…. the child, in mastering himself (his behaviour), goes on the whole in the same way as he does in mastering external nature, e.g. by technical means. The Man masters himself externally, as one of the forces of nature by means of a special cultural ‘technique of signs’.
4idiom: on the whole. Terrible writing, by the way.– LambieDec 29, 2021 at 22:29
on the whole means in general, all things considered.– Andrew TobilkoDec 29, 2021 at 22:31
@Lambie - it's a translation from Russian of a work by Lev Vygotsky, a Marxist (Soviet) psychologist, who published The Problem of the Cultural Development of the Child in Moscow in 1929. His main work, as you might guess, was in developmental psychology. He was virtually unknown in the West until the early 1980s. Came to be an admirer of Piaget.– Michael HarveyDec 29, 2021 at 22:58
@MichaelWokeHarvey Then, the translation is bad.– LambieDec 29, 2021 at 23:09
@Lambie - it's awful.– Michael HarveyDec 30, 2021 at 8:36
'On the whole' is an idiom meaning 'generally' or 'mostly'. If something is true on the whole, it is true in general but may not be true in every case.
The sentence you quoted would be better if 'on the whole' were preceded and followed by parenthetical commas.
... the child, in mastering himself (his behaviour), goes, on the whole, in the same way as he does in mastering external nature, e.g. by technical means.