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

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Tue Dec 09 2008 - 14:39:39 PST


Your post illustrates why I think that the problems can be
better illuminated if we conceive of the entity providing
motivation for the individual as a *project*, and the
individuals' participation in the project one of
*collaboration*. Rather than, a "system of activity" defined
by a "motive."

The two notions are not a million miles apart, and indeed
"project participation" could be taken as the same as an
"activity system (with a motive)" but the problem is
overcoming thr gulf between the conceptions of sociology and
the conceptions of psychology. "Motive" in my view, is a
psychological concept, referring to the object towards which
an organism is oriented. "System of activity" on the other
hand is quite unspecified - what makes a given aggregate of
actions and operations a "system"? So far as I know, only
the motive. Which makes the "system of activity" itself
something subjective and individual and subject to diverse

But as I see it, motives arise out of participation in
projects, and projects are articulated over historical time
and can be understood in the terms of sociological analysis.
For example, the person who bombed that clinic was motivated
by their participation in Sundero Luminoso, which in turn
comes out of the degeneration of the Maoist movement of the
1960s, whose rise and fall can be traced in exactly the same
terms, of individuals participating in the project, deriving
motivation from the movement, and enduring certain
experiences as a result. On the other hand, those who set up
the pharmacy were part of a different project.

What project is a disgruntled school who is kid "misusing"
educational material part of? Well, I think that can be
answered quite rationally, although it calls upon an
examination of the entire history of social struggles in the
country. I am not a teacher, but it seems to me that kids
who are wrecking a class, which in some way they see as
alien and hostile to them, then the only way to deal with
this is to take them seriously as barely conscious
participants in a perhaps somewhat misguided and
disorganised social movement. There may or may not be
classroom solutions to the problem, depending on social and
political conditions and what resources are made available
by the various movements (including the state) which
contribute to forming the kids' social consciousness.

Don't know if that's any help.


Jennifer Langer-Osuna wrote:
>> 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,
> Jenny
>> 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
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> _______________________________________________
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Received on Tue Dec 9 14:40:17 2008

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