I’m occasionally in conversations with value-laden terms used. Here’s an example – “radical perspective” and “radical practice.” Depending on who is in the room, we could swap “radical” for “communist” or “anarchist” or “feminist”, or add those terms to the mix. The problem, I think, is that value laden terms encourage people to look for ways to fit divergent practices under the same label. The label functions both as a name and as a marker of valuing and belonging. The example I really have in mind is “solidarity unionism.” In some contexts, this means minority unionism, in others it means unionism that doesn’t aim for recognition or contracts, in still others it means unions that don’t use staff. Right or wrong, better and worse, those are substantive practice definitions of the term, as opposed to value laden terms. But the name (and, admittedly, most conversations where the term appears) is value laden. And so, I think as a result of the value laden name, in other contexts the term just means “radical” or “principled” or “the kind I approve of.” I think the value laden term encourages people to try to fit different substantive practices under the label. This in turn encourages conversational disconnects. In my experience disconnects about (more) value laden subjects tend to be harder to sort out than disconnects about non- (or, at least, less) value laden subjects. So value laden terms for substantive practices encourage not only conversational disconnects but disconnects that can be a real mess.

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