Cultural-Historical Activity Theory in the Framework of the “Functional Paradigm”
The aim of the paper is to highlight the peculiarity of the present state of the Cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) in psychology, as compared to previous periods of its development in the general context of theory development in psychology. The author sees this peculiarity in that CHAT exemplifies an anti-Aristotelian paradigm which suggests that the actual functioning of living systems cannot be fully deduced from a priori existing morphological and psychological structures. This emphasis unites CHAT with two other influential approaches to the explanation of human conduct, existentialism and the systems approach to autoregulating systems, which can be found from early cybernetics to synergetics and the theory of complexity of our own day. Although they each occupied marginal positions in human sciences in the middle of the last century, all three approaches now find themselves articulating the same message in different words; basic similarities between them allow us to speak of their confluence into what may be called the functional paradigm. The functional paradigm states the primacy of the process, actual functioning, activity, or existence, the absoluteness of uncertainty and changeability, and thus seems to be the most relevant paradigm for the challenges of our times.