1st Edition

Vygotsky An Intellectual Biography

By Anton Yasnitsky Copyright 2018
    164 Pages
    by Routledge

    164 Pages
    by Routledge

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    – The most famous Russian psychologist, whose life and ideas are least known?

    – A pioneer of psychology who said virtually nothing new?

    – A simple man who became a genius after he died?

    This fundamentally novel intellectual biography offers a 21st-century account of the life and times of Lev Vygotsky, who has long been considered a pioneer in the field of learning and human development. The diverse Vygotskian literature has created many distinct images of this influential scientist, which has led many researchers to attempt to unearth ‘the real Vygotsky’. Rather than join this quest to over-simplify Vygotsky’s legacy, this book attempts to understand the development of ‘the multiple Vygotskies’ by exploring a number of personae that Vygotsky assumed at different periods of his life. Based on the most recent archival, textological and historical investigations in original, uncensored Russian, the author presents a ground-breaking account that is far from the shiny success story that is typically associated with ‘the cult of Vygotsky’.

    This book will be an essential contribution to Vygotskian scholarship and of interest to advanced students and researchers in history of psychology, history of science, Soviet/Russian history, philosophical psychology, and philosophy of science.


    1. Prophet

    The Gomel Years (1896-1913)

    A Jew Admitted to Imperial Moscow University

    Literary Criticism (1914-1916)

    Beba Vygodskii: The "Young Jewish Prophet"

    The Russian Revolution (1917-1918)

    Lev Vygodskii during the Russian Revolution

    The Great War (1914-1918) and its Aftermath

    In Ukrainian Gomel in 1918

    2. Bolshevik

    Gomel during Russian Civil War

    The "Cultural Front," Marxism, and the "New Man"

    Lev Vygotsky in Gomel in 1919-1921

    New Economic Policy (NEP) and the Birth of the Soviet Union

    Vygotsky as a Publisher, Political Activist, and Theatrical Critic (1922-3)

    3. Reflexologist

    Vygotsky Teaches and Lectures

    Vygotsky’s Entrance into Psychology

    The Teaching about Reflexes: Pavlov’s and Bekhterev’s Research Methods

    Vygotsky’s New Method: "Double Stimulation"

    Vygotsky and Reflexology

    Second Psychoneurological Congress as a Landmark

    4. Psychologist

    Alexander Luria: Vygotsky’s Alter Ego

    Vygotsky’s Comeback in Moscow

    Marxist Practicality and the "New Science"

    The Variety of "New Psychologies"

    The Trip to London and its Aftermath

    Vygotsky’s Three Books

    Psychology as a Science about the Superman

    Vygotsky—Luria Circle: People and Institutes

    "Instrumental Psychology"

    Unexpected Discoveries: Word Meaning, Dialogue, and Inner Speech

    The Outcomes of the Decade of 1920s

    5. Revisionist

    Stalin’s Great Break and Cultural Revolution

    Vygotsky’s Life and Career at the Turn of the Decades

    IX International Psychological Congress and its Impact

    Towards a New Psychological Theory

    The Demise of "Reactology"

    Criticizing Vygotsky

    Vygotsky Criticizes... Vygotsky

    Expeditions to Central Asia of 1931 and 1932

    Revisionist Conclusion

    6. Holist

    The Challenge of the Totality: Holistic Gestalt Psychology

    Kurt Lewin’s "Galileian" Psychology

    The Vygotsky-Luria Circle in 1930s

    Major Theoretical Reconstruction and New Experimentation

    "The Threshold of a New Theory": The Pessimistic Finale

    Epilogue. Genius

    Timeline of landmark events


    Conventions and acknowledgements



    Anton Yasnitsky, Ph.D., is an independent researcher who specializes in the Vygotsky–Luria Circle. He has coedited (with René van der Veer et al.) The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (2014), Revisionist Revolution in Vygotsky Studies (2015), and Vygotski revisitado: una historia crítica de su contexto y legado (2016).

    "This is the first thorough coverage of the life and work of this Russian-Jewish scholar since my work with René van der Veer over twenty-five years ago (Understanding Vygotsky, 1991). Vygotsky’s psychological theories, based on his deep feelings on theatre and literature, continue to fascinate scholars worldwide. Yasnitsky has clearly emerged as the new world leader in doing careful analytic work on Vygotsky’s heritage." - Jaan Valsiner, Aalborg University, Denmark