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

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Tue Dec 09 2008 - 12:52:44 PST

Jennifer -- you can see that the combo of your questions with the paper is
being generative of a lot of discussion -- I expect we are all learning a

In a way your question overlaps my response to Paul's last posting and the
work that Harry Daniels has done based on Bernstein which is all about

I work with poor kids although at present, in after-school settings. This
work goes to the heart of Paul's doubts about how to do tranformative
activity in a society which does not welcome it -- be it the USSR or the

The nub of the problem is in your statement: At the level of design
research, it seems to me that this work can be transformative, at least in
the particular classroom(s) of focus.

YES YES YES ( to quote Paul). See similar work by the Dev Work Research
group in classrooms, and others. BUT, I see the kids when they are in their
local community where there is no supermarket you can to without owning a
car, where it is dangerous to walk from school to home, where the kids are
pushed to do homework which reveals that they do not have the basics from
2-3 years earlier that would allow them to understand what they are being
asked to do and where their parents cannot help them because of the
consequences of their own education.

So isn't all this just a replay of what Anna and Paul call cannonical AT?
Reformist, do-goodishness that allows the do-gooder to hold a well paying
job and go home to a comfortable house on safe streets, etc????

(I am not presupposing a known answer to these questions. I would really
love to hear from senior practitioners who engage these issues daily. We
discuss them daily at lchc because we live the contradictions, and ARE
living them as I type).

On Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 11:53 AM, Jennifer Langer-Osuna

> I've learned much from all of the varied and thoughtful responses. Thanks
> to all!
> On the part of the transformative goal of this work, and whether or not it
> is hopeful today... I wonder about the role of CHAT in classroom research.
> For example, my work is in mathematics education and in particular on equity
> in education and certainly socio-cultural theory is used as the basis to
> understand and design effective classrooms. Lately, in the work of others as
> well as in my own dissertation, the role of social positions and relational
> power come into play. As in, when looking at the classroom as social
> activity, the researcher asks, what roles/identities are available to
> students? How can the classroom open up what it means to engage productively
> in order to be more inclusive, in order to afford more positive
> relationships to mathematics as a subject area and themselves as learners of
> mathematics? At the level of design research, it seems to me that this work
> can be transformative, at least in the particular classroom(s) of focus.
> To answer Helena's question:
>> Yes, I'd be interested to follow your reasoning. This may turn out to just
>> be a lot of extra work for you, but I'm wondering if you could show us
>> something from your dissertation where you did something like, "And then I
>> thought... and then I said to myself, well, I'll have to include...and then
>> I realized that if I considered that, it was going to change this ...." etc.
>> Is there a section of your dissertation where something like that went on?
>> Talk us through your process.
> My work is originally based on Geoff Saxe's (my chair) framework for the
> study of culture and mathematical cognition. He looks at how students
> appropriate cultural forms (physical artifacts, say a number line) for
> particular mathematical functions (say, in order to coordinate numerator and
> denominator) as they solve goals (do problem set) in classroom activity.
> These form-function relations are analyzed at three timescales: microgenetic
> (moment to moment), ontogenetic (over time, how functions shift, become
> more sophisticated, across age groups), and sociogenetic (how new functions
> arise, spread, and are taken up in ways that transform the activity). I
> worked on these projects with him for many years and noticed that when I
> walked into the classroom, there was a lot more going on that was not
> accounted for. That is, *some* kids were appropriating the (say, number
> line) in mathematical ways (whether correct, incorrect, and so on). However,
> other kids were resistant to the activity altogether, or were using the
> classroom resources for other non-mathematical functions, such as to
> dominate the small group by keeping the worksheet away from the other
> students, or to write all the names of the group members on the worksheet in
> an effort to end the task before they were supposed to, and so on. This made
> me think of the more positional aspects of mediation of cultural forms. And
> it also made me think that a much richer ethnography of the classroom would
> be needed in order to capture how these available positions were constructed
> and taken up by students. So in my dissertation - situated in a new
> reform-oriented, technology-driven, applied Algebra classroom made up almost
> exclusively by African-American students (white male teacher) - I expand
> Saxe's framework to consider how students appropriate the artifacts of the
> classroom not only for mathematical functions, but also for positional
> functions and that, indeed, these two functions are highly intertwined such
> that positional functions orient students toward the mathematical tasks in
> ways that lead to particular kinds of engagement among students. The
> artifacts that I consider are not solely physical artifacts like the
> computer or external mathematical representation but, as Cole and Hatano
> have argued, also the norms, roles, and values of the classroom world. The
> structure-agency tension lies in: what is available in the classroom and in
> what normative ways? reconciled with, how do students take these artifacts
> up and use them in agentive ways in order to get their work done, while also
> claiming to be a certain kind of person (that is, positioning themselves and
> others)? I use a figured worlds framework (Dorothy Holland) in order to
> capture the construction of the classroom as a social cultural space,
> including the figured identities available, and then apply this expanded
> form-function framework to closely analyze how students use the classroom
> artifacts to construct trajectories of mathematical learning and identities
> of learners of mathematics.
> On Dec 9, 2008, at 11:31 AM, Mike Cole wrote:
> Very thought provoking observations, Haydi. I wonder if there is any
>> "biography" of what followed in the fates of the Makarenko kids. THAT
>> would
>> be a fascinating way to tell a history of the USSR.
>> Personally, I feel quite strong this thought: *The more society discloses
>> itself to the personality, the fuller becomes its internal world *. Again,
>> speaking
>> personally, it is not any easy process, but rather, a form of
>> disenchantment
>> or in Yrho's terms, "development as breaking away."
>> Thank you for the morning meditation.
>> mike
>> On Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 6:32 AM, Haydi Zulfei <>
>> wrote:
>> 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
>>> *topple*.
>>> 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
>>> Haydi
>>> --- 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
>>> object.
>>> 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
>>> flourish.
>>> 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
>>> theory.
>>> 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 12:58:47 2008

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