Re: [xmca] subjectivity

From: bb (
Date: Mon Oct 31 2005 - 12:11:50 PST

I've been puzzling over the use subjectivity in Anna's paper, so i'll just toss my notes in here. There is this section that reads:

"It was understood that because high demands are placed on participants in these collective processes, complex mechanisms suited to meet such demands {74} —namely, human subjectivity (in its various aspects)—evolve. Pivotal for Vygotsky's (e.g., 1997) system of ideas was that the social exchanges between people lie at the foundation of all intra-subjective processes, because these processes originate from inter-subjective ones in both history and the individual lives of human beings. "

So, she distinguishes inter- from intra-subjective, and subjectivity being the whole. Noting from her abstract. "Such an expanded view posits human subjectivity on a continuum of regulatory mechanisms of social practice, to which both individual and social processes belong",

And then with "reveals (a) individual and collective processes as being interrelated and co-evolving levels of activity", I come to the same conclusions that Ana M-S does.

As Anna also points out: Activity theory ... "is a set of ideas and principles that complement and strengthen each other, impart meaning to each other, and cannot be easily grasped without each other. " This is a key observation with many dimensions. First, it explains to me, in one sentence, WHY activity theory as a whole has been difficult for people to grasp (exacerbated by the fact that a lot of foundational work has not been easy to obtain), and WHY activity theory is a difficult theory to make major contributions -- becuase any new contribution will have to "hang in" with all the extent work.

Second, it explains some of the heterogeneity in our own work, including Anna's. There are many dimensions of relationship among the ideas and principles of activity theory. Yrjo's extended triangle is one way to parse these relations, and Anna proposes another, "material production, intersubjective exchanges, and human subjectivity".

Further, subjectivity is a continuum of inter-individual to intra-individual processes (thus allowing for in-the-head processes such as memory and attention, as well across-the-heads processes such as communication?), supporting the claim that "This approach therefore helps to ascertain the agentive role of individual processes and of human subjectivity within a profoundly social, transactional, and object-related ontology of human life."

***My one big complaint is Anna's multiple use of "mechanism", a metaphor with perhaps more losses than gains, e.g. "regulatory mechanisms of social practice", "individual mechanisms", and then the whopper:

"It was understood that because high demands are placed on participants in these collective processes, complex mechanisms suited to meet such demands {74} —namely, human subjectivity (in its various aspects)—evolve"

Which places human subjectivity as a mechanism. Ouch! It must be the case that Anna intends "mechanism" to mean something more/less than material/technical, but I'm not seeing clearly what this meaning is.


> Hi Peter,
> I think that Anna Stetsenko criticizes the reductionism in the theories
> of Leontiev and some other CHAT and Marxist theoreticians in placing
> "individual" under a "dominance of social". In her words: "These
> discrepancies and internal contradictions in activity theory (i.e.,
> emphasis on the primacy and dominance of social over individual, of
> internalization over externalization, of acquisition of sociocultural
> experience over its expansion, as well as dichotomous view of these
> aspects of human life and unintended reification of objects) were quite
> understandable and legitimate in light of rhetorical goals of activity
> theorists at the early stages in developing this approach, especially
> given the extremely individualized and solipsistic views that dominated
> theoretical landscape at that time. [...] ...the de facto strict
> dichotomy of social and individual in initial formulations of activity
> theory (also taken up by many followers of the school) need to be
> resolved to move to new levels of consequentially materialist and
> nonreductionist theory of human development that would not exclude human
> subjectivity from the dialectical accounts of social life."
> However, I don't think that Anna's solution is that there is an "aspect
> of human subjectivity that is *not* social in nature". Rather, I
> interpret her overcoming of this dichotomy as a complete
> reinterpretation of both concepts: "social" and "subjective". Thus she
> says that: "the emphasis is placed on human subjectivity as being object
> related in the sense of being involved in the creation and production of
> new objects, relations and other aspects out in the world of social
> practice (p.81-82)". AND also she says that "... psychological processes
> need to be conceptualized as phenomena that never belong to some
> separate mental realm. Psychological processes need to be conceptualized
> as actions, and not in the classical Piagetian sense of mental acting,
> but as object-related actions out in the world, making a difference in
> the world and participating in its construction and development."
> As I understand it -- Anna Stetsenko introduces continuity between
> definitions of "social process of production, "social process of
> exchange" and "human subjectivity" -- by re-defining "object
> relatedness" of human activity as being productive, significative, and
> self-constructive at the same time.
> Ana M-S
> Peter Moxhay wrote:
> > Mike, and all:
> >
> > In a footnote, doesn't Anna say rather directly that she is
> > introducing the term "subjectivity" as a replacement for the term
> > "psyche" (approximately, mind) as used in Russian? If so, let me
> > explain how I am trying to get a grasp on her very interesting paper,
> > in case it's of use to others.
> >
> > My understanding is that a number of Russian CHAT theorists regarded
> > the *psyche* as something that both animals and humans have, and
> > *consciousness* as the particularly form of the psyche possessed by
> > humans. At least, I find very clear statements to this effect in some
> > reading I have been doing in parallel with Anna's paper, namely
> > Davydov's "Lectures on General Psychology," recently published in
> > Russian.
> >
> > So, in reading Anna's article I have been conditionally making the
> > connections:
> >
> > subjectivity = psyche
> > human subjectivity = consciousness
> >
> > where (again in my understanding of the CHAT perspective) the term
> > consciousness [so-znanie, "co-knowledge" in Russian] implies that
> > *every* aspect of the human psyche is social in nature, that even
> > young babies very early on learn to see themselves through the eyes
> > of their mama and papa, and so on and so forth. In other words, the
> > human psyche is social in nature, totally and without exception. To
> > me, this already implies a rather complete dialectics of the
> > individual and the social, that is, a complete spectrum, in
> > principle, from the individual to the social and back again.
> >
> > Is Anna suggesting that there is some aspect of human subjectivity
> > that is *not* social in nature and that must be added in to the
> > picture? Or just that a certain portion of the spectrum from the
> > individual to the social has been neglected in concrete research?
> >
> > What do you think?
> >
> > Peter
> >
> >> Among my uncertainties as we start to dig more deeply into Anna's
> >> article
> >> is whether we are using key terms in the same way. An old worry with
> >> respect to the word, object, and one that occurred to me in seeking to
> >> interpret the article. But subjectivity is also a term, the meaning
> >> of which
> >> varies with the discourse it is a part of. I thought it might be
> >> useful to
> >> identify
> >> the range of meanings we bring to the discussion. As a start, here
> >> is the
> >> wikipedia
> >> entry.
> >
> > ...
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> --
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Ana Marjanovic-Shane
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