Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 336

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Luria’s autobiography emphasizes its own historical, intellectual, and critical context. Most important, throughout his narrative, Luria insists on the continuing influence of the Russian Revolution, and particularly its Marxist underpinnings, in the conception and execution of his work. He also sees his life and his writings as largely determined by his early reading in the fields of philosophy, medicine, psychology, psychoanalysis, and linguistics, and much of his narrative is an acknowledgment of his personal intellectual debts, particularly in reference to his association with Lev Vygotsky.

Clearly, Luria’s contribution to psychology is not only the product of history but also a part of it as well. Since the late 1970’s, when their work became available in the West, both Luria and Vygotsky have had an important and increasing impact in the fields of psychology, linguistics, education, and literary theory. Luria’s appeal in the West arises from both the classical and the romantic aspects of his work. Psychoneurologist Oliver Sacks, for example, considers Luria’s work on memory and brain-damaged patients (examples of romantic, or idiographic, science) a strong influence on his own work in these areas. As European and American scholars and practitioners have become more interested in the interactive nature of human life, and in the methodologies which Soviet psychologists have developed for collecting data, they have turned more readily to the work of their Soviet contemporaries.

In The Making of Mind, Luria attempts to account for his successes, uncover the common themes of his wide-ranging projects, and justify the disruptions in his career caused by political circumstances. Though this autobiography is superficially less personal than might be expected, the reader senses underneath the narrative Luria’s desire to create a higher order and greater consistency within his life as he approaches the end of it. This book is also an important contribution to the literature of psychology and history: It provides insights into the history of psychology, into the Soviet academic and professional milieu, and into the mind of an interesting man.