[xmca] ANL vs. LSV

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Mon Dec 24 2007 - 15:06:36 PST

Dear Mike:
  (Sorry about that &thing# stuff. I have the bad habit of copying long stretches of stuff that I don't understand very well out of books, so sometimes I just paste quotes from my notebook computer into the postings. The Korean version of Windows puts in funny codes for punctuation which come out rather unpredictably on anglophone versions of Windows and Windows based programs. I think Andy said what to do it about it once, but I tend to block out all cyber tensions between agent and mediational means.)
  I gather that the tapes we made for the discussion on development didn't turn out. Let me try to make some of the points that Professor Hakarainnen was trying to make about the split between LSV and ANL in another way, as a critique of ANL's book. All page numbers refer to "Problems of the Development of the Mind", except for 1979, which refers to "The Problem of Activity in Psychology" in Wertsch, ed. "The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology".
  To me, LSV's cultural-historical program for psychology is a REVOLUTIONARY program, because it supposes that mind and society are basically made of the same stuff. Just as society provides the substance and the structure of a child¡¯s mind, the child can grow up to provide the content and the form of the next phase of social development. In both cases, this happens in a crisis-ridden, non-linear manner by revolutionary (or perhaps re-volitionary?)means.
  Such a visionary, re-volitionary program was easily reconcilable with the conditions of revolutionary Russia in the teens and twenties. But of course it sat uneasily with the stolid state of Stalinist science in the more stable thirties and forties. Accordingly, ANL waters it down, by diluting it with two streams of thought that are basically alien to it.
  The first alien current is PAVLOVISM. The word "activity" allows ANL to draw an unbroken line between reflexology (pp. 122-138, 316) and a fairly mechanical cultural psychology consistent with Stalinist periodization into slave, feudal, capitalist and socialist societies (261-265). One obvious way in which he does this is by seeing the differentiation of action and activity and of operation and action as a special case of Kohler's two phase ape problems complicated by a division of labor (211). Another is his basically Pavlovian view of what a functional system is (317).
  This re-merging of cultural-historical psychology with its behaviorist origins also allows him to draw a line that is basically unbroken&#8212;occasional protests to the contrary not withstanding (pp. 197-203), not withstanding&#8212;between animal behavior and humans (48).
  The price is a fairly consistent de-emphasizing of the human subject and volition and the insistence that all activity is chiefly object oriented (1979: 48) and a view of language as basically an accessory (299) composed of a bag of phonemes and a small toolkit of lexicogrammar rules (320).
  The second alien current is LYSENKOISM. In ANL's book, the word "genetic" is always used to mean developmental-historical, and as far as I can see he NEVER uses it in the contemporary sense of referring to genes and DNA. Of course his rejection of the ¡°fatalistic conditioning of people¡¯s psyche by biological inheritance¡± (155) is anti-colonialist and anti-racist, as is his not altogether successful attempt to redefine ¡°primitive¡± so that his work will avoid the kind of criticisms that Luria and LSV were subjected to (232).
  But this is hardly true of ANL's insistence that the behavior of daphnia (170) and wasps, spiders, crayfish (174) is not entirely inherited, or his puzzling insistence that tone differentiation is less common and less precise than phonemic discrimination because only the latter is necessary in non-tonal languages (136, 320). Tonality is an absolutely inseparable part of all language in use, and there is no real difference in principle between tonality at the level of the syllable and intonation on the level of the utterance, both are ¡°semantic¡±.
  I don¡¯t really know what to make of ANL's experiments on training people to ¡°see¡± light with their skin (59-116) or his talk of an X sense (56), but it seems to me consistent with a Lysenkoist view that biological endowments are almost infinitely malleable (154). What it is NOT consistent with is an attempt to build cultural historical psychology on the legacy of Marx, Darwin¡¦and Gregor Mendel.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education
  (Oh, China! Well, that was my fault, really. I was trying to hitch-hike around the country, and they did what cops in any country would do if they found an indigent foreigner sleeping under a bridge. Of course, they always treated me as a member of what Graham Greene refers to as "the non-torturable class".)

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Received on Mon Dec 24 15:08 PST 2007

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