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Re: distribution and exchange
I agree that Bruce and Michael have raised a potentially important issue. Does
Michael have the reference in Marx to the discussion of distribution, exchange
and production fields? It would be interesting for some of us to read and
The confusion between the terms exchange and distribution is somewhat
understandable, at least for English. Distribution connotes exchange since in
practice it often involves reciprocity, if not materially, then in the form of
past or future obligation. And exchange denotes reciprocity. At the same time I
wonder whether this confusion points to the unity of these mediating constructs.
Of course at a very abstract level the constructs are united as examples of
mediation, and as Yrjö and others point out the constructs are systemic in the
sense that you cannot isolate one from another in any appropriate application
of activity systems theory. But I am thinking more of a psychological unity
along the lines of "technique", or even "praxis", that is learned and applied
to mediate the three relations. Further, it seems to me that an interesting
figurative outcome of such an analysis would be that the activity system
triangles would be more accurately represented as a tetrahedron, with the field
of consumption at the base, the fields of production, exchange, and distribution
on the side facets, and the mediating constructs of tools, roles, and division
of labor together at the peak. Such a figurative representation could be
helpful for further theorizing.
Quoting Bruce Robinson <email@example.com>:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Wolff-Michael Roth" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> To: <email@example.com>
> Sent: Friday, November 12, 2004 3:44 PM
> Subject: distribution and exchange
> > Has anyone worked on the fact whether it made sense to overlay
> > production-consumption-exchange-distribution, which Marx discussed at
> > the society level onto YE's triangle, which deals with any local,
> > concretely realized activity?
> > Thanks for any pointers.
> > Michael
> I think this is a really important point that I'd like to see discussed at
> length - p(and which would draw me out of semi-lurkerdom) viz: can the
> activity-theoretic tools we use to analyse specific activities just be
> scaled upward to analyse the macro level? I don't think they can not least
> because of the emergent properties of social structure / institutions. I
> have recently been reading some of the critical realist stuff alongside
> attempts to merge dialectics with 'emergentism' and they seem convincing on
> this. Plus I have written a paper with a colleague which deals with the
> failure of soft systems theory to adequately analyse a historical situation
> precisely because it draws its boundaries around the level of what SSM calls
> the 'human activity system'.
> I can see that the higher levels are present as mediators within lower level
> activity systems i.e. activity has to take place through them but do not
> think they themselves can be understood at this level even though they are
> the products of and maintained through human activity.
> Is this unfair to AT? If not, how should we think about integrating it into
> a broader framework?
> Just thought I'd throw out a few easy questions before running for my train
> Bruce Robinson
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