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

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Mon Dec 08 2008 - 21:57:57 PST

Mike and Paul,

It has long been my view that what CHAT needs, if it is to
develop its ideas and make more of an impact in the "outside
world", is to conduct the kind of critique that Anna and
Peter advocate. But ... I think that just one current or
major writer is enough for one person to tackle. What I
would like to see is young graduates to pick someone, e.g.,
Giddens, or Weber (old or new doesn't matter) and do a
really thorough critique of them, become an authority in the
given writer even, so that no-one can read Giddens or Weber
or whoever it is, while going past the CHAT critique of that

But that critique has to be done in the context of settling
accounts with our own current, and I think "an Activity
System" defined by a "motive" is desperately inadequate
alongside as the unit of analysis for sociology. It will not
be taken seriously outside of CHAT.

For my part, I have tried to appropriate Hegel, and make a
critique of Habermas and his successor Axel Honneth.
Unfortunately, it seems that it is only within the CHAT
arena that I can get my voice heard. So far Critical
Theorists (which is what followers of Habermias and the
Frankfurt School call themselves) still cling to G H Mead,
Freued and Piaget and refuse to hear about Vygotsky, on the
whole. But there are 10s of 1000s of eager and intelligent
young people out there who do read Critical Theory and are
looking to develop a radical critique of capitalism. And
surely they can't all go on using Piaget and Freud forever?

A problem with Anna and Peter's piece, is that they have
tried to critique everyone, and as Paul's response
demonstrated you just can't do that. It would be good to see
some papers appear in MCA whose subject is Giddens, or
Bourdieu or Butler or someone, reviewed from a CHAT standpoint.


Mike Cole wrote:
> Hi Paul-- I am among those who are convinced that LSV and his colleagues
> were in fact avid supporters
> of the revolution in Russia. Very I also believe that Jaan and Rene were
> dead wrong that the "troika" and "pyatorka" were post hoc myths. But your
> note brings back over threshold my questions about the relation of their
> scholarship to their activism (I would use the term, bolshevism, but I am
> pretty sure that Luria was a kind of tolstoyan reformist when he met LSV and
> have little idea about Leontiev's early history in this regard). Psychology
> of Art, chapter 1 is the earliest source I know of in LSV's work where his
> links to Marx are made crystal clear, but maybe pedagogical psych was
> written earlier, Anna would know, and I hope she enlightens on this score,
> or some ones of our other Russian psych history buffs on xmca.
> Looking back, we can say that they advocated something like "transformative
> collective activity" as their common program. But can we see this in work
> printed before, say, 1929, when Stalinism began to make itself felt? In the
> three articles printed in English in J of Genetic Psych is this program made
> clear? They were all written by about 1930. These aspirations seem crystal
> clear in various of their undertakings (LSV at the inst of defectology, ARL
> in his work with homeless orphans), but where is it in their academic,
> empirical work? (Note, I am not saying it is not there, but asking, where is
> it?). The Vygotsky/Sakharov research
> that Paula has brought back to our attention? Leontiev's work on mediated
> memory? Luria's attempt to solve the riddle of knowing what someone else is
> thinking through the combined motor method?
> Another BIG issue you touch on is an effort to unite CHAT theorists within
> any modern discipline. Sociology and psychology without anthropology,
> linguistics, aesthetics, evolutionary biology? How could it be done? I kinda
> like Communication as a home base precisely because joint mediated activity
> is its central concept and is possible to bring all the different fragmented
> parts of late 19th century humane sciences back together, sort of.
> I think these issues are worth considering because it is linked to the idea
> of current research in their tradition (I would call THAT tradition
> canonical, actually, not the other way around.... a perspectival shift owing
> to age and historical location probably). Vygotsky's work with retarded
> kids, work with the blind-deaf, in preschools, and of course the brain
> damaged, were all hallmarks of the work these people did. Among whom, and
> for what ends, are people in this tradititon now working?
> Not incidently, I think the prior writings of Harry Daniels about Bernstein
> are of relevance here. Not sure where has disappeared to, perhaps taking in
> the Bath(s)? :-)) I'll cc him.
> I think we all owe Anna and Peter a debt of gratitude for opening up these
> important issues. But it sure would be nice to see them discussed in a way
> where a positive program of transformative collaborative
> activity emerged.
> Or, Paul, are you saying it can't happen under capitalism, so why bother?
> mike
> 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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Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435 
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Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:
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Received on Mon Dec 8 21:58:30 2008

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