Reflections on the Theory of Activity

Reflections on the Theory of Activity

Regi Theodor Enerstvedt (Oslo University, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6603-0.ch021
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Activity theory is a “productive” resource for shedding light on the functioning of traditional and innovative activities. In discussing theoretical-methodological problems related to a valid theory of activity, the author puts forward the hypothesis that singular references to the Vygotskian school lead to an unproducive confinement of activity theory. First of all, there are problems concerning terminology and concepts. Second, there are issues related to the roots of the activity theory and the cultural-historical school. It is a common mistake in Western Europe and in the United States to regard cultural-historical psychology as the basis for critical psychology and to regard both schools as identical with activity theory. Embracing such a point of view is a mistake and a serious matter.
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Activity Theory And The Cultural-Historical School

I start off with a reference to Karl Marx (1818-1883). The Feuerbach Theses has had an undisputed impact on contemporary understanding of activity theory. The connection between Marx and Feuerbach is well known. It is, however, important to emphasize that there are different lines of reasoning about Marx. One of them suggests a structural interpretation called “the logic of capital”, i.e. an alternative interpretation of the human subject understood as object of capital. Another line of reasoning emphasizes the subject in capitalism, the creative, active personality operating in/on suppressing market-controlled conditions. In order to separate between the double lines of reasoning, the Feuerbach theses suggest that by changing the world, surroundings, environment, context, setting etc. man is able to change identity and personality. Marx’s interpretation forms a foundation for, or a cornerstone of activity theory.

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