Re: [xmca] more questions about Sawchuk and Stetsenko article: whose sociology???

From: Haydi Zulfei <haydizulfei who-is-at>
Date: Tue Dec 09 2008 - 06:32:39 PST

Dear all,
A very happy welcome/return to Paul Dillon !
I don't know much to discuss ; however , I think the following consecutive quote from Leontiev's *A,C,P* could be considered related to the ongoing discussion .
My guess is it can enlighten us about what sociology can bring into the science of psychology . We all know about L's discussion to the effect that formerly by psychology people meant a science which took a psyche which was not certain where it dwelled , within the mind , the heart , the nervous system , etc. as their subject of research or introspection but that marxist psychology sought that psyche in its volatile tenets and interrelationships with the social relations outside of the individual individual . The individual history , experience , past which is again social/activity-based is also discussed in the following passage . All emphases are mine unless otherwise expressed :
[Still deeper changes mark the subsequent levels of development up to the level at which the system of *objective social relations and its expression acquires a personal sense itself *. Of course, phenomena occurring at this level are still more complex and may be truly tragic, but even here the same thing takes place: *The more society discloses itself to the personality, the fuller becomes its internal world *.
The process of development of personality always remains deeply individual, unique. It produces major displacements along the abscissa of growth and sometimes evokes social degradation of the personality. The main thing is that it proceeds completely individually and depends on the *concrete-historical conditions *, * on the belonging of the individual to one or another social environment *. It is particularly dramatic * under conditions of a class society with its unavoidable alienation and partialization of personality *, * with its alternatives between *labor* and *management*. It is understood that * concrete life circumstances * leave their mark on the process of development of personality even in a socialistic society. Eliminating the objective conditions that form a barrier for returning his true essence to man, for a well-rounded and harmonious development of his personality, makes this a real prospect for the first time *but does not
 automatically reconstruct a personality*. Fundamental change lies in something else, in the appearance of a new movement: *a struggle of society for human personality*. When we say, “In the name of man, for man,” this means not simply for his use but for his personality, although here it is understood, of course, that man must be assured material good and mental nourishment.
If we return once more to the phenomena marking the transition from the period of preparation of personality to the period of its development, then we must indicate yet another transitional transformation. This is the *transformation of expression of class characteristics of personality* and, speaking more broadly, characteristics depending on the social differentiation of society. *The subject’s belonging to a class* conditions even at the outset (the development of his connections with the surrounding world, a greater or smaller segment of his practical activity, his contacts, his knowledge, and his acquiring norms of behavior). All of these are acquisitions from which personality is made up at the stage of its initial formation. Is it possible and is it necessary according to this to speak about the class character of personality? Yes, if we keep in mind that which the child assimilates from the environment; no, because at this stage he is only an
 object, if it may be expressed in this way, of his class, of his social group. Later the situation is turned around and he becomes *the subject of class and group*. Then and only then does his personality begin to be formed as a *class personality* in a different, true meaning of the word: At the beginning perhaps unconsciously, then consciously, but sooner or later he will take his position - more or less active, decisive or vacillating. For this reason, under conditions of *class confrontation* he does not simply “show himself-original” but takes his place on one side or the other of the *barricade*. Something else becomes evident, specifically, that at every turn of his life’s way he must free himself of something, confirm something in himself, and he must do all this and not simply “submit to the effect of the environment.original”
Finally, along this line there takes place still another change, which also changes the very “mechanism-original” that forms personality. Earlier I spoke about the ever-widening activity that actually exists for the subject. But it exists also within time - in the form of his *past* and in the form of the *future* he sees before him. Of course, primarily we have in mind the first thing - the subject’s individual experience, the function of which appears to be, as it were, his personality. And this again resurrects the formula about personality as a product of innate properties and acquisition of experience. At earlier stages of development this formula *can still seem credible*, especially if it is not simplified and if all the complexity of the mechanisms that go into forming experience are considered. Under conditions of the *hierarchization of motives*, however, it continuously loses its meaning and at the level of personality it seems to
The fact is that at this level past impressions, experiences, and actual actions of the subject *do not in any way appear to him as dormant layers of his experience*. They are the subject of his relations and his actions and for that reason their contribution is changed into personality. One thing in the past dies, loses its sense, and is converted into a simple condition and means of his activity: the developed aptitudes, skills, and stereotypes of behavior; everything else appears to the subject in a completely *new light and acquires a new meaning*, which he had not perceived before; finally, something from the past may be actively rejected by the subject and psychologically ceases to exist for him although it remains in the compendium of his memory. These changes take place gradually, but they may be concentrated and may comprise moral breaks. The resulting reevaluation of the past that is established in *life* leads to man’s casting off from
 himself the burden of his biography. Does this not in itself indicate that the contributions of past experience to personality were dependent on *personality itself* and became its function?
This seems to be possible because of the new internal movement that has arisen in the system of individual consciousness, which I have figuratively called a movement “along the vertical-original.” But one must not think that major changes in personality in the past were produced by consciousness; *consciousness does not produce them* but simply mediates them; they are produced by the *actions* of the subject, sometimes even *external actions* break off former contacts, a change in profession, a practical entering into new circumstances. This was beautifully described by Makarenko: Old clothing worn by orphans in an orphanage is publicly burned by them on a bonfire.] Best
--- On Tue, 12/9/08, Paul Dillon <> wrote:

From: Paul Dillon <>
Subject: [xmca] more questions about Sawchuk and Stetsenko article: whose sociology???
To: "xmca" <>
Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2008, 1:03 AM

Hi all,

The following fragments are rough (in every sense of the word) as befits their

I am in total agreement with the discussion article’s expressed aim and for
that reason even more critical than I might be otherwise.

Sawchuk and Stetsenko’s emphasis on the transformative goal of Vygotsky’s
psychology, YES. YES, YES.   It always seemed to me that Vygotsky’s
psychological program was intended to be a major part of the development of a
society  in which the exploitative structures of capitalist society (as well as
all previous stages of socio-cultural development) would no longer disfigure
human personality.  Sadly, as S&S make clear in the article, this
inspiration of the early years of the Russian Revolution did not survive and

The authors point to three key elements of the CHAT tradition and use them to
situate the sample of sociologists they choose to discuss: a)material
production,, 2) intersubjective exchange, 3) subjectivity.  It’s not at all
clear to me that these glosses capture the direction of a “psychology of
liberation” or that they provide a useful triangulation for sociological

The authors point out that the goal of exploring how particular social
structures, with their power constellations and systems of privilege shape
development has not typically been pursued within CHAT. Yes, yes, and again
yes.  There is some kind of fanciful dream that the Vygotskian lineage can
develop its original aim within capitalist society and consequently we see
multiple “reinterpretations” by academic mega-stars whose names will surely
be forgotten in a few decades, as the name of those who won prizes in Paris
while Van Gogh suffered in anonymity.

 But the article didn’t live up to my hopes for several reasons.

The Review of Sociological Theory was really spotty, arbitrarily selective. 
For example:

 Durkheim: social facts, what about Mauss?  Was Durkheim a sociologist or an
anthropologist?  Do these disciplinary distinctions matter.  If so, it
wasn’t explained why?  If not, what about the entire tradition of
anthropological theories about culture and society?

Social Action v. Theories of Enactment.

 Weber. -  summary of Parsons somewhat strange, ignorying Parson’s four
structural levels etc.

 Garfinkel, ethnomethodology, what about Berger and Luckman?

Attempts at integration of social action and enactment, but the dismissal of
Bourdieu really weird, inexcusable?   Giddens is really both derivative of and
much less influential than Bourdieu. Not to mention his sychophantic
brown-nosing in the Blair administration in contrast to Bourdieu's active
opposition to the depredations of global capitalism.  Furthermore,  unlike
Bourdieu, he did not carry out important on-the-ground research comparable to
Bourdieu’s “Distinction” or the ground-breaking Kabyle research—  
Furthermore,  in whose scheme of things if Judith Butler (though dismissed)
considered an important sociological theorist – why not other feminist or
queer theorists, not to mention that she is also someone who has not published
significant primary research; in this vein, where are Zizek, La Clau, Mouffe,
and others who attempt a post-modern integration (is it “deconstruction” or
disintegration we’re talking about here)? 
 Really, Gramsci has a lot more to offer than Giddens, etc.

Discussion of Schutz very interesting but to say he was “heavily influenced
by Husserl” ignores the fact that he was Husserl’s student and that most of
Schutz’s most important ideas can be found in Husserl’s “Ideas II”. 
Factual errors: Schutz’s horizons of temporality are not “past now”,
“now” and “future now” but “ancestors”, “contemporaries”, and
“descendants which also also derive from Husserl’s “retention”,
“present”, and “protention”. ”.  The concepts of “past now”,
“now” and “future now” don’t make any sense and their very incoherence
was criticized way back in 1960 by Friedrich Kummel, nor can such glosses deal
with the fundamental problem of phenomenology or any serious investigation of
temporality: i.e., the incompatibility of duration (within which the so-called
NOW happens) and succession .  All talk about “time scales” here on xmca
throughout thee years and elsewhere
 simply overlooks “duration”d i.e., – Husserl’s "melody" –
and hence can provide no real understanding of the rrelationship between meaning
and existence which is a central issue in CHAT.

And what about the elephant in the living room: Jurgen Habermas, not to mention
various other giraffes and rhinocerii roaming the house, such as G.H. Mead
(obviously key to all that followed in the Garfinkel tradition), or Thomas
Merton, C. Wright Mills, and others.  This all goes to the arbitrariness and
spottiness of the discussion of sociological theory.

Finally,  how does the placement of the arbitarily selected sociologists into
a triangle whose nodes are similarly arbitrary lead to a realization of Marx’s
11th Thesis on Feuerbach that Vygotsky’s psychology and the best of CHAT
tradition have sought?  Doesn’t it just lead to more academic commodities
that don’t lead to social transformation but to another form of consumption.

Wishing everyone the best of the Holiday Season!
Paul Dillon

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Received on Tue Dec 9 06:46:44 2008

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