Vygotsky : An Intellectual Biography book cover
1st Edition

An Intellectual Biography

ISBN 9781138806740
Published June 8, 2018 by Routledge
164 Pages

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Book Description

– 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.

Table of Contents


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


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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