Re: [xmca] motive/project

From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at>
Date: Fri Dec 19 2008 - 10:06:16 PST

Andy, Martin, everyone,

I have a problem with Andy's idea of "choosing a unit of analysis".  Doesn't the unit analysis come out of a process of movement from the abstract to the concrete, a process that Marx first described in the Grundrisse, "The Method of Political Economy"? 

I haven't read all of Vygotsky, really glad to have gotten mike and david's freebies,  but as I understand what I have read, didn't he adopt a similar procedure when coming up with "word-meaning" as a unit of analysis?

I continue to mull over this question of linking the smaller systems of social interaction that are the "pan de todos los dias" (can't think of a good translation) of CHAT to the larger macro-structures towards which Sociology orients itself: class. strata, ideology, forms of authority, legitimacy, social structure in general, etc..  Wouldn't these "notions" be comparable to the abstractions with which we begin the journey, they are totally abstract.  Marx wrote:

When we consider a given country politico-economically, we begin
with its population, its distribution among classes, town, country, the coast,
the different branches of production, export and import, annual production and
consumption, commodity prices etc.

It seems to be correct to
begin with the real and the concrete, with the real precondition, thus to
begin, in economics, with e.g. the population, which is the foundation and the
subject of the entire social act of production.  However, on closer examination
this proves false. The population is an abstraction if I leave out, for
example, the classes of which it is composed. These classes in turn are an
empty phrase if I am not familiar with the elements on which they rest. E.g.
wage labour, capital, etc. These latter in turn presuppose exchange, division
of labour, prices, etc. For example, capital is nothing without wage labour,
without value, money, price etc. Thus, if I were to begin with the population,
this would be a chaotic conception [Vorstellung] of the whole, and I
would then, by means of further determination, move analytically towards ever
more simple concepts [Begriff], from the imagined concrete towards
ever thinner abstractions until I had arrived at the simplest determinations.

I don't clearly understand Andy's idea of substituting the notion of "project" for activity system as a way to go beyond the meso- and micro- levels of analysis. But perhaps I've begun to grasp why Peter and Ana could place Schutz at the most central point of contact between theories concerning the manifestation of sociological macro-structures in individual "conduct" and theories concerning the intermediate formations on which  CHAT normally focuses. 

Are we just trying to hook up theories or are we trying to overcome the problem that Peter and Ana indicated in their article:  " . . . the goal of consistently exploring how particular social structures, with their power constellations and systems of privilege shape development has not typically been pursued within CHAT".  If that type of exploration  is the goal shouldn't we focus on the dimensions of power, privilege, etc. in activity systems, recognizing that these are abstractions which will give way to ever finer ones,  until we get down to that simplest determination which would define the correct unit of analysis?

Hmm. . .  still muddling along.


--- On Fri, 12/19/08, <> wrote:
From: <>
Subject: Re: [xmca] motive/project
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
Date: Friday, December 19, 2008, 9:07

I certainly have had extended thinking time on this topic lately because I
do believe it gets to the heart of the issue at hand. Consider the
following sentence:

"Appropriate an engaged activity." No motive, no desire just a

It may not fulfill the requested hermeneutic unit of anlaysis but it
certainly makes a statement about what does go on in human development in
the cultural/societal domain. just a thought


                      Martin Packer
                      <> To: "eXtended
Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
                      Sent by: cc:
                      xmca-bounces@web Subject: Re: [xmca]
                      12/19/2008 09:47
                      Please respond
                      to "eXtended
                      Mind, Culture,


I'm struggling to catch up with piles of xmca messages after a week away
from the computer, but your comment here caught my attention. Perhaps you
would agree with me that the selection of the commodity form as the unit
analysis was based on the presumption that it contains the key
of a capitalist economy. This suggests to me that the identification of a
unit has to be based on a consideration of the whole in which it is found.
And this in turn suggests that there can be no unit of analysis for
'activity' in the abstract, but rather a variety of units each of which
depends on the concrete whole which one is studying. As you suggest,
'wooing' is an activity that is possible only in the 'world' -
the form of
life - of romance. So, when we select a unit we will need to acknowledge
both the spatial and temporal discontinuities among distinct forms of life.


On 12/18/08 9:34 PM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:

> f I sing to my beloved while standing outside
> in the rain, in what sense am I "using" something? There is
> a school of thinking that would say, it makes me
 feel nice
> to be wooing my beloved, therefore I am using her to make me
> feel nice. But all that is really bankrupt, isn't it? We
> have to get into the idea of romance and find in the
> figuring of the world according to a concept of romance, a
> set of motives, which motivate the series of related
> practices which make up the universe of romantic activity.
> "Use" applies OK only to a resicted sense of motivation.
> Andy

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list
Received on Fri Dec 19 10:07:59 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Jan 06 2009 - 13:39:39 PST