Politics — in the emphatic sense — can sometimes feel like a dead language.
Terms and concepts that today should still retain some of their original descriptive purchase (like “lumpenproletariat” or “petit-bourgeois”) are only greeted with blank stares and bewildered incomprehension. It’s like you’re speaking Middle English or something. But then words and phrases that should actually raise a great deal more doubt (like “imperialism,” the “Third World,” or even “the precariat”) are taken for granted, as if everyone knows what they mean, even though it’s not clear at all if they remotely correspond to reality.
Obviously, I’m not interested in adopting some kind of false orthodoxy. Nor would I insist that everyone drop the way they’d ordinarily talk about something. It’s just that when it comes to serious discourse and debate, there needs to be at least some understanding of what these categories once meant and what they might mean today (if anything). Many of them are quite loaded, historically. Continue reading