Or maybe *we* didn’t have any in the first place.

I had a conversation with the everlovin’ Mlove of the forceful Gathering Forces, about political vocabulary.

In Mlove’s (correct!) view we’re in a moment of historical breakdown on the left. We’re in what Badiou recently called “an intervallic period.” I think part of this breakdown is sort of a disinherited condition, wherein we have to sort of make up our own way without a lot of resources. Among the stuff that’s broken down is a common vocabulary and commonality of experience so that it’s hard to find space to have discussions about the contents of our politics. It’s not clear if we share a common structure of feeling, and it’s hard to have terms to figure that out. People use similar terms differently, and use different terms for similar ideas. What’s more, it’s hard to avoid mixing of associational and evaluative qualities, in ways that limit us in who we work with and how or limit our analytical frameworks, or both.

Mlove suggested when we talked that group engagement with a common tradition has an important role in getting through these sorts of impasses. That engagement alongside struggle helps people both to think and to find common vocabularies with which to think (the two are closely related but not the same). I think that’s a good argument in favor of engagement with traditions like marxism or anarchism or their varying and overlapping subtraditions. I also think that this could suggest a distinction within political vocabularies. This distinction is problematic and not at all clean cut but I wonder if we could distinguish aspects of a vocabulary and a tradition that are part of living thought and parts that are more like a part of the structure of the vocabulary but less immediately functional for thought. To put it another way, it’s hard to think together without a shared vocabulary. (I’m tempted to say it’s impossible but I’d want to say that any case of thinking together establishes at least temporarily a shared vocabulary, which is not quite the same thing as it being a necessary condition or precondition.) There are some aspects of a shared vocabulary or common tradition (I should unpack the connection between vocabulary and tradition more) that could be… well, economized on.

Gotta run but last things – not sure but I have a hunch this is related to metaphilosophically minimalist marxism, and I have a hunch that historical reconstructions of (or at least study which traces) the development of marxist ideas may have a role in this sort of economizing.

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