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Re: [xmca] vygotsky and the revolution


I wanted to thank you for the book review by George Snow, of Alexander
Etkind's "Eros of the Impossible The History of Psychoanalysis in Russia.
This book'theme and the structure look like a fascinating read.

I am currently reading a "conversation" between Richard Kearney [who
studied with P. Ricoeur] and Ricouer. The question Richard asks Ricouer
seems relevant to this thread.

Richard asks:
It appears that our modern scularized society, has abandoned the symbolic
representations or IMAGINAIRE of tradition.  Can the creative process of
reinterpretation operate if the narrative continuity with the past is

I could give Ricouer's answer to this question, but I will pause with
this posing of the question. There are a multiplicity of interpretations of
history - phenomenological, theological, psychoanalytic, structuralist,
scientific, literary, cultural historical.  The question being explored is
if this open-ended multiplicity of genres can be configured as a journey
which might "ultimately" return to a "unifying CENTER" where the
conflicting interpretations can be gathered together and reconciled, or is
the "ideal" to embrace multiplicity or plurality [the IMAGINARE of

It is a new year, with new horizons opening.  This question is puzzling me
and Alexander Etkind is offering one genre of answer.

Happy New Year everyone


On Tue, Dec 25, 2012 at 12:33 PM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:

> According to the review: "Etkind is unambiguous in his assertion that the
> master architect of this Faustian bargain for Russian Freudians was Leon
> Trotsky. The political link between the latter and Russian psychoanalysis
> has, in Etkind's view, been consistently underestimated in Western
> literature on the history of psychoanalysis. He thus strives to set right
> this lack of appreciation--devoting over forty pages to Trotsky, a dozen of
> which specifically deal with his intellectual enthusiasm and continued
> political support for both psychoanalysis and its educational offshoot,
> pedology. The latter, a unique Soviet approach stressing the transformation
> of human nature through childhood, was founded by people who had gone
> through relatively serious training in psychoanalysis (p. 5)."
> Figes makes a similar point about Soviet communism regarding its belief
> that a Marxist society (one also influenced by Darwin) could, through the
> establishment of an appropriate environment, evolve a new kind of person
> (or more to the point, new kind of people). That belief was new to me, but
> I see it reflected in Vygotsky's work on mediated human consciousness.
> Under Stalin that evolution included killing off and exiling those who
> didn't fit his vision--thinning the herd, in the Darwinian sense, through
> repression.
> Complicated stuff. Figes argues that Soviet communism skipped a step that
> Marx considered necessary for the evolution of socialist societies, which
> was the rise of a capitalist class to be overthrown. I am not an economist
> or much of a philosopher, so can't assert a position here. Perhaps others
> can help, if this topic is of interest.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
> Behalf Of Peter Smagorinsky
> Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 3:22 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: RE: [xmca] vygotsky and the revolution
> Reviewed at http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=3386
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
> Behalf Of Leif Strandberg
> Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 1:55 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] vygotsky and the revolution
> Yes, and now I found the English title: Eros of the Impossible: The
> History of Psychoanalysis in Russia
> Leif
> 25 dec 2012 kl. 12.02 skrev Peter Smagorinsky:
> > http://www.project-syndicate.org/contributor/alexander-etkind
> > I assume that this is the same Etkind?
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-
> > bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Leif Strandberg
> > Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 5:21 AM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: Re: [xmca] vygotsky and the revolution
> >
> > Hi,
> >
> > I learned a lot of the intellectual context in USSR, 1920-1936 when
> > reading Nadezjda Mandelsjtam's Stalins Miracle (where she mentions
> > Vygotskij!), and Aleksandr Etkind's An Impossible Passion (I don not
> > know the correct English title), where you can read how the
> > Pedalogy- Movement was interrelated to the political life (e.g.
> > Krupskaja, Kalinin, Vysinskij)... very interesting (and scary).
> > Boris Pasternak's (a friend of LSV) Doctor Zjivago also provides a
> > feeling of the context and the situation for the intellectuals during
> > those years.
> >
> > Yes, USSR/Russia was/is an Ocean... and what happens in Moscow can be
> > very different from what takes place in Samarkand (and that was
> > problematic in Luria's Uzbeki-journey)
> >
> > Leif
> > Sweden
> > 24 dec 2012 kl. 20.05 skrev Peter Smagorinsky:
> >
> >> Well, it took me about 6 months, but I finally finished reading
> >> Figes'
> >> 824-page tour de force, A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution
> >> 1991-1924 (ending with Lenin's death and Stalin's ascendance). I am
> >> glad I read it, even though I was actively discouraged from doing so
> >> by some xmca subscribers, both on and off list. I would say that his
> >> general perspective does not favor the Bolsheviks, which may account
> >> for the efforts to dissuade my reading. I hope that I do have some
> >> powers of discernment that enable me to identify and read through a
> >> historian's perspective, however. (n.b. I am also aware that the US
> >> has its own history that is amenable to multiple perspectives, many
> >> of them unfavorable, so I hope I do not appear chauvinistic in
> >> finding the USSR
> >> problematic.) (full disclosure: my Jewish grandparents and two of my
> >> uncles fled Gomel in 1913 and 1916 to escape pogroms, leaving from
> >> Finland and landing in New York.)
> >>
> >> Figes does provide, in at times numbing detail, the complexities of
> >> the transition from Tsar to USSR, which took place more or less
> >> between 1905 and the early 1920s after the two Russian revolutions
> >> (1905, 1917) brought down the Tsar; and after the civil war that
> >> followed and produced an internecine military battle for control of
> >> the Russian territories in the power vacuum. I must say that the
> >> whole affair is far more complex than I'd ever imagined, which no
> >> doubt speaks to my ignorance about most everything that's happened on
> >> this earth, in spite of my ongoing efforts to learn it. I imagine
> >> that there are many and contradictory points of view on the period
> >> and its winners and losers; and I've read but one, at least in
> >> detail. It's a history worth learning about, I'd say.
> >>
> >> My purpose here is not to debate the merits of Lenin, Stalin, and
> >> Trotsky, or Marx and Engels, or any of the many lesser-known figures
> >> from the revolutions (and there were several). I partly undertook
> >> this reading to get a better understanding of the context of
> >> Vygotsky's life and how his experiences mediated his construction of
> >> a theory of human development. I've read a lot of brief summaries of
> >> his life, but now must wonder how the incredible period of death and
> >> destruction that surrounded his life contributed to his beliefs about
> >> cultural difference and mediation (a major issue in his writing about
> >> defectology). He was born in
> >> 1896 in the Pale of Settlement, the Byelorussian territory to which
> >> Tsarist Russia restricted Jews, leaving them subject to death via
> >> pogroms. In 1905, with LSV at age 9, Russia lost a war to Japan,
> >> bringing about the first revolution, which was quelled. Then in
> >> 1914 World War 1 broke out, although hardly in a vacuum; it embodied
> >> many extant conflicts. At about this time Vygotsky began the work
> >> that resulted in The Psychology of Art, which he wrote mostly from a
> >> sickbed during a lengthy bout with tuberculosis over a period of
> >> about
> >> 6 years, a time that encompassed the whole of WWI and then in 1917
> >> the Russian Revolution that brought down the Tsar- according to
> >> Figes, the Tsar's haughty lifestyle in conjunction with the people's
> >> dissatisfaction with Russia's involvement with the war (particularly
> >> their struggles against Germany) served as the tipping point in their
> >> willingness to live as his subjects.
> >>
> >> It's quite striking that as the world raged and burned around him,
> >> LSV focused intensely on trying to figure out the role of art,
> >> particularly drama and literature, in the development of human
> >> consciousness; and in the version I read (MIT Press translation),
> >> there's no mention of revolution or politics. By the time he was done
> >> the Tsar was overthrown but the civil war between Reds and White (an
> >> affiliation of various anti-Bolsheviks, often loyal to the Tsar) was
> >> in full stride, with the two sides contending to replace him and
> >> thousands being killed in the process. Yet LSV biographies have him
> >> teaching during this time, and ultimately landing in Moscow as a
> >> psychologist, as if there were no disturbances in the environment.
> >> His
> >> career in Moscow is often described as beginning in about 1924, the
> >> year of Lenin's death and Stalin's rise, and according to documents
> >> recently unearthed, LSV was a devoted communist, even as Jews
> >> continued to be suppressed in the new regime (as testified to by no
> >> less a Bolshevik than Trotsky). So, Vygotsky's career as a Moscow
> >> psychologist took place in the 10 years between Stalin's ascendance
> >> to power and Hitler's rise in Germany-two extraordinary rulerships of
> >> modern history, both highly repressive, parochial, nationalistic,
> >> violent, and anti- Semitic-that get elided in accounts of his career,
> >> at least those I've read.
> >>
> >> One thing I learned from Figes is that Stalin's crackdowns included
> >> repression of the arts; and Vygotsky never returned to his early
> >> considerations of the theater with nearly the focus that produced The
> >> Psychology of Art. I imagine that the repressive environment had
> >> something to do with that, but I'm only guessing from my historical
> >> vantage point. I have to believe that LSV was not doing psychology in
> >> a vacuum. So how did the tumult surrounding his career contribute to
> >> his thinking? If mediation is central to development, it seems to me
> >> that it has to matter.
> >>
> >> One thing about the revolutions that I have yet to figure out is how
> >> extensive they were. Most of the action seems centered in the east,
> >> where Moscow and St. Petersburg/Petrograd/Leningrad/ Stalingrad are
> >> located, and thus the locus of power and resources.
> >> But Russia spans 13 time zones, stretches to the Pacific and Bering
> >> Straits, and includes 17,075,200 sq km (6,592,800 sq mi), giving it
> >> more than one-ninth of the world's land area. Luria's Uzbekistan
> >> study suggests that the revolutions barely touched remote areas, even
> >> in the western region. So I can't figure out how the whole of the
> >> nation was affected by the revolutions, except perhaps for Siberia's
> >> service as place of exile.
> >>
> >> Well, too much perhaps, but those are some thoughts following my
> >> reading of this interesting history. Any help with contextualizing
> >> LSV's career in light of these events is greatly appreciated. Thx,p
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