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

David, I was with you right up to the last sentence. Do you simply mean, “the idea that activity is made up of actions”?

I smile that you take your example for me from Middlemarch. Good guess.


Helena Worthen
Berkeley, CA 9470 Phone VN 0168 4628562
Blog US/ Viet Nam: helenaworthen.wordpress.com

> On Aug 21, 2017, at 5:57 AM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
> Sure, Alfredo. Wertsch doesn't accept "internalization" or
> "interiorization". He says this implies dualism, even though Vygotsky
> specifies that "internal" only means psychological (individuated
> sociological) and "external" only means sociological (shared
> psychological).
> Wertsch's position makes sense if your model of learning is pole vaulting
> (which is the example he uses in "Mind as Action"). It is rather hard to
> get your mind around the idea of "internalizing" a fibreglass as opposed to
> a bamboo pole; much better to consider it, as Wertsch does, a case of
> "appropriation".  Appropriation is indeed peculiarly appropriate to all
> kinds of "mediated" action under capitalism and particularly the peculiar
> form of competition that has developed around doping and sporting goods. It
> involves laying your hands on some piece of property which has been handily
> provided by the thoroughly commodified environment.
> But Vygotsky's model is not pole vaulting but word meaning (which is what
> Wertsch explicitly criticizes in "Vygotsky and the Social Formation of
> Mind"). Unlike pole vaulting, learning wording and learning meaning are
> culturally universal, historically contemporary with sociogenesis, and have
> deep roots in phylogenesis which are still observable in various parts of
> the human brain. For example, there is the fact that linguistic text tends
> to be processed in the left hemisphere while context is represented in the
> right, much as a bird focuses on the grain with one part of the brain and
> scans for predators with another. This isn't dualism: it's just a division
> of labor--or, to put it in a term that originally referred to a linguistic
> division of labor, it's dialectics.
> No Hallidayan ever speaks of the child "appropriating" or even "acquiring"
> language. Language isn't a tool of fibreglass or bamboo. Nor is it an
> auroch to be speared or a  berry to be gathered from the environment; the
> ergative model is actually a better way to think about it than
> transitivity. Language is a process that unfolds within and without the
> child simultaneously but asymmetrically. It is undulating in the brain, the
> context of situation, and the context of culture at one and the same time.
> But the resonances the child finds in interpersonal relations and in social
> relations are never ready-made or ready-to-wear; the child's unique way of
> construing them can never be ignored.
> Helena: Bichat's theory of "primary tissues" is another example of failing
> the third test. For Bichat, primary tissues made up tissues proper in the
> same way that atomic numbers make up "moles" (hence Leontiev's use of the
> word "molar" to describe the relationship between actions and activity). In
> George Eliot's "Middlemarch", Tertius Lydgate fails in his quest to
> discover the germ theory of diseases because he cannot get over Bichat's
> notion that real tissues are made up of "primary tissues" and not of cells.
> In our field, the Lydgate fallacy is represented by activity made up of
> actions, and by various forms of the homuncular theory of consciousness:
> consciousness rests upon some secondary consciousness, and then it's
> turtles all the way down.
> dk
> 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
> On Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 8:15 AM, Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>
> wrote:
>> David, considering that Wertsch is and has been a very important resource
>> for those introducing themselves into cultural-historical psychology—it's
>> been a must read during many years at my department—you might be kind
>> enough to unpack a bit what is so confused about his account and
>> understanding of internalisation?
>> I got the wordings vs words point, which I can buy.
>> On transitive vs intransitive, Tim Ingold, in his 2011 Being Alive,
>> ponders on the Marxist problem of whether production or consumption is
>> primary, and encourages to look at producing not as transitive verb but
>> *intransitively*, which is,
>> "to set the verb ‘to produce’ alongside other intransitive verbs such as
>> to hope, to grow and to dwell, as against such transitive verbs as to plan,
>> to make and to build". Michael Roth and colleagues have considered this
>> with regard to design practice in a couple of papers (one is here:
>> http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15710882.2015.1127387  ; the
>> other one is under review for Design Studies).
>> Alfredo
>> ________________________________________
>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>> on behalf of David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
>> Sent: 20 August 2017 22:36
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Vygotsky,Marx, & summer reading
>> My dear Andy--It's already been donkeys' ears since Greg finished his PhD:
>> I saw him do a presentation on it in Seoul and it was stunning. He did a
>> postdoc with Mike, and he's solidly on the tenure track now.
>> I am the only one out here who was struggling to finish a PhD, but the
>> struggle is pretty much over now, so long as the reviewers agree to agree.
>> Nevertheless, I apologize if this response is unseemly with joy rather than
>> with the irritation that befits a late in life doctor of philosophy--my PhD
>> was, after all, a kind of afterthought to a busy practitioner's career
>> rather than the usual licence to explore (or ignore).
>> Let me begin by saying (not to you, but to any bystanders who don't know
>> the back history) what Andy's contribution really is. Yes, he is the one
>> who gave us a genetic account of "analysis into units" going back to
>> Goethe, and yes, that was why I supplied an example (an example, and not a
>> defining trait) from his contemporary and quandom collaborator Beethoven.
>> This is important stuff--I would say it is way more important to know this
>> GENETIC account of the concept than to read Wertsch's very confusing
>> account of pole vaulting (!) in "Mind as Action". The only really useful
>> thing about Wertsch's example of pole vaulting is that it explains
>> perfectly why Wertsch can't get his head around the concept of
>> internalization.
>> But long before that Andy was warning us that activity theory was ignoring
>> the Subject and become "objectivist", and that "object oriented action" was
>> part of this problem. When we read Andy's work carefully, we see that a lot
>> of it is devoted to overcoming this weakness, through a careful reading of
>> Hegel and through the idea of projects (which can "project" aims and goals
>> that do not exist in the environment). I would say that this contribution
>> is even more important than his genetic account of analysis into units, and
>> more than gives Andy the right to growl and be growchy towards squirrels
>> like me who would disturb his hibernation (it's winter here in Australia,
>> and Melbourne, where Andy dwells, is much colder than Sydney).
>> Having paidgranted that, I can't agree with his characterization of my
>> tests. The examples I gave were examples, just like Wertsch's valuting pole
>> and John Stuart Mill's water molecule. They were not supposed to be bundles
>> of essential traits.The tests I gave were not essential traits either: they
>> were functional aspects which define the structure of a unit of analysis on
>> the one and and are defined by the very history that Andy charted on the
>> other. So for example the maximal simplicity is not simply anchored in
>> Vygotsky's writing (although the precise phrase is Vygotsky's and not my
>> own): it is a practical demand of the experimental and teaching work he
>> proposes to do. To take another example from history, Bichat, who was the
>> doctor who was looking for cells during Goethe's own time, thought of it as
>> a "primary tissue"--a tissue that gave rise to other tissues, which in turn
>> gave rise to organs, which, linked up, gave rise to the human anatomy
>> (which linked up gave rise to social structures, etc.). This turned out to
>> lack maximal simplicity: today we know that stem cells are cells and not
>> tissues.
>> Helena--yes,and no. I think that mediated action passes the first two
>> tests, but it fails the third. That is, mediated action is maximally simple
>> and minimally complex (for explaining certain things, such as pole
>> vaulting, or hunting). But it is molar--that is, it has exactly the same
>> structure as the larger whole it purports to explain. So the explanation
>> becomes circular: activity is made up of action, and action constitutes
>> activity. The reason why the "scaffolding" interpretation of the ZPD that
>> Jerome Bruner proposed has collapsed is very similar: the ZPD is defined by
>> the child's ability to do stuff with help, and the child's ability to do
>> stuff with help is how we know he has entered the ZPD. This reduces the
>> content of the ZPD to "the child is ready to learn whatever the child is
>> ready to learn". This problem with mediated action has been raised before
>> by Kozulin, and is also commented on by Bakhurst: the explanans and the
>> explanadum are one and the same thing. In fact, the general inflationary
>> trend which attaches to any explanatory principle is predicted (and
>> amusingly illustrated with one of Krylov's fables, about a bullfrog that
>> tries to be as big as a bull) in one of Vygotsky's earliest methodological
>> essays, "The Historical Meaning of the Crisis in Psychology" with respect
>> to a wide range of explanatory "units": the libido, the stimulus-response
>> unit, the morbid unconscious, and the personality. Martin Packer did a
>> wonderful exegesis of this in MCA.
>> There is another problem with mediated action that nobody has raised. If we
>> look at this unit the way Andy does, historically, it is not hard to see
>> that it is derived from language, and in particular from the supposedly
>> "universal" structure which English shares with many languages:
>> "Subject-(Verb)-Object". This is the sort of structure we see in
>> The man (speared) the auroch.
>> The women (gathered) fruit.
>> But even English has another form of transitivity: "The auroch ran away",
>> "the fruit ripened".  Here the participant is simply a medium through which
>> the process seems to unfold. In many languages, this is actually the main
>> way in which processes and their participants are represented, and over the
>> last few centuries it has become increasingly dominant even in English
>> (especially scientific English). The S(V)O model includes a confusion of
>> categories (because "Subject" and "Object" are at a different level of
>> abstraction than "verb"). And of course the whole of transitivity, if you
>> are Hallidayan, is only one type of meaning.
>> Which brings me to Alfredo's question (and then it is time for breakfast).
>> Compare:
>> Spear the auroch!                          Let's gather berries!
>> Did you spear the auroch, dear?   What berries did you gather, mother?
>> I speared the auroch.                     I have gathered huckleberries,
>> darling.
>> You can see that the interpersonal nature of the exchange isn't a matter of
>> "dear" or "mother" or "darling": we can get rid of all those words, and we
>> still understand that the giver of a bald command has one interpersonal
>> relation to the receiver of the command and the asker of a question (and
>> even the giver of a different command, like "Let's...") has another. The
>> statements seem more neutral as to interpersonal relations. But this is not
>> a matter of words--it's a matter of wordings.
>> 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
>> On Sun, Aug 20, 2017 at 7:16 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>
>> 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?
>>> Alfredo
>>> ________________________________________
>>> 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
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> Andy Blunden
>>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>>> 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).
>>>> Alfredo
>>>> ________________________________________
>>>> 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!
>>>> Alfredo
>>>> ________________________________________
>>>> 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
>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> Andy Blunden
>>>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>>>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>>>> On 20/08/2017 2:27 PM, Helena Worthen wrote:
>>>>> So "mediated action" works as a unit of analysis?
>>>>> Thanks -- H
>>>>> Helena Worthen
>>>>> helenaworthen@gmail.com
>>>>> 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
>>>>>> Complementarity
>>>>>> Free E-print Downloadable at:
>>>>>> http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/W7EDsmNSEwnpIKFRG8Up/full
>>>>>> 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
>>>>>>> activity
>>>>>>> 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
>>>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>> Andy Blunden
>>>>>>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>>>>>>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-
>> decision-making
>>>>>>> On 19/08/2017 10:47 PM, Martin John Packer wrote:
>>>>>>>> What are the five, Andy?
>>>>>>>> Martin
>>>>>>>> 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
>>>>>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>>>> Andy Blunden
>>>>>>>>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>>>>>>>>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-
>>> decision-making
>>>>>>>>> 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,
>>>>>>>>>> Alfredo!).
>>>>>>>>>> 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 discussion.
>>>>>>>>>> Mike
>>>>>>>>>> Happy travels summer readers.  :-)