Re: [xmca] Subject: Verb, Object

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Fri Dec 28 2007 - 15:13:51 PST

That remark is really to signal that I don't as yet have a worked-out
response to the issues David has been raising in relation to ANL's concept
of "activity" only some criticisms of my own. But at the moment, I believe
that "immanent critique" holds the key. Here is how I understand the idea
of "immanent critique".

"Immanent critique" was first developed by Hegel in his Phenomenology.

where Hegel explains it. The Phenomenology is the canonical example of
"immanent critique". Hegel does not back sit back and look at the various
forms of consciousness which have succeeded one another in history, and
"criticise" tehm from his own superior point of view, but "enters into"
them, adopts and follows their logic and asks questions of a way of
thinking from its own standpoint. That is, he follows the path of its own
critique, until the "ideology" itself leads to an impasse. Subsequently,
sometimes after an interval, sometimes directly arising from the
self-scepticism, a new way of thinking arises, which is able to cope with
or avoid the contradictions into which the previous one fell. And so the
process goes on. Americans will recognise shades of Thomas Kuhn here, and
we should all recognise Marx's obsession with political economy. (For
example, if you look at how capital worked up until 1883, i.e. before
Taylor's experiments in scientific management, you will see that Marx's
concept of value was just how capitalists worked. Taylor made a critique of
this business of lengthening the working day and keeping wages down. Marx
was following capital's own critique, but he died in 1883 and his followers
didn't know what to do next)

So "immanent critique" means critiquing an object by following its own logic:

        "So my friend you say that ..., so doesn't that mean that ... and
didn't you say you were against that?"

What does it mean to say that social psychology should adopt "immanent
critique" as an approach to defining the subject-object relation and its
concept of "activity"? Well, as I said, this is work in progress, OK? But
we have to see a subject (its opinions, its strengths, its psychoses, its
"standpoint", its identity, etc.) as one of many or several possible
subjects which are part and parcel of a certain way of life. The activity
which a subject is involved in is defined *by the subject* (and to a
certain extent vice versa) and becomes something else as a result of the
working out of that system of activity (and the subject's own critique of it).

So for example, the subject might say "I am a tradesperson. Everyone will
always need a plumber. I don't have to beg for my money. These
paper-pushers could disappear tomorrow and we wouldn't miss them ...etc
etc" - the collected prejudices of a randomly chosen figure in our society.
He is involved in the practice of a trade which guarantees her a
respectable living standard. The question is, how do contradictions arise
in *that* way of thinking as the trade become more and more one of plugging
in integrated components, work that can be done by a kid, but work control
requires the use of all sorts of computers, etc., etc., and altogether all
the assumptions his or her way of life is predicated on change. ...

I am only guessing with the above. But I think we can't define the "object"
of activity in advance. To start with, we have to take it as a whole. We
have to listen to what subjects say and accept to a certain extent what
they say the object is, and see where it leads.


At 10:09 AM 28/12/2007 -0800, you wrote:
>I follow you right up to the last paragraph in this note, Andy, where you
>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.
>Probably this means that I need to go back and read your article more
>What is an *immanent" critique?
>On Dec 27, 2007 2:35 PM, Andy Blunden <> wrote:
> > 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.
> >
> > Andy
> >
> > 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.
> > >...
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> >
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
mobile 0409 358 651

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Received on Fri Dec 28 15:14 PST 2007

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