In 1925 Lev Semenovich completed his dissertation, "The Psychology of Art." During the fall of that year he received permission to have a public defense, but a renewed and serious bout of tuberculosis made that impossible. Recognizing this fact, the qualifying commission excused him from a public defense, and he was passed.
The years between 1924 and 1934 were extremely busy and productive for Vygotsky. Soon after his arrival in Moscow, Aleksandr Romanovich Luria (1902-1977) and Aleksei Nikolaevich Leont'ev (1904-1979) joined him as students and colleagues. Together these three became known as the "troika" of the Vygotskian School. Several other students and followers eventually joined the school, but it was Luria and Leont'ev who were destined to be the major developers of Vygotsky's ideas after his death.
The excitement that Vygotsky generated among his students and colleagues is perhaps impossible to appreciate in today's setting.
In 1925 he produced the written version of his 1924 presentation at the Second All-Russian Psychoneurology Congress; between November of 1925 and the spring of 1926, while in the hospital with another attack of tuberculosis, he wrote a major philosophical critique of the theoretical foundations of psychology, "The Historical Significance of the Crisis in Psychology".
Between 1931 and 1934 Vygotsky produced manuscripts for reviews, articles, and books at an ever accelerating pace. He edited and wrote a long introduction for the 1932 Russian translation of Piaget's volume Le langage et la pense chez l'enfant (1923). His introduction was later to serve as the second chapter of his posthumous volume Thinking and Speech (1934). During Vygotsky's last few years of life, he lectured and wrote at an almost frenetic pace.
Throughout this period Vygotsky's bouts of tuberculosis became increasingly frequent and severe. His protracted, terrifying spells of coughing led to exhaustion for several days, but instead of resting, he tried to reach as many of his goals as possible. In the spring of 1934 his health grew much worse. His doctors insisted that he enter the hospital, but he refused because of work he needed to complete by the end of the school year. One May 9 he had a very severe attack at work and was brought home. At the end of May his bleeding began again, and on June 2 he was hospitalized in Serebryanii Bor Sanatorium. Shortly after midnight on June 11 he died. He was buried in Novodevechii Cemetery in Moscow.
In all, Vygotsky produced approximately 180 works.
Vygotsky's Theoretical Approach
The three themes that form the core of Vygotsky's theoretical framework are (1) a reliance on a genetic or developmental method; (2) the claim that higher mental processes in the individual have their origin in social processes; and (3) the claim that mental processes can be understood only if we understand the tools and signs that mediate them.
Each of these themes can be fully understood only by taking into account its interrelationships with the others.
Vygotsky originated the cultural and historical concept in psychology which has received further development in psychological theories of the activity worked out by A. N. Leont'ev, A. R. Luria, P. Ya. Gal'perin, D. B. El'konin and others. The main idea of Vygotsky's creative work is thesis about the socio-historical nature of human mentality, human consciousness as opposed to naturalism with its various forms.
Following the idea of the socio-historical nature of mentality, Vygotsky interpreted the social environment not as "factor", but as "source" of person's development. In child's development, he said, there are two bound lines. The first is natural maturing. The second consists in mastering the culture, ways of behaviour and thinking. Systems of signs, symbols (for example, language, script, notation, etc.) are auxiliary methods of organization of the behaviour and thinking which the mankind has created during the historical development.
Vygotsky introduced thesis about higher mental processes (thinking in concepts, reasonable speech, logic memory, voluntary attention, etc.) as specifically human form of mentality.
Child's mastering the connection between sign and value, use of speech by application of instruments marks occurrence of new psychological functions, systems underlying higher mental processes which distinguish person's behaviour from animal's one.
Vygotsky made his most important and unique contribution with the concept of mediation. The notion of mediation (oposredovanie) became increasingly important and well formulated in Vygotsky's theory of human mental functioning. Mediation of the development of human mentality by means of "psychological instruments" is also characterized that operation of the sign use, standing in the beginning of development of each of higher mental processes, primordially has the form of external activity, i.e. turns from interpsychic in intrapsychic.
This transformation passes some stages. Initial one is connected with the other person (adult) with the help of the certain means operates behaviour of the child, directing realization of his any "natural", involuntary function. At the second stage the child himself becomes the subject and, using given psychological instrument, directs behaviour of another (believing him as object). At the following stage the child starts to apply to himself (as to object) those ways of management of behaviour which others applied to him, and he - to the others. Thus, Vygotsky wrote, each mental function appears on the stage twice - at first as collective, social activity, and then as an inner way of child's thinking. Between these two "appearances" is located the process of interiorization, the function "taking roots" inside.
Back process of interiorization is also possible – process of exteriorization - removal outside the results of cerebration which are carried out all over again as an intention in the internal plan.
Transition from interpsychic to intrapsychic functions occurs in cooperation with other children and in child's dialogue with the adult. Vygotsky emphasized the important role of relations between the child's person and the social environment surrounding him at each age step. These relations vary from age to age and make "completely original, specific to the given age, exclusive and unique relation between the child and the reality surrounding him, first of all social one. We shall name this relation a social situation of development at the given age ". From researches of child's mental development appeared a new approach to studying the relation between development and training.
Higher mental processes have as the source cooperation and training. The conclusion about the leading part of training in mental development has been made. It means that training goes ahead of development. The area accessible to the child in cooperation has received the name of a zone of the nearest development; area self-administered is an area of actual development. "The zone of the nearest development has more direct value for changes of intellectual development and success of training, than an actual level of their development ".
Vygotsky thought, these researches should be put in the basis of student teaching: "the pedagogic should be guided not on yesterday, but tomorrow's day of children's development", - wrote L. S. Vygotsky.
In Vygotsky's views the person has social character. It does not cover all attributes of individuality, but puts an equal-sign between child's person and his cultural development. The person "is not congenital, but appears as the result of cultural development". Developing, person masters own behaviour. However, the necessary precondition of this process is person's education, because development of this or that function is always derived from person's development as a whole and caused by it".
In person's development passes a number of changes having the stage nature. Owing to destruction of one social situation of development and occurrence another, more or less stable developments are replaced by the critical periods in person's life during which there is a rough forming of new psychological formation. Crises are characterized by unity of negative (destructive) and positive (constructive) parties and play a role of steps on a way of further child's development.
Arisen during this or that period new formations qualitatively change person's psychological functioning. For example, occurrence of teenager's reflection completely reconstructs his mental activity. New formation is the third level of self-organizing: "Alongside with primary level of an individual mentality (inclinations, heredity) and secondary level of his education (environment, acquired characteristics) here (during puberty) act tertiary conditions (reflection, self- mounting)". Tertiary functions make a basis of consciousness. Finally, they too represent the psychological relations that transferred in the person, earlier it was relations between people. However, connection between the socio-cultural environment and consciousness is more difficult and consists not only in influence of environment on rates of consciousness development, but also in conditionality of the type of consciousness, character of his development.
Vygotsky managed to tie various strands of inquiry together into a unique approach that does not separate individuals from the sockA cultural setting in which they function. This integrative approach to social, semiotic, and psychological phenomena has substantial relevance today, a half century after his death.
Fred Newman, Lois Holzman. Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist. – New York, USA: Psychology, 1993 – 192 p.
James V. Wertsch. Vygotsky and the social formation of mind. – London, England: Harvard University Press, 1985 – 262p.
Ждан А. Н. История психологии: от античности к современности: Учебник для студентов психологических факультетов университетов. Изд. третье, исправленное. – М.: Педагогическое общество России, 2003 – 512с.