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

From: Jennifer Langer-Osuna <jmgdo who-is-at>
Date: Tue Dec 09 2008 - 11:53:51 PST

I've learned much from all of the varied and thoughtful responses.
Thanks to all!

On the part of the transformative goal of this work, and whether or
not it is hopeful today... I wonder about the role of CHAT in
classroom research. For example, my work is in mathematics education
and in particular on equity in education and certainly socio-cultural
theory is used as the basis to understand and design effective
classrooms. Lately, in the work of others as well as in my own
dissertation, the role of social positions and relational power come
into play. As in, when looking at the classroom as social activity,
the researcher asks, what roles/identities are available to students?
How can the classroom open up what it means to engage productively in
order to be more inclusive, in order to afford more positive
relationships to mathematics as a subject area and themselves as
learners of mathematics? At the level of design research, it seems to
me that this work can be transformative, at least in the particular
classroom(s) of focus.

To answer Helena's question:
> Yes, I'd be interested to follow your reasoning. This may turn out
> to just be a lot of extra work for you, but I'm wondering if you
> could show us something from your dissertation where you did
> something like, "And then I thought... and then I said to myself,
> well, I'll have to include...and then I realized that if I
> considered that, it was going to change this ...." etc. Is there a
> section of your dissertation where something like that went on? Talk
> us through your process.

My work is originally based on Geoff Saxe's (my chair) framework for
the study of culture and mathematical cognition. He looks at how
students appropriate cultural forms (physical artifacts, say a number
line) for particular mathematical functions (say, in order to
coordinate numerator and denominator) as they solve goals (do problem
set) in classroom activity. These form-function relations are analyzed
at three timescales: microgenetic (moment to moment), ontogenetic
(over time, how functions shift, become more sophisticated, across age
groups), and sociogenetic (how new functions arise, spread, and are
taken up in ways that transform the activity). I worked on these
projects with him for many years and noticed that when I walked into
the classroom, there was a lot more going on that was not accounted
for. That is, *some* kids were appropriating the (say, number line) in
mathematical ways (whether correct, incorrect, and so on). However,
other kids were resistant to the activity altogether, or were using
the classroom resources for other non-mathematical functions, such as
to dominate the small group by keeping the worksheet away from the
other students, or to write all the names of the group members on the
worksheet in an effort to end the task before they were supposed to,
and so on. This made me think of the more positional aspects of
mediation of cultural forms. And it also made me think that a much
richer ethnography of the classroom would be needed in order to
capture how these available positions were constructed and taken up by
students. So in my dissertation - situated in a new reform-oriented,
technology-driven, applied Algebra classroom made up almost
exclusively by African-American students (white male teacher) - I
expand Saxe's framework to consider how students appropriate the
artifacts of the classroom not only for mathematical functions, but
also for positional functions and that, indeed, these two functions
are highly intertwined such that positional functions orient students
toward the mathematical tasks in ways that lead to particular kinds of
engagement among students. The artifacts that I consider are not
solely physical artifacts like the computer or external mathematical
representation but, as Cole and Hatano have argued, also the norms,
roles, and values of the classroom world. The structure-agency tension
lies in: what is available in the classroom and in what normative
ways? reconciled with, how do students take these artifacts up and use
them in agentive ways in order to get their work done, while also
claiming to be a certain kind of person (that is, positioning
themselves and others)? I use a figured worlds framework (Dorothy
Holland) in order to capture the construction of the classroom as a
social cultural space, including the figured identities available, and
then apply this expanded form-function framework to closely analyze
how students use the classroom artifacts to construct trajectories of
mathematical learning and identities of learners of mathematics.

On Dec 9, 2008, at 11:31 AM, Mike Cole wrote:

> Very thought provoking observations, Haydi. I wonder if there is any
> "biography" of what followed in the fates of the Makarenko kids.
> THAT would
> be a fascinating way to tell a history of the USSR.
> Personally, I feel quite strong this thought: *The more society
> discloses
> itself to the personality, the fuller becomes its internal world *.
> Again,
> speaking
> personally, it is not any easy process, but rather, a form of
> disenchantment
> or in Yrho's terms, "development as breaking away."
> Thank you for the morning meditation.
> mike
> On Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 6:32 AM, Haydi Zulfei <>
> wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> A very happy welcome/return to Paul Dillon !
>> I don't know much to discuss ; however , I think the following
>> consecutive
>> quote from Leontiev's *A,C,P* could be considered related to the
>> ongoing
>> discussion .
>> My guess is it can enlighten us about what sociology can bring into
>> the
>> science of psychology . We all know about L's discussion to the
>> effect that
>> formerly by psychology people meant a science which took a psyche
>> which was
>> not certain where it dwelled , within the mind , the heart , the
>> nervous
>> system , etc. as their subject of research or introspection but
>> that marxist
>> psychology sought that psyche in its volatile tenets and
>> interrelationships
>> with the social relations outside of the individual individual . The
>> individual history , experience , past which is again social/
>> activity-based
>> is also discussed in the following passage . All emphases are mine
>> unless
>> otherwise expressed :
>> [Still deeper changes mark the subsequent levels of development up
>> to the
>> level at which the system of *objective social relations and its
>> expression
>> acquires a personal sense itself *. Of course, phenomena occurring
>> at this
>> level are still more complex and may be truly tragic, but even here
>> the same
>> thing takes place: *The more society discloses itself to the
>> personality,
>> the fuller becomes its internal world *.
>> The process of development of personality always remains deeply
>> individual,
>> unique. It produces major displacements along the abscissa of
>> growth and
>> sometimes evokes social degradation of the personality. The main
>> thing is
>> that it proceeds completely individually and depends on the
>> *concrete-historical conditions *, * on the belonging of the
>> individual to
>> one or another social environment *. It is particularly dramatic *
>> under
>> conditions of a class society with its unavoidable alienation and
>> partialization of personality *, * with its alternatives between
>> *labor* and
>> *management*. It is understood that * concrete life circumstances *
>> leave
>> their mark on the process of development of personality even in a
>> socialistic society. Eliminating the objective conditions that form a
>> barrier for returning his true essence to man, for a well-rounded and
>> harmonious development of his personality, makes this a real
>> prospect for
>> the first time *but does not
>> automatically reconstruct a personality*. Fundamental change lies in
>> something else, in the appearance of a new movement: *a struggle of
>> society
>> for human personality*. When we say, "In the name of man, for man,"
>> this
>> means not simply for his use but for his personality, although here
>> it is
>> understood, of course, that man must be assured material good and
>> mental
>> nourishment.
>> If we return once more to the phenomena marking the transition from
>> the
>> period of preparation of personality to the period of its
>> development, then
>> we must indicate yet another transitional transformation. This is the
>> *transformation of expression of class characteristics of
>> personality* and,
>> speaking more broadly, characteristics depending on the social
>> differentiation of society. *The subject's belonging to a class*
>> conditions
>> even at the outset (the development of his connections with the
>> surrounding
>> world, a greater or smaller segment of his practical activity, his
>> contacts,
>> his knowledge, and his acquiring norms of behavior). All of these are
>> acquisitions from which personality is made up at the stage of its
>> initial
>> formation. Is it possible and is it necessary according to this to
>> speak
>> about the class character of personality? Yes, if we keep in mind
>> that which
>> the child assimilates from the environment; no, because at this
>> stage he is
>> only an
>> object, if it may be expressed in this way, of his class, of his
>> social
>> group. Later the situation is turned around and he becomes *the
>> subject of
>> class and group*. Then and only then does his personality begin to
>> be formed
>> as a *class personality* in a different, true meaning of the word:
>> At the
>> beginning perhaps unconsciously, then consciously, but sooner or
>> later he
>> will take his position - more or less active, decisive or
>> vacillating. For
>> this reason, under conditions of *class confrontation* he does not
>> simply
>> "show himself-original" but takes his place on one side or the
>> other of the
>> *barricade*. Something else becomes evident, specifically, that at
>> every
>> turn of his life's way he must free himself of something, confirm
>> something
>> in himself, and he must do all this and not simply "submit to the
>> effect of
>> the environment.original"
>> Finally, along this line there takes place still another change,
>> which also
>> changes the very "mechanism-original" that forms personality.
>> Earlier I
>> spoke about the ever-widening activity that actually exists for the
>> subject.
>> But it exists also within time - in the form of his *past* and in
>> the form
>> of the *future* he sees before him. Of course, primarily we have in
>> mind the
>> first thing - the subject's individual experience, the function of
>> which
>> appears to be, as it were, his personality. And this again
>> resurrects the
>> formula about personality as a product of innate properties and
>> acquisition
>> of experience. At earlier stages of development this formula *can
>> still seem
>> credible*, especially if it is not simplified and if all the
>> complexity of
>> the mechanisms that go into forming experience are considered. Under
>> conditions of the *hierarchization of motives*, however, it
>> continuously
>> loses its meaning and at the level of personality it seems to
>> *topple*.
>> The fact is that at this level past impressions, experiences, and
>> actual
>> actions of the subject *do not in any way appear to him as dormant
>> layers of
>> his experience*. They are the subject of his relations and his
>> actions and
>> for that reason their contribution is changed into personality. One
>> thing in
>> the past dies, loses its sense, and is converted into a simple
>> condition and
>> means of his activity: the developed aptitudes, skills, and
>> stereotypes of
>> behavior; everything else appears to the subject in a completely
>> *new light
>> and acquires a new meaning*, which he had not perceived before;
>> finally,
>> something from the past may be actively rejected by the subject and
>> psychologically ceases to exist for him although it remains in the
>> compendium of his memory. These changes take place gradually, but
>> they may
>> be concentrated and may comprise moral breaks. The resulting
>> reevaluation of
>> the past that is established in *life* leads to man's casting off
>> from
>> himself the burden of his biography. Does this not in itself
>> indicate that
>> the contributions of past experience to personality were dependent on
>> *personality itself* and became its function?
>> This seems to be possible because of the new internal movement that
>> has
>> arisen in the system of individual consciousness, which I have
>> figuratively
>> called a movement "along the vertical-original." But one must not
>> think that
>> major changes in personality in the past were produced by
>> consciousness;
>> *consciousness does not produce them* but simply mediates them;
>> they are
>> produced by the *actions* of the subject, sometimes even *external
>> actions*
>> break off former contacts, a change in profession, a practical
>> entering into
>> new circumstances. This was beautifully described by Makarenko: Old
>> clothing
>> worn by orphans in an orphanage is publicly burned by them on a
>> bonfire.]
>> Best
>> Haydi
>> --- On Tue, 12/9/08, Paul Dillon <> wrote:
>> From: Paul Dillon <>
>> Subject: [xmca] more questions about Sawchuk and Stetsenko article:
>> whose
>> sociology???
>> To: "xmca" <>
>> Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2008, 1:03 AM
>> 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
>> 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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