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

From: Jennifer Langer-Osuna <jmgdo who-is-at>
Date: Tue Dec 09 2008 - 14:06:42 PST

> YES YES YES ( to quote Paul). See similar work by the Dev Work
> Research
> group in classrooms, and others. BUT, I see the kids when they are
> in their
> local community where there is no supermarket you can to without
> owning a
> car, where it is dangerous to walk from school to home, where the
> kids are
> pushed to do homework which reveals that they do not have the basics
> from
> 2-3 years earlier that would allow them to understand what they are
> being
> asked to do and where their parents cannot help them because of the
> consequences of their own education.
> So isn't all this just a replay of what Anna and Paul call
> cannonical AT?
> Reformist, do-goodishness that allows the do-gooder to hold a well
> paying
> job and go home to a comfortable house on safe streets, etc????

You make a good point here. I do think of this "contradiction" a lot
when I work with classrooms, especially in this population and
honestly, it often feels deflating and as if there is no "good work"
that I can contribute to when the problems behind the problems behind
the problems are so deep. However, there are "do gooders" in a variety
of areas from education to healthcare to those offering transportation
and I'd like to believe that, in working together, we aren't
completely useless. And that, indeed, there are transformative
practices going on everywhere, in schools and churches and homes and
even in corporations. If we are claiming that broader institutions
play out at the local level, then it makes sense to say that
transformation at a broader scale can only occur at the local level as
well. I think one of the greatest opportunities that has come recently
in the U.S. has been the spirit of participatory democracy that
Obama's campaign was able to stir in people. If we can hold onto this
spirit, then perhaps more of the American consciousness can be turned
toward some amount of good in the world, even if those same people are
also creating a life for themselves that is stable, comfortable, and
fulfilling, while using our collective talents and interests toward
betterment and reform. I'm not sure what it means to say that
transformation is not possible in capitalism - what exactly is meant
by transformation? While there are some very real problems in the US
that need much change, I think there has been great improvements since
the conditions described in, for example, Upton Sinclair's "The
Jungle". I admit ignorance in much of these issues, and am not sure
if I am speaking to the same concept of transformation.

The alternative makes me think of this passage from Paul Farmer's
"Infections and Inequalities":
"During our co-worker's first years in Peru, Partners in Health became
involved in a number of small projects, founding in the process a
third sister organization, Socios en Salud. One of these projects was
the construction of a community pharmacy - a botiquin - that would
make medications available to the destitute sick. Shortly after the
building was completed, it was destroyed by a bomb. Sendero, everyone
said, and the motive was held to be the usual: if we were reformers,
patching up the wounds of the poor, we were, in Sendero's eyes,
palliatives, delaying radical transformation of Peruvian society."

Greatly enjoying the discussion,

> On Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 11:53 AM, Jennifer Langer-Osuna
> <>wrote:
>> 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 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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