RE: [xmca] déjatel¹ nost¹

From: Paula Towsey <paulat who-is-at>
Date: Wed Sep 03 2008 - 02:28:49 PDT

Thanks, Steve! I only met Vygotsky in 2004 because 30 years ago I was doing Piaget and setting up language and stimulation programmes for the De Beers Botswana mining preschools (the children used to call me "Pula" because the "au" doesn't occur frequently in Setswana: the "Pula" was very flattering because in Botswana in means "Rain" and "Halleluiah" and other such uplifting stuff).

I suspect that one of the reasons Vygotsky was thin on the ground when I graduated in the '70s in South Africa was the all pervasive fear by the ruling party that there was a red under every bed! See u next week!

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Steve Gabosch
Sent: 03 September 2008 11:05 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] déjatel¹ nost¹

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 (
>>>>>>>> )
>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> --
>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435 Skype
>>>> andy.blunden
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>> --
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435 Skype
>> andy.blunden
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
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Received on Wed Sep 3 02:33 PDT 2008

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