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

Marc, I must distance myself from your characterisation of my ontological position. I loathe structuralism and functionalism, but I define my position in opposition to both structuralism and functionalism on the one hand and hermeneutic and psychologicstic approaches to human life on the other. See for example my appropriation and critique of Anthony Giddens here: https://www.academia.edu/21493136/Anthony_Giddens_on_Structuration and my appreciation of Vasilyuk here: https://www.academia.edu/15198661/Fedor_Vasilyuk_s_Psychology_of_Life-projects and if you are a real sucker for punishment: https://www.academia.edu/29582222/An_ontology_of_social_life .


Andy Blunden
On 16/01/2017 3:27 AM, Marc Clarà wrote:

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 psychology”).

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, activity).

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 <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>:

    /Perezhivanie/ is a type of activity, according
    Vasilyuk, as Alex Kozulin remarked some years ago, a


    Andy Blunden
    http://home.mira.net/~andy <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy>

    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.