The Vygotskian Perspective on Education
Luis C. Moll (Ed.) Vygotsky and Education, Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 439.
In the context of the crisis of positivism and the mechanistic world view which led scholars in the West to look sympathetically and for the first time open-mindedly to the contributions of conceptions that are dialectical in origin, L.S. Vygotsky, one of the most gifted Marxist psychologist of the Soviet Union received attention with the publication of his Thought and Language in English in 1962. Such was the prejudice, that in an abridged version of the translations of his works in the U.S. most of the references to Marx, Engels and Lenin were omitted. With increasing appreciation of the integrity of his work, however, it was soon realised that Marxism is not an extraneous construct that Vygotsky tagged on to his work. As Stephen Toulmin observed: '. . .it should be evident that Vygotsky's and Luria's. . . respectful references to Marx and Engels... .represent something more than. . . political lip service. This is something that even Vygotsky's Western admirers have not always understood.
'Vygotsky was more than happy to call himself a Marxist. . . The general frame provided by a 'historical materialist* philosophy gave him the basis he needed for developing an integrated account of the relations between developmental psychology and clinical neurology, cultural anthropology and the psychology of art—an account that we in the West can afford to take very seriously today.1
Vygotsky relying heavily on Marx's ideas and method, showed an acute awareness against mechanical application of these ideas. 'What one can expect to find in the founders of Marxism is not a solution of the question, nor even a working hypothesis, for the latter are created on the basis of a given science, but a method of structuring it.' There is no short-cut to working out a concrete methodology of each discipline for 'one cannot measure the height of a human being in kilometres'. He observed *I want to find out how science has to be built, to approach the study of the mind having learned the whole of Marx's method. . . In order to create such an enabling theory-method in the generally accepted scientific manner, it is necessary to discover the essence of the
Social Scientist, Vol.19, Nos. 8-9, August-September 1991