I have just finished reading Ana's article. I see that I am going to
be the first person to make a substantive comment. Which is a pity,
because I think this article will be extremely challenging for the
CHAT community, and I am really very much on the fringe of this
community, an outsider really. I respect Ana a lot and I see the
article as really internal to CHAT, so I am hesitant. Nevertheless, I
actually think it is a very poor paper, and I cannot do other than
state my opinion, and take the consequences.
Firstly, at a very broad historical level, I agree that there are
problems in the CHAT tradition that result from its origins relatively
isolated in the Soviet Union. What Ana calls the extreme
communitarianism, which affected even the most rebellious and genuine
current within the USSR. On the other side, it should be noted that in
the capitalist West, there developed Structuralism (eg Althusser) and
even worse, Poststructuralism (Foucault, Butler, etc) - both these
currents reflect a loss of subjectivity, i.e., agencyor
self-determination, for the mass of the population. But this problem
is expressed theoretically in opposite ways corrresponding to the
different circumstances. The best interpretation I can place on Ana's
paper is that it is aimed at overcoming the fact that CHAT has
incorporated this particular form of discounting of subjectivity. But
it needs to be remembered that this problem is by no means unique to
the former socialist countries, even though it took a particular form
there. It is important not to abandon the frying pan only to land in
Secondly, I think Ana's approach to overcoming this problem, and
recovering a notion of subjectivity, is mistaken. I think that Ana,
while using the words of overcoming dualism and mentalism etc., and
while letting go of the gains of Leontyev, Ilyenkov, Davydov, etc
actually re-establishes dualism and mentalism, only different words
I think it would be useful to confine discussion to a narrow focus.
Take Ana's triad: material production, inter-psychological processes
and human subjectivity.
"Inter-psychological processes" - this is a sixth sense? telepathy
perhaps? Long live Habermas. We have direct communication between
minds without mediation.
"Human subjectivity" - as Ana explained at the outset, here were
insert the word "subjectivity" to mean the psyche, neurophysical
processes in the individual organism. I admit to having a personal
motive in making this observation, as "subjectivity" is the central
concept in my current work. To most contemporary (postmodern) writers
this word "subjectivity" now does mean exactly as Ana uses it, as a
synonym for consciousness understood in individualist, mentalist
terms. I think it is an important concept and it would be a real pity
if CHAT ditched the concept of subjectivity and used it as a synonym
Consider also the repeated appeal to individual on one side, social on
the other. So long as one bases oneself on such a dichotomy I can see
no way of theorising it away.
This view of the world is an absolute return to exactly what the
founders of CHAT were trying to overcome, IMO. But there is a problem
which Ana is trying to address and which needs to be addressed, but I
don't think Ana has found the right approach.
At 08:49 PM 24/10/2005 -0700, you wrote:
I really appreciate Sasha putting Anna's paper on MSWord. This
helps me a lot and maybe some others. I am sending along a
slightly corrected file in MSWord in case others find it helpful.
The file I am sending clocks in at 130Kb on my computer. I have
corrected the problem with the missing words on page 18 (page 85 in
the journal), fixed a misnumbering of the footnotes added in by
MSWord magic, and fixed a few incorrect indentations and some other
little noises created by transferring from Adobe to MSWord. The
footnotes aren't all on the right pages, but that shouldn't matter
for just reading. I would encourage people to use the Adobe
version, if they can, if they plan to print out Anna's article or
e-mail it to others. MSWord too easily gets confused, introduces
errors, and is just not reliable. I personally like having
articles like this in MSWord format that I want to study deeply,
because it allows me to do creative note-taking and experiment with
different "looks" at the text. But I certainly don't want versions
of Anna's article that distort her writing or her intended
formatting to get circulated on the web, and I know no one else on
xmca does, either. One of the ironies of the internet is that one
of the very things that gives it so much power, its ability to
easily reproduce text, is also one of its great shortcomings - its
ease at reproducing *incorrectly* reproduced text. And so it goes.
I am very excited about Anna's article. I believe it is a valuable
advancement of the discussion of many essential philosophical and
methodological issues CHAT is grappling with.
name="= Activity as Object-Related Resolving the
x-mac-type== "42494E41"; x-mac-creator="4D535744"
filename=&q= uot;Activity as Object-Related Resolving
Dichotomy of (corrected).doc"
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Andy Blunden, on behalf of the Victorian Peace Network, Phone (+61)
Alexander Surmava's Tour - September/October 2006
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