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RE: [xmca] Anthony Wilden: A thought

Lois, towards the end of your essay (a pleasure to read), you wrote:

"It is people—Marx made plain—who change the world. But what kind of people? The common and “correct” answer is, “The working class” or “The proletariat.” Newman’s answer is, “People who are developing.” (People—young, old and in- between—such as the ones you saw in the slides.) Development—for individuals, for “the class” and for the species—doesn’t come from some abstract ideological commitment to being a better person or to making a better world, but only from a participatory process in which people exercise their collective power to create new environments and new emotional growth."

and it got me to thinking about Foucault's take on 'people'.

“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does.” 
― Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason.

three examples of this i would submit are China's incursion into Tibet; American incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan; the refusal of the Egyptian military to give up their power.  in every case leaders assert that they know what they're doing - but they've clearly not got a clue what they do does.

Michael Bess, at the time a history grad student at University of California, Berkeley, did an interview with Michel Foucault in San Francisco, 1980.  it was published in a journal Vanderbilt in 1988, i believe.

while much of our present conversation has been about the miseries brought upon this planet due to capitalism, or communism, or militarism, i feel that we're missing the main point if we think that economic or political systems are the problem.  the difficulty in human existence lies in our great human capacity to oppress difference regardless our ideologies, politics or economics.  rather, these practices are always used to rationalize and support multiple forms of oppressions.

here's an excerpt from Bess' interview that suggests what i'm getting at, and perhaps an answer for why people don't know what they do does:

Bess' Question: Is it intrinsic to the existence of human beings that their organization will result in a repressive form of power?
Foucault: Oh yes. Of course. As soon as there are people who find themselves in a position (within the system of power relations) where they can act upon other people, and determine the life, the behavior, of other people—well, the life of those other people will not be very free. As a result, depending on the threshold of tolerance, depending on a whole lot of variables, the situation will be more or less accepted, but it will never be totally accepted. There will always be those who rebel, who resist.

so, what i'm asserting is that all forms of community practices, regardless whether found in systems of nationhood, or tribalism, agrarian or not, we practice multiple forms of repression.  we westerners sometimes succumb to a utopian belief of a lost eden - and that if we could only get rid of religion, or the aristocracy, the middle class, the capitalists, the ......, the ....., the .......  then then then then ......... (define your brave new world).  

CHAT as a theory can be used just as successfully by nazis, by lesbian community organizers, by - again, name your favorite organization.  

the outcome of research that utilizes CHAT is a direct reflection of the researcher's values and beliefs and hope and dreams.

Vygotsky's hope was for the Soviet Man.

you and Fred have hopes and dreams for equity and sorority, amongst over values.  (which i too support.)

but for such dreams to succeed it's going to take more than changes in systems of practice.

anyway - my two-bits  :

does what i write make any sense?


Phillip White, PhD
University of Colorado Denver
School of Education
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Lois Holzman [lholzman@eastsideinstitute.org]
Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 8:08 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Anthony Wilden: A thought

Robert and others interested in this topic,

You might find a talk I just gave to Chinese Marxist philosophers interesting.
You can find it at my blog http://loisholzman.org
or go directly to the download at


Don't forget to check out the latest at http://loisholzman.org

Lois Holzman, Ph.D.
Director, East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy
920 Broadway, 14th floor
New York NY 10010
Chair, Global Outreach for UX (www.allstars.org/ux)
tel. 212.941.8906 ext. 324
fax 718.797.3966

On Nov 22, 2011, at 2:18 PM, Robert Lake wrote:

> I love the Marx quote too Mike.
> It answers many questions about his views in this short passage,
> which certainly had an impact on LSV.
> BTW it is from his 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and can be
> found at:
> http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/preface.htm
> It is only in a social context that subjectivism and objectivism,
> spiritualism and materialism, activity and passivity, cease to be
> antinomies and thus cease to exist as such antinomies. The resolution of
> the theoretical contradictions is possible only through practical means,
> only through the practical energy of man. Their resolution is not by any
> means, therefore, only a problem of knowledge, but is a real problem of
> life which philosophy was unable to solve precisely because it saw there a
> purely theoretical problem
> Robert
> On Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 1:18 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
>> AT the bottom of the following passage, from Anthony Wilden's *System and
>> Structure*, is a quotation
>> from Marx that we have been thinking about here recently. The passage is
>> from an Essay on Montaigne on the paradoxes of individualism. I find a lot
>> of the ideas in the book and the essay interesting. But in what is below I
>> found myself reading the
>> paragraph that precedes the Marx and was caught by his observation, which I
>> encountered at just the right time, about the digital
>> being viewed as a means of exploitation, not in the service of social
>> relations.
>> Today, of course, we see the digital in relationship to the social quite
>> differently, but still, here we are concerned with the
>> issue of reduction to the digital and the liquidity of modern capitalism.
>> The Marx has special resonance with us because we feel just exactly the
>> melting of binaries in our community learning
>> activities. The going back and forth is mind expanding.
>> mike
>> -----------------------
>> The only avenue of metacommunication that can escape the oscillations
>> of the individualistic ethic on which the paradoxical injunction depends in
>> our present pathological context, is that of the collective praxis of human
>> kind: the reduction of the digital to its natural function as an instrument
>> of
>> relationship, where now it is an exploitative device. For whereas there is
>> no
>> possibility - and no necessity - of overcoming our relation to Otherness,
>> and no need for a metalanguage which will disprove Godel, there will
>> eventually have to be devised a way of overcoming our present enslavement
>> to the Imaginary Other. This enslavement depends on a value-system
>> based on the maintenance of exploitative oppositions and identities. If our
>> species is to survive, humankind must find a way of reintroducing the
>> mediating function of difference and similarity into the social ecosystem.
>> As the young Marx put it (1844: 162):
>> It is only in a social context that subjectivism and objectivism,
>> spiritual-
>> ism and materialism, activity and passivity cease to be antinomies, and
>> thus cease to exist as such antinomies. The resolution of the THEORETICAL
>> contradictions is possible ONLY through practical means, only through the
>> PRACTICAL energy of man.
>> (Caps in original wilden, do not know about original marx.)
>> __________________________________________
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> --
> *Robert Lake  Ed.D.
> *Assistant Professor
> Social Foundations of Education
> Dept. of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
> Georgia Southern University
> P. O. Box 8144
> Phone: (912) 478-5125
> Fax: (912) 478-5382
> Statesboro, GA  30460
> *Democracy must be born anew in every generation, and education is its
> midwife.*
> *-*John Dewey.
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