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[Xmca-l] Re: Vygotsky,Marx, & summer reading

David, I was going to let this go, but after dwelling on it for a while I think I cannot.

You are doing exactly what the various writers who were endeavouring to reconstruct Vygotsky's tradition in the 1980s did: looking at various instances of unit of analysis and listing out what you think are the essential features of this object. This is the approach which Vygotsky criticised in "The Problem of Age" in which researchers would try to define a child's environment by listing out the features - father's occupation, number of siblings, housing conditions, etc., etc., but (to use Hegel's phrase) missing the concept.

I took a different approach. Somewhat bewildered and rendered incredulous by these various lists of arbitrary features of the unit of analysis, I asked myself where it all came from. Having identified the origins of the idea in Goethe through Hegel and Marx to Vygotsky, it became possible to trace the development of the concept from one writer to the next and see what was essential in the idea even to the extent of seeing that the great writers who used it could be mistaken in this or that respect. It was to avoid this method of comparison of features that the method of analysis by units was invented.


Andy Blunden
On 20/08/2017 7:01 AM, David Kellogg wrote:
I would like to propose the following tests for a unit of analysis. They are all based on things Vygotsky wrote in the pedology.The examples, from biology, political economy, and music, are my own.

a) It must be maximally simple. That is, it must be small enough to be manageable in experiments, clinical settings, and observable using "objectivizing" methods of research such as the functional method of dual stimulation or the Zoped. For example, cells can be managed in a petri dish, drawn from patients during examinations, and their genesis may be provoked and observed with a microscope: the commodity can be abstracted from an exchange for analysis, observed as it arises in production and exchange, and elicited through barter and markets. The four note "theme" of that opens Beethoven's fifth symphony is simple enough to play on a timpani as well as a piano.

b) It must be minimally complex. That is, it must contain functioning analogues of all the properties which are the object of investigation. For example, cells have functioning analogues for metabolism, reproduction, and equilibrium with the environment.Commodities contain, in a coded, potential, or "embryonic" form, all the social relations of labor and capital we find in a mature capitalist economy. Beethoven's "theme" is complex enough to describe the structure of the symphony as a whole, and to form its coda.

c) These analogues cannot be simple, miniaturized "recapitulations" of the properties which are the object of investigation. The mechanisms of cell metabolism, reproduction, homeostasis are not the same as the metabolism of the human organism. A commodity cannot produce or exchange or invest itself; it does not contain productive labour or finance capital in anything but a coded form; these must be unfolded through the historical process and that historical process is not infallibly predictable. Beethoven's "theme" did not create its variations and permutations: Beethoven did.

Applying these tests to the units that Andy proposes (with one exception, number three below, they are also based on Vygotsky!) we find:

1.Word meaning is maximally simple but not minimally complex. It doesn't contain analogues of interpersonal meanings, e.g. questions, commands, statements, requests. It doesn’t contain analogues of textual meanings, e.g. hypotaxis and parataxis, Theme and Rheme, Given and New information.

2.The social situation of development is minimally complex but not maximally simple: it does construe the ensemble of relations between the child and the environment at a given age stage, including the whole of actual and potential language, but these cannot be managed in an experimental or clinical setting, or elicited in complete form using the functional method of dual stimulation or the Zoped.

3.Mediated actions are maximally simple and minimally complex, but not, as far as I can see, structurally, functionally or genetically different from the phenomena of activity they purport to explain.
David Kellogg
Macquarie University

Recent Article: Vygotsky, Halliday, and Hasan: Towards Conceptual Complementarity

Free E-print Downloadable at:

http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/W7EDsmNSEwnpIKFRG8Up/full <http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/W7EDsmNSEwnpIKFRG8Up/full>

On Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 10:37 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    Word meanings for the study of (verbal) intellect
    Artefact-mediated actions for the more general study
    of the development of activity
    Perezhivaniya for the study of personality development
    (Defect-Compensation) for the study of disability or
    Social Situations of Development for the study of
    child development

    See page 9 on https://www.academia.edu/11387923/

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

    On 19/08/2017 10:47 PM, Martin John Packer wrote:

        What are the five, Andy?


            On Aug 18, 2017, at 9:07 PM, Andy Blunden
            <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>

            Amazon have it for $38.21:
            which is not too bad.

            My chapter is available at
            <https://www.academia.edu/11387923/> but so
            far as I can see other authors have not posted
            theirs on academia.edu <http://academia.edu> -
            maybe elsewhere?

            Thank you, Alfredo, for highlighting how I
            have pointed to 5 different domains in which
            Vygotsky demonstrated the "method of analysis
            by units." To me, it seems useless to identify
            a writer's methodological innovations unless
            you can transport that methodology to a
            different context, and pointing to five
            applications by Vygotsky himself seemed a good
            way of showing how portable the method is.
            More recently, I used this method in an
            approach to political science, taking a group
            of people in the room trying to decide on what
            they are going to do together as a unit of
            analysis. Personally, I think this method has
            proved very fruitful and original. How lucky
            we are to be inheritors of Vygotsky's
            brilliant insights, still generally so unknown
            to the general scientific audience. What a
            gift LSV has given us!

            But legacies are always problematic. Alfredo,
            I think you would be a very good candidate to
            review this book. Beth?


            Andy Blunden
            On 18/08/2017 10:16 PM, mike cole wrote:

                Peter, Alfredo Et al -

                It seems that the readers of MCA would
                appreciate a good overview review of
                the LSV and Marx book, but so far as I
                know, no one has proposed the idea
                to Beth, the book review editor. (You seem
                to have a jump on the task,

                Also, given the cost of the book, it would
                be nice if authors could follow
                Andy's lead and make a draft available.
                Andy's article on units of analysis
                is on Academia, a click away. That way the
                many readers of XMCA around the
                world would not be excluded from the

                Happy travels summer readers.  :-)