The purpose of this paper is to examine the notion of internalization which mainly stemmed from Vygotsky’s work and to provide a critique of this concept as being favorably biased toward specific sociocultural practices common in industrial societies. These practices involve global networks of alienated and decontextualized activities overemphasizing the value of people’s independent solo activity and de-emphasizing the social nature of solo activities. The internalization model of cultural development, emphasizing transformation of social functions into individual skills, leads to a chain of mutually related dualisms between oppositional abstractions such as the social and the individual, the external and the internal, and the environment and the organism. Attempts to bridge these dualistic gaps seem problematic because these dual abstractions mutually constitute each other and are, thus, inseparable from the beginning. An alternative model, the participation model of cultural development (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Rogoff, 1990), which has recently emerged in different areas of the social sciences, seems helpful in overcoming such dualism inherent in the internalization model. The participation model considers individual cultural development as a validated process of transformation of individual participation in sociocultural activity. Transformation of participation involves assuming changed responsibility for the activity, redefining membership in a community of practice, and changing the sociocultural practice itself. In this paper, I argue that the participation model may be a more helpful conceptual tool for analyzing development in diverse sociocultural practices where participants’ solo activities are not necessarily privileged and emphasized. Unlike the internalization model, the participation model seems to be able to address development equally well in both decontextualized and situated sociocultural practices. It also generates exploration of new questions.

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