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

From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch who-is-at>
Date: Wed Dec 10 2008 - 20:34:53 PST

Andy, picking up on a comment you made about Leontiev, I am not sure
he was not specifically addressing some of your considerations about
motive and need. Nor am I sure he was. He seems to see at least some
parts of both the subjective and objective aspects, and appears to
work at viewing them from both a psychological as well as sociological
perspective. Which is not to say he fully achieves any of these. I
am still scoping out Leontiev, although the more I read him, the more
I become impressed with his efforts to theorize activity and account
for all sides. Anna Stetsenko's 2005 article in MCA, which we
discussed here on xmca, offers some persuasive arguments for seeing
Leontiev as undertheorizing the specific role of subjectivity in
shaping activity and individual transformation. But his concept of
motive, or need, might not be quite as one-sided as you may be

I bring this up because Haydi's interesting quote from Leontiev nudged
me to review a really interesting and helpful sequence of quotes from
L. that Haydi had sent to xmca last summer in response to a question I
had asked him. I looked back at them because I was wondering if any
of these quotes might be applicable to what you are speaking to. Some
are. I searched Haydi's selection of quotes to where they came from
in Leontiev's Activity, Consciousness and Personality to find the
precise origin of each one, and get a better idea of their context.
Some of the most relevant ones came from a particular section.

I was also looking at Haydi's selection of quotes from Leontiev
because I realized that I had neglected to thank Haydi at the time for
doing that, which hearing from him again suddenly reminded of. So -
thank you, Haydi!

I am not prepared to argue that Leontiev had a well-rounded theory of
motive and need. The question of need and motive is extremely
important in psychology, of course, so however far Leontiev got
exploring that question, that is obviously one of the places CHAT must
start from to continue its inquiry. I hope over time that rather than
dismissing Leontiev, CHAT thinkers deepen their critique - and where
warranted, their appreciation of his work.

I thought I might quote a section from ACP (Chapter 3, section 2),
entitled The Category of Objective Activity. It is long, but has a
number of interesting points. I think some of this section has been
quoted before on xmca, and of course you and many others on xmca have
read this material before.

A central idea I think Leontiev is trying to get at here is that needs
do not just have a subjective content. A need by itself, with no
object to express itself in or toward, is aimless. It is not yet an
activity. Once directed at an object, the need itself becomes
transformed. For one thing, new needs arise. This is significant
both subjectively and objectively. To get a drink of water I may need
to walk from point A to point B, but if an obstacle is in the way, I
will need to walk around that on the way.

Leontiev says "The meeting of need with object is an extraordinary
act. Charles Darwin noted it in his time; certain data of I. P. Pavlov
support it; D. N. Uznadze speaks about it as a condition for the
beginning of purpose; and contemporary etiologists give it a brilliant
description. This extraordinary act is an act objectifying need,
“filling” it with content derived from the surrounding world. This
is what brings need to a truly psychological level."

As an aside, there are a few I notice about Leontiev's writing in
these passages that may contribute to making him a difficult read,
which I think he is. One, I wonder if a better translation would help
- some of the grammar and style seems wrong. Two, I wonder if
Leontiev himself is not the clearest writer - he may be difficult to
read in Russian, and therefore hard to translate. Three, I always
worry if scanned text posted on the internet is exactly correct -
letters and punctuation marks occasionally get lost or changed, which
of course impacts clarity and meaning. Fourth, Leontiev seems to be
talking to a narrow audience where he can assume high familiarity with
his ideas and terms, and therefore can use summary, abstract phrases
for ideas he has described elsewhere that would be better spelled out
a little more were he writing for a broader audience. Fifth, he has
what I find a disorienting habit of unexpectedly moving back and forth
between observations about animal and human activity without reminding
the reader of the difference, and that he himself is very clear on the
difference (which I believe he is, as seen for example in The Problems
of the Development of Mind).

A possible problem, by the way, of substituting the concept of
"project" for "activity" is this could sever the zoopsychological side
of activity theory. Only humans have projects, but both humans and
animals engage in activity. Interestingly, the zoological aspects of
cultural-historical activity theory rarely get discussed in third
generation CHAT literature. (Here is a small example of the reading
difficulties in these passages: Leontiev or at least the translator
uses the somewhat misleading term the "prehistory of human activity"
to refer to the evolution of animal activity). A methodological
problem with losing sight of the animal aspects of activity could be
the conflation of the biological and social in human activity, of
seeing all human activity as purely social. In my opinion,
compressing the biological up into the social is as erroneous as
reducing the social to the biological.

Finally, another interesting thing about these passages and
Leontiev's approach to activity how his approach to activity might
shed light on the discussion Peter and Anna have provoked about CHAT
and sociology. When Leontiev says "Introducing the category of
activity into psychology changes the whole conceptual system of
psychological knowledge," and asks "how exactly activity enters into
psychology," it makes we wonder the same things in relation to
sociology: how does the category of activity change the conceptual
system of sociological knowledge? How, exactly, does activity enter
into sociology - and sociology into activity?

Here's ANL.

 From Chapter 3 "The Problem of Activity and Psychology" in Activity,
Consciousness, and Personality (1978) by A.N. Leontiev

3.2. The Category of Objective Activity
Activity is a molar, not an additive unit of the life of the physical,
material subject. In a narrower sense, that is, at the psychological
level, it is a unit of life, mediated by psychic reflection, the real
function of which is that it orients the subject in the objective
world. In other words, activity is not a reaction and not a totality
of reactions but a system that has structure, its own internal
transitions and transformations, its own development.

Introducing the category of activity into psychology changes the whole
conceptual system of psychological knowledge. But for this it is
necessary to take this category as a whole with its most important
dependences and determinations: from the aspect of its structure and
in its specific dynamics, in its various aspects and forms. In other
words, what we are concerned with here is answering the question of
how exactly the category of activity enters into psychology. This
question presents a series of theoretical problems that are far from
being resolved. It is self-evident that I can touch on only certain of
these problems.

Human psychology is concerned with the activity of concrete
individuals that takes place either in conditions of open association,
in the midst of people, or eye to eye with the surrounding object
world – before the potter’s wheel or behind the writing desk. Under
whatever kind of conditions and forms human activity takes place,
whatever kind of structure it assumes, it must not be considered as
isolated from social relations, from the life of society. In all of
its distinctness, the activity of the human individual represents a
system included in the system of relationships of society. Outside
these relationships human activity simply does not exist. Just how it
exists is determined by those forms and material and spiritual means
(Verkehr) that result from the development of production and that
cannot be realized otherwise than in the concrete activity of people.

It is self-evident that the activity of every individual man depends
on his place in society, on the conditions that are his lot, and on
how this lot is worked out in unique, individual circumstances.

It is particularly important to guard against understanding human
activity as a relationship that exists between man and an opposing
society. This must be stressed because psychology is now being flooded
with positivist conceptions that are in every way imposing the idea of
opposition of the human individual to society. For man society
constitutes only that external environment to which he is forced to
accommodate, in order not to appear “nonadapted,” and to survive in
exactly the same way as an animal is forced to adapt to an external,
natural environment. From this point of view human activity is formed
as a result of its reinforcement, even if not direct reinforcement
(for example, through evaluation expressed by a “reviewer” group).
In this the main point is lost – the fact that in society a man finds
not simply external conditions to which he must accommodate his
activity, but that these same social conditions carry in themselves
motives and goals of his activity, his means and methods; in a word,
society produces the activity of the individuals forming it. Of
course, this does not mean at all that their activity only personifies
the relationships of society and its culture. There are complex
transformations and transitions that connect them so that no direct
information of one to the other is possible. For a psychology that is
limited by the concept “socialization” of the psyche of the
individual without its further analysis, these transformations remain
a genuine secret. This psychological secret is revealed only in the
investigations of the genesis of human activity and its internal

A basic or, as is sometimes said, a constituting characteristic of
activity is its objectivity. Properly, the concept of its object
(Gegenständ) is already implicitly contained in the very concept of
activity. The expression “objectless activity” is devoid of any
meaning. Activity may seem objectless, but scientific investigation of
activity necessarily requires discovering its object. Thus, the object
of activity is twofold: first, in its independent existence as
subordinating to itself and transforming the activity of the subject;
second, as an image of the object, as a product of its property of
psychological reflection that is realized as an activity of the
subject and cannot exist otherwise.

In the very beginning of activity and psychological reflection their
objective nature is disclosed. Thus it was shown that the life of
organisms in a homogeneous, even though changing, medium may develop
only in the form of complication of that system of elementary
functions that sustain their existence. Only in a transition to life
in a discrete medium – that is, to life in a world of objects that
affect processes, that have a direct biotic significance are processes
built up resulting from activities that may be neutral and abiotic in
themselves but that orient it in relation to activity of the first
kind. The formation of these processes that facilitate fundamental
vital functions takes place because biotic properties of the object
(for instance, its nutritional properties) are as if hidden behind
other “superficial” properties. These properties are superficial in
the sense that before the effects of biotic activity can be tested, it
is necessary, figuratively speaking, to pass through these properties
(for example, mechanical properties of a hard body in relation to its
chemical properties).

Of course, I am omitting here any statement of the concrete,
scientific basis for the theoretical positions referred to, just as I
have in the evaluation of the problem of their internal connections
with the teaching of I. P. Pavlov about the signal function of
conditional stimuli and about orientating reflexes; I have explained
both of these points in other papers.

Thus the prehistory of human activity begins when the life processes
acquire objectivity. This implies also the appearance of elementary
forms of psychic reflection – the transformation of irritability
(irribilitas) into sensitivity (sensibilitas), into the “capacity for

Further evolution of behavior and the psyche of animals may be
adequately understood specifically as a history of the development of
the objective content of activity. At every new stage there appeared
an ever more complete subordination of effect or processes of activity
to objective connections and relations of the properties of the
objects with which the animals interacted. The objective world seemed
all the more to “intrude” into activity. Thus the movement of an
animal along a fence is subordinated to the “geometry,” becomes
assimilated by it, and carries it within itself; the movement of a
jump is subordinated to the objective metrics of the environment and
the selection of a way around, to interobject relationships.

The development of the objective content of activity finds its
expression in subsequent development of psychic reflection, which
regulates the activity in the objective environment.

All activity has a circular structure: initial afferentation →
effector processes regulating contacts with the objective environment
→ correction and enrichment by means of reverse connections of the
original afferent image. Now the circular character of the processes
that realize the interaction of the organism with the environment
appears to be universally recognized and sufficiently well described
in the literature. The main point, however, is not the circular
structure in itself but that the psychic reflection of the object
world is generated directly not by external forces (including among
these “reverse” forces) but by those processes through which the
subject enters into practical contact with the object world, and
which, for this reason, are necessarily subordinated to his
independent properties, connections, and relations. This means that
the “afferentator” that directs the processes of activity initially
is the object itself and only secondarily its image as a subjective
product of activity that fixes, stabilizes, and carries in itself its
objective content. In other words, a double transfer is realized: the
transfer object → process of activity, and the transfer activity →
its subjective product. But the transfer of the process into the form
of the product does not take place only at the pole of the subject.
Even more clearly it takes place at the pole of the object transformed
by human activity; in this case the activity of the subject
controlling the psychic image is transferred into an “extinction
property” (ruhende Eigenschaft) of its objective product.

At first glance it seems that the representation about the objective
nature of the psyche refers only to the sphere of proper cognitive
processes; this concept seems not to be applied to the sphere of needs
and emotions. This, however, is not so.

The views of the emotional-need sphere as a sphere of states and
processes, the nature of which lies in the subject himself and which
only change their appearances under the pressure of external
conditions, are based on a merging in essence of various categories, a
merging that makes itself evident especially in the problem of needs.

In the psychology of needs it is necessary from the very beginning to
proceed from the following fundamental distinction: the distinction of
need as an internal condition, as one of the necessary precursors of
activity, and need as that which directs and regulates concrete
activity of the subject in an objective environment. “Hunger is
capable of raising an animal up on its feet, capable of giving the
hunt a more or less fervent character, but there is no element in
hunger that would direct the hunt one way or another or modify it to
make it conform to the requirements of the location or of chance
meetings,” wrote Sechenov. Need is an object of psychological
cognition especially in its directing function. In the first place,
need appears only as a condition of the need of the organism and is in
itself not capable of evoking any kind of positively directed
activity; its function is limited to the activation of appropriate
biological function and general excitation of the motor sphere
apparent in nondirected seeking movements. Only as a result of its
“meeting” with an object that answers it does it first become
capable of directing and regulating activity.

The meeting of need with object is an extraordinary act. Charles
Darwin noted it in his time; certain data of I. P. Pavlov support it;
D. N. Uznadze speaks about it as a condition for the beginning of
purpose; and contemporary etiologists give it a brilliant description.
This extraordinary act is an act objectifying need, “filling” it
with content derived from the surrounding world. This is what brings
need to a truly psychological level.

The development of needs at this level takes place in the form of
development of their objective content. Incidentally, it may be said
that this condition makes it possible to understand the appearance in
man of new needs, including those that have no analogues in animals,
are not “connected” to biological needs of the organism, and, in
this sense, appear “automatic“. Their formation is explained by the
fact that in human society needed objects are produced and owing to
this the needs themselves are produced.

Thus needs direct activity on the part of the subject, but they are
capable of fulfilling this function only under conditions that they
are objects. From this arises the possibility of the reversal of terms
that allowed K. Lewin to speak about the motivating force of objects
themselves (Aufforderungscharakter).

No different is the situation with emotion and feelings. Here too it
is necessary to distinguish, on the one hand, nonobjective, aesthetic,
authentic conditions and other proper emotions and feelings aroused by
the relationship between the objective activity of the subject and his
needs and motives. But it is necessary to speak about this separately.
In connection with the analysis of activity, it is sufficient to
indicate that objectivity of activity is responsible not only for the
objective character of images but also for the objectivity of needs,
emotions, and feelings.

Of course, the process of development of objective content of needs is
not one-sided. Its other side consists of the fact that the object of
activity in itself appears to the subject as fulfilling one of his
needs or another. Thus needs arouse activity and direct it on the part
of the subject, but they are incapable of fulfilling those functions
in such a way that they appear objective.


On Dec 9, 2008, at 2:39 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

> Jennifer,
> 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 construal.
> 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.
> Andy
> 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
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Received on Wed Dec 10 20:39:20 2008

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