Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist

Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist

Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist

Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist


Lev Vygotsky was one of the most talented and brilliant of Soviet psychologists. Despite his tragically early death at the age of 38 his accomplishments are enormously impressive: he played a key role in restructuring the Psychological Institute of Moscow; set up two research laboratories in the major cities of the USSR; founded what we call special education; and authored some 180 works. His innovative theories of thought and speech are important not just for psychology but for other disciplines also. Yet even though his ideas have increasingly won popularity there remains a strong need for an accessible introduction to the man and his work. In Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist Lois Holzman and Fred Newman have written a clear introductory text suitable for undergraduate students. In so doing they have taken the opportunity to set straight the misunderstandings and misuses of Vygotsky's ideas. and his work


Two years ago, when we first sat down to talk about how we wanted to write a book introducing Lev Vygotsky to college and university students, we faced both an exciting challenge and a dilemma. Writing 'about' Vygotsky, we felt, would be in violation of his life and work, insofar as we understood it. Like the brilliant twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, whom he never met but with whom he had much in common (philosophically and methodologically, if not politically), Vygotsky railed against the 'aboutness' that permeated both the form and content of the Western scientific, social-scientific and philosophical traditions they both inherited. Their legacy was a methodology which was dualistic and categorical. For example, it separated 'the world' from 'knowledge about the world' (with 'knowledge about the world' consisting of explanations, descriptions and interpretations); it understood meaning to be essentially 'about' or 'naming' mental objects. No. We did not wish to write about Vygotsky. But what was our alternative to be? How could we present to you Lev Vygotsky—the revolutionary scientist?

When the Vygotsky revival began in the late 1970s, a favorite quotation from his previously unpublished writings was the following:

I don't want to discover the nature of mind by patching together a lot of quotations. I want to find out how science has to be built, to approach the study of mind having learned the whole of Marx's method.

(Vygotsky, 1978, p. 8) . . .

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