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A.R. Luria’s narrative of his life and career began as an outline for an American documentary about his work and eventually developed into an autobiography. The title immediately reveals much about the significance of the book itself: “The making of mind” is meant in two senses. Naturally, Luria narrates the genesis of his own theories and outlines a lifetime of intellectual development—the making of his own mind. Yet he also explores the major issues of nineteenth and twentieth century psychology from the perspective of a sixty-year career. According to Luria, the principal issues in the history of psychology have been to define the mind, to explain how individual consciousness comes into being, and to distinguish mind from brain.

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The fact that this work by a major Soviet psychologist first appeared in English suggests the passion Luria felt for developing a discipline which reconciled differences and took into account relevant ideas from science and philosophy, clinical and theoretical work, Russian and other Western traditions, Marxist theory, and other lines of thought (such as psychoanalysis). Luria summarizes these various conflicting approaches within his field in the final chapter, which contrasts classical and romantic science. The main thread running through the narrative is Luria’s lifelong attempt to mediate these oppositions. An introduction and epilogue by Michael Cole, who coedited the work with Sheila Cole, clarify this inclusive tendency of Luria’s career and, in addition, provide some personal biographical information to round out Luria’s intellectual autobiography.

Luria’s account consists of ten chapters which fall rather neatly into three divisions. The first division (chapters 1, 2, and 3) narrates his apprenticeship, his early work with pioneer psychologist Konstantin Kornilov in Moscow, and his stimulating association with developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky. The second division of Luria’s account (chapters 4 through 9) covers the period of his mature work, carried out during the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s on a wide-ranging series of projects, from cultural differences in thinking to neuropsychological research during World War II. In the last division of the book, chapter 10, Luria summarizes his work during the 1960’s and 1970’s and assesses the successes, failures, and significance of his career.

Because the work is written in a straightforward, jargon-free manner, it is appropriate reading for both specialists in the field of psychology and nonspecialists. It would be of particular interest, too, for anyone wishing to understand how Soviet academic and professional life is seen and understood by a respected figure within the system.

For an autobiography, the book is remarkably self-effacing. It is a beautifully written personal account which somehow transcends the personal. As Luria writes in the final paragraph, “People come and go, but the creative sources of great historical events and the important ideas and deeds remain. That is perhaps the only excuse I had for writing this book.”

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 49

Connolly, Kevin. “Other Men’s Minds,” in Science. CCLXXXIII (February 21, 1980), p. 797.

Duncan, C.P. Review in American Journal of Psychology. XCIII (June, 1980), p. 373.

Psychology Today. Review. XIV (June, 1980), p. 84.

Qangwill, O.L. Review in The Times Literary Supplement. April 25, 1980, p. 461.

Wertsch, J.W. Review in Science. CCVII (January 11, 1980), p. 172.

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