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[Xmca-l] Re: Understanding/changing "something"


As far as I can figure out, this is one of the quotations ATTRIBUTED to
Lewin by Charles Tolman (along with my own favorite non-quote, which is
"There is nothing so practical as a good theory"). I can't find any actual
source in Lewin for the quote. It would help if we had the German for it,
of course.

But if he did say it, it seems to relate to his late work on change, which
was about organizational change: the famous "unfreeze", "transition",
"freeze" model. I always interpreted this model as being merely
descriptive; in particular, I thought it was descriptive of how people feel
in response to a change. So for example, the third phase, "freeze", is
often mistranslated as "refreeze", because the model is used in business,
and businessmen see themselves as over-endowed with agency (among other

Of course, Lewin was a socialist, but he wasn't a Marxist, and I very much
doubt that he ever thought that history was the plaything of human volition
to change. I think he saw history as a force field with absolutely
compelling valences. And so it was, for him.

David Kellogg

On Fri, May 29, 2015 at 3:47 AM, Zavala, Miguel <
mizavala@exchange.fullerton.edu> wrote:

> Hi Mike,
> I don't know about great leaders but I interpret the work of Paulo Freire
> along this strand, with his notion of praxis. It is also in the work of
> Orlando Fals-Borda, Colombian sociologist and activist, often described as
> the "father" of Participatory Action Research, with his concept
> 'vivencia'.  In both, I hear theorizations and interventions rooted in the
> very dialectic between knowing/understanding the world (as spatial,
> historical, etc.) and transforming it.
> I was struck recently by Rigoberta Menchu's talk (Nobel Peace Prize
> laureate; Guatemalan Indigenous freedom fighter) at our campus. She spoke
> about social transformation as inhering in us, as unfinished
> beings--becoming as Freire (among others) would say.  Yet, she said that
> reclaiming historical memories for Indigenous peoples is also transforming
> history, it is to re/write it differently and thus transform it.
> On a side and related note: how are our conceptions of "history" in turn
> shaping how we see transformation? And whence spatiality, how we exist and
> become as spatial beings, how is this dimension of being and becoming
> theorized in our ideas of "history"?
> Miguel
> On 5/28/15 11:08 AM, "mike cole" <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
> >For a current writing project I have been led to think about the fact that
> >Kurt Lewin is widely quoted as telling his students and colleagues that
> >"if
> >you want to understand something, try to change it."
> >
> >I have long associated this idea with the notion that if you want to
> >understand HISTORY, try to change IT. But either I am reading
> >Lewin into Marxism, or hallucinating. Can it really be true that no Great
> >Leader has ever said that you want to understand history (a particular
> >"something") try to change it?
> >
> >There are well known major influences of Lewin on both Vygotsky and Luria
> >that might be illuminated by this inquiry, one way or the other.
> >
> >Thanks for any help you can provide.
> >
> >mike
> >
> >--
> >
> >All there is to thinking is seeing something noticeable which makes
> >you see something you weren't noticing which makes you see something
> >that isn't even visible. N. McLean, *A River Runs Through it*