Assemblages and the Multitude: Deleuze, Hardt, Negri, and the Postmodern Left

The article enters a heated debate about the ideals and organization of the postmodern left. Hardt and Negri, two key figures in this debate, claim that their concept of the multitude — a revolutionary, proletarian body that organizes singularities — integrates the insights of Deleuze and Lenin. I argue, however, that Deleuze anticipated and resisted a Leninist appropriation of his political theory. This essay challenges the widely accepted assumption that Hardt and Negri carry forth Deleuze’s legacy. At the same time, the essay advocates Deleuze’s concept of left assemblages — protean political bodies working for freedom and equality — as a valuable but underappreciated contribution to the liberal-democratic tradition.

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Posted in Deleuze, Negri, Politics | Tagged , ,

Seeing Historically: Goethe and Vygotsky’s ‘Enabling Theory-Method’

We can study dead forms from a distance, seeking to understand the pattern of past events that caused them to come into existence. We can, however, enter into a relationship with living forms and, in making ourselves open to their movements, find ourselves spontaneously responding to them, and in so doing, we can gain a sense of their character. In other words, from within our dialogically structured involvements with other living things, a kind of relationally responsive understanding, quite different from the referential-representational kind of understanding familiar to us in cognitive psychology, becomes directly available to us. Thus, rather than seeking to explain a child’s present activities in terms of their causes in the past, from the standpoint of an external observer, we can turn to a quite different aim: that of perceiving in a present behavior the possibilities and opportunities it offers for further developments. Orientation toward this aim is what I think is so special about both Vygotsky’s and Goethe’s historical methods of inquiry into the development of living forms.

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Posted in Shotter, Vygotsky | Tagged ,

Irreconcilable differences in Vygotsky’s and Bakhtin’s approaches to the Social and the Individual

n Western psychology and education, up until very recently, Bakhtin has often been introduced as a scholar whose approach was compatible with and an extension of Vygotsky’s cultural-historical approach. I argue that this continuity is problematic. Vygotsky’s approach to the social was heavily influenced by Hegel’s universalist, mono-logic, mono-logical, developmental (diachronic), activity-based philosophy. Bakhtin developed a pluralistic, essentially synchronic, dialogic, discourse- and genre-based approach to the social, involving the hybridity of co-existing competing and conflicting varieties of logic. Extrapolating Bakhtin’s approach in education and psychology, I argue that from Bakhtin’s dialogic framework, when a child (or any other person) is a subject of development — as in developmental psychology, or a subject of learning — as in education, development, its goals, and developmental values defining the teleology of the development, become (again) unknown for the participant (e.g., a developmental psychologist or parent).

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Posted in Bakhtin, Individual, social, Vygotsky | Tagged , , ,

Dialogism and the psyche: Bakhtin and contemporary psychology

The authors argue that dialogical philosophy, and particularly the work of the Bakhtin circle, offers psychology a way to conceptualize and study human experience such that the notion of psyche is preserved and enriched. The authors first introduce the work of the Bakhtin circle and then briefly outline some of the most influential theories of self and psyche. The implications of dialogism for theories of the self are then discussed, focusing on six basic principles of dialogical thought – namely, the principles of relationality, dynamism, semiotic mediation, alterity, dialogicality, and contextuality. Together, these principles imply a notion of psyche that is neither an isolated homunculus nor a disembodied discourse but is, rather, a temporally unique, agentive enactment that is sustained within, rather than against, the tensions between individual and social, material and psychological, multiple and unified, stable and dynamic. The authors also discuss what this dialogical conception of psyche implies for research, arguing first that dynamic relations, rather than static entities, are the proper unit of psychological study and, second, that a dialogical research epistemology must conceive of truth as a multi-voiced event, rather than as a singular representation of fact. Finally, the authors introduce this special issue and outline other contributions.

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Posted in Bakhtin, Dialogue, psychology | Tagged , ,

Toward Dialogic Literacy Education for the Internet Age

In order to reconceptualize literacy education for the Internet Age, we first need to understand the extent to which our thinking has already been shaped by literacy practices. I begin this article with an exploration of the relationship between ways of communicating, ways of thinking, and the way in which we understand education. Face-to-face dialogue, for example, means that thought is experienced as somebody’s voice. It is not surprising then that oral cultures tend to understand education as initiation into a living relationship with voices. Literacy, by contrast, especially print literacy, has tended to afford the rather different idea that thought can be dissociated from voices and represented by signs and symbols. Under the regime of print literacy, education has often been understood as first providing access to the collective store of knowledge represented in books and then transmitting this knowledge across generations. Although the Internet preserves some of the affordances of print literacy, it also returns us to some of the affordances of oracy, since it supports two-way participation. In the second half of the article, I outline a possible response to the challenge of the Internet Age. This response is not another “new literacy” but the proposal that we locate literacy education within a larger context, the context of dialogue, not only dialogue with specific others but also with generalized others and ultimately with the Infinite Other.

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Posted in Bakhtin, Dialogic education, internet | Tagged , ,

Contrasting Vygotsky’s and Bakhtin’s approaches to consciousness

Matusov (2011) sustains that Vygotsky and Bakhtin represent irreconcilable theoretical approaches. In his view, Vygotsky’s model is monologic and universalist, while Bakhtin’s is dialogic and pluralist. Although the two authors differ importantly, one cannot speak of irreconcilability for two main reasons. First, Vygotsky’s approach is much more multifaceted and even contradictory than usually thought. In fact, his concept of sense echoes the Romanticist claim that experience exceeds the limits of language. Second, a dialogical conception of mind is not outside the reach of Hegelian tradition, which, in Matusov interpretation, is where Vygotsky’s approach comes from. I emphasize that Bakhtin’s unit of analysis is the voice—a concept more sociologic than psychological. “Voice” is insensitive to selfhood and should not be taken as synonymous of “person.” Notwithstanding, Vygotsky and Bakhtin share beliefs with respect to the social constitution of the mind that allows including them in the same research program.

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Posted in Bakhtin, consciousness, Vygotsky | Tagged , ,

`When Discourse is Torn from Reality’: Bakhtin and the Principle of Chronotopicity

The aim of this article is to secure the basis for an interdisciplinary critique of Bakhtin’s notion of the `chronotope’ (`time-space’) and to argue for its relevance to several different research agendas within time studies. First, the article outlines the contours of Bakhtin’s dialogical approach to language and its implications for theorizing a text’s ontological assumptions regarding time and space. Second, the concept of the `chronotope’ is addressed by prioritizing for discussion its advantages as a heuristic device. Next, three specific chronotopes are described, followed by an evaluative appraisal of the resultant `principle of chronotopicity’. Finally, the article concludes with a series of suggestions regarding the future refinement of this approach for alternative applications in time studies.

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Posted in Bakhtin, Language | Tagged ,

The Shaping Effects of the Conversational Interview: An Examination Using Bakhtin’s Theory of Genre

The conversational research interview constitutes a complex and fraught context for personal accounts, and the methodological literature of the past few decades has acknowledged this. Theoretical discussions about representation, ethics, and power in interviews have been extended in empirical studies of actual interaction. Particularly useful for observing subtleties of talk between interviewer and interviewee are tools drawn from conversation analysis and other, overlapping forms of linguistic analysis. This article seeks to add to existing studies of interview interaction by proposing a strategy for examining the specifically generic features of interviewing. Genre, as framed by rhetorical theory, encompasses both form and social situation, allowing interviews to be framed as local enactments of historically regularized but flexible discursive forms. By focusing on interlocutors’ expectations around and linguistic action within the conventions of talk, genre offers a valuable additional wedge into an oft-used means for collecting narrative research data.

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Posted in Bakhtin, Conversation | Tagged ,

Two diverging paths toward a common destination: The dialogism of Vygotsky and Bakhtin

A search for a distinctive human trait was a common intellectual quest during the beginning of the 20th century. Consciousness was often discussed as the unique feature of humanness and Vygotsky and Bakhtin joined in the debate with their unique contributions to understanding human consciousness. The purpose of the current paper is to present the contributions of Vygotsky and Bakhtin as grounded in the common framework of dialogism. Within this general framework of dialogism, the specific approaches each scholar undertook differ and reflect their underlying differences in worldviews. The dialogism of Vygotsky is characterized as dialectical and Bakhtin’s dialogism is represented as mainly polyphonic. The diverging viewpoints within a common framework have the potential to enrich our understanding of human consciousness as they complement each other.

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Posted in Bakhtin, consciousness, Dialogue, Vygotsky | Tagged , , ,

From Bakhtinian theory to a dialogical psychology

The analysis of the different articles in this special issue gives a rather promising but complex image of a dialogical approach to psychology. Mikael Leiman proposed utterances as the object of study for psychotherapy research, semiotic mediation as the explanatory principle, and semiotic position as the unit of analysis. Frank Richardson cautioned us about how dialogical proposals can become entrapped by the extreme decentering tendency of social constructionism. James Cresswell, in his turn, claimed that Bakhtin’s work is precisely a way of avoiding the unbalanced account of personal vacuity and freedom found in many constructionist accounts: it is precisely because we are bound to social ties that we become ethically involved with others and, indeed, with ourselves. Michèle Grossen and Anne Salazar Orvig claimed that otherness and the institutional, transpersonal dimensions are also present in every dialogical act, something that tends to be overlooked. Moore et al., following this suggestion, pointed to the multiplicity of institutional social frames, adding to the potential tension between the different available ways of interpreting self and context. Following these various contributions, the authors argue that a dialogical conception implies a relational self in constant dialogical and ethical involvement with society. They further argue that to respect the complexity of the whole in each lived situation, we need different and more conversational, research strategies. In a final synthesis, centrifugal and centripetal movements of the self are conceived as mutually dependent in a fundamentally temporal conception of psychological becoming.

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Posted in Bakhtin, Dialogue, psychology | Tagged , ,