Re: [xmca] CHAT and the Question of "which way is up."

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sat Oct 21 2006 - 13:06:19 PDT

Hi Anna--

I think the very idea of LSV as a transmission theorist being taken
seriously in his own native time/place should give pause to everyone
interested in the set of ideas
(and values) that they believe they "see" in "the original."

A simultaneously offered grad courses in 3-4 locales could be organized such
that serious discussion of these problematics, in digetable form, could be

On 10/21/06, Stetsenko, Anna <> wrote:
> Mike,
> the book you are referring to takes the model of transmission as its core
> at two levels: it understands Vygotsky in line with a transmission ideology
> and it itself enacts this ideology as its method (so that Vygotsky can only
> be replicated but not transformed). This is not done explicitly but can be
> seen from the whole approach. At least this is how I see it. The rest
> follows from there, I believe and there is really much to question in such
> an approach (I had a chance to argue against reducing Vyg to transmission
> ideology, while also noting that there were threads, especially in Leontiev
> and Ilyenkov, that were dangerously close to this model; not surprizingly,
> given the historical context they worked in that acted to subvert the
> initially transformative impulse).
> So, there is no homogenous group that sees things similarly even though
> their geograpical trajectories coincide to some degree. Have not seen this
> other review you mentioned (Mesherjakov & Zinchenko) - can't even guess
> which position it comes from; it can be any number of things given how much
> the landscape is shifting in that context.
> As to 'which way is up' -- this is, for me, connected to the view of
> science as either 'pure knowledge' or, alternatively, a form of practice.
> About agency in 'was meant to be suggested': I was answering a direct
> question to me, so thought that an impresonal form was nontheless clear from
> the context of me clarifying my position.
> I relaize that this is very brief to make much sense and is not relevant
> to all anyway; there certainly should be ways to meaningfully address this,
> especially the which way is up question in some other format. a symposium? a
> special issue of something? (if only there were more than 24h a day in this
> best of worlds, as Mike said)
> regards,
> Anna
> ________________________________
> From: on behalf of Mike Cole
> Sent: Sat 10/21/2006 1:11 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [xmca] CHAT and the Question of "which way is up."
> So many topics are sneaking into the discussion with no change in headers
> (I
> know, Reply is easier and
> definitely preferable to silence!) that I want to pick up on just one of
> the
> many issues raised in the past
> couple of days.
> When Ana writes "no absolute, universal, pre-existing, a-historical
> template
> against which to judge and define 'heights' was meant to be suggested" I
> think it is worthwhile pausing at least a little to consider the agency
> buried in "was meant to be suggested." This issue relates to the issue of
> one-right-way thinking about the legacy of Vygotsky and his colleagues and
> how to orient to it.
> So, first, about who might have suggested that while no "pre existing,
> a-historical template" was a part of their understanding of
> genesis (phylo.cultural.onto.micro) there is little doubt in my mind that
> LSV and Luria and Leontiev all had a HISTORICAL developmental, from lower
> to
> higher, sequence of changes in mind when they talked about
> primitive/modern,
> etc. According to this way of thinking Theoretical thinking in scientific
> concepts is
> later than thinking in complexes ontogenetically and cultural
> historically,
> and phylogenetically and such later modes of thought are higher, better,
> more "context independent," and to adopt the
> view expressed by Michael and Ana is, from this perspective, not only not
> true to Vygotsky but the delusions of well meaning bourgeois liberals
> whose
> bleeding
> hearts are obscuring their vision.
> (For clear statement of this perspective see Karpov's book on
> neo-vygotskian
> psychology or Mescheryakov & Zinchenko's characterization of the
> deviations
> from Vygotskian
> thinking of which I am manifestly guilty in *Cultural psychology* as
> reason
> to characterize my view as "anti-historical cultural psychology.")
> My own view which is, a trust, readily available to anyone who is not
> bored
> by repitition of it, is that for almost 20 years we have been witnessing
> historical changes
> of many kinds, one consequence is, for this group, the meeting,
> converging,
> transforming, distorting, changing, improving, debasing, etc of the ideas
> of
> Soviet (largely Russian)
> psychologists with a very heterogeneous group of non-Soviet, non-Russian
> psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, educationalists, work
> researchers...... all of whom are
> attracted by what appear to be important strengths in the core ideas to be
> re-constructed from the writings of LSV et al from the mid 1920's up to
> the
> mid 1970's with several
> very significant periods of disruption and radical zigs and zags.
> We all do this differently, drawing upon what we can from those cultural
> traditions of which we are a part. So for me it includes Dewey and the
> little of American pragmaticism I know,
> a melange of Anglo-American anthropological work, Bartlett, a background
> in
> human development, encounters with different OTHERS in various parts of
> the
> world. For Michael it
> includes a range of European thought much of which I have not even heard
> of,
> never mind read and thought about, for Ana there is a strong starting
> point
> as a young participant
> in the late days of the Moscow school's approach and her many years of
> experience in Western Europe and the United States, bb brings his strong
> background in physics and
> tireless efforts to enable the education of teachers around the country
> combined with a voracious reading appetite. Etc.
> All of this to reproduce what LSV wrote in 1924-34? Or Leontiev, or.....?
> Did they know how to incorporate Bakhtin? And if they did, could they
> would
> they?
> Short bottom line: Establishing the one right way to develop the unfilled
> program of lsv and his colleagues is not an attractive task. Seeking to
> explore ways to enrich, correct, make
> relevant to our times, and in general, make those ideas equipment for our
> living and the prospects for living of our progeny IS an attractive task.
> What a great tool kit we have been
> bequeathed! And with all the modern tools at our disposal and their
> shoulder's to stand on, can we see past our noses? At least as far as the
> computer screen?
> It snowed again in Colorado just after I left and the sun glistens in my
> back yard.
> Neighbors slaughter each other in Baghdad.
> I vamos escriber en dos lingues acqui en XMCA
> All true. Guess it really is the best of all possible worlds.
> mike
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