[Marxism] Building a Marxist psychology | Review of *Vygotsky and Marx: Toward a Marxist Psychology*, edited by Carl Ratner and Daniele Nunes Henrique Silva | Anup Gampa and Jeremy Sawyer | International So cialist Review

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Fri Dec 7 09:02:06 MST 2018






This is from an old post that I wrote for LBO-Talk back in the early 2000's.


Some time ago,I just picked up in a used bookstore Levy Rahmani, *Soviet Psychology: Philosophical, Theoretical and Experimental Issues* ( NY: Internal Universities Press, 1973) which provides an almost encyclopedic coverage of the development of Soviet psychology from the October Revolution down to the 1960s. He covers most of the usual suspects including the physiologists, Ivan Pavlov and Vladimir Bechterev, both of whom had been strongly influenced by the great Russian physiologist Ivan Sechenov (the father of Russian physiology), then Kornilov, who apparently made the first attempt in the Soviet Union to develop a specifically Marxist psychology, Vygotsky, Rubenshtein, both of whom crystallized what became some of the central ideas of Soviet psychology, Alexander Luria, who is often called the father of neuropsychology, plus many other people whom I am less familiar with.

According to Rahmani, Soviet psychologists following the October Revolution declared that psychology as a science was in a state of crisis, analogous to the crises in the natural sciences that Lenin had described in his Materialism and Empiriocriticism* The crisis in psychology was seen as emerging from a contradiction between the materialist outlook that was associated with experimental psychology, and the idealism which bourgeois psychology retained from the philosophies of Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, and Kant. The writings of Wundt, the father of modern psychology, were seen as exemplifying this contradiction. Therefore, early Soviet psychologists were more than willing to give a fair hearing to psychologies that challenged Wundt's introspectionism including both John B. Watson's behaviorism and Gestalt psychology. Watson's work was looked favorably upon because he was seen as attempting to articulate a materialist psychology. Watson was invited to write an article on behaviorism for the Large Soviet Encyclopedia. Gestalt psychology was treated favorably at first because it was seen as an attempt at developing a dialectical psychology. A little later on Soviet psychologists initiated attempts at developing their own psychological theories which were they hoped would be consistent with basic Marxist principles such as the materialist conception of history and Lenin's analysis of reflection.

As Rahmani makes clear, that while Soviet psychology as it evolved can be thought of as comprising a single school, a diversity of viewpoints did flourish within it. Thus, there were a variety of opinions concerning the status of Pavlov's reflexology. While nearly everyone expressed the utmost respect for Pavlov, opinions differed over how far that people thought that psychological phenomena could be explained in terms of his concepts of conditioned reflexes. Some people thought that nearly everything could be explained that way, while others thought that the range of phenomena that could be so explained was more limited and that other concepts and principles were required as well. Also, it should be noted for during the early 1950s Pavlovian psychology was for a while the official psychology in the Soviet Union, with most other views, such as Vygotsky's suppressed, a situation which changed following the death of Stalin. In fact a weakness of the book, is that is largely ignores the larger political context in which shifts in psychological opinion mirrored or were conditioned by shifts in the political winds.



Jim Farmelant
http://independent.academia.edu/JimFarmelant
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---------- Original Message ----------
From: Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo via Marxism <marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu>
To: Jim Farmelant <farmelantj at juno.com>
Subject: [Marxism] Building a Marxist psychology | Review of *Vygotsky and Marx: Toward a Marxist Psychology*, edited by Carl Ratner and Daniele Nunes Henrique Silva | Anup Gampa and Jeremy Sawyer | International Socialist Review
Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2018 01:36:40 -0600

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