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RE: [xmca] Re: Bourdieu and CHAT


The papers mentioned will be on:


By and large these papers provide examples of Bourdieu-sian perspectives that challenge one to think about how CHAT might add or differ (perhaps better). There are two papers as yet, plus my intro that Ill paste here below. There should be 2 more added shortly. Michael Roth and i are discussants, but i dont expect we will put a paper up before the conference.

NB the paper Mike has circulated - see his post on "the use of exchange vallue" - also mentions the way Bourdieu might complement CHAT.

Its interesting that Andy mentions mediation in this regard: I dont think Bourdieu explicitly uses mediation, but perhaps his use of 'capital' might helpfully be thought of as mediational. In my comments below, I could have stressed that the social-PSYCHOLOGY of Vygotsky allows fnot only for the social mediation of the psyche,but also the psychic mediation of the social (thus the importance of imagination in the origination of human action). I dont see much if anything of this notion in Bourdieu or sociology, and it is something that CHAT can contribute (Im thinking of Vygotsky on play as teh paradigm, but also Bakhtin's dialogism). I think David Swanson's paper particularly raises the issue of consciousness in Bourdieu too.

One topic that has to be tackled but is not explicitly taken up in depth is Bouridue's explicit rejection of what he calls three errors of Marxism (I think they are really all the same - in effect reductionism of culture and class to 'economy'). I think this is a big topic and one for another time...


"ISCAR symposium, Rome, 2011

Introduction to symposium: Where CHAT meets Bourdieu

Julian Williams, University of Manchester, UK.

1. I take the sociology of Bourdieu to offer some tools for understanding the societal and social that might complement Vygotsky-Leontiev’s social-psychology of education: in particular the function of the education system as reproduction, i.e. as a means for reproducing the conditions for capitalism to continue to function (Bourdieu & Passeron, Althusser). Especially, this sociology explains the power relations in the ‘field’, how class domination structures the field through ‘culturally arbitrary’ power relations, how these are misrecognised and thus allow ‘symbolic violence’, and how ideological reproduction produces a compliant new labouring class, in which ‘educational failure’ is as necessary as (some) educational ‘successes’. Power in the educational field is associated with relative positions characterised by unequal educational ‘capital’, in which mathematics plays an increasingly significant part; dominant positions are given to those who ‘pass’, dominated positions to those who ‘fail’. Eventually, educational capital becomes exchangeable for other forms of capital, including economic resources. Bourdieu’s social analysis is, then, a way of understanding how capitalism makes use of the cultural fields such as education to keep reproducing its necessary conditions.

2. I take CHAT to offer a Marxist (cultural-historical, and dialectical materialist) ‘educational psychology’, or an educational ‘social-psychology’ that provides a structure for understanding what education might ideally offer to child/adolescent development. In the ideal case, children engage with others in joint activity of learning – or better teaching-learning - that provides a ‘zone of proximal development’. Key examples of such activity include ‘play’, but also academic, scientific study (e.g. mathematics). This zone ideally allows the learner to develop what Vygotsky-Leontiev called their ‘personality’, or their social ‘self’, which means they come to acquire or understand the new social motives implied by these activities; that is, they come to experience the meaning of, or make new sense of, the joint activity. Thus, for instance, going to school may realise a ZPD if it allows learners to engage with the activity of ‘theoretical thinking’ (according to Davydov). This is not just formal engagement with ‘academic concepts’ – what Vygotsky refers to as ‘verbalism’ – however. Rather, true scientific ‘theoretical thinking’ necessitates ascending from ‘formal conceptions’ to the ’concrete’, e.g. from mathematics and science to the concrete, lived world.

3. Clearly these two perspectives hold out different potentials; and maybe I am mad to look for a synthesis. I see the difference between them in the way educational outcome is conceived by the two perspectives, i.e. as being essentially about bourgeois relations and diverse ‘capitals’ – or perhaps ‘exchange values’ - in the case of Bourdieu, and as being essentially about human social development –in my terms educational ‘use value’ - in the case of CHAT. Characteristically, the former implies the necessity of failure, at least for the many, while the latter is about the possibility of success for all (Davydov for instance claims that more or less ALL learners can become ‘gifted’ mathematicians if they are educated properly to think theoretically).

4. Where then is the synthesis? I see the synthesis in the contradictory unity of ‘use value’ and ‘exchange value’ of the (unusual) commodity of ‘labour power’ (and hence of knowledge-enhanced labour power) under capitalism. Until such time as the education system breaks free of capitalism, there will be an inevitable contradiction in the education system which produces labour power as a commodity, leading to ‘estrangement’ or alienation of many from education. In this perspective education has emerged as if designed for the maintenance of the bourgeois order, the priority for education appearing to be to ideologically reproduce (and discipline) the classes, especially the working class. However, we should not forget the ‘use value’ of labour power in production, especially in a high-value knowledge economy that requires something akin to critical thinking in design and R&D.

5. I would argue that Bourdieu has underestimated the importance of this in his own analyses: one can hardly detect in his work for instance that a civil engineer must have more than status, a ‘certificate’, and a passport into a job, but must be able to actually engineer bridges, etc. On the other hand those of us who follow Vygotsky/CHAT are likely to be puzzled by the endlessly continuing failure of the system to learn from its so-called ‘mistakes’ and ‘failures’, being unable to see that the system is actually maintained by and even requires these failures. (In the British press, one observes that there are annual complaints that the tests must be too easy because more students are passing – the failure rate is not a problem.)

6. I propose to practitioners then that progressive critical educators should seek the ‘ideal’ in their work, should work to provide a zone of proximal development within their classes for their students; but that we should be aware that we act on contested territory, that in doing so we must expect to confront entrenched interests, face opposition, and so on. And not just from the usual suspects, but from our individual students too, insofar as they buy into ‘enhancing their potential labour power’.

7. Ultimately then the policy question we must ask is, in whose interests is any proposed change in the system? Thus it comes about – if we did not know it before – that education is a key, contested arena for struggle. Increasing competition in all its forms, devaluing the arts and social sciences as against science and technology, and preparing the field for privatisation might all be seen from this perspective.

8. In the papers that follow, Bourdieu’s work is put under scrutiny from the point of view of educational research, and CHAT. Ultimately, if the preceding analysis is right, his theoretical perspective may prove useful in providing some critical tools, but will be inadequate to formulating proposals and strategies for alternatives."

From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] on behalf of Andy Blunden [ablunden@mira.net]
Sent: 23 August 2011 01:01
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: The relationship between practice and activity as       concepts

Is the "intersubjective" turn related to your topic Nathaniel? I am not
sure which writers you have in mind. But in the main contemporary
theorists who try to develop "nonmetaphysical" theories of mind don't
have a concept of mediation of interactions. You have those who see the
key relation as that between individual people and things, on one hand,
and those who see the key relation as that between an individual person
and another individual, on the other. CHAT sees the relation between
people as mediated by things and the relation of a person to things as
mediated by other people. It is this difference which I find most
characteristic of CHAT.


Nathaniel Dumas wrote:
> Julian: those papers sound great! Will there be a proceedings of the
> papers published? And your comments were spot on with what I am
> thinking about. And Andy: I agree with your comments as well--very
> helpful. Thank you both for your quick and thoughtful responses. This
> is going to make an interesting class discussion for the unit/week on
> how CHAT perspectives can complement and diverge from the practice
> turn in sociology and anthropology, especially since anthropological
> fields like language socialization rely intensely on CHAT and practice
> theory.
> Best,
> Nate
> Nathaniel Dumas
> UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow
> Department of Linguistics
> University of California, Santa Barbara
> http://ucsb.academia.edu/NathanielDumas/About
> __________________________________________
> _____
> xmca mailing list
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca

*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA:
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857

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