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

Good question, Alfredo. The "artefact-mediated action," as I suggested, was read back into Vygotsky's work, partly, possibly, in mistaken effort to find a *single* unit of analysis for Vygotsky. It is a unit of *activity*, and so it makes perfect sense in Activity Theory, whether in the Leontyev version or Engestrom's version. Vygotsky was focused on Psychology and so far as I know had no ambitions in relation to social theory. He did not like idea of a concept which grouped "tool mediated actions" and "sign mediated actions" together as sub-species of "artefact mediated actions." As you remarked, Alfredo, these two modes of action are developmentally distinct. I think the unit remains useful as a unit of social theory however, and *consequently*, retains its value for Psychology.


Andy Blunden
On 20/08/2017 8:16 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:
Yes, I guess, they are different concepts. But, in a way, the two are being mobilised here to do a similar job, namely to establish a field of inquiry and its methodology. As you've written somewhere else, for a unit to be such it has to be a unit of something, right? So, what was that something for which Vygotsky or his Western readers were developing 'tool mediated action' as unit? And, was there a unit Vygotsky was envisioning to account for the semantics of action?

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: 20 August 2017 12:03
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Vygotsky,Marx, & summer reading

Nicely put, Alfredo. But "key" then is quite a different
concept from "germ cell" or "unit of analysis", isn't it?


Andy Blunden

On 20/08/2017 7:44 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:
In my e-mail, 'key' was loosely used as 'central aspect'; but if you push me a bit, I could also entertain the idea of 'key' as in 'the anatomy of man is the key to the anatomy of ape' (the anatomy of the meaning of the situation, or semantic field, is the key to the anatomy of human tool use, if you will).

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>
Sent: 20 August 2017 10:38
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; ablunden@mira.net
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Vygotsky,Marx, & summer reading

Was not the early Vygotsky already arguing that, in ontogenesis (not phylogenesis) 'properly human forms of using tools'  emerge only 'as speech and the use of symbolic signs are included' (From 'Tool and Sign ...')? Are not these then not just 'two distinct forms of activity', abut also two developmentally different strata (for a lack of a better word)?

In the late Vygotsky, we find the argument of a 'transition from the dynamics of thought to the dynamics of action, and back', where the sign no longer is the key, but 'the meaning of the situation' is. Considering this,a good deal of exegesis seems to be needed before one can attribute 'tool mediated action' as a unit implicit in Vygotsky's legacy, does not it?

David, would your assessment of word meaning be the same if word meaning would stand for the 'interpersonal meanings' that you suggest it does not contain? For, if we were to follow Vygotsky's own remarks that psychological functions are relations between people first, could it make sense to pursue 'word meaning' as actual speech, which always is a concrete and real relation between people?

Also, I wonder how Perezhivanie would fare your (or Vygotsky's own) test.

Lots of wondering here!

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: 20 August 2017 07:23
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Vygotsky,Marx, & summer reading

"Artefact Mediated Action" was a product of the exegesis of
Vygotsky especially in the West; people came to the
conclusion that it was implicit in Vygotsky's work. But it
was also recognised and incorporated by A N Leontyev in his
work - indeed, Leontyev's Activity Theory makes no sense
without the artefact-mediated action as a unit of analysis.
But I don't think Vygotsky never said as much, did he? He
was more concerned to counter the tendency to subsume speech
as a subtype of artefact-mediated action, and keeping
tool-mediated actions and sign-mediated actions
qualitatively distinct forms of activity. But his analysis
of Sakharov's experiments takes as given that a concept is a
system of artefact-mediated actions.

Do you see a problem here, Helena?


Andy Blunden

On 20/08/2017 2:27 PM, Helena Worthen wrote:
So "mediated action" works as a unit of analysis?

Thanks -- H

Helena Worthen
Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com

On Aug 20, 2017, at 4:01 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

Free E-print Downloadable at:


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

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

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

Andy Blunden
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> wrote:
Amazon have it for $38.21: https://www.amazon.com/Vygotsk
y-Marx-Toward-Marxist-Psychology/dp/1138244813 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 -
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
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
Andy's lead and make a draft available. Andy's article on units of
is on Academia, a click away. That way the many readers of XMCA around
world would not be excluded from the discussion.

Happy travels summer readers.  :-)