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Re: [xmca] Institutions and concepts

Overnight I have added and amended it a little. I will dress it up a bit and post it for Bruce to put on the "Papers" page, for comparison if you like.
We should ask of any concept of social subject-object:

1. What is its unit?
2. Is it dead or alive?
3. How does it motivate actions?
4. How is it composed? (texts/artefacts, actions, people, Nature, metaphysical entities, etc).

Larry, yes I think it is fair to say that each approach makes a conception of something which exists in let us say, the public sphere, something everyone knows, and casts it into a cerain theoretical frame. Each frame provides and excludes certain insights. Nice to be able to move from one approach to another safely and knowingly.

I like "project" because it gives me Activity Theory access to the entire body of Hegel's immensely rich insights (such as concepts), it avoids AN Leontyev's objectivism and functionalism, it is alive, and unlike "Figured World," "Genre" and "Field" it conveys the idea of joint activity, rather than emphasising individual competition. "Social movement" is good, but implies too restricted a scope of applicability.

I think "institution" conveys the idea of a project which has become solidified or dead, and more or less corresponds to the common meaning given to the word without specialized theory.


mike cole wrote:
Andy-- It would be interesting to array your list along side of the
historical genealogy that has grown from Arne Raithel's early genealology of

On Sat, Mar 27, 2010 at 9:20 AM, Larry Purss <lpurss@shaw.ca> wrote:

I find this list fascinating and intriguing.
Each term has different conceptual frames but all are trying to map similar
Why are you recommending "projects" and "institutions" as more coherent
terms than some of the other discourse terms?
My reason for liking your term "institutions" is very particular to my
working in schools as the world arena where intersubjective constitution is
Since everyone recognizes schools as institutional structures which "frame"
(A term I particulary like and use all the time with students) particular
patterns of interaction, then elaborating the notion of "institution" has a
good chance to be easily transferable to the "educational" discourse
"genres" (Another term I like)

I recognize your "project" which emphasize HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT of ideas
and frames and genres as very helpful to how we map the terrain. For example
the article you posted on Kant highlights the 1920's as a particular
historical moment in Germany which created new "frames" and "projects" which
have supported further institutional developments.  Martin, as you point out
we are still currently engaged in "reading" these "texts" both as
"historical" documents BUT also our current discourse is still articulating
responses to Kant and  Hegel, but without our understanding the historical
roots of our discourse.
Your elaboration of the epistemology/ontology tension and the historical
location of this tension in 1920's Germany is a fascinating "narrative."

Once again, thanks for this psychological tool. I'm thinking of framing it
and putting it next to my computer as I think out loud. (Mead's
conversational gesture)


----- Original Message -----
From: Tony Whitson <twhitson@UDel.Edu>
Date: Friday, March 26, 2010 8:50 pm
Subject: Re: [xmca] Institutions and concepts
To: ablunden@mira.net, "eXtended Mind, Culture,   Activity" <

Thanks, Andy; this is extremely useful.

I would add this:
Stephen Toulmin: Concepts as micro-institutions (according to my
which is less reliable at this hour)

I have something on this in my chapter in the Kirshner & Whitson
book on Situated Cognition. See
On Sat, 27 Mar 2010, Andy Blunden wrote:

mike cole wrote:
Perhaps I am agreeing with Andy about the linkages between
concepts, which is also a linkage between activities and concepts.
Mike, I would like to mention the following semantic
connections which I
think CHAT needs to pay attention to if we are to talk to the
numerous other
currents who share our domain of enquiry.

Institution = Discourse  (Foucault)
           = Practico-intert (Sartre)
           = Object (Hegel)
           = Activity (ANL, def. by object)
           = Genre (Bakhtin)
           = Frame (Goffman)
           = Tradition (Gadamer)
           = Figured world (D Holland)
           = Activity System (Engestrom?)
           = Social formation (Marx)
           = Field (Bourdieu)
which is a dead or solidified ...?
Project     for Schmit
           for Hegelians like Pinkard and Andy
           for Existentialists (Sartre, Heidegger?)
Gestalt des consciousness for Hegel
momentary   = context
           = situation

Projects & Institutions have as Units ... ?
           = Concept
            = Action (ANL)
            = Text?

obviously none of the = are really =, because they involve
conceptual frames. Which is my point, I guess.


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Tony Whitson
UD School of Education
NEWARK  DE  19716


"those who fail to reread
  are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                   -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435 Skype andy.blunden
Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:

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