Рукайя Хасан о Выготском: три пункта критики | Ruqaiya Hasan: three contradictions in the Vygotskian discourse

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Ruqaiya Hasan

Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. October 28, 2002


Мы кратко остановимся только на трех пунктах критики Выгосткого:

  1. “the first contradiction in the Vygotskian discourse: semiotic mediation by means of language entails language use, but the Vygotskian framework has no theory of language use”

Выготский не был достаточно сконцентрирован на теории языкового использования, не разрабатывал ее положения. Скорее всего он не ставил такой цели. Конечно, использование языка – это центральное положение и точка отсчета для системно-функциональной лингвистики, не для Выготского

2. “The second contradiction in Vygotsky arises directly from his views on language as system. For Vygotsky the history of the development of linguistic meaning is social, but meaning itself is representational/experiential. He wishes to stress the role of language in the sociogenesis of higher mental functions, but the only meanings he finds of interest are the meanings that do not directly relate to interpersonal relations. Talk of language as a system of symbols capable of decontextualised meaning does in no alleviate the problems inherent in this situation. There can be no quarrel with Vygotsky on the centrality of meaning to the process of semiotic mediation, but as I have shown above, in his work the concept of meaning turns out to be remarkably one-sided. His orientation to experiential meaning goes hand in hand with an absolute preoccupation with word meaning because sense and reference relations are in fact experiential. So convinced is Vygotsky of the contribution of word to the making of human mind that he ignores his wonderful insights into thematic movements in text, and role of context (see Vygotsky 1971) all of which appear as if irrelevant to semiotic mediation. That most of Vygotsky’s contemporaries held comparable views on the nature of language is indisputable; but unlike Vygotsky they were not making claims for the sociogenesis of the mind. It is sad that the work of contemporaries such as Mead (1934), Whorf (1956), Malinowski (1923) and Vološinov (1973) seemed never to have come to his notice. Whorf and Malinowski both emphasised the value of grammar in the construal of linguistic meaning; further Whorf’s views on the role of language in habitual thinking and in the fashioning of certain aspects of cognition are compatible with Vygotsky’s. Mead and Vološinov emphasised the importance of language to human relations. All these emphases are important to understanding semiotic mediation

The problems with Vygotsky’s view of language system go beyond language as the mediating tool to the heart of the content issue — what it is that language mediates. As a system language is exclusively representational/ideational. The social relations and the social situatedness of semiotic mediation cannot be handled by a system of this kind, and so the only achievement of semiotic mediation has to be in line with the concept of the language system. As I have commented above, the elaboration of what Vygotsky meant by higher mental functions, on the one hand gives us a selective reading of the achievements of semiotic mediation by means of language, and on the other hand it presents a view that could be accused of being highly ‘elitist’. Higher mental functions, the quintessential artefact of semiotic mediation according to Vygotsky, are characteristically human. So how do we interpret results such as those Luria obtained in his Uzbeki research where adult subjects failed in certain contexts to do successful logical reasoning, inference making and generalization? Surely these subjects used language as symbol for this is a condition of adult language use (for discussion, Hasan 1992a). We note that all the mental activities that fall under the rubric of higher mental functions appear to be based in the ideational function of language: it is the ideational function of language to construe technical concepts, logical and inferential relations, entailments of states of affairs, and so on. And the higher mental functions constitute a condition of success in the official pedagogic systems, where their mastery is in the words of Bernstein privileged and privileging. With regard to his Uzbek subjects Luria suggested that the absence of higher mental functions was due to the lack of schooling in his subjects, as if the lack of schooling, ie failure to ‘benefit’ from official pedagogy, is a simple matter of physical access to official pedagogic discourse, as if education is not an arena where the social class struggle is fought everyday, with the odds heavily stacked against the dominated members of society. If, we accept Bernstein’s claim that official pedagogy “articulates the dominant ideology/ies of dominant groups” (1990: 66), then it would appear that higher mental functions are the monopoly of the members of the dominant groups. This is an extraordinary turn for a psychological theory which had aspired to match Marx’s Das Kapital!! It comes to pass because the Vygotsky literature entirely ignores what I have called invisible semiotic mediation (Hasan 2002): mediation that occurs in discourse embedded in everyday ordinary activities of a social subject’s life. In this way, the literature on semiotic mediation ignores the genesis of mental dispositions, the social subjects’ culturally learned sense of what matters in life. And yet there is every reason to suppose that these mental attitudes are critical in the success or otherwise of visible semiotic mediation, which is active in the genesis of the so called higher mental functions.”

Это достаточно интересная ремарка, показывающая что социально-историческая теория Выготского, как ее понимают на Западе, не достаточно социальна, из-за того, что высшие психические функции анализируются Выготским только с точки зрения психической, персональной, но не социальной природы. Кульминацией критики является обращение к сравнению исследований Лурье и Бернстайна. Хасан критикует Лурье из-за того, что он свел всю проблему образования взрослых в Узбекистане к проблеме физического доступа к официальной педагогике, тогда как здесь может идти речь также о классовых различиях.

Видимо данный пункт критики можно объяснить следующим образом: в Советском Союзе не имело смысла говорить о классовых различиях, так как они уже были преодолены в силу специфики социалистической системы. Тогда как западный марксизм в лице Бернстайна критиковал именно классовую сторону доступа к образованию, акцентируя внимание на концентрации классовых различий в языке. Поэтому с точки зрения Хасан получается, что Выготский не интересуется тем, для каких именно социальных отношений язык оказывается посредником.

3. “Finally, the third contradiction I would draw attention to here is closely related to the last one: speech, Vygotsky maintained, is social; semiotic mediation is social. But when it comes to the process of mediation, it appears to be curiously a-social. Vygotsky’s is a theory that would celebrate the social foundations of mental development, while disregarding almost completely if not entirely the role of language in enacting social relations, as well as the relevance of social relations to mental development”

Собственно третье замечание является в некотором роде продолжением второго.  Выготский либо не ставил такой задачи, либо не имел возможности для проведения прямой связи между развитием психических функций и социальным / социально-классовым окружением.





One comment
  1. См.также:http://systemicfunctionallinguistics.com/Рукайя_Хасан_о_Выготском
    Список работ, в которых Рукайя Хасан анализирует учение Выготского

    1. Ruqaiya Hasan, Speech genre, semiotic mediation and the development of higher mental functions, Language Sciences, Volume 14, Issue 4, 1992, Pages 489-528, ISSN 0388-0001, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0388-0001(92)90027-C.

    Abstract: In contrast to Piaget’s genetic individualism, Vygotsky maintained that the development of higher mental functions is sociogenetic, arguing that any function in the child’s cognitive development appears twice, first on the social plane and then on the psychological plane. The move from the social plane to the psychological is semiotically mediated; in fact, this semiotic mediation is the deep meaning of human social interaction. And since due to its inherent characteristics, language is the most pervasive modality for social interaction, it follows that language is also the most powerful tool for semiotic mediation. This theory of human cognitive development offers powerful insights into the relations between mind, language and society; however, its formulation does give rise to certain problems. The first part of this paper examines the two key concepts of higher mental function and semiotic mediation, drawing attention to some of the problems in Vygotsky’s conceptualisation of the relation between the two. It is argued that being intimately related to social interaction, semiotic mediation is susceptible to variation, but the Vygotskian framework fails to assign a coherent place to such variation. Further, to accord a central place to verbal interaction in this sociogenetic process calls for some element in the theory which would account for the over-all nature and forms of social interaction, but no such theoretical apparatus is to be found in the Vygotskian framework. It has been suggested recently that these crucial problems in Vygotsky’s framework might be resolved by appealing to Bakhtin’s concept of speech genre—the more so since in Bakhtin’s view of speech genre, heterglossia forms an integral element. Although at first glance this suggestion appears reasonable, a closer examination of Bakhtin’s writing reveals that our optimism might be premature, that in fact there are features of Bakhtin’s writing which make it almost impossible to use his notions in the analysis of speech genre—a concept very close to that of register in the systemic functional model. In drawing attention to these problems, the second part of the paper briefly compares Bernstein’s views on the role of verbal interaction in the creation of variant forms of human consciousness. The paper concludes by a discussion of certain foundational issues in relating language, society and mental development.

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