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Re: [xmca] Arne Raeithel's "genealogy"

Geoffrey Binder at RMIT has used Activity Theory in Town Planning, and I think Yrjo Engestrom has too. I have my own ideas on this, but I don't see, at this point, how CHAT usefully contributes at that level.

A lot of CHAT people read Critical Theory (few vice versa) but I am not aware of a significant amount of mutual interpretation.

Let's see what others know ...


Jonna Kangasoja wrote:
Thanks again Andy,

What is happening in the planning theory field is that planning theory
based on Habermas's Discourse Ethics ('Critical Planning Theory') has
been heavily challenged for a good while now. There seems to be also
some miscommunication on what the nature/scope/aim of CPT theory is,
and whether it actually is a theory of planning at all, or rather a
philosophy of planning communication.

There seems to be a need for a planning theory, which could provide
descriptive and prescriptive  accounts of actual planning practices.
Theoretical resources are being sought elsewhere (Foucault, Deleuze,
STS, CHAT...). This is an ongoing project of which I am part of too.

My question, however, was more on how do people read Habermas'
influence on today's Activity Theorists.


2009/11/9 Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>:
I think there are a number of people on the list, Jonna, who are familiar
with Habermas.

Habermas is the youngest of the 2nd generation of the Frankfurt School,
elder stateman for the current generation. As per Frankfurt School
traditions, Habermas did a lot of "immanent critique". This meant that, like
Vygotsky in the 1920s, he trawls around the competing theories of the time,
mining them for insights (well that's putting it very crudely, ok?). Among
famous appropriations was his appropriation of Piaget, which I personally
think was idiotic, leading to H's embrace of the biogenetic hypothesis and a
rigid schema of historical development following a Piaget-type program.

Among H's many great contributions though was his Discourse Ethics, and all
CHAT people should study this. His concept of the public sphere is also
something we should all learn.

The significance of Discourse Ethics is that he replaces conceptions of
objective truth knowable by rational thought, with a dialogic conception of
truth, well actually of Right, not truth.

He is very old now and his current trajectory is to come into complete
agreement with John Rawls.

The next generation of his followers are more interested in G H Mead rather
than Piaget, which is of course a step forward in theory  though backward in
time. It is my cherished hope that the Franfurters will one day swallow
their pride and read Vygtosky. There are millions of young Marxists out
there waiting to be unleashed on Vygotsky if the Frankfurters were to
suggest it.

As to H. being an Activity Theorist, no, but I included him in my diagram
because I think his Discourse Ethics set the Fransfurt School on to a course
which leads to CHAT. The fact that many of them are still Marxists gives
added reason for hope.

My main beef, as I have said earlier, is that Habermas sees no role for the
concept of mediation, seeing culture as a kind of resource which can be
drawn upon. Here is an article on the question of why followers of Habermas
should read Vygotsky:


and a review of Habermas's most recent book:


Hope that helps.

Jonna Kangasoja wrote:
Dear all,

I would be especially interested if someone could say something
(anything) about the influence/role of Habermas in the picture. I am
working nowadyas with (urban) planning theorists, to whom Habermas is
a very central, although contested figure. Most of my colleagues have
never heard of Activity Theory, and the one's who have, regard present
day Activity Theorists as 'Habermasian' - I am not sure if this is
quite the way to put it, or at least I never thought Habermas to be
very central in e.g. Engestöm's theory - does anyone have any comments
on this?

best, Jonna

2009/11/9 Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>:
I've been thinking ... What these diagrams lack is any information about
a writer is included and what they contributed to CHAT. Would anyone on
list like to put their hand up to write a paragraph (max 100 words
on a writer on the diagram explaining their contribution to CHAT and
sources? I would be happy to collate them and fix the essays to
on the names of each writer? ... if others do most of the writing ...
the diagram might be genuinely useful.


Andy Blunden wrote:
Mmmmm. I didn't sign up for an intellecual map of the universe here! The
French Revolution produced a mass of political theory of course, but
it is widely regarded as the inspiration for Classical German
which is one of our sources.

World War One?  I don't know, but I have thought in the past that what
Vygotsky called "The Crisis in Psychology", viz., the myriad of
currents in psychology suddenly contesting each other after WW1, was
kind of reaction to WW1 and the Russian Revolution.

The Reformation and the Industrial Revolution deserve mention somewhere
too, in the atlas of ideas. ...


mike cole wrote:
Hmmmmm, like the French revolution or world war I for example?

On Sun, Nov 8, 2009 at 4:18 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
<mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

  Both Arne's and mine are listed on
  http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Paper/index.html and both are in that
  directory. I too would be interested in seeing some other versions.
  Something might emerge out of the crowd.

  It is interesting isn't that it is a quite small number of ... what
  do you say? ... millieux? events? movements? which produced the main
  ideas, via a whole mass of individual writers.


  mike cole wrote:

      I think your pictured genealogy is interesting, Andy. I thought
      Arne's was too, and I a sure others can make interesting
      modifications. If anyone could do this in three D it could get
      really fascinating.

      Part of what makes for the partiality of any such attempt is the
      position of the creator. Arne was a radical cultural historical
      cognitive scientist of the
      70's-90's (roughly), an importatant odd hybrid and unusually
      nice guy.
      Maturana, who is on his list, with Varela, were central figures
      on bringing
      dynamic systems into the discussion but you do not know about
      him just
      as many of us do not know some of the figures you name, and the
      connections such as Dilthey-Wundt or Mead-Dilthey-American
      pragmatism are poorly known altogether, but fascinating (to me!)
      in their implications.

      And, of course, the historical events that various of us might
      highlight as
      most relevant are going to vary as well.

      Thanks for the new tool to think with. I'll try to get Arne's
      genealogy put
      up where yours is and perhaps others will contribute from their

      On Sun, Nov 8, 2009 at 6:42 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
      <mailto:ablunden@mira.net> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net
      <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>> wrote:

         Well, here's my shot at it:
         I have tried to deal with your very valid point, Martin, that
      it is
         more the milieux than individuals, but I have also just
         billion possible arrows so it is readable. It needs more than
         person to do this.

         Martin Packer wrote:

             My question about the map is what the links represent.
             all, one scientist or philosopher may accept the ideas or
             another, or react against them, or modify them, or
             them. Seems to me each of these is a different link. Also,
             family tree indicates two parents for every progeny, where
             Arne's genealogy seemingly shows spontaneous generation -
             figure alone can produce another. And wouldn't we want to
      have a
             way to map the milieus within which people were working?
             something along the lines of the social fields that
      Bourdieu was
             fond of sketching, but with an added historical dimension.


             On Nov 4, 2009, at 1:44 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:

                 To tell the truth Louise, there are a couple of names
                 don't know and half a dozen I know so little about I
                 know why they're included ... or not. Two of the three
                 "outcomes" are people who think humans are a type of
                 computer, so I am not surpised that this genealogy is
      odd to
                 me. But there is sooooo much out there. So much to
      read. :(

                 Up till a few weeks ago I thought that starting with
                 Descartes was not justified, but I take that back
      now. But
                 somehow, Rene's nemesis, Aristotle, needs to be
      included as

                 I don't know anything about Vico, but I find Locke,
                 and Leibniz to be rather peripheral to *our* story.

                 Kant certainly deserves an important place, but I
      think his
                 nemesis, Goethe, may be more important for us.

                 Fichte is actually the inventor of Activity as a
                 philosophical concept (I just learnt that Hegel asked
      to be
                 buried next to Fichte; like Goethe, very under
      recognized in
                 the Anglophone world).

                 Hegel is the inventor of Cultural Psychology, so
      agreed there.

                 I think Stirner and Mach are total diversions from our
                 tradition. But maybe someone can explain to me their

                 Wundt and Dilthey are important, though I don't know
      them well.

                 Feuerbach is a bit of a footnote, but if you're going
                 have Feuerbach, you've gotta have Moses Hess, author
                 "Philosophy of the Deed", and inspiration for "Theses
                 Feuerbach". Of course if you think Frege, Russell and
                 are important to the genealogy of CHAT, then you
                 want Hess.

                 MARX, obviously, in CAPS.

                 And I would have lines from a whole bunch of people
      going to
                 Dewey, as well as Peirce and Mead, but even though
                 was the elder, I don't think you can give him such
                 Dewey surely was the leader. Arguable.

                 And where are the Gestaltists? Again, not for computer
                 cognition, but there needs to be lines between Goethe
                 Kant and then to von Ehrenfels, and on to Koehler and

                 Russian linguists like Potebnya, but I don't know
      where they
                 came from.

                 And these threads are all tied together with LS
      Vygotsky, yes?

                 Freud has to be mentioned (I forget his sources), with
                 arrows to Luria. And after Vygotsky and Luria you
      have ANL
                 and thus to present day people,

                 I guess, you can't leave out Piaget, and I don't know
                 Piaget's sources.

                 I know some people rate Merleau-Ponty, but if you're
                 to give Merleau-Pony a seat, you have to put in
      Lukacs and
                 Horkheimer. I guess Habermas for discourse ethics,

                 I have no idea why Husserl and Heidegger get a
      mention. I my
                 humble opinion, as clever as they might be, their
      impact on
                 Activity Theory has only been negative.

                 I have no idea why Bergson is mentioned: was he a
      source for
                 Piaget? Don't know why Nietzsche is there.
      Interesting guy,
                 but so are many others. Why von Uexhill?

                 I agree that Wittgenstein rates a mention, though I
                 know how much of a source he has been for us. He is
                 kind of version of Activity Theory.

                 Frege, Russell and Turing are nothing to do with
      CHAT. What
                 about anthropologists??

                 Never heard of Maturana.

                 That's my reaction,


                 Louise Hawkins wrote:

                     I remember seeing this diagram a number of years
                     and I found it useful as a big picture diagram to
      get my
                     head around the significant theorist.
                     Louise Hawkins
                     Lecturer - School of Management & Information
                     Faculty Business & Informatics
                     Building 19/Room 3.38
                     Rockhampton Campus
                     Ph: +617 4923 2768
                     Fax: +617 4930 9729
                      -----Original Message-----
                     From: Andy Blunden [mailto:ablunden@mira.net
      <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>] Sent: Wednesday, 4 November
                     2009 01:05 PM
                     To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
                     Subject: [xmca] Arne Raeithel's "genealogy"

                     I never found this map very useful to be honest.
                     mike cole wrote:

                         Have you found Arne Raeithel's "genealogy" of
                         cultural-historical, activity theory thinkers
                         several years back. I am sure it is somewhere
                         lchc.ucsd.edu <http://lchc.ucsd.edu>
                         <http://lchc.ucsd.edu>. Perhaps you (and Andy,
                         and.....) could update it with
                         more detail. Hegel generated so much that has
                         "laundered" by subsequent "original" thinkers
                         totally amazing, and ditto Mead (whose
                         know far better, although very inadequately).

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                 Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
                 Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev,
                 Ilyenkov $20 ea

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         Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
         Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov,
         Ilyenkov $20 ea

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  Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
  Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov,
  Ilyenkov $20 ea

Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov, Ilyenkov $20

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Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov, Ilyenkov $20 ea

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Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov, Ilyenkov $20 ea

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