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Economics Philosophy & Politics Science

Piaget, Vygotsky, and Political Economy

Piaget and Vygotskys’ theories of cognitive development are somewhat contrasting, and can be compared to one-another endlessly using anecdotal evidence from our lives. Piaget’s model implies that cognitive development occurs parallel to neurobiological development and the child’s interaction with their environment. It’s relatively individualistic by nature of its focus on how the individual’s sensory processing of information from their environment effectively leads to formulation of ideas, and furthers cognitive development (subconsciously attempting to master their environment). The concepts proposed by Vygotsky differ from Piaget conversely; he proposes that through the zone of proximal development and by use of scaffolding, the individual develops cognitively through social interaction. Vygotsky concludes that social interaction is crucial to the process of learning and cognitive development; I’d make the comparison between the two theories that one seems to be individualistic (Pieget), while the other, relativistic (Vygotsky) in nature.

After making this mental connection, I decided to do some digging. I found that Piaget was born in the turn of the 20th century in capitalist Switzerland, while Vygotsky was a Soviet psychologist, educated at the Imperial Moscow University. It’s fascinating to me that two psychologists who likely harbor some sentiment for ideologically opposing political-economic theories (Communism, which is culturally relativistic, and Capitalism, which is culturally individualistic) would propose two conversed theories of cognitive development. Not to discount the validity of the theories- but I truly wonder if this is evidence of human nature being contingent on the material conditions of our reality, rather than some inherited, implicit biases towards thoughts or behaviors. What do you think? Did the fact that the material conditions of Piaget and Vygotskys’ environments differed influenced their psychology? If so, doesn’t that necessarily imply that Piaget was right? Would this information discount Vygotsky’s theory?