[xmca] Stetsenko- Material practice, human subjectivity, intersubjectivity

From: Mike Cole (lchcmike@gmail.com)
Date: Sat Oct 29 2005 - 09:16:01 PDT

I am late in getting into the discussion of Ana's paper and the controversy
stirred up by
Ricardo. I will respond first to Ana's paper and then to the discussion of
xmca's problems
with sexism, rascism, agism, and other shortcomings in a separate note.

There appears to agreement about the main piont of Anna's article:

Ana M-S: The main issue that Stetsenko introduces is that CHAT has not
sufficient emphasis (or almost any) to the third "link" in the
Cultural-Historical model, namely the "human subjectivity" [the first
and the second "links" being: collaborative practice of material
production and collective exchanges].

Mary B -- I find Stetsenko's work enormously valuable and quite exciting.
She is focusing on objects and relations, and on interanimation and
rather than mentalism or reductionism.

I am not sure if there is agreement about the causes of this assymetry nor
how people woud like to undertake the project of examining how best to
achieve a
more useful theoretical understanding.

About the causes. Anna's article summarizes some of the history of the ideas
of Vygotsky
and Leontiev in relation to each other and their historical context. This is
highly disputed
territory with some concluding the ANL placed too much emphasis on material
activity while
other claimed that Vygotsky placed too much emphasis on semiotic mediation
(which in
1930's Russia was equated wtih idealism). Hence the highlighting of avoiding
mentalism vs
(social?) reductionism in the current discussion. (There is another kind of
biological reductionism, that was very much a part of the original
discussion in the context
of fascism that is not discussed in the work under discussion).

My personal view, signaled by the use of the term, CHAT, is that while
differences in emphasis
clearly existed, the similarities between ANL and LSV (and ARL who is also
missing from this
discussion) far outweigh the differences, many of which are attributable to
the deadly environment
in which the discussion was carried out. I tried to articulate what I
thought was one useful way of
approaching these people's ideas in Cultural Psychology. Anna and Igor are
proposing a different line of
approach. Mary is urging us to consider thinkers beyond those we have been
concentrated on.

I have now read through Ana's article several times, trying to resolve for
myself precisely what path forward
Ana is proposing. It is a difficult job for me because I am one of those who
thinks the ideas of Ilyenkov as
interpreted by Bakhurst useful, but appear to be wrong. For example, on my
understanding, Ilyenkov would
agree with Ana's statement that "the world then appears as humanized in a
very deep sense, that is, as
imbuded with human subjectivity [he might use the term, ideality], as
inevitably carrying human experience,
values, and intentionality right in its very body or fabric."

I believe that human agency is at the heart of the chat perspective from the
earliest articles of Luria, Vygotsky
and Leontiev that appeared in the Journal ofGenetic Psychology in the
19230's and that the necessity of emphasizing
the cyclical and interpenetrating processes of internalizatin and
externalization IS present in recent CHAT
work (see Ana's reference to the work of Engestrom). Again, in my own
empirical work I have tried to embody these
ideas in practice as a means of understanding them more deeply and of
understanding the limits of my own understanding.
I find the ideas useful in practice and as a means of critical action. But
this can easily be attributed to my own delusions.

So what do people see as key ideas that need clarification and elaboration?
Mary is urging us to turn to thinkers with whom
I am unfamiliar. She writes, in part,
In my work, a clear
articulation of what Katherine Hayles refers to as the *posthuman* entails
clarity about how our relations with objects abundantly populate our
iterative construction and reconstruction of a *self*, and that this ongoing

set of self-making practices subjectification - <asujetissement> is
profoundly relational and contingent.

I have not read Hayles and I have only just downloaded the Stetsenko and
Arievitch paper that uses the idea of
self-making as a leading activity-- a use of that term that differs from the
notion put forward by Elkonin and Leontiev,
I assume, in a manner that is consistent with urging subjectivity be
accorded an equal place with inter-subejctivity
and activity. I am personally happy to undertake readings with others. The
mechanisms for proposing such joint
readings are in place.

I'll stop this inconclusive response here. The article is very complex and
deserves a lot of discussion.
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