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

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Mon Dec 15 2008 - 16:10:08 PST

Peter-- Seeing Paul posting a message for you sent me back to the many
message I have been missing these days and found this one.

Thanks for taking the time to respond and expand on your thoughts. And I
agree, it would be interesting to see what Paul could write up on Shutz and


On Wed, Dec 10, 2008 at 3:46 PM, Peter Sawchuk <>wrote:

> HI There,
> I hope I am responding to this message on the list properly. (I can seem to
> find instructions on how to respond to messsages within the XMCA site
> itself). My apologies if this doesn't get through to everyone.
> =============
> Sawchuk Response:
> I think Harry's first excerpt from Bernstein is on the money. This has
> always been my concern for the development of Marxist thought as well which
> eventually drew me to, among other traditions, CHAT back when.
> In response to Mike and Paul's comments.
> First, in relation to Mike's point on link between scholarship and activism
> it is remarkable the parallel that this point has in classic sociological
> literature. Some of those who've attempted overviews of the field, a few
> referenced in the article, have talked about the way Marx's scholarship and
> activism were kept separate in many critiques minds. From the Marxist
> sociology perspective this is treated like a type of mis-reading of his
> epistemology which is why Anna and I made some comments around Kant around
> the section quoting Tom Bottomore in the article. My view is that the same
> basic thing is applicable to LSV. A side piece to this is the question of
> pro forma or bone fide Marxism in LSV's approach that I mentioned in my post
> regarding Jennifer's comments. I find it fascinating however this question
> of what, exactly, was available in translation, when, and what exactly was
> on Vygotsky's shelf as it were since it is another type of entry point,
> albeit llimited, into understanding his broader project. It does seem clear
> to me that the impllications run through the corpus, even as we all are when
> we write something, specific pieces are constrained by those matters and
> authors with which/whom he is in some form of dialogue. One final thing to
> add regarding Mike's posting is simply that from my perspective and indeed
> those Marxist and non-Marxist who've consider the matter, there is no reason
> for not generating dialogues across any of the other cognate disciplines
> mentioned. Anna and I's piece is simply one attempt to add a piece to this
> project regarding a specific set of concepts (related to "conduct") in the
> field of Euro-American sociology and Mike's comments about the sense of
> freedom associated with the field of Communications runs parallel to my
> feelings as a sociologist within the field of Education.
> Second in relation to Paul's concerns: Indeed, the article was necessarily
> selective, though obviously I don't agree with the idea that it was
> arbitrary. Our goal was to try to open up an engagement with sociology
> specifically on the concept of conduct, as we said in the article. I
> completely agree with a human sciences approach that seeks to overcome
> disciplinary boundaries. For this article, however, we began from the notion
> that the discipline of sociology has been constructed and exists in the
> context of moving forward toward the type of dialogue that might eventually
> make a genuine inter- if not trans-disciplinary human sciences approach
> possible. It is up to others to write the paper on anthropology, history,
> etc. (or more on sociology for that matter) and their possible relations
> with CHAT. In any case, choices to be made for this type of article are
> many, and we decided that two basic selection mechanisms were useful to deal
> with the challenge. First, that we should begin from a mainstream,
> conventional narrative of sociology as a discipline to maximize
> recognizability of the thoughts we were outlining as well as to open up
> questions as close to the heart of the accepted core of the discipline as we
> could manage. So very many authors were considered for this piece including
> all those mentioned by Paul with the exception of Habermas. Those selected
> are clearly identified with the discipline of sociology (as opposed to
> anthropology, cultural studies, etc.). Obviously some could not be addressed
> and it did not seem relevant to simply list a whole range of names and not
> attempt to actually say something substantive about them. Second, it is
> important to remember this was not a review of the field of sociology but
> rather a look at those who devoted significant time to questions explicitly
> recognizable as dealing with a theory of conduct specifically. Remembering
> this explains why some of the people that Paul mentions are not included.
> What is clear is that this focus on conduct can easily explode into so many
> different matters of, for example, structure/agency, meaning-making, etc.,
> etc., etc. and obviously this was a challenge, but these were (to my mind
> very conventional) selections that formed a reasonable starting point within
> the limits of space.
> On the matter of ignoring elements of the work of the authors we did engage
> with, our decision was to focus on points within their discussions of
> conduct we thought most possible for being taken up by those building a
> non-cannonical CHAT approach. Again, this was done selectively, but to our
> minds not arbitrarily. In terms of Parsons, the unit act and chains of
> action were, to us, the most suitable things to mention. There is a common
> sense quality to the connection between these ideas and those related to
> action, motive and object-relatedness to our minds; Parsons' four structural
> levels were, though relevant to an understanding of Parsons, to our minds
> one step removed from his theory of social action. Berger (though not
> Luckman) was mentioned but our view is that while distinctive in its own way
> it is positioned, as it is conventionally done in the field of sociology,
> within or connected with the Weberian tradition that we took space to
> discuss. Discussion of Schutz in the piece accurately reports his discussion
> of relations between social action, internal-time and inter-subjectivity
> building on Weber's sociology and Husserl.
> I honestly don't have the time to walk through all the possibilities here.
> In all cases, one can imagine that were he or she to sit down and try to
> write an article of this type the choices not just who to deal with but what
> aspect of their corpus to focus upon, are constrained by space. The choice
> that Anna and I had to make was whether or not to do this in a book or
> journal article. We obviously decided to begin with the journal article as a
> first step despite the constraints.
> It does make sense to say one thing more about the question of Bourdieu
> that Paul raises. It is an excellent one, at least to me (I won't speak for
> Anna on this question). I agree that there is a case to be made that
> Bourdieu could have been included even using the type of selection
> mechanisms that Anna and I adopted. At the same time however, I can imagine
> an argument that his work (particularly the early work that Paul cites) is,
> or is at minimal taken up in mainstream sociology, less as an example of a
> theory of conduct as it is concerned with the structuring process. This is
> expressed, for example, by the persistent critique (partially founded /
> partially unfounded) of his work for its lack of attention to agency and
> resistance (I've argued that this is due to his conceptualization of
> field/capital and is solvable when we take up and apply his concept of
> habitus as a central mediating artefact subject to change the course of the
> developmental activity). Perhaps the fact that my own work has dealt with
> Bourdieu quite a bit (I've already devoted a good portion of a book to the
> linkage between Bourdieu and CHAT in fact) played a role in his exclusion at
> some level. Were Anna and I to have had another thousand words to work with,
> however, I suspect that Bourdieu would have been one of the first things on
> our list of additions.
> *
> *Paul suggests that the map figure we provide is also arbitrary, and I
> don't think that is a warranted criticism. The figure attempts to provide a
> spatial expression of particular contributions to understanding conduct in
> relation to three key CHAT concepts: activity, goals and operations.
> Best wishes - Peter
> * writes:
> *Hi Paul-- I am among those who are convinced that LSV and his colleagues
> were in fact avid supporters
> of the revolution in Russia. Very I also believe that Jaan and Rene were
> dead wrong that the "troika" and "pyatorka" were post hoc myths. But your
> note brings back over threshold my questions about the relation of their
> scholarship to their activism (I would use the term, bolshevism, but I am
> pretty sure that Luria was a kind of tolstoyan reformist when he met LSV and
> have little idea about Leontiev's early history in this regard). Psychology
> of Art, chapter 1 is the earliest source I know of in LSV's work where his
> links to Marx are made crystal clear, but maybe pedagogical psych was
> written earlier, Anna would know, and I hope she enlightens on this score,
> or some ones of our other Russian psych history buffs on xmca.
> Looking back, we can say that they advocated something like "transformative
> collective activity" as their common program. But can we see this in work
> printed before, say, 1929, when Stalinism began to make itself felt? In the
> three articles printed in English in J of Genetic Psych is this program made
> clear? They were all written by about 1930. These aspirations seem crystal
> clear in various of their undertakings (LSV at the inst of defectology, ARL
> in his work with homeless orphans), but where is it in their academic,
> empirical work? (Note, I am not saying it is not there, but asking, where is
> it?). The Vygotsky/Sakharov research
> that Paula has brought back to our attention? Leontiev's work on mediated
> memory? Luria's attempt to solve the riddle of knowing what someone else is
> thinking through the combined motor method?
> Another BIG issue you touch on is an effort to unite CHAT theorists within
> any modern discipline. Sociology and psychology without anthropology,
> linguistics, aesthetics, evolutionary biology? How could it be done? I kinda
> like Communication as a home base precisely because joint mediated activity
> is its central concept and is possible to bring all the different fragmented
> parts of late 19th century humane sciences back together, sort of.
> I think these issues are worth considering because it is linked to the idea
> of current research in their tradition (I would call THAT tradition
> canonical, actually, not the other way around.... a perspectival shift owing
> to age and historical location probably). Vygotsky's work with retarded
> kids, work with the blind-deaf, in preschools, and of course the brain
> damaged, were all hallmarks of the work these people did. Among whom, and
> for what ends, are people in this tradititon now working?
> Not incidently, I think the prior writings of Harry Daniels about Bernstein
> are of relevance here. Not sure where has disappeared to, perhaps taking in
> the Bath(s)? :-)) I'll cc him.
> I think we all owe Anna and Peter a debt of gratitude for opening up these
> important issues. But it sure would be nice to see them discussed in a way
> where a positive program of transformative collaborative
> activity emerged.
> Or, Paul, are you saying it can't happen under capitalism, so why bother?
> mike
> of socio-cultural development) would no longer disfigure human
> personality. Sadly, as S&S make clear in the article, this inspiration of
> the early years of the Russian Revolution did not survive and flourish.
> The authors point to three key elements of the CHAT tradition and use them
> to situate the sample of sociologists they choose to discuss: a)material
> production,, 2) intersubjective exchange, 3) subjectivity. It's not at all
> clear to me that these glosses capture the direction of a "psychology of
> liberation" or that they provide a useful triangulation for sociological
> theory.
> The authors point out that the goal of exploring how particular social
> structures, with their power constellations and systems of privilege shape
> development has not typically been pursued within CHAT. Yes, yes, and again
> yes. There is some kind of fanciful dream that the Vygotskian lineage can
> develop its original aim within capitalist society and consequently we see
> multiple "reinterpretations" by academic mega-stars whose names will surely
> be forgotten in a few decades, as the name of those who won prizes in Paris
> while Van Gogh suffered in anonymity.
> But the article didn't live up to my hopes for several reasons.
> The Review of Sociological Theory was really spotty, arbitrarily
> selective. For example:
> Durkheim: social facts, what about Mauss? Was Durkheim a sociologist or
> an anthropologist? Do these disciplinary distinctions matter. If so, it
> wasn't explained why? If not, what about the entire tradition of
> anthropological theories about culture and society?
> Social Action v. Theories of Enactment.
> Weber. - summary of Parsons somewhat strange, ignorying Parson's four
> structural levels etc.
> Garfinkel, ethnomethodology, what about Berger and Luckman?
> Attempts at integration of social action and enactment, but the dismissal
> of Bourdieu really weird, inexcusable? Giddens is really both derivative
> of and much less influential than Bourdieu. Not to mention his sychophantic
> brown-nosing in the Blair administration in contrast to Bourdieu's active
> opposition to the depredations of global capitalism. Furthermore, unlike
> Bourdieu, he did not carry out important on-the-ground research comparable
> to Bourdieu's "Distinction" or the ground-breaking Kabyle research—
> Furthermore, in whose scheme of things if Judith Butler (though dismissed)
> considered an important sociological theorist – why not other feminist or
> queer theorists, not to mention that she is also someone who has not
> published significant primary research; in this vein, where are Zizek, La
> Clau, Mouffe, and others who attempt a post-modern integration (is it
> "deconstruction" or disintegration we're talking about here)?
> Really, Gramsci has a lot more to offer than Giddens, etc.
> Discussion of Schutz very interesting but to say he was "heavily influenced
> by Husserl" ignores the fact that he was Husserl's student and that most of
> Schutz's most important ideas can be found in Husserl's "Ideas II". Factual
> errors: Schutz's horizons of temporality are not "past now", "now" and
> "future now" but "ancestors", "contemporaries", and "descendants which also
> also derive from Husserl's "retention", "present", and "protention". ". The
> concepts of "past now", "now" and "future now" don't make any sense and
> their very incoherence was criticized way back in 1960 by Friedrich Kummel,
> nor can such glosses deal with the fundamental problem of phenomenology or
> any serious investigation of temporality: i.e., the incompatibility of
> duration (within which the so-called NOW happens) and succession . All talk
> about "time scales" here on xmca throughout thee years and elsewhere
> simply overlooks "duration"d i.e., – Husserl's "melody" – and hence can
> provide no real understanding of the rrelationship between meaning and
> existence which is a central issue in CHAT.
> And what about the elephant in the living room: Jurgen Habermas, not to
> mention various other giraffes and rhinocerii roaming the house, such as
> G.H. Mead (obviously key to all that followed in the Garfinkel tradition),
> or Thomas Merton, C. Wright Mills, and others. This all goes to the
> arbitrariness and spottiness of the discussion of sociological theory.
> Finally, how does the placement of the arbitarily selected sociologists
> into a triangle whose nodes are similarly arbitrary lead to a realization of
> Marx's 11th Thesis on Feuerbach that Vygotsky's psychology and the best of
> CHAT tradition have sought? Doesn't it just lead to more academic
> commodities that don't lead to social transformation but to another form of
> consumption.
> Wishing everyone the best of the Holiday Season!
> Paul Dillon
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> <>
> _______________________
> Peter H. Sawchuk, PhD
> Associate Professor
> Sociology and Equity Studies in Education
> Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
> University of Toronto
> 252 Bloor Street West
> Toronto, Ontario, Canada
> M5S 1V6
> (t) 416-978-0570
> (e)
> (f) 416-926-4751
> To find out about the Learning & Work Graduate Studies Program at OISE/UT:
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Received on Mon Dec 15 16:10:36 2008

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