While I chose to title my talk today “What is the ‘social’ in ‘social development‘?” it could just as easily have been “What is ‘development’ in ‘social development’?” For the term ‘social development’ is, I believe, expressive of some fundamental philosophical biases that permeate psychology in general and developmental psychology in particular. Specifically, I will explore two assumptions concerning the subject matter of psychology: 1) there is development that is not social and 2) it is individuals that develop. I will offer an activity-theoretic conception of ‘the social’ and of ‘development’, one that has grown out of nearly thirty years of practice, and whose major intellectual influences have been Marx, Vygotsky and Wittgenstein.
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