Vygotskian Writings Теоретическая психология Выготскианские тексты

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Garai, L.: Személyiségdinamika és társadalmi lét [Personality dynamics and social existence – in Hungarian]. Akadémiai Kiadó, Bp., 1969. pp. 231.

Garai, L.: Szabadságszükséglet és esztétikum. [The need for freedom and the æsthetics – in Hungarian]. Akadémiai Kiadó [Academic Press], Bp., 1980. pp. 160.

Garai, L.: Egy gazdaságpszichológia megalapozása. [Foundation of an economic psychology – in Hungarian]. Edition of the Hungarian Economic Society, Budapest, 1990. pp. 158.


Garai, L.: On two formal conditions of developing systems [in Hungarian]. Magyar Filozófiai Szemle, 15. (1971). 213-215.

Garai, L.: About the notion of information in the research on living systems [in Russian]. In: Философские проблемы биологии [Philosophical questions of biology]. Izd. “Hayka”. M. 1973.

Garai, L.: The schizophrenia of psychology: The production principle and the possibility of a consistent psychology [in Hungarian] Világosság. 20. (1979). 343-351.

Garai, L.: Marxian Personality Psychology. In: Harré-Lamb (eds.): The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psycho­logy. Basil Blackwell Publisher. 1983. 364-366.

Garai, L.: The paradoxes of social identity [in Hungarian]. Pszichológia. 8:2 (1988). 215-240.

Garai, L.: The brain and the mechanism of psychosocial phenomena. Journal of Russian and East-European Psychology. 1993. In press.

Garai, L. and Köcski, M.: The principle of social relations and the principle of activity. Soviet Psychology. 1989/4. 50-69.

Garai, L. and Köcski, M.: On the mental status of activity and social relation: To the question of continuity between the theories of Vygotsky and Leontiev [in Russian]. Психологический журнал, 11:5. (1990) 17-26.

Garai, L. and Köcski, M.: Positivist and hermeneutic principles in Psychology: Activity and social catego­risation. Studies in Soviet Thought. 42. [1991] 123-135. (Earlier versions: Activity theory and social relations theory. In: Hildebrand-Nielsohn, M. and Rückriem, G. (eds): Proceeding of the 1st International Congress on Activity Theory. Vol. 1. Berlin: Druck und Verlag System Druck, 1988. 119-129.; Two Principles in Vygotsky’s Heritage: Activity and Community. In: Eros, F. and Kiss, Gy. [eds]: Seventh European CHEIRON Conference Budapest, Hungary, 4-8 September 1988. Bp.: Hungarian Psychological Association and Institute of Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 1988. 191-201.; German translation: Positivistische und hermeneutische Prinzipien in der Psychologie: Tätigkeit und gesell­schaft­liche Kategorisierung [Über die Frage von Kontinuität und Diskontinuität zwischen Vygotskij und Leont’ev]. Europäische Zeitschrift für Semiotische Studien. 1992. Vol. 3 [1-2]. 1-15.)

Garai, L. and Köcski, M.: To the question of the genesis of thinking in Leontiev’s theory [in Russian]. In: Koltsova V. A. and Oleinik I. N. (eds): Historical way of Psychology: Past, present, future. Moscow. 1992.

Köcski, M., 1981: Position in social situation and child’s mental development: A longitudinal study. Thesis. [in Russian]. Moscow State University Press.

Köcski, M., 1988: Positional analysis of the child’s acquirement of his self [in Russian]. In: Cборник нaучных трудов. Академия наук СССР. Институт психологии Москва, 1988. 62-68.

Köcski, M. and Garai, L.: Les débuts de la catégorisation sociale et les manifestations verbales. Une étude longitudinale (translation et adaptation: Paul Wald). Langage et Société. 4. (1978). 3-30.

24A keynote paper presented by Prof. Laszlo GARAI DSC at the International Conference dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Lev Vygotsky (The Cultural-Historical Approach: Progress in Human Sciences and education; Moscow, 21-24 October, 1996)

25Vygotsky: Istoricheskii smysl psikhologicheskogo krizisa (1927). Sobranie sochinenii, t. 1. Moscow: Pedagogika, 1982; p. 333.

26Controversial points of this conception (see P. Gal’perin: Stages in the development of mental acts. In: Michael Cole and Irving Maltzman [eds]: A handbook of contemporary soviet psychology. New-York-London: Basic Books, 1969; pp. 249-273) being indifferent for the context of this paper, this does not deal with them.

27“[...] researchers have been compelled by force of facts [...] to introduce new psychologic concepts (the doctrine of Goldstein on categorial thinking, that of H. Head on symbolic function, of O. Poetzl on categorization of the perception etc.)” Vygotsky: Psikhologia i uchenie o lokalizatsii psikhicheskikh funktsii (1934). Op. cit., p. 169.

28Generalization and communication (or, to put it in terms of Vygotsky’s paronomasia: having something in common and making something common).

29Karl R. Popper and John C. Eccles: The Self and its Brain. Springer International, 1977.

30See Section papers from the Sixteenth World Congress of Philosophy (27 August – 2 September 1978. Düsseldorf, Federal Republic of Germany.

31Popper & Eccles: Op. cit., p. 72. This is in spite of the fact that the Darwinian Huxley wrote: “Mind would relate to the machinery of the body as a simple by-product of the latter’s operation, which is no more capable of modifying said operation than the sound of steam-whistle, accompanying the operation of a locomotive is able to influence the engine’s operation.” T.H. Huxley, Method and results. Collected essays. Vol. 1. Mac­mil­lan, 1898.

32Cf. J. Szentagothai & M. A. Arbib: Conceptual Models of Neuronal Organization. Yvonne M. Homsy Editor, 1974.

33According to Eccles, the most important parts of the “liaison brain” are the Brod­mann regions No. 39 and 40, and the lobus praefrontalis in the dominant hemisphere.

34E. Schrödinger: Was ist ein Naturgesetz? München-Wien: R. Oldenbourg. 1962.

35Szentagothai: An integral brain theory: Utopia or reality? [in Hungarian]. Magyar Tudomány (New Series), 1979, 24.; p. 601

36B. Julesz, The foundation of Cyclopean perception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

37Szentagothai: Op. cit; p. 614.

38P. K. Anokhin, Fiziologiia i kibernetika [Physiology and cybernernetics – in Rus­sian]. In Filosofskie voprosy kibernetiki [Philosophical problems of cybernetics]. Moscow, 1961.

39Szentagothai: Op. cit; p. 615.

40For the practical application of such an implied theory see A. R. Luria: Restoration of brain functions after war trauma. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1964.

41J. J. Gibson: The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston etc.: Houghton Mifflin Co.; 1979

42Ibid., pp. 310–311.

43Gibson, J. J., 1977: The theory of Affordances. In: R. E. Shaw and J. Bransford (eds), Perceiving, Acting and Knowing – Toward an Ecological Psychology. Hillsdale N. J., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; pp. 67.

44M. T. Turvey and R. Shaw: The Primacy of Perceiving: An Ecological Reformulation of Perception for Understanding Memory. In: Lars-Göran Nielsson, Perspectives on Memory Research. Essays in Honour of Uppsala University’s 500th Anniversary; 1977. Pp. 205–206.


46About the necessity and modalities of complementing the activity theory of Leont’iev with a theory repre­senting this psychosocial dimension, see:

L. Garai, 1969: Social relationship: A self-evident feature or a problem? A chapter of the monograph Personality dynamics and social existence [in Hungarian]. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó [Academic Press], pp. 142–159

L. Garai, F. Eros, K. Jaro, M. Kocski and S. Veres, 1979: Towards a Social Psycho­lo­gy of Personality: Development and Current Perspectives of a School of Social Psychology in Hungary. Social Sciences Information. 18/1. pp. 137-166.

L. Garai and M. Kocski, 1989: The principle of social relations and the principle of ac­ti­vi­ty. Soviet Psychology. 4. pp. 50-69. (A substantially enlarged Russian ver­sion: O psi­khologicheskom statyse dieiatel’nosti i sotsial’nogo otnoseniia. K vo­pro­su o pre­iemstvennosti mezhdu teoriami Leont’ieva i Vygotskogo. [On the men­tal sta­tus of activity an social relation: To the question of continuity bet­ween the theo­ries of Vygotsky and Leont’iev]. Psikhologicheskii Zhurnal, 11:5. [1990] pp. 17-26.)

L. Garai and M. Kocski, 1991.: Positivist and hermeneutic principles in Psychology: Activity and social categorisation Studies in Soviet Thought. 42. 123-135. (A German version: Positivistische und hermeneutische Prinzipien in der Psychologie: Tätigkeit und gesellschaftliche Kategorisierung (Über die Frage von Kontinuität und Diskontinuität zwischen Vygotskij und Leont’iev.) Europäische Zeitschrift für Semiotische Studien. 1991. Vol. 3 [1-2]. 1-15.)

L. Garai and M. Kocski, 1997: Ieshchio odin krizis v psikhologii! Vozmozhnaia pri­chi­na shumnogo uspiekha idei L. S. Vygotskogo [Another crisis in the psycho­logy: A possible motive for the Vygotsky-boom] Voprosy filosofii. 4. 86–96.

47For this issue see especially:

L. Garai: A psychosocial essay on identity [in Hungarian]. T-Twins Editor. Budapest, 1993. 231 p.

L. Garai and M. Kocski: About the link between social categorization and identity formation [in Hungarian]. In.: F. Eros (ed.): Identity and difference: Essays on the identity and the prejudice. Budapest: Scientia Humana. 1996. 72-95;

M. Kocski: About the genesis of individuality [in Hungarian]. In: F. Eros (ed): Ibidem; pp. 129-161.

Köcski, Margit, 1981: Position in the Social Situation and Child’s Mental Development. A longitudinal study (non-published academic thesis; in Russian). Moscow State University.

48On these elaboration processes see some more details in

M. Köcski and L. Garai, 1978: Les débuts de la catégorisation sociale et les manifestations verbales. Une étude longitudinale. Langage et Société. 4. 3-30.

Köcski, Margit, 1981: Pozitsiia v sotsial’noi situatsii I psikhicheskoie razvitie rebionka [Position in the Social Situation and Child’s Mental Development. A longitudinal study] (non-published academic thesis). Moscow State University.

49Social interaction and the de­velopment of cognitive operations, European Journal of Social Psychology, 1975, 5, pp. 367-383.

50For more de­tails see Doise and Mugny: Le développement social de l’intelligence. InterÉditions, Paris, 1981.

51On the XIII. International Congress of the History of Science (Moscow, 1971) I ma­de an at­tempt in an invited lecture to analize how the social structure of Europe of la­te XVIII. centu­ry made the greatest mathematicians of that age (such as d’Alembert, Car­not, Fourier, Gauss, Lagrange, Lambert, Laplace, Monge, Saccheri, Schweikart, Tau­rinus and, last but not least, Bolyai senior) discover at the same time that so­me­thing was wrong about the logical struc­ture of Euclidean geometry; and how the so­cial operating in the most undeveloped Hun­gary and Russia made Bolyai junior and Lo­batchevsky discover at the same time (historically speaking: it was the 3rd No­vem­ber, 1823 for the Hungarian, and the 24th Februa­ry, 1826 for the Russian geo­me­ter) what was wrong about the logical operation of all those exal­ted precursors spen­ding almost a century to try to deduce the Postulate V from four other Pos­tulates, in­stead of, what Bolyai junior and Lobatchevsky did, going without the Postulate V at all (cf. L. Garai: Hypothesis on the Motivation of Scientific Creativity. XIII International Con­gress of the History of Science. USSR, Moscow, August 18-24, 1971. “Nauka” Publishing House. M., 224-233.).

In another investigation I applied the same method of paralleled structural analysis to the oeuvre of the greatest Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef (The case of Attila Jozsef: A reply to Gustav Jahoda. New Ideas in Psychology. 6:2. [1988], pp. 213-217)

52 This writing provoked a discussion among the clients of the New Ideas in Psychology. E. g., Gustave Jahoda published in Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 2 I l-2 12, 1988 the following comment:



Department of Psychology, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Gl lRD, U.K.

This is a fascinating yet also tantalizing paper that gave me the feeling of being at the edge of exciting illuminations that somehow always proved elusive. The reason is probably at least in part its highly condensed character, taking for granted assumptions and subtle distinctions that escape the reader who has a different background. Hence some of the remarks that follow may result from misinterpretations of Garai’s arguments. On the other hand, I believe that some genuine problems concerning the highly complex and somewhat diffuse notion of ‘social identity’ will also be identified.

Garai begins by contrasting two seemingly different concepts of social identity deriving from representations and activity respectively. But are they really so different? The representations do not arise in vacua, but are a combined function of the persons’ activity and in part the internalized attributions of others based upon the observed activity (cf. G. H. Mead). The issue is perhaps somewhat confounded by Garai’s choice of example, presumably inspired by the cognitive dissonance literature: the distinction between work and play is in many respects notoriously difficult to define objectively, being a function of both culture and group or individual representations. It should be noted that in the experimental studies cited, the definitions of ‘work’ or ‘play’ were externally imposed by the experimenters in terms of the presence or absence of rewards. It may be mentioned in passing that in England cricketers used to be divided into ‘gentlemen’ and ‘players,’ the former being amateurs and the latter paid professionals! In any case Garai argues, in my view quite correctly, that dissonance does not arise from mere inconsistencies for which we have considerable tolerance, but from divergences between central features of one’s identity and acts that are in conflict with it.

This leads to the ‘paradox’ of social identity, where I have the feeling that something important is being said without being able to grasp it adequately. As prototype features of social identity, ‘reasonableness’ and ‘honesty’ are proposed, and defined in terms of the ‘rational man’ of 19th century capitalism, while pointing out that there are other alternatives. One would have expected this interesting theme of the relationship between social identity and social system to be developed at this point, but the discussion moves on to ways of reducing cognitive dissonance.

Once again the illustration here (an ‘authentic’ Moslem does not drink wine) is open to question, as is the syllogistic formulation. All world religions allow for the imperfections of man or few would remain whose ‘authentic’ social identity is that of a Moslem, Christian, Hindu, and so on. For instance, Hindi are vegetarians, but for many it is perfectly acceptable to eat meat in certain contexts outside their community. This is not to deny the prevalence of conflict and dissonance, as in the fundamentalist Christian who commits adultery; in fact, this is the very stuff of most great imaginative writing in novel and drama! Again, there are commonly a series of social identities for a given person, in a hierarchy of values. For instance, under a system of collective cabinet responsibility, a minister may defend a policy he or she personally dislikes since the dominant identity is that of a loyal party member (not forgetting all the rewards that carries with it!). In spite of such reservations, it appears to me of considerable merit that Garai has shown that aspects of social identity must almost invariably enter into situations of cognitive dissonance more fundamentally than its proponents supposed. Yet I still remain unsure where exactly the paradox is located. Has it to do with the juxtaposition of ‘natural’ versus ‘social’ identity? It seems to me that this is a doubtful dichotomy employing the term ‘identity’ in two rather different senses. An inanimate object like a glass cannot have an ‘identity’ in the sense of self-awareness, though it could be regarded as ‘social’ rather than ‘natural’ insofar as it is an artifact. Moreover, even if one compares beliefs about society and about the physical world, it does not necessarily follow that the latter are more readily changed according to the empirical evidence. Ideas about the physical world are also socially mediated and often value-laden – witness Galileo!

The sudden introduction of Tajfel’s adopted definition of a group or nation as those who feel themselves to belong is very puzzling. In particular, it is not explained why the same cause should lead to opposite effects and how this might be related to dissonance reduction. Similarly, I fail to understand how exactly ideology comes in and am thereby surely missing a crucial step linking the socioeconomic system to social identity.

On the other hand, the examples of the sinner’s remorse and the false confessions present the existence of a paradox in a compelling manner. One would like to know more about the postulated process of social reproduction and the relationship between socio-economic and psychosocial identity. Moreover, not having Voslensky, it is difficult to imagine a social game in which the rules are made up ex post!

In conclusion, Garai’s article appears to me like a map with large pieces only vaguely sketched in. It clearly indicates many interesting features of an unusual landscape, but often I cannot make out the routes leading from one to the other and thus am unable to have a proper overview and use the map as a guide to the real world.

No doubt this is to some extent due to my defective vision as well as lack of familiarity with the symbols employed. However, if others experience similar difficulties it would be helpful if Garai could fill in more of the detail and dispel the misunderstandings.


Then followed



It seems to me that Gustav Jahoda’s position is much closer to mine than mine seems to him to be to his. I agree with his claim to have, as he puts it, “the highly complex and somewhat diffuse notion of social identity ‘identified’.” It is an only too just demand to have the relationship between social identity and social system developed. I share as well his expectation that the relationship between psychosocial and socio-economic aspects of social identity will be clarified.

Nevertheless, Jahoda puts so many salient questions (a considerable proportion of which, I gather, comprise only a polite form of his criticism), that a thorough answer would require rewriting the whole paper, eventually as a monograph.

This I actually did, but in Hungarian. That enterprise gives me, however, an opportunity to take over from there some items of a case study in which I applied the theory challenged by Jahoda. The case study in question is that of the greatest Hungarian poet of the 20th century, Attila Jozsef. I applied my theory as a method of analyzing his life and work, and I found that the contents he expressed by his poetry, philosophic writings, acts in public and private life, symptoms of his somatic and mental illness, and, finally, by his suicide, as well as the forms expressing those contents are nothing but concrete means for elaborating concrete changes in his social identity.

In my paper commented on by Jahoda I maintained that what one does and thinks are tied together by one’s social identity. In the case study in question, I went somewhat further. Henri Tajfel (1982) pointed to “the importance of exaggeration,” especially as far as social identity is concerned. In order to exaggerate the extent to which one is like or unlike X, one exaggerates the extent to which one does, says, thinks or feels something like or unlike X. It is not a question of expressing in a positive way someone’s social identity by doing, saying, thinking or feeling something. For instance, speaking thickly hardly expresses the social identity of a valiant. Yet Shakespeare wrote, “Speaking thick became the accent of the valliant.” But what exactly is said in his Henry IV by Lady Percy praising her late husband is this: “He was, indeed, the glass I wherein the noble youth did dress themselves: / He had no legs, that practis’d not his gait; / And speaking thick, which nature made his blemish, / Became the accent of the valiant; / For those that could speak low and tardily, / would turn their own perfection to abuse, / to seem like him: so that in speech, in gait, / In diet, in affections of delight, / In military rules, humours of blood, / he was the mark and glass, copy and book, / That fashion’d others. “ What does matter in this business of exaggerating one’s social identity is the formal feature of similarities to or differences from X, while X may be any social quality, whether represented by some concrete person or not.

For Attila Jozef it was represented by the proletarian class.

Although it is not easy to make a study of a poet’s case without any possibility of his poems’ form being analyzed, I shall try to give an answer to Jahoda’s comments by reproducing here some points of that analysis. Jozsef was born in 1905 with no unambiguous marker of his social identity, either in or around his family. He had a name which was in Hungary of that time the most trivial first name (Jozsef=Joseph) but he bore it as his last name. On the other hand, his actual first name (Attila) was at that time almost unknown, and even for this reason exchanged by his country foster-parents for Pista (=Steve). He lived with foster-parents although he was not an orphan; both his father and mother were alive, but his father left the family (and the country) looking for a job that was more advantageous for a proletarian, and his mother became both psychically and somatically ill after her husband’s flight. Jozsef was three years old at that time.

Although his father was a proletarian, neither Jozsef nor anybody else in his family spent a day working as proletarians (they practiced mostly different sorts of private services, e.g., the mother did laundering). On the other hand, the family lived in a most typical proletarian quarter of Budapest and led a life marked by the typically proletarian misery of the period before and during the war.

This particular ambiguity is of great importance because he took himself for a proletarian. Meanwhile, when he got acquainted in the mid (his early) twenties with Marx’s economic-philosophic texts, regarding which he became a very good scholar, the most important point of this theory for him turned out to the statement about the antagonism between the production and the consumption of the class of proletarians which, on the one hand, exclusively produces all goods for society and, on the other, is excluded from the consumption of those goods. For Jozsef, as well as for those authentic Marx texts, not the misery alone but its antagonism with creation turns this social class, though particular like all social classes are, into the universal redeemer of the whole society. Jozsef’s social identity as a proletarian became important for him for this assumed mediation between particular social facts and universal human values.

It would have given him not merely a social identity but one that is supposed to represent a human identity (which is referred to socialist values). Such structures were appreciated by Jozsef for they gave possibilities, as he put it in several pieces of his poetry and in philosophic writings, to “mingle and emerge.” (The latter Hungarian verb actually means “excel,” too). In these writings, “mingle” means to be one part of a whole that has its pattern constituted by the relationship of those parts, while “emerge” means to turn out to be a part which, though on a small scale, does bear that pattern.

The same structure was reproduced when he joined the underground communist party considered to be the vanguard of the proletariat. Moreover, he might claim to mingle with the party and, at the same time, emerge as a poet.

And, finally, he gave the following poetic form to why he needed this construct

“I mingled with the rest and then emerged

so that this poem should emerge from among all my concerns.”

It is proper to quote here the statement about Jozsef that Arthur Koestler made in his memoirs, The invisible writing: “The unique quality of the poems of his later years lies in their miraculous union of intellect and melody ... His most complex and cerebral Marxist and Freudian poems read like folksongs, and sometimes like nursery rhymes; ‘ideology’ is here completely distilled to music which, whether adagio or furioso, is always eminently cantabile. His rhythm almost automatically translates itself into song.”

Thus, the above theoretic construct was by no means a mere theoretic construct but an organic part of József’s art. On the other hand, it was an elaboration in the sense I mentioned earlier of his ambiguous belonging to the proletarian class. He exaggerated his identity as a proletarian by thinking like a proletarian does and still more so. Becoming communist was the way of exaggerating his proletarian identity.

But neither was his communist identity unambiguous. The communist party meant to bring together scholarly Marxism and genuine proletariat, but proletarians were rarely scholarly Marxists and Marxists were seldom genuine proletarians. Nevertheless, Jozsef was both a genuine proletarian in a way, and certainly a scholarly Marxist. While the communist party was involved in its historical quest of an optimal compromise between proletarian feelings and Marxist thinking, Jozsef never allowed a discounting either of proletarian feelings or of Marxist thinking. This lack of disposition to compromises was a lack of his communist identity that, therefore, needed exaggeration. On the other hand, by feeling like a proletarian and thinking like a Marxist at the same time he manifested that he felt and thought like a communist and still more so.

Without retracing here the entire process in the course of which Jozsef constructed the edifice of his social identity, coordinating to each of its levels a structure of thinking and feeling (and also that of speech and acts) in conformity with the social structure, I have tried to show why it was so important for Jozsef to belong to the proletarian category that mediated his relationship to society as a whole and to its human values, and to belong to the communist category that mediated his relationship to the proletariat.

All this is to be borne in mind in order to understand why the whole edifice of his social identity collapses when in 1933 society as a whole turns out to be heading, not in the direction of the values of a proletarian socialism but of national socialism, when a part of the working class turns out to be progressing towards its socialist values not along the revolutionary path staked out by the communist party but along a less dangerous path shown by the social democrats, and when the communist party expels Jozsef, who had been investigating the causes and consequences of these facts and even voiced them.

The fact that the structure of social identity determines that of thinking, feeling, speech, and acts is manifest in the case of Jozsef so that his whole mental life got defined by a paradox that marked that social identity structure. He refused to share the communist party’s position that the fascisization of Europe was caused by the treason of social democracy. At the same time, he rejected the social democratic argument that the masses fled the horrors of communist extremism to fascism. He pinpointed the cause of takeover by national socialists as the lack of unity in the workers’ movement and emphasized that in this story both sides had committed mistakes, but there was no time to throw these up against each other, as the most pressing issue was the creation of a militant alliance against fascism.

This reasoning quite clearly deviated from the arguments presented at that time by the communist party, so Jozsef, if he did think like a communist, had to admit that he did not think like a communist. If he had thought that thinking differently was communist thinking, then he would have thought differently even in this respect, that is, even less like a communist (cf. “The paradox of social identity” in my paper at issue).

What the reader sees here as a logical exercise was a paradox existentially lived by Jozsef in his everyday life. While he tried to prove that he was thinking like a communist and thereby demonstrated that he was not, this paradoxical structure came to predominate in the totality of a way of life in which the intention frustrated itself. He began to have worse and worse neurotic symptoms, the most important element being powerless­ness, impotence. There appeared in his poems motifs like the infant who, when suffering, is offered food but when reaching for it is denied it so that the child should suffer. Neither does the figure of the proletarian appear in his subsequent poems as “labor dressed in class struggle” or “winner to come,” but as someone whose choice makes no difference: you may choose to learn this trade or that, or no trade at all – the capitalist makes the profit out of it, anyhow.

The later poem has been several times modified by Jozsef who rewrote most of his poems in order to perfect them. We know of four versions of this poem, which happens to be a ballad. What Jozsef actually modified was the address of the envoy. Before his expulsion from the party, he called the addressee of the ballad “Worker.” After his expulsion, he improved it to “Brother.” Some months later he felt “Old chap” was preferable. And, finally, he seemed to have found the perfect solution in addressing the ballard to ‘Jozsef.” Just as the undermining of his communist identity by the above-mentioned paradox corroded the proletarian identity it mediated, the destruction of the structure of the proletarian identity undermined Jozsef’s identity, which was referred to the most universal human values. A year later, at the deepest point of his identity crisis, he tried to redefine the lost dividing line between good and evil by searching for a real or transcendent father who rewarded and punished by merit, or a mother who would accept him regardless of his frailties.

There is no room here to look into this phase of the crisis closely. Instead, we have to mention that the paradox of categorization generating the crisis was replaced two years later by another paradox of opposite structure. What happened was that, in 1935, the Comintern Congress arrived at the same conclusions concerning the united front policy against fascism as the ones that had led to Jozsef s expulsion two years before. As a result, some representative of the communist party tried to re-establish contacts with Jozsef and involve him again in illegal party work, arguing that in this story both sides had committed mistakes, but there was no time to cast them up against each other, as the most pressing issue was the creation of a militant alliance against fascism. Now, these were the very words Jozsef had used about this alliance which led the Hungarian party to reject an alliance with him three years before.

The structure of this new paradox of social categorization was as follows: had he accepted the argument and returned to the communists despite what had happened, it would have demonstrated that (at least in this question) he was thinking the same way as they, that is, he really had something in common with them. On the other hand, had he rejected the argument and refused to return to the communists because of what had happened, it would have shown that he was thinking differently from them, so he had no business to be among them. When he thought he belonged with them, he immediately produced a justification for thinking so; when, on the other hand, he thought he did not belong with them, the justification would be to this effect. What gave him ground to think what he thought in either case was thinking what he thought. With this, the paradox of helplessness was replaced by another paradox that might generate the contrary feeling of omni­potence: anything he thought of his own identity presented itself as reality. But the very moment he thought its polar opposite, the idea of this opposite identity established itself.

One would have to present too many concrete facts of personal, social, and cultural history in order to demonstrate the way in which the identity crises generated by the two paradoxes were superimposed on each other in Jozsef’s life and how his life squeezed in between the two, led inevitably to the railway tracks where he killed himself in 1937, at the age of 32.

I think, however, that even this sketchy outline of a case study is a contribution to the identification of the social identity that Gustav Jahoda has requested.


Tajfel H. (1982) Social identity and intergroup relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

53To be presented to the conference “Institution and policy diversity – its role in economic development” (Debrecen, 2000).

54URL: http://www.staff.u-szeged.hu/~garai/Strukt.htm E-mail: garai@mtapi.hu

55To be presented to the conference “Institution and policy diversity – its role in economic development (Debrecen, 2000).

56URL: http://www.staff.u-szeged.hu/~garai/Strukt.htm E-mail: garai@mtapi.hu

57 A detailed exposition of the arguments can be found in the author’s book The human potential as capi­tal: An approach by the economic psychology (Budapest: Aula Economic University Press, 1998 – in Hun­garian), in the chapter entitled “A model of simple economic behaviour under organizational regulation”.

58In his classic experiment, Tajfel (Human Groups and Social Categories: Studies in So­cial Psycholo­gy, Cambridge: CUP, 1981, pp. 268-71) also found that, provided that the ex­perimental subjects made a dis­tin­c­tion (however small) between their groups and tho­se of others along some dimension, they will judge the diffe­rence in income bet­ween the two groups to be larger than the absolute value of the income of their own group.

59Kornai, J.: The shortage, Budapest: Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó, 1980 – in Hungarian), pp. 204-205.

60Op. cit., p. 206.

61I myself am included in this number!
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