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Vygotsky: Between Socio-Cultural Relativismand Historical Materialism. From a Psychologicalto a Pedagogical Perspective 1472
PhD, Professor, Fellow of Green Templeton College, Department of Education, Oxford, Great Britain
In this paper I draw a distinction between two strands of argument that have evolved in the wake of Vygotsky’s early 20th century writing. I examine key methodological differences between sociocultural relativism and historical materialism. I then consider the pedagogical implications of these differences. My concern is that the all too common western predeliction for a post modern account yields a deeply conservative approach to pedagogy. In this form pedagogy may loose its power as a tool of social transformation and may curtail the possibilities for individual transformation. I close with a quote which neatly captures this concern: “Methodology is not a "toolbox" of different methods from which the researcher selects some on the basis of personal or social preferences! Instead, it is an integrated structure of the epistemological process (Branco & Valsiner, 1997) that can equally and easily reveal and obscure the empirical reality in the knowledge construction process of social scientists”.
It is possible to point to differences in epistemological
and ontological assumptions which serve to create significant divides in the
post-Vygotskian field. Their existence is not always made clear and yet they
carry with them such important implications for research and the development of
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