Re: [OPE-L] status equality

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Thu Feb 17 2005 - 16:28:18 EST

Only one quick marking of partial disagreement to Ian's very excellent reply.

>A collection of people is an amount of abstract labour-power that can
>in principle be reallocated to other tasks in the division of labour.
>This is possible due to  equality of causal powers. Labour is
>fungible, and in some sense universal. This was true in fedual times,
>except not recognised and realised, that is put into practice.

Too innatist for me, I think. This fungibility and universality may
be a historico social result, not a given of human nature. In some
sense the potential for such pre-existed its actualization, but in
what sense?  What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for the
actualization of these causal powers. I think you are suggesting that
all that was needed were removal of external barriers, e.g. feudal
status structure, caste structure. Capitalism then appears to better
fit human nature. But I am worried about the theory of human nature
implicit in what you are saying. We are opening up the question of
historical materialist views on human nature. And here a lot of
ground has already been covered by Max Adler, Louis Althusser, Norman
Geras, Sean Sayers, etc.

Back to baby care. My sense of the importance of early care giving is
predisposing me, by the way, towards a very thin concept of human
nature! Haven't been reading much Marx lately but rather this
Vygotsky inpired text Stanley Greenspan and Stuart Shanker The First

The First Idea: How Symbols, Language and Intelligence Evolve
Stanley Greenspan, Stuart Shanker

Format: Hardcover
Pub. Date: August 2004
ISBN: 0738206806
Format: Hardcover, 320pp
Pub. Date: August 2004
Publisher: Da Capo Press

The First Idea: How Symbols, Language and Intelligence Evolve

"In the childhood of every human being, and at the dawn of human
history, there is an amazing - and until now unexplained - leap from
simple, genetically programmed behavior to symbolic thinking,
language, and culture. In The First Idea, Stanley Greenspan and
Stuart Shanker explore this missing link and offer new insights into
two longstanding questions: how human beings first created symbols
and how these abilities initially evolved and were subsequently
transmitted and transformed across generations over millions of
years." Drawing on evidence - not only from their research and
collaborations comparing the language and intelligence of human
infants and apes, but also from the fossil record, neuroscience, and
Greenspan's extensive work with children with autism - Greenspan and
Shanker offer a radical new direction for evolutionary theory,
developmental psychology, and philosophy.

Publishers Weekly
Noam Chomsky is the best-known advocate of the view that language
skills are hardwired into our brains, and Steven Pinker made this
argument in The Blank Slate. Authors Greenspan, a professor of
psychiatry and pediatrics, and Shanker, an authority in child- and
ape-language studies, completely reject this theory, claiming instead
that our ability to reason is founded not on genetics but on
emotional responses by infants to their environment, with emotional
interactions forming the missing link in the development of symbols
and language. In line with other recent research that ties cultural
practices to areas of human development long held to be biologically
determined, they maintain that symbolic thinking has been molded by
cultural practices dating back to prehuman species. The authors trace
the development of language skills and personality from birth to old
age with a 16-stage hierarchy of what they call "functional emotional
development capabilities" ranging from "Regulation and Interest in
the Word" to "Wisdom of the Ages." In the last part of the book, they
use these stages to examine major intellectual turning points and
figures in history, such as the Greek philosophers, Descartes and
Freud. This book should appeal most to readers working in psychology
and child development, but its revolutionary ideas no doubt will lead
to lively and well-publicized debates. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed
Business Information.

Library Journal
Greenspan (psychiatry, George Washington Univ.; The Growth of the
Mind) and Shanker (psychology, York Univ.; coauthor, Apes, Language,
and the Human Mind) have written a significant book on the crucial
role that emotions play in the social development of human
intelligence. They reject Cartesian dualism, advocate the framework
of primate evolution, and go beyond the ideas of Piaget, Chomsky, and
Pinker (among others) in their claim that symbolic thinking is
essentially the slow outcome of mental activity developing through
six levels of emotional interactions rather than merely the sudden
consequence of inherited genetic factors in the brain. The authors
emphasize the dynamic relationship between caregivers and
infants/toddlers in terms of emotional signaling through sounds,
facial expressions, and body gestures. They even extend their theory
in order to shed light on ape behavior, fossil hominids, early
civilizations, the origin of language, and the emerging global
society. In the ongoing nature vs. nurture debate, the authors have
filled a gap in the research literature by stressing the need to take
the value of emotions seriously. Recommended for all large academic
and public libraries.-H. James Birx, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2004
Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Two psychologists team up for a thorough, fairly readable study of
cognitive development from earliest hominids to humans, placing
strenuous emphasis on emotional interaction between infant and
caregiver outlined in Greenspan's The Growth of the Mind (1997).
Greenspan (Psychiatry and Pediatrics/George Washington Univ.) and
Shanker (Philosophy and Psychology/York Univ., Canada) stress that
the human capacity to think, which they define as the ability to
regulate emotions in the use of logic and reflection, stems primarily
from the acquirement of mother-infant signaling transmitted through
cultural care-giving practices. After setting out the crucial stages
of a child's functional/emotional growth, the authors venture back
into evolutionary history to debunk some determinist theories of
human cognitive development that stress the innate, universal
necessities of human biology (natural selection) while ignoring the
essential and, in humans, relatively long period of close nurturing
between caregiver and infant. Shanker offers observations of language
acquisition in chimps and bonobos, gained from his work with
primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh (Apes, Language, and the Human
Mind, not reviewed); there is also a fascinating chapter on emotional
"derailment" in autistic children. The authors revisit
problem-solving and early communication in archaic Homo sapiens and
early moderns, comparing their stage of cognitive development to
childhood in today's humans. With the relatively sudden ascent of the
new species of humans during the Pleistocene era, technological
advances took off; yet here the authors emphasize rather a "slow and
almost orderly process" that involved an enrichment of
emotionalsignaling accompanied by beneficial physical changes in the
face and skull (loss of facial hair, for example, encouraged a vastly
more subtle and complex repertory of expressions). Greenspan and
Shanker duly note the work of numerous other authors and scientists,
such as Piaget, Chomsky, and E.T. Hall. Along the way, the study
grows unwieldy and repetitive as they take on shared values of
societies and "global interdependency."Long-winded, but
well-reasoned: a provocative, useful aid in understanding the ongoing
debate on human development.

Yours, Rakesh

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