RE: [xmca] Luria & the USSR

From: David Preiss (
Date: Tue Mar 14 2006 - 08:44:04 PST

Thanks for your thoughts, Steve. I am sharing your note with my students.

David D. Preiss Ph.D.
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Steve Gabosch
Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2006 1:08 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Luria & the USSR

Mike describes some of the reaction to Luria's
research among the Kashgars on page 214-215 of
his "Epilogue: A Portrait of Luria" in Luria's
autobiography, The Making of Mind. His research
and explanations in this work "met with strong,
not to say vitriolic, disapproval."

Although Mike does not go into this, I think it
is vital to point out that this kind of poisonous
attack - one that represented a "mixing of
scientific and political criticism in 1934" -
took place during the full-scale Stalinization of
nearly every aspect of Soviet society, including
all the sciences. It was not the *content* of
Luria's cross-cultural studies but its
*suppression* that satisfied "Soviet doctrine"
(whatever "soviet doctrine" was in Stalin's
brutal campaign to drive out scientific
discussion and debate in the USSR beginning with
Lenin's death, and reaching a fever pitch prior
to WWII). Excepting Stalin, the entire original
leadership of the Bolshevik revolution had been
killed, imprisoned or exiled by the end of the
1930's, culminating in Trotsky's assassination in
1940. In the late 1920's and throughout the
1930's, a death grip was being placed on
scientific work, which included, among much other
repression, the banning of Vygotsky's
writings. Lysenko's quack theories of genetic
inheritance and his mismanagement of Soviet
agricultural research was a shining example of
the scientific "accomplishments" of this Stalinization process.

This does not mean that Luria's analysis of the
Kashgars (how they used syllogisms, etc.) is
above scientific and political criticism. I
think ARL did make certain errors (seeking
cognitive rather than socio-economic, historical
and class explanations for his results), along
with creating brilliant precedents for conducting
this kind of field research. I also think Luria
would have welcomed such commentary. But there
is no reason to believe that the poison-filled
reaction to his work - and the suppression
apparently of even any mention of this work - was
an aspect of any coherent doctrine, let alone a
worthy scientific critique. Rather, as I see it,
the poison campaign Luria endured was part of the
general Stalinization process of destroying
independent thinking in the scientific community.

- Steve

At 05:45 PM 3/13/2006 -0400, you wrote:
>Dear XMCARs,
>A class of mine was studying Luria by the last 2 weeks, Mike's DVD
>included, and one of the questions that arose was that of the
>conclusions of the Asia studies and whether the way they were skecthed
>in the book published by Harvard's press in the late 1970s would have
>been the same in case the book would have been published after the
>collapse of the Soviet Union. That is:
> >From all what is said in the book, what can be attributed to the
> >needs to
>satisfy Soviet doctrine and what can be attributed to the real thinking
>of Luria. Maybe it would help us to elarn what were the ideas related
>to that study that kept it unpublished for so many years and whether
>they had to be sublimated to reach final publication. I know that's a
>difficult question, but maybe it can be answered by some of you here
>that knew Luria personally. Feel free to reply to all since I am
>copying to my students. All of them will be very grateful of your
>David D. Preiss Ph.D.
>Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
>xmca mailing list

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