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[Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

Hi, all,

I have the impression that part of this thread of the discussion echoes the
old (and eternal) discussion between functionalism and structuralism. In
our case, perhaps these two broad positions would seem to take the form of
what could be called an “activity approach” and a “semiotic approach”
respectively. Or in other terms, “perezhivanie is activity-function” vs.
“perezhivanie is structure-counciousness-mind”.

In my understanding, within the “activity approach”, Alfredo's position
seems to be more radical than Antti's. I see Alfredo's position somewhat
closer, in some aspects, to “participation” approaches (e.g. Rogoff's). If
I understand him well, he seems to assume that in reality there is not
anything but social interaction; that is, that not only there is a UNITY
but also an IDENTITY between activity, social interaction, and meaning, and
that therefore all is reducible to social interaction. Thus, in his article
with Roth, they write: “In the case of Sylvia’s categorizing her mystery
object, we already see her as part of the social relation that is
mathematical practice, a (social) practice that exists in the linking of an
act of classification to its account. That practice is social in and as of
the link; in the life of Sylvia, it first was a social relation. Thus,
there is not something happening in the relation that then is transferred
to the inside of the girl.” (p.321). Accordingly, Alfredo, in this
conversation, says that “a changing activity IS changing “meaning” (where
“to be” is to be heard as an “unity/identity” in the dialectical sense)”,
and also that a “SIGN is not a thing, but a relation between two persons.
But the sign then is not something between things, or even between persons;
it really and concretely is a relation between people that has to be
accounted for empirically”. He adds that mediation is a “particular class
of activities in which sign relations are produced”. Reading Antti's
questions and comments, I have the impression that his position assumes the
UNITY, but not the IDENTITY, between activity, meaning and social
interaction. But before going ahead, I have to stress that, as I have
already mentioned in a previous e-mail, Alfredo's use of the concepts of
SIGN and CULTURAL MEDIATION seems to me very different from the way I use
these concepts, which I tried to make explicit in a previous e-mail. It
would seem that this could be because, from Alfredo's view, the things and
phenomena I call signs and cultural mediation don't really exist, so he
uses these concepts to refer to phenomena that, in his view, do really
exist (this also echoes Vytosky's “historical meaning of the crisis in

I have the impression that others in this discussion (e.g., David, Andy,
me), which take a more semiotic approach, departs from the assumption that
these phenomena and things that, in my understanding, Vygotsky calls
cultural mediation and signs, do exist, and that are the key to study
mind-consciousness. It seems to me that Antti also would assume the
existence of signs and cultural mediation (in Vygotsky's terms) but that he
is concerned on whether we have to study a structure (that is,
consciousness-mind, and therefore use as a unit the sign-meaning -a
microcosm of consciousness) or we have to study a function (that is,

One of the many contributions I find interesting in Vygotsky is precisely
that, in my understanding, he tries to conciliate these two positions
-functionalism and structuralism. In my view, he departs from the idea that
how the things are is strongly related to how the things function
(Vygotsky's law of the unity of the structure and function in thinking).
Vygotsky writes: “It is becoming clear that functions depend on the
structure of that which is thought. Any act of thought must somehow
establish a connection between the various aspects of reality which are
represented in consciousness. The way that this reality is represented in
consciousness cannot be without some significance in determining the
operations of thinking that will be possible. In other words, the various
functions of thinking are inevitably dependent on that which functions, is
moved, and is the foundation of this process. Stated yet more simply, the
functions of thinking depend on the structure of thought itself.”
(Vygotsky, collected works, v.1, p.237).

I think that this can enable an approach which overcome what is often
presented as a dichotomy between structure and function, without
eliminating neither structure nor function. That is, the object of study
can be mind-consciousness, and therefore the unit can be the sign-meaning;
but the mind-consciousness must always be studied at work, that is, how the
mind-consciousness works in psychological functions, i.e. within activity.

In my view, this means studying how sign-meaning mediates in specific
psychological functions. More specifically, in the study mentioned in my
paper of MCA, it means studying how certain semiotic structures mediate in
activities of experiencing-as-struggle. For example, from this study, it
seems that certain semiotic structures, which I call modal contradictions
(e.g., duty vs. incapability), in m-perezhivanie may be important in
experiencing-as-struggle activities: their semiotic transformation seems to
imply an emotional transformation, and seems to realize the psychological
function of experiencing-as-struggle.

Of course, I introduce my empirical study here just to exemplify my point
and the general epistemological approach I am assuming; I don't claim that
my methodological approach is unproblematic; in fact, I am struggling to
deal with the many methodological problems that arise. Just to cite two of
these many problems: first, the study is incomplete, in the sense that, as
Antti mentions, the social relations which are also a crucial aspect of the
activity of experiencing-as-struggle are beyond the scope of this study (I
hope finding ways to being able to analyze this aspect in the future);
second, although the study intents to be microgenetic, this is done
retrospectively from one narrative, what is certainly problematic (the
opposite problem is how to identify processes of experiencing-as-struggle
in advance, in order to undertake a longitudinal study -this would also
permit studying better all aspects of activity). But all this is at a
methodological plane, which perhaps would deserve a new thread; I think
that the discussion in this thread is more on the epistemological (and at
times ontological) plane.

Best regards,


2017-01-15 5:21 GMT+01:00 Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>:

> /Perezhivanie/ is a type of activity, according Vasilyuk, as Alex Kozulin
> remarked some years ago, a "life-project."
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden
> http://home.mira.net/~andy
> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
> On 15/01/2017 10:22 AM, Antti Rajala wrote:
>> ...
>> Andy also uses Vasilyuk in informing his definition of perezhivanie. I
>> wondered that for Andy, in what way perezhivenie would be different as a
>> unit of analysis as compared to activity  (Andy - I have read your
>> critique
>> of Leontiev, so please feel free to substitute e.g., collaborative project
>> for activity). I like in Andy's paper the idea that through perezhivanie
>> not only the actor is changed but sometimes also the social circumstances
>> (also the reference to Bildungsroman). Why only focus on ontogenesis and
>> not also sociogenesis? In my own work, I am interested to study the
>> relation between perezhivanie and agency.