[xmca] more questions about Sawchuk and Stetsenko article: whose sociology???

From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Mon Dec 08 2008 - 17:03:39 PST

Hi all,

The following fragments are rough (in every sense of the word) as befits their object.

I am in total agreement with the discussion article’s expressed aim and for that reason even more critical than I might be otherwise.

Sawchuk and Stetsenko’s emphasis on the transformative goal of Vygotsky’s psychology, YES. YES, YES.   It always seemed to me that Vygotsky’s psychological program was intended to be a major part of the development of a society  in which the exploitative structures of capitalist society (as well as all previous stages of socio-cultural development) would no longer disfigure human personality.  Sadly, as S&S make clear in the article, this inspiration of the early years of the Russian Revolution did not survive and flourish.

The authors point to three key elements of the CHAT tradition and use them to situate the sample of sociologists they choose to discuss: a)material production,, 2) intersubjective exchange, 3) subjectivity.  It’s not at all clear to me that these glosses capture the direction of a “psychology of liberation” or that they provide a useful triangulation for sociological theory.

The authors point out that the goal of exploring how particular social structures, with their power constellations and systems of privilege shape development has not typically been pursued within CHAT. Yes, yes, and again yes.  There is some kind of fanciful dream that the Vygotskian lineage can develop its original aim within capitalist society and consequently we see multiple “reinterpretations” by academic mega-stars whose names will surely be forgotten in a few decades, as the name of those who won prizes in Paris while Van Gogh suffered in anonymity.

 But the article didn’t live up to my hopes for several reasons.

The Review of Sociological Theory was really spotty, arbitrarily selective.  For example:

 Durkheim: social facts, what about Mauss?  Was Durkheim a sociologist or an anthropologist?  Do these disciplinary distinctions matter.  If so, it wasn’t explained why?  If not, what about the entire tradition of anthropological theories about culture and society?

Social Action v. Theories of Enactment.

 Weber. -  summary of Parsons somewhat strange, ignorying Parson’s four structural levels etc.

 Garfinkel, ethnomethodology, what about Berger and Luckman?

Attempts at integration of social action and enactment, but the dismissal of Bourdieu really weird, inexcusable?   Giddens is really both derivative of and much less influential than Bourdieu. Not to mention his sychophantic brown-nosing in the Blair administration in contrast to Bourdieu's active opposition to the depredations of global capitalism.  Furthermore,  unlike Bourdieu, he did not carry out important on-the-ground research comparable to Bourdieu’s “Distinction” or the ground-breaking Kabyle research—   Furthermore,  in whose scheme of things if Judith Butler (though dismissed) considered an important sociological theorist – why not other feminist or queer theorists, not to mention that she is also someone who has not published significant primary research; in this vein, where are Zizek, La Clau, Mouffe, and others who attempt a post-modern integration (is it “deconstruction” or disintegration we’re talking about here)? 
 Really, Gramsci has a lot more to offer than Giddens, etc.

Discussion of Schutz very interesting but to say he was “heavily influenced by Husserl” ignores the fact that he was Husserl’s student and that most of Schutz’s most important ideas can be found in Husserl’s “Ideas II”.  Factual errors: Schutz’s horizons of temporality are not “past now”, “now” and “future now” but “ancestors”, “contemporaries”, and “descendants which also also derive from Husserl’s “retention”, “present”, and “protention”. ”.  The concepts of “past now”, “now” and “future now” don’t make any sense and their very incoherence was criticized way back in 1960 by Friedrich Kummel, nor can such glosses deal with the fundamental problem of phenomenology or any serious investigation of temporality: i.e., the incompatibility of duration (within which the so-called NOW happens) and succession .  All talk about “time scales” here on xmca throughout thee years and elsewhere
 simply overlooks “duration”d i.e., – Husserl’s "melody" – and hence can provide no real understanding of the rrelationship between meaning and existence which is a central issue in CHAT.

And what about the elephant in the living room: Jurgen Habermas, not to mention various other giraffes and rhinocerii roaming the house, such as G.H. Mead (obviously key to all that followed in the Garfinkel tradition), or Thomas Merton, C. Wright Mills, and others.  This all goes to the arbitrariness and spottiness of the discussion of sociological theory.

Finally,  how does the placement of the arbitarily selected sociologists into a triangle whose nodes are similarly arbitrary lead to a realization of Marx’s 11th Thesis on Feuerbach that Vygotsky’s psychology and the best of CHAT tradition have sought?  Doesn’t it just lead to more academic commodities that don’t lead to social transformation but to another form of consumption.

Wishing everyone the best of the Holiday Season!
Paul Dillon

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Received on Mon Dec 8 17:05:08 2008

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