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

Antti, firstly on "functionalism." There is an issue about conceiving of the mind as an aggregate of various psychological functions, as opposed to an integrated "system" in which every psychological function (e.g. perceiving, acting, cognising, reading, ...) entails a particular configuration of the entire system, and related issues. In this sense Vygotsky could be said to be a structuralist and definitely not a functionalist. Except of course, that as a Marxist he took the mind as the subjective aspect of a subject-object which includes social relations as its objective aspect. That is never what I have in mind when I talk about functionalism and structuralism however. By "functionalism" I am always referring to the sociological theory of Talcott Parsons and the tendency among Soviet Marxists to integrate this functionalist view into Marxist dogma. E.g., "the role of the petit bourgeoisie is to ..." By "structuralism" I mean the current of social theory growing out of Saussure's linguistics, Levy-Strauss's anthropology and Althusser's anti-Humanist Marxism. One must, of course, appreciate the insights which these currents of thinking bring to us, but when you get to the theories of social stasis of American Functionalism and the anti-Humanism of Louis Althusser, I confess it generates a visceral negative reaction from me. Like Anthony Giddens, I see functionalism and structuralism, together, as a bundle of theories of the world which pretends that there are "social forces" which act independently of the consciousness, intentions and understanding of the human actors through which they are active. Functionalism and structuralism are together one side of a polarity, the other of which is "hermeneutics" which lays all the emphasis on the interpretation of the world by individuals, whether by means of Freudian ideas, linguistic theories, literary criticism or "social psychology." Like Giddens I look for a third way, but unlike Giddens I look to a serious theory of cultural psychology, not a do-it-yourself psychology based on my own personal intuitions.

I haven't followed the views of Alex Kozulin, Antti, so I will simply abstain on that question, but the Fedor Vasilyuk of today is emphatically not a Marxist. He emphasises the power of prayer, which is something quite foreign to the Marxist tradition. In 1984, when he wrote "The Psychology of Perezhivanie," however, his views reflected to an extent the view of Leontyev and his following, so in that sense and to that degree, he was a Marxist. But he did not interpret Marxism dogmatically in the way Vygotsky criticised in his day, and he was critical of Leontyev. BY turning to the tradition of Russian Orthodox Christianity, it does seem that Vasilyuk turned away from Marxism. Whether that is some kind of "humanism" I don't know. "Humanism" is a very polysemous word.


Andy Blunden
On 19/01/2017 7:53 AM, Antti Rajala wrote:

I wonder if there is some confusion regarding the notion of functionalism.
Andy seems to refer to functionalism in social theory whereas David refers
to functionalistic psychological theory. Maybe they do not speak of the
same functionalism. Kozulin, suggested by Andy, seems to draw upon yet
another tradition, Russian humanism, in which life is seen as literature or
art. Perhaps, the preference for the notion of drama by Alfredo and
Nikolai, has some resonance with this tradition.

Andy, Kozulin depicts Vasilyuk's humanism in sharp contrast with Marxism.
Do you agree?