Summer Study Group on Ilyenkov's Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Wed Jun 01 2005 - 17:50:14 PDT

King Beach's mention of Ilyenkov's Dialectics of the Abstract and the
Concrete is a perfect introduction to announcing an on-line study group
that Peter Moxhay, Kristen Clark and I are planning for this summer on that
very book. We actually began planning it last summer, but kept postponing
doing it for the usual "too busy" reasons.

Peter will be our discussion facilitator (some may remember the terrific
job he did facilitating the section on Davydov in the 2003 xmca
webcourse). We want to discuss the final chapter, Chapter 5, in some
depth, but at a friendly pace. Any xmca list member is welcome to
participate, listen in, etc. The book is available on-line at
courtesy of the Marxist Internet Archive site. We will be publishing an
informal syllabus to keep everyone on the same page as the discussion
proceeds. We will announce the start date soon. We will probably start
around the end of June or the beginning of July.

We have a Yahoo discussion list set up for this (just like Anna set up for
the CH-SIG workshop at Montreal) but there has also been some talk about
doing it right here on xmca. Either will work. Each approach has pros and

Doing it on the Yahoo discussion list has the advantage of not dominating
xmca bandwidth and disrupting its discussions on things like articles from
the MCA journal every quarter - articles such as the current Jurow article
that Mike is coaxing us to discuss more, which King took up - or this
intriguing epi-discussion about a CHAT theory of language that Anna is now
tantalizing us with :-)) . Keeping an in-depth book discussion separate
from xmca seems to make a lot of sense.

People will be able to get and send all posts to the Yahoo site sent
through their regular e-mail, but they will have to have a (free) Yahoo ID
(e-mail account) to do so. We will post more details about all this
soon. If anyone has a definite opinion on whether to do this on a Yahoo
site, or on xmca - or has other ideas on how to proceed with this book
discussion group idea - this is the time to speak up.

- Steve

At 07:53 PM 5/31/2005 -0700, King Beach wrote:

>Mike and others,
>I am going to dip my oar in the water here from New Delhi where we
>are working with organizations trying to help street and working kids
>build connections (not necessarily similarities) between their lives
>in slums and the government schools--certainly involving
>generalization is a broader sense. However, two points flow from the
>juxtaposition of our current work with this conversation.
>One is our tendency to look for a single overarching characterization
>of generalization, e.g. as ascending from the abstract to the
>concrete or the expansion of local discursive practices. Those of us
>who are psychologists by training might recognize this as our
>discipline's historical desire for single process explanations such
>as learning transfer. Davydov's concept of substantive
>generalization, for example, makes far more sense to me in the
>context of teaching and in science than it does where there are not
>clearly generative "germ concepts." Trying to makes sense of the
>transitions that primary-aged kids make between school and home/work
>involves so many levels of generalization as to make single
>process/single principle constructs problematic.
>The other is a tendency with generalization to focus on that which
>develops with some degree of commonality across social space and time
>rather than on the production of disjunctions and contradictions as
>well. Like Michael Roth here I do find Hegel and Ilyenkov (partic.
>Dialectics of Abstract and Concrete) helpful in thinking about
>generalization more broadly than the production of similarity. The
>contradictions and disjunctions between what the kids must do here in
>their daily lives and what they do in the school classrooms have far
>greater developmental potential than do any hoped for highly
>"abstracted" set off commonalities between studying in school and
>working on the streets (or well-intentioned but misguided attempts to
>"smooth" the daily transitions that these kids make between the
>streets and the school by making "word problems" out of their
>experiences working with their families).

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