Re: [xmca] motive/project

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Fri Dec 19 2008 - 14:53:49 PST


I don't think it's a question of an interaction orienting to the macro. It's
an interaction orienting to another interaction, which in turn orients....

Habermas has perhaps most forcefully pursued the notion that one needs to
pay attention to both system and lifeworld. But it's an attempt to merge a
Schutzian phenomenology with Parsonian functionalism that (having tried to
use it in Changing Classes) I don't find convincing. It's clear from the
current events in the US that "systems" and "structures" which those with
power would prefer us all to think of as big and objective, macro and
natural, outside the reach of human agency, are in fact fragile and
contingent. One man's greed and dishonesty can remove $50 billion from "the
world economic system." The repercussions in Israel, for example, show how
the links from one local to another span the globe/global.


On 12/19/08 1:46 PM, "Wolff-Michael Roth" <> wrote:

> Martin,
> I have struggled with the claim about the non-distinction between
> micro and macro. If you just look at interactions, then the
> orientation to the macro does not always come out, as D. E. Smith
> points out and therefore suggests institutional analysis, which is a
> combination of macro and ethno. If everyone uses the term 'standard
> north american family' or 'single-parent family', then the very
> societal processes that formulated these terms are out of view. By
> using them, you immediately play into the hand of sociologists,
> psychologists, and the relations of power that only benefit (getting
> grants, suppressing) by labeling someone like her. Her describing
> herself as a 'single-parent' reproduces the very structure and
> relation of power that leads to being 'specially treated' on the part
> of schools, administrations, teachers. The Leont'ev follower K.
> Holzkamp also deals with this, suggesting that you need both (a)
> identify the lifeworld and (b) the structures that are inaccessible
> from within the lifeworld.
> Michael
> On 19-Dec-08, at 10:29 AM, Martin Packer wrote:
> Paul,
> The strength I see of some of the sociologists that Peter and Ana
> turned to
> - especially Garfinkel - was their insistence that there should be no
> dichotomy/distinction between macro and micro, and that once one has
> drawn
> such a distinction the struggle to overcome it, either conceptually or
> empirically, is never-ending. I read you as suggesting that 'class'
> seems
> initially to be a grand societal structure, but as we analyze it, it
> turns
> turn out to be produced by everyday social interactions. That's not
> to say
> that class is 'really' something local or small, but rather that
> seemingly
> small and local events can have larger consequences, and that
> everything/everwhere is local (or if you prefer global!). In more
> Garfinkelesque terms, social order - including the recognition there
> there
> *is* a stable, enduring class structure - is an achievement of people's
> ongoing activity. It's not that society is something separate,
> "influencing"
> local interactions. In Latour's terms, we continually "assemble" the
> social,
> and there is no 'larger stuff' such as 'a society' except insofar as
> it too
> is assembled by technologies that totalize (surveys, maps, grand
> narratives,
> political rhetoric, etc). A capitalist economy *is* the movement of
> commodities (including money) and when they stop moving (as is the
> case at
> present) the economy starts to cease to exist.
> Martin
> On 12/19/08 1:06 PM, "Paul Dillon" <> wrote:
>> 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.
>> Paul
>> --- On Fri, 12/19/08, <>
>> wrote:
>> From: <>
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] motive/project
>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
>> Date: Friday, December 19, 2008, 9:07
>> AM
>> 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
>> process.
>> 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
>> eric
>> Martin Packer
>> <> To: "eXtended
>> Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
>> Sent by: cc:
>> xmca-bounces@web Subject: Re: [xmca]
>> motive/project
>> 12/19/2008 09:47
>> AM
>> Please respond
>> to "eXtended
>> Mind, Culture,
>> Activity"
>> Andy,
>> 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
>> of
>> analysis was based on the presumption that it contains the key
>> contradiction
>> 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.
>> Martin
>> 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
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