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[Xmca-l] Re: Communication, Co-generalization, and Crises

David, all,

I too agree that we may sometimes overstate the shifts in Vygotsky's writing, though I think that, by far, what you most often find in the literature is precisely the opposite: writings in which Vygotsky's work is presented as if it had grown in a steady and cumulative fashion, making it look as if all concepts developed through his last 10 years formed part of a more or less consistent whole.

Be it as it may, and only again thanking you most heartfully for your wonderful work and for sharing it with us, I was wondering whether there is no such an overstatement of the old in the new in the comments that are attached to the lecture that you shared with us. I am referring to the part where you discuss the distinction between generalisation (co-generalization) and communication or interaction. 

In the text you shared with us, you write that, one apparently plausible way to understand that difference between concepts is that 

"... “generalization” is really “inter-generalization”, because it is between the child and the environment, and “interaction” is really “intra-generalization”—within the child"

I was surprised by such a reading, mostly because I did not find evidence in the text that you shared that would be the case. I particularly found it difficult to see that "interaction" is meant to be "intra-generalisation", particularly when I hear Vygotsky speaking in quite different terms (as per the translation you offered us). Thus, in the text you shared, we hear Vygotsky saying that, 

"human consciousness emerges, grows and changes in the interaction between people, i.e. of the fact that the whole business does not occur in such a way that everyone grows his own consciousness in his own head and then communicates the final product, but that instead consciousness grows and creates its own basic functions through the process of interaction."

And again later that: 

I do not hear him speaking of some consciousness that is intra-individual as the result of being in interaction, but rather that consciousness GROWS AND CREATES ITS OWN BASIC FUNCTIONS through the process of interaction. If generalisation is one such function, 

and according to the interpretation mentioned above, this would translate something like: "consciousness grows and creates co-generalization in the process of intra-generalisation". 

I had written the lines above when David had not yet sent a new e-mail correcting: generalisation is intra- interaction is inter-... But the problem to me remains the same: it does not seem to me that Vygotsky is using those terms, I don’t feel the way the lecture is organized is suggesting an intra and extra, an inside and outside divide. And so I think that David’s interpretation may be in this case an example of doing some extra work to make Vygotsky’s statements fit earlier phases of his writing. 

If I read the lecture without an intra- inter- distinction underlying the difference between generalization and interaction, then what Vygotsky seems to be describing is a thinking that has generalization and communication as to irreducibly connected moments, and that is the way he seems to explicitly describe it, where he states speech as connected to (at the same time) to two aspects: consciousness (or “a mode of reflecting reality”) and interaction. 

“Co-generalization also constitutes, as Lenin points out, a way of reflecting reality different in principle, not a dead mirror-like copy, but a zig-zagging act which imposes a flight from reality and a return to it, which includes within itself a bit of fantasy, and speech is, on the one hand linked to interaction, but on the other hand linked to a new mode of reflecting reality”

The passage is clearly reminiscence to another passage of the same period at the end of Thinking and Speech, where he paraphrases Feuerbach in stating that the word is impossible for one, and only possible for two. In neither case I think there is talk about internal and external, a talk that comes in the third consideration very clearly. But there I don’t think communication stands for internal, and generalization for external (or vice-versa). Rather, I think that the hypothesis that the relation between the two (communication/interaction and generalization) is one similar to the Spinozan view of mind and body, both being manifestations of one and the same substance, seems to fit better the lecture.

Of course, I may have totally misread you, David; and certainly I have not a centesimal part of your experience with Vygotsky’s writing. But the worst thing that can happen to me if I am wrong is that I’ll learn more.


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
Sent: 09 November 2016 02:55
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Communication, Co-generalization, and Crises


I think in general we tend to overstate the differences between Vygotsky's
thinking in different periods, because we notice that he changes his
wordings and we assume that means he has changed his mind. We forget that
Vygotsky steals most of his words from other people ("egocentric speech",
"pseudoconcept", "mediation", "neoformation", etc.) and then works them
into his own system of concepts, and it's the system of concepts that is
really new, not the words.

So for example Yasnitsky and Van der Veer claim that Vygotsky gave up
instrumentalism, abandoned the distinction between higher and lower
psychological functions, and tried to become a Gestaltist, and failed. None
of this is true, as far as I can tell. The final lectures--right up to the
one I sent around--have a central role for word meanings, maintain that the
higher psychological functions are specifically human and the main
expanadum, and include some pretty harsh criticisms of the Gestaltists, who
were by then showing distinctly Nazi tendencies.

But it is certainly true that the words change, and some of the words that
have caused the most trouble--interestingly enough--disappear. For example,
Vygotsky stops using the word "reaction", he no longer talks about
"vrashevaniye" or "introvolution", and he only uses the word "internalize"
once, when he is talking about a whole system of concepts (not when he is
talking about reactions). So the question arises--what takes its place?

Here's what we put in the "Thinking at School Age" chapter that I sent
around. Criticisms from Russophones?

Vygotsky contrasts обобщения (“generalization”) and общения
(“communication”, “contact”, “interaction”). But if we translate these
terms as “generalization” and “communication” respectively, we obscure the
fact that they have the same root: “commonality” or “sharing”.

In Russian, об is a preposition, meaning “about” or “of”, so we might
render this contrast as “about-communication” or “meta-communication” vs.
“communication”. But this would allow the sociological, interpersonal side
of Vygotsky’s meaning to eclipse the psychological, intra-personal side.

Another way to put it would be to say that “generalization” is really
“inter-generalization”, because it is between the child and the
environment, and “interaction” is really “intra-generalization”—within the
child. The child derives intra-mental generalizations through a process of
inter-personal communications, by interaction using shared word values
within a speech community. This “community generalization” or “common
generalization” or “co-generalization” for short is what is enabled by word
meanings shared within the speech community. These meanings the child at
first only partially shares.

This word обобщения usually translated as “generalization”. Because this
turns out to be a very important point in this particular lecture and in
the lectures that follow, we will take the liberty of translating as
“co-generalization”. A “co-generalization” is a generalization about
generalizations made by the child through construing the shared
generalizations of word values in a speech community.

David Kellogg

Macquarie University

On Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 11:15 AM, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>

> Where does 'co-generalization' come from, David? Perhaps a good carry over
> from your consideration of political milieu is the factor of tension in
> development: tension to foster attention, a socialised 'will' if you like.
> Best,
> Huw
> On 7 November 2016 at 21:16, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Well, of course, Peg is really right--or at least half right. That is,
> the
> > American elections are not just a plebiscite on sexual assault, and using
> > the term "sexual predator" reduces the whole thing to the kind of
> > "tu quoques" argumentation which makes up the whole of the Republican
> case
> > these days. Actually, for the first time in my memory, the American
> > elections are about real issues that actually touch the lives of ordinary
> > people, namely sexism, racism, and the impunity conferred by real fame
> and
> > largely imaginary wealth.
> >
> > But I would like to know that the other half is also right: that is, that
> > xmca's normal concerns with mind, culture, and activity do not require
> > radio silence in times of crisis. Let me talk about another crisis and
> see.
> > Unlike the USA, South Korea has had, since 1949, six different
> > constitutions. Until very recently (1997) the peaceful transfer of power
> > was the exception and not the rule: governments changed if and only if
> > people took matters into their own hands, either through mass
> > demonstrations or violent military coups or both (the one apparent
> > exception was when the current president's father, Bak Jeonghi, was
> forced
> > to call an election by the Nixon administration: on the verge of losing
> to
> > Kim Daejeong, he peacefully overthrew himself instead).
> >
> > Now, Vygotsky also describes development in terms of six crises (Birth,
> > One, Three, Seven, Thirteen and Seventeen) and five more or less stable
> > periods of equilibrium (Infancy, Early Childhood, Preschool, School Age,
> > Adolescence). In fact, the Zoped (assuming that "ped" means pedological
> and
> > not pedagogical) really refers to the functions that belong to the NEXT
> > zone of development and not the actual one: if a child can simply take
> over
> > functions from the environment and make them his or her own, then almost
> by
> > definition they are functions that belong to the zone of actual, and not
> > the zone of proximal, development. That means that for every stable
> period,
> > the Zoped is going to be a crisis (and of course that, along with
> > prolepsis, accounts for the unpredictability of the Zoped which Peg
> noted).
> >
> > Korean crises not when people are overexploited and ruthlessly
> suppressed;
> > that is a much better description of the stable periods in Korean
> history.
> > Crises happen just when people become superproductive and try to
> > self-emancipate. I think crises of development in the child also happen
> the
> > same way: that is, during normal periods, the environment is
> communicating
> > with the child and the child is taking over co-generalizations by
> > restructuring them to fit the child's extant psychological system. But
> > Vygotsky says that there are moments when this cannot happen, because the
> > psychological system itself must be restructured: the central
> neoformation
> > dissolves the social situation of development.
> >
> > During normal times, the environment is the source of development and the
> > child's personality is only the site of development: but during these
> crazy
> > crises (the crisis of "autonomous speech", the crisis of the negativistic
> > "proto will", the crisis of the affected, manneristic, clownish
> > "proto-self"), it is almost as if the child, superproductive and active,
> > wants to "turn the tables", transforming the personality into the source
> of
> > development and adapting the environment to it instead.
> >
> > One of the most puzzling things in Vygotsky's last lectures is the
> Central
> > Line of Development. On the one hand, these are always forms
> > of "communication" and "co-generalization". And on the other, because
> each
> > Neoformation is entirely new, what is Central in one period is Peripheral
> > in the next: perception, for example, is the maximally developing
> function
> > in Infancy, but memory is the leading function in Preschool. Speech is a
> > Central Line of Development in early childhood but Thinking in School
> Age.
> > How can BOTH of these things be true?
> >
> > It seems to me that both of them are true.Communication represents
> contact
> > with the social environment, and this is always foregrounded during
> stable
> > periods and backgrounded during crises. Co-generalization represents what
> > we use to call "internalization", and this is foregrounded during crises
> > and backgrounded during stable periods. In addition, the content of the
> > communication and co-generalization changes as the child develops, from
> > doing things in Infancy, to saying things in Early Childhood, to feeling
> in
> > Preschool, and to thinking in School Age. When co-generalization becomes
> > super-productive, we get conscious awareness, and  with awareness,
> crisis.
> > With crises, worlds change.
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Macquarie University
> >
Status: O