these relations of
>>>>>> production
>>>>>> constitutes the economic structure of society, the real
>>>>>> foundation, on which
>>>>>> arises a legal and political superstructure and to which
>>>>>> correspond definite
>>>>>> forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of
>>>>>> material life
>>>>>> conditions the general process of social, political and
>>>>>> intellectual life.
>>>>>> It is not the consciousness of men that determines their
>>>>>> existence, but
>>>>>> their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a
>>>>>> certain
>>>>>> stage of development, the material productive forces of society
>>>>>> come into
>>>>>> conflict with the existing relations of production or – this
>>>>>> merely
>>>>>> expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property
>>>>>> relations within
>>>>>> the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of
>>>>>> development of the productive forces these relations turn into
>>>>>> their
>>>>>> fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in
>>>>>> the
>>>>>> economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation
>>>>>> of the whole
>>>>>> immense superstructure.
>>>>>> e.g. the always dynamic relations between modes and relations of
>>>>>> production
>>>>>> is the core contradiction that is the engine of change.
>>>>>> On Mon, Sep 1, 2008 at 10:30 AM, Steve Gabosch <
>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>> I think you are onto something very important, Wayne. Perhaps
>>>>>>> social
>>>>>>> relations of production does not capture the dynamic
>>>>>>> contradiction you point
>>>>>>> out - by itself, it is still just an element, albeit an
>>>>>>> important analytical
>>>>>>> unit, like class in relation to class struggle. Vygotsky's
>>>>>>> unit of
>>>>>>> analysis, word meaning, is about the contradiction between
>>>>>>> speech and
>>>>>>> thought, originally separate processes that converge and
>>>>>>> transform, creating
>>>>>>> something ontogenetically new in each child, word meaning.
>>>>>>> This idea of
>>>>>>> converging lines of development might be helpful to think about
>>>>>>> in this
>>>>>>> discussion. I think something more general than just
>>>>>>> capitalism is needed,
>>>>>>> as I think you were thinking, although I like the one you bring
>>>>>>> up because
>>>>>>> it is a good example of the kind of contradiction you are
>>>>>>> suggesting. A
>>>>>>> more general one might be the contradiction between the forces
>>>>>>> of production
>>>>>>> and the relations of production. How does that contradiction
>>>>>>> manifest
>>>>>>> itself in concrete entities? Now I'm puzzling over that ...
>>>>>>> - Steve
>>>>>>> On Sep 1, 2008, at 10:10 AM, Wayne Au wrote:
>>>>>>> Steve,
>>>>>>>> Great, thought provoking idea here. It makes me want to go one
>>>>>>>> more step
>>>>>>>> "back" - so to speak. Assuming we're operating within a
>>>>>>>> Marxist,
>>>>>>>> dialectical
>>>>>>>> materialist framework, then perhaps we should consider
>>>>>>>> identifying a
>>>>>>>> particular process, one driven by contradiction, as our unit
>>>>>>>> of analysis.
>>>>>>>> This is another turn on what you said about Marx and Engels
>>>>>>>> talking about
>>>>>>>> "class struggle" as the unit of analysis.
>>>>>>>> So, working from that platform, then we might be able to say
>>>>>>>> that class
>>>>>>>> struggle is an expression of the contradiction between social
>>>>>>>> production
>>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>> private accumulation that is inherent within the production of
>>>>>>>> capital (in
>>>>>>>> our given system at least). Can we then consider that a
>>>>>>>> contradiction/process constitutes our unit of analysis? That,
>>>>>>>> playing with
>>>>>>>> your words, "Activity could be understood as mutually
>>>>>>>> constitutive" of the
>>>>>>>> process/contradiction that produces "the aggregate social
>>>>>>>> relations in a
>>>>>>>> particular society"?
>>>>>>>> Just a thought.
>>>>>>>> Wayne
>>>>>>>> On 9/1/08 9:43 AM, "Steve Gabosch" <>
>>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>> Andy wrote:
>>>>>>>>>> One could go on, but if one were to ask what object is
>>>>>>>>>> served by
>>>>>>>>>> work then the answer is "expansion of capital". I caould
>>>>>>>>>> give 1000
>>>>>>>>>> examples of Marx making ths claim. The idea that the object
>>>>>>>>>> of one's
>>>>>>>>>> labour is profit is always problemtatic for people that work
>>>>>>>>>> in the
>>>>>>>>>> public sector, especially in education or health, but if you
>>>>>>>>>> were in
>>>>>>>>>> the USSR where the state is paying the wages, it would seem
>>>>>>>>>> strange
>>>>>>>>>> indeed. The idea that one's work is part of the reproduction
>>>>>>>>>> of the
>>>>>>>>>> community in a division of labour seems far more appealing.
>>>>>>>>>> But that
>>>>>>>>>> turned out to be a passing episode in twentieth century
>>>>>>>>>> history.
>>>>>>>>> Perhaps you didn't mean this, but it sounds like you are
>>>>>>>>> saying that
>>>>>>>>> all work serves the accumulation or expansion of capital.
>>>>>>>>> But as you
>>>>>>>>> know, there are many kinds of work that don't. Here are three
>>>>>>>>> examples, as I see it:
>>>>>>>>> 1) House work (cleaning your own house) does not produce
>>>>>>>>> surplus value.
>>>>>>>>> 2) Cuban workers today don't contribute to the accumulation of
>>>>>>>>> capital, except in some small businesses and enterprises
>>>>>>>>> (such as some
>>>>>>>>> restaurants, farms), where how much gets accumulated is highly
>>>>>>>>> restricted. There is no capitalist class of any significance
>>>>>>>>> in Cuba
>>>>>>>>> today.
>>>>>>>>> 3) Public sector workers in the US are not producing surplus
>>>>>>>>> value.
>>>>>>>>> The health and education sectors especially are examples of
>>>>>>>>> workers
>>>>>>>>> and other oppressed layers demanding and fighting for social
>>>>>>>>> programs
>>>>>>>>> that enhance their quality of life, forcing the capitalists
>>>>>>>>> to devote
>>>>>>>>> a small percentage of the surplus value they accumulate to
>>>>>>>>> such
>>>>>>>>> programs - which have been under attack for some years now by
>>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>> capitalists and political forces that support them precisely
>>>>>>>>> because
>>>>>>>>> these programs do not produce surplus value - they consume it.
>>>>>>>>> When one begins to look at economies, blocks of capital,
>>>>>>>>> wages,
>>>>>>>>> government, public service workers, workers states, classes,
>>>>>>>>> and other
>>>>>>>>> such issues, many of the core features of activity theory
>>>>>>>>> appear on a
>>>>>>>>> new level of analysis: historical materialism. There are of
>>>>>>>>> course
>>>>>>>>> other world views, but this is the one Vygotsky used.
>>>>>>>>> Vygotsky said
>>>>>>>>> he was applying historical materialism to psychology, which he
>>>>>>>>> explained would require the discovery of new laws of
>>>>>>>>> development and a
>>>>>>>>> new basic unit of analysis.
>>>>>>>>> Andy and I had some conversation about class and activity
>>>>>>>>> offline
>>>>>>>>> recently and I said that "class" is a unit of analysis in
>>>>>>>>> Marxism, as
>>>>>>>>> in "class analysis" and "the history of all hitherto existing
>>>>>>>>> society
>>>>>>>>> is the history of class struggle" (Communist Manifesto).
>>>>>>>>> But on further thought, that is incorrect. Marx and Engels
>>>>>>>>> say it
>>>>>>>>> right in that quote - they say **class struggle**, not
>>>>>>>>> "class".
>>>>>>>>> Thinking about this, a common error in sociology is to use
>>>>>>>>> class as
>>>>>>>>> the unit of analysis. Classes are only elements of class
>>>>>>>>> struggles.
>>>>>>>>> Class is an analytical unit, but not a basic unit of analysis.
>>>>>>>>> Relating this to CHAT, as I see it, classes are to class
>>>>>>>>> struggles as
>>>>>>>>> actions are to activity. Class struggle is a unit of
>>>>>>>>> analysis in
>>>>>>>>> historical materialism in the way that activity is seen as a
>>>>>>>>> unit of
>>>>>>>>> analysis in cultural historical psychology.
>>>>>>>>> But is activity really the **basic** unit of human
>>>>>>>>> existence? As
>>>>>>>>> David was saying, there is a difference between units of
>>>>>>>>> analysis and
>>>>>>>>> analytical units. Is activity an analytical unit, but not
>>>>>>>>> the basic
>>>>>>>>> unit of analysis? This would not overturn any work CHAT has
>>>>>>>>> done,
>>>>>>>>> just shift its attention to a different basic unit of
>>>>>>>>> analysis, and
>>>>>>>>> "demote" activity to an analytical unit, albeit a very useful
>>>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>>> powerful one.
>>>>>>>>> Mohammed Elhammoumi argues in a paper he will present at
>>>>>>>>> ISCAR that
>>>>>>>>> the unit of analysis is the social relations of production.
>>>>>>>>> If that
>>>>>>>>> is the case - I find this idea thought provoking - then
>>>>>>>>> activity would
>>>>>>>>> be an element in that larger entity - activities are carved
>>>>>>>>> out of the
>>>>>>>>> existing social relations and artifacts (artifacts include
>>>>>>>>> nature
>>>>>>>>> insofar as humans directly interact with it). Activity could
>>>>>>>>> be
>>>>>>>>> understood as mutually constitutive with the aggregate social
>>>>>>>>> relations in a particular society, in the way that Michael
>>>>>>>>> describes
>>>>>>>>> actions and activity as mutually constitutive. Interesting
>>>>>>>>> to think
>>>>>>>>> about.
>>>>>>>>> Steve
>>>>>>>>> On Aug 31, 2008, at 7:57 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>>>> Thanks for all that Michael. I actually hardly slept last
>>>>>>>>> night
>>>>>>>>>> going over in my mind the points you made. I think I can see
>>>>>>>>>> my way
>>>>>>>>>> through this now, and that "(a system of) activity" or "an
>>>>>>>>>> activity"
>>>>>>>>>> is indeed a very good candidate for a "unit of analysis".
>>>>>>>>>> You will
>>>>>>>>>> doubtless get something from me on your editor's desk in a
>>>>>>>>>> couple of
>>>>>>>>>> months on the topic. But altogether I feel much better about
>>>>>>>>>> ANL
>>>>>>>>>> now. Thank you.
>>>>>>>>>> But the questions about word meanings here are still
>>>>>>>>>> outstanding:
>>>>>>>>>> (1) "activity" - as used in Hegel and Marx and Leontyev when
>>>>>>>>>> he says:
>>>>>>>>>> "[The processes that mediate the influences of the objective
>>>>>>>>>> world
>>>>>>>>>> reflected in the human brain] are those that realise a
>>>>>>>>>> person's
>>>>>>>>>> actual life in the objective world by which he is
>>>>>>>>>> surrounded, his
>>>>>>>>>> social being in all the richness and variety of its forms.
>>>>>>>>>> In other
>>>>>>>>>> words, these processes are his activity."
>>>>>>>>>> - is not a unit of analysis, but a presupposition, whilst "an
>>>>>>>>>> activity" or "system of activity", you have convinced me, is
>>>>>>>>>> a good
>>>>>>>>>> "unit of analysis" for the study of the social life of human
>>>>>>>>>> beings.
>>>>>>>>>> As when Marx says:
>>>>>>>>>> "The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not
>>>>>>>>>> dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be
>>>>>>>>>> made in
>>>>>>>>>> the imagination. They are the real individuals, their
>>>>>>>>>> activity and
>>>>>>>>>> the material conditions under which they live, both those
>>>>>>>>>> which they
>>>>>>>>>> find already existing and those produced by their
>>>>>>>>>> activity." (The
>>>>>>>>>> German Ideology, 1a, 1845)
>>>>>>>>>> My concern is that we use the same word and I suspect the
>>>>>>>>>> observation that we have here two qute distinct concepts is
>>>>>>>>>> not
>>>>>>>>>> something which is widely recognised.
>>>>>>>>>> (2) "activity" and "work" - I am going to spend some time
>>>>>>>>>> revising
>>>>>>>>>> how ANL takes labour as the prototype of an activity and the
>>>>>>>>>> bases
>>>>>>>>>> on which "an activity" and "a type of activity" are
>>>>>>>>>> delineated or
>>>>>>>>>> developed. This is my major concern.
>>>>>>>>>> But look. Marx, Capital Vol 1:
>>>>>>>>>> "As a capitalist, he is only capital personified. His soul
>>>>>>>>>> is the
>>>>>>>>>> soul of capital. But capital has one sole driving force, the
>>>>>>>>>> drive
>>>>>>>>>> to valorize itself, to create surplus value, to make its
>>>>>>>>>> constant
>>>>>>>>>> part, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible
>>>>>>>>>> amount
>>>>>>>>>> of surplus labour. Capital is dead labour which, vampire-
>>>>>>>>>> like, lives
>>>>>>>>>> only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more
>>>>>>>>>> labour
>>>>>>>>>> it sucks." - Capital, p.342
>>>>>>>>>> One could go on, but if one were to ask what object is
>>>>>>>>>> served by
>>>>>>>>>> work then the answer is "expansion of capital". I caould
>>>>>>>>>> give 1000
>>>>>>>>>> examples of Marx making ths claim. The idea that the object
>>>>>>>>>> of one's
>>>>>>>>>> labour is profit is always problemtatic for people that work
>>>>>>>>>> in the
>>>>>>>>>> public sector, especially in education or health, but if you
>>>>>>>>>> were in
>>>>>>>>>> the USSR where the state is paying the wages, it would seem
>>>>>>>>>> strange
>>>>>>>>>> indeed. The idea that one's work is part of the reproduction
>>>>>>>>>> of the
>>>>>>>>>> community in a division of labour seems far more appealing.
>>>>>>>>>> But that
>>>>>>>>>> turned out to be a passing episode in twentieth century
>>>>>>>>>> history.
>>>>>>>>>> I.e., the most important "activity" today is "capital." That
>>>>>>>>>> seems
>>>>>>>>>> to have been lost somewhere, at least to some extent.
>>>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>>>> Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>> Hi Andy,
>>>>>>>>>>> I am not trying to give you advice. I am talking about my
>>>>>>>>>>> own
>>>>>>>>>>> experiences of having struggled.
>>>>>>>>>>> One of the things Marx criticized his contemporaries for is
>>>>>>>>>>> that
>>>>>>>>>>> they looked at value abstractly. He wrote Das Kapital as a
>>>>>>>>>>> concrete
>>>>>>>>>>> analysis of value, its one-sided expressions in use-value
>>>>>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>>>>> exchange-value, and how these concretized themselves in
>>>>>>>>>>> possible
>>>>>>>>>>> cases. Any time I want to think about activity abstractly,
>>>>>>>>>>> I get
>>>>>>>>>>> into trouble, which resolve themselves when I take concrete
>>>>>>>>>>> cases
>>>>>>>>>>> of activity and work them through, culturally and
>>>>>>>>>>> historically. I
>>>>>>>>>>> then realize that activity concretizes itself very
>>>>>>>>>>> differently, the
>>>>>>>>>>> activity of schooling is very different in U.S. suburbia
>>>>>>>>>>> then it is
>>>>>>>>>>> in inner-city neighborhood schools in Philadelphia. Not
>>>>>>>>>>> when I do
>>>>>>>>>>> an abstract analysis, but when I go concretely into the
>>>>>>>>>>> nitty-
>>>>>>>>>>> gritty details of everyday life in the schools.
>>>>>>>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>>>>>>> Michael
>>>>>>>>>>> On 31-Aug-08, at 8:07 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>> Oh Gosh, Micahel I thought we were going to have a good ol'
>>>>>>>>>>> flame! :) and I was just getting started.
>>>>>>>>>>> OK. As I said, I will study those quotes, and their
>>>>>>>>>>> contexts, where
>>>>>>>>>>> I can, and think some more about it, but I really don't
>>>>>>>>>>> think I
>>>>>>>>>>> want to shift to "concrete cases" to clarify a concept if
>>>>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>>>> concept isn't clear at the start. That's just not my style,
>>>>>>>>>>> if you
>>>>>>>>>>> know what I mean. I am not anywhere saying that the work
>>>>>>>>>>> Leontyev
>>>>>>>>>>> and others have done with these ideas is not perfectly
>>>>>>>>>>> good, valid
>>>>>>>>>>> science. But there *are* problems, there *are* limts to the
>>>>>>>>>>> applicability of these ideas, and I am exploring them.
>>>>>>>>>>> More later, and thanks heaps for laying hold of those quote
>>>>>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>>>>> your explanations so speedily!
>>>>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>>>>> Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>> Hi Andy, After I sent off the mail I thought you might
>>>>>>>>>>>> misunderstand. I do understand and know your background. I
>>>>>>>>>>>> meant
>>>>>>>>>>>> to say rather than discussing activity in the general,
>>>>>>>>>>>> take a
>>>>>>>>>>>> concrete one and talk about it. I meant discuss concrete
>>>>>>>>>>>> cases. I
>>>>>>>>>>>> think if you were to have taken a concrete case of
>>>>>>>>>>>> activity from
>>>>>>>>>>>> your experience and discussed activity in this situation
>>>>>>>>>>>> some of
>>>>>>>>>>>> the problems that appear when you discuss it in the
>>>>>>>>>>>> abstract would
>>>>>>>>>>>> not show up.
>>>>>>>>>>>> Sorry for having written a message that could have been
>>>>>>>>>>>> and was
>>>>>>>>>>>> mistaken in its intention.
>>>>>>>>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>>>>>>>> Michael
>>>>>>>>>>>> On 31-Aug-08, at 7:41 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>> C'mon Michael. I spent 30 years as a union activist
>>>>>>>>>>>> transforming
>>>>>>>>>>>> activity and thinking about what I was doing. At 62 I am
>>>>>>>>>>>> now
>>>>>>>>>>>> reflecting on that work. I don't need to be told to "go
>>>>>>>>>>>> out" and
>>>>>>>>>>>> put someone under my microscope and observe them.
>>>>>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>>>>>> Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Hi Andy, it is and is not a system of actions. Actions and
>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity stand in a constitutive relationship. There are
>>>>>>>>>>>>> no
>>>>>>>>>>>>> actions independent of activity and no activity
>>>>>>>>>>>>> independent of
>>>>>>>>>>>>> action. One of the problems that can arise is because---
>>>>>>>>>>>>> as we
>>>>>>>>>>>>> have done today----we talk about activity in the
>>>>>>>>>>>>> abstract, and
>>>>>>>>>>>>> this is what Marx didn't like about Hegel, we talk about
>>>>>>>>>>>>> ideal
>>>>>>>>>>>>> things, not about concrete sensual activity, which you
>>>>>>>>>>>>> only get
>>>>>>>>>>>>> when you analyze real activity rather than the idea of
>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> I see you struggle with the idea, when what you should be
>>>>>>>>>>>>> doing
>>>>>>>>>>>>> is go out and study concrete activity. What you need to
>>>>>>>>>>>>> do is
>>>>>>>>>>>>> study concrete everyday activity, that is, actual cases
>>>>>>>>>>>>> where an
>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity realizes itself. And here you will find that
>>>>>>>>>>>>> people act
>>>>>>>>>>>>> but in the process concretize the activity in THIS rather
>>>>>>>>>>>>> than
>>>>>>>>>>>>> other possible ways. Their actions are not JUST actions,
>>>>>>>>>>>>> they are
>>>>>>>>>>>>> oriented toward the activity, which only comes about in
>>>>>>>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>>>>>>> through the actions; yet the actions presuppose the
>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity that
>>>>>>>>>>>>> they realize.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Michael
>>>>>>>>>>>>> On 31-Aug-08, at 7:25 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Apologies. I sent two mails just to Michael instead of
>>>>>>>>>>>>> the list
>>>>>>>>>>>>> by mistake!
>>>>>>>>>>>>> I will think about this some more. "Activity" here means
>>>>>>>>>>>>> a system
>>>>>>>>>>>>> of actions which have a common societally-determined
>>>>>>>>>>>>> object, like
>>>>>>>>>>>>> the collective hunt in his famous example. But it seems
>>>>>>>>>>>>> to me
>>>>>>>>>>>>> that the idea of "activity" (in this sense) as a "unit of
>>>>>>>>>>>>> analysis" poses some problems.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Hi Andy, you can always identify structure, the question
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> is
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> whether you can understand it own its own or only in its
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> relation to other structures. I think it is the latter.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> So even
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> within the unit you can identify all sorts of things,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> but they
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> are not independent and constitute each other. That is
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> why
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Yrjö's website is a bit deceiving, because he talks
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> about
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> elements----I think the word appears 6 times----when
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Vygotsky
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> and Leont'ev always talk about doing unit analysis. So
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> there is
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> structure, just that it cannot be understood
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> independently of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> other structures, each of which is a one-sided
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> expression of the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> unit, which is activity. Or so I read it.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Michael
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> On 31-Aug-08, at 6:55 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Well spotted, Michael.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> In that same paragraph he says: "activity is ... a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> system that
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> has structure" so he is here referring to what might be
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> called
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the "*system of* activity", as opposed to acts or
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> operations,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> and actions - this entity that Robert explained to me is
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> constituted as an entity by means of system-theoretic
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> means.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Is that right?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Hi Andy,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I think he does say something that is at least very
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> close to
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> naming it unit analysis on p.50:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Activity is a molar, not an additive unit of the life of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> physical, material subject. In a narrower sense, that
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> is, at the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> psychological level, it is a unit of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> life, mediated by psychic reflection, the real function
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> of which
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> is that it orients the subject in the objective world.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> In other
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> words, activity is
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> not a reaction and not a totality of reactions but a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> system that
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> has structure, its own internal transitions and
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> transformations, its own development.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Where I would accentuate as follows:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Activity is "a *unit of life*", "a system that has
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> structure,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> *its own* internal transitions and transformations,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> *its own
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> *development."
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Michael
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> On 31-Aug-08, at 6:27 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> OK, thanks for that Michael. I understand Tätigkeit, so
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> that
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> settles some questions, though not all.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I have another question about Activity to add to these.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Vygotsky, Davydov, Engstrom (to take just three) all
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> talk about
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> "unit of analysis", "germ-cell" or single instance (as
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> in
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Pavolv's study of the reflex), but in the works of AN
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Leontyev
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> that I have access to (on he makes no
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> reference
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> to any of these terms. This seems not accidental to me
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> actually. Can anyone clarify this?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Did Leonteyv (a) think that "activity" passes as a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> "unit of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> analaysis", (b) disagree with the idea that a science
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> should
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> begin from a Unit of analysis, or (c) define subject-
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity-
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> object as the "unit of analysis somewhere?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> And I need citation, I'm afraid.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Hi Andy,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> it's not just the Russian. In German there is the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> parallel
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> distinction between "Tätigkeit" (deiatel'nost') and
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Aktivität
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> (aktivnost'). In the former there is an orientation----
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> toward
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> object/motive, which is not in the latter, and the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> former is
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> oriented toward and a result of society (Gesellschaft),
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> whereas the latter is not (necessarily). When Leont'ev
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> is
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> translated into German, you find the words Tätigkeit
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> and the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> adjective "gesellschaftlich" (societal) whereas in
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> English
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> there is activity and social----and that has made all
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> difference, to quote Robert Frost.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Michael
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> On 31-Aug-08, at 4:18 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I wonder if our Russian speakers could indulge me
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> again with a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> point of clarification. déjatel'nost' (or
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> деятельность) is the Russian word for
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> "activity".
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 1. I understand that in Russian the use of definite and
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> indefeinite partcles (a and the) is rare, so in the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> title to
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> AN Leontyev's famous book, does déjatel'nost' mean "an
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity" or "activity" - with the connotation of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> substance
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> that a word has in English if used without a or the.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> When we
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> have "act, action and activity," is that third
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> category the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> same word, déjatel'nost'?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 2. déjatel'nost' can also be translated as "work". How
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> strong
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> is the connection between "work" and "activity" in the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Russian
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> mind when talking of "activity theory"? Does that
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> sound like
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> "work theory"? Or is this just like any ambiguous
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> word. I
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> mean, English speakers would not think that in this
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> context
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> "activity" referred to autonomous physiological
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> processes,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> which can also be called "Activity". When "Theses on
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Feuerbach" is translated into Russian, can Russian
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> readers see
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the diffrence between "work" and "activity"?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Fascinating response, Robert. So let's see if I
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> understand
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> you right. A mass of interconnected actions can be
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> understood
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> as some *whole* (and not just an arbitrary collection
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> individual things) if we can perceive some kind of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> *constraint*, operating over the domain, which limits
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> domain of possible configurations? Is that it?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Robert Bracewell wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Hi Andy and all,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I agree with Michael that the relationship between
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> and action is a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> constitutive one, but I think this points to a big
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> theoretical gap in CHAT
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> generally. If actions are the constituents of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity, then
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the issue
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> arises as to how the constituents are arranged in
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> order to
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> constitute
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity (and there may be other types of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> constituents in
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity also). As
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Leont¹ev said, this arrangement cannot be serial
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> (e.g.,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> chains of s-r
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> pairs), nor additive in the sense of accumulative (as
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> contrasted with the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> mathematical sense). So how are we to theorize the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> arrangement? The issue of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> arranging constituents to achieve higher order
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> structures
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> has been treated
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> by both linguistics and artificial intelligence. The
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> general
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> approach is to
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> constrain the possible relationships between
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> constituents--
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> in linguistics
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> this usually done via a grammar, in AI via a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> program. For
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> CHAT I think our
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> task may be to build on Leont¹ev and figure out
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> these
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> constraints.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Regards,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> --Bob Bracewell
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> On 8/29/08 1:24 PM, "Wolff-Michael Roth"
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Hi Andy,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I think he expresses the constitutive relation
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> between
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> actions and
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> activity. Activity is not just the sum of actions,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> it
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> presupposes
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> them but is itself presupposed by the actions that
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> constitute it. I
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> am pasting the definition from OED, which appears
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> to be
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> consistent
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> with this (my) reading of Leont'ev. Leont'ev and
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Vygotsky
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> want to do
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> unit analysis, not element/al analysis. That is,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> even if
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> you can
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> identify structures within activity, these cannot
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> stand on
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> their own
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> like elements. What they are is dependent on all
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the other
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> structures
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> that can be identified, with which they stand in a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> constitutive unit,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> and which are subordinate to activity. :-)
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> molar, adj.3
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 2. Psychol. Designating a large-scale unit of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> behaviour,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> esp. an
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> integrated set of responses serving to bring about
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> a common
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> goal, as
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> distinguished from an elementary unit of behaviour
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> such as a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> physiological response (cf. MOLECULAR adj. 5); of or
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> relating to (the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> study of) such behaviour.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Michael
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> On 29-Aug-08, at 7:11 AM, Michael Glassman wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Andy,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> This is just my perspective, but I still believe
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Activity
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Theory goes
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> back to roots in work done by Stanislavsky - in
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> particular
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> "On Being
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> an Actor" and his book on character development. I
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> think the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> argument that Stanislavsky makes is that you should
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> never
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> consider
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> each scene individually, as encapsulated and whole,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I guess
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> you could
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> say there should be no reification of a scene. You
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> have to
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> consider
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> a scene, and the actions of a character, not only
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> in terms
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> of the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> entire play, but in terms of what has come before
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> and what
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> comes
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> after - that activity is part of an ongoing process.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Stanislavsky
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> was working off the new form of playwrights such as
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Ibsen,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Strindberg
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> and especially Chekhov of course. To give an
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> example, when
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Nora
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> walks out on Torvald and her father at the end of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> "A Doll's
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> House"
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the scene makes little sense in an of itself, and
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> if you
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> think of the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> scenes of the play as simply being additive you are
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> shocked. But if
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> you consider it as part of a moral activity, with a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> building
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> motivation that leads to a choice of action it is
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> extraordinarily
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> complelling.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Anyway, that's my two cents.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Michael
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> ________________________________
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> From:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> on behalf of Andy Blunden
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Sent: Fri 8/29/2008 9:53 AM
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Subject: [xmca] Molar, Molecular and Additive
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> behaviour
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Can anyone help me out here. Leontyev says:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> "But human practice is not just a series or a sum of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> actions. In other words, 'activity is a molar, not
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> an
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> additive unit'."
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> OED says:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Molar, Psychol. Designating a large-scale unit of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> behaviour,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> esp. an integrated set of responses serving to
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> bring about a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> common goal, as distinguished from an elementary
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> unit of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> behaviour such as a physiological response (cf.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> MOLECULAR
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> adj. 5); of or relating to (the study of) such
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> behaviour.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 1932 E. C. TOLMAN Purposive Behavior "On the one
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> hand,
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Watson has defined behavior in terms of its strict
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> physical
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> and physiological details, i.e., in terms of
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> receptor-process, conductor-process, and effector-
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> process
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> per se. We shall designate this as the molecular
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> definition
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> of behavior. And on the other hand, he has come to
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> recognize
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> that behavior is more than and different from the
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> sum of its
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> physiological parts. Behavior has descriptive and
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> defining
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> properties of its own. And we shall designate this
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> latter as
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the molar definition of behavior."
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Am I missing something. By "not additive" does
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Leontyev
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> simply mean that there's more to it than S -> R ?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> David Preiss wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> based on the work made by max plank and run by san
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> francisco's
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> exploratorium
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> David Preiss, Ph.D.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Subdirector de Extensión y Comunicaciones
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Escuela de Psicología
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Av Vicuña Mackenna - 4860
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 7820436 Macul
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Santiago, Chile
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Fono: 3544605
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Fax: 3544844
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> e-mail:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> web personal:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> web institucional:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> --------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> ---- Andy
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Blunden +61 3 9380 9435
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Skype andy.blunden
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> winmail
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> .dat>_______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Andy Blunden +61 3 9380
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 9435 Skype
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> andy.blunden
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <>
>>>>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>>>>> Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435
>>>>>>>>>> Skype
>>>>>>>>>> andy.blunden
>>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>>> Wayne Au
>>>>>>>> Assistant Professor
>>>>>>>> Department of Secondary Education
>>>>>>>> CSU Fullerton
>>>>>>>> P.O. Box 6868
>>>>>>>> Fullerton, CA 92834
>>>>>>>> Office: 714.278.5481
>>>>>>>> Editorial Board Member: Rethinking Schools (
>>>>>>>> )
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