Re: [xmca] Subject: Verb, Object

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Thu Dec 27 2007 - 14:35:20 PST

Re Leontyev's concept of "activity'. I wanted to leave this to a kind of
"stage two" but since I want to use a category of activity too I have to
get to it.

So far as I can see, for ANL, "activity" is paradigmatically but not
exclusively the "external" activity, of an individual organism. So it is
the same category of "activity" as Fichte used in his critique of Kant,
which Hegel picks up on. And for ANL it is "instrumental" to use Mike's
word (instrumental allows the object to be another subject, treated as an
object though), or "purposive", though I think inclusive of unintended or
non-conscious components of the actions. So it must be very similar to the
category of "practice" insofar as theory and practice are differentiated.

The problem comes for me when you have to get "stuck into" this category
and work out the appropriate way of elaborating the various *forms* of
activity. With some good reason, ANL I think moves to a Marxist paradigm of
"mode of production", practice-as-labour, in order to mobilise a series of
categories through which activity can be grasped. This leads to the problem
that David identified, namely, that the dichotomy between labour and
communication is a false one. In fact this dichotomy has caused havoc in
the whole stream of Cultural Psychology over the past 200 years, from Hegel
to Marx to CHAT to contemporary contintental philosophy. Hegel dropped the
paradigm of labour in favour of a paradigm of critique around 1805, at the
same time as he adopted a monological concept of Spirit. Marx returned to a
paradigm of labour in 1844. Then in the anti-Marxist tide of the post-WW2
period everyone from French philosophers to critical theorists abandoned
labour for communication as the paradigm. Some also turn to aesthetic
acitivity as the paradigm (subject-object, subject-other or subject-self
are the three possible relations here).

It seemed to me that the position of LSV which I so valued was that LSV
held that it was the WHOLE of social practice (not just labour), and the
WHOLE of culture (not just means of production) which were the operative
concepts for psychology.

The problem remains though, if we are not to simply adopt and take over the
orthodox marxist categories of the labour process as the basis for
psychology, and I think that is the case, and we are not to go with
Foucault, Derrida, Habermas etc., and ditch labour in favour of
communicative action (or aesthetic action in some cases), then how do we
begin to get a handle on activity which is appropriate for psychology?

I want to go back to Hegel methodologically and work on the claim that an
*immanent* critique of the categories of activity is the only viable
approach. Otherwise, we are just pulling pre-determined categories out of
our own heads. The latter is the usual approach in my view.


At 11:11 AM 27/12/2007 -0800, you wrote:
>Great help, David, thanks. And Andy and Paul.
>David- In Cultural Psychology I also level the charge of a focus on
>instrumentality - object oriented-ness at Leontiev. But you can find places
>in his writing where the "object" is a
>person, a sujbect, and he talks about subject-subject relations. Yrjo has
>some such quote in Learning by Expanding.

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Received on Thu Dec 27 14:37 PST 2007

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