This morning I opened my email to find a letter from a friend who had stumbled on an essay I wrote over 11 years ago. (Which is a long time when you’re not out of your 30s yet.) Having little idea of what I’d said back then, I investigated. The piece, called “The Many Names of Politics,” serves as the introduction to an issue of Bad Subjects but also as a bit of a manifesto itself about the relationship between intellectual and political work. Reading it now, I’m struck by how much I’ve apparently forgotten in the interim. One of the main theses of the piece is about “the positive move” — that critique has no meaningful purpose without a vision of the good. And here I was thinking that I’d made a “new” turn toward more normative questions in my more recent work. Nope. It’s been there all along. It just got sidelined as I was busy doing things like building up research expertise.
Of course, the other striking thing about the intro and the issue is the presence of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), which I find more cringeworthy now than I did then. In 1995, I had several friends who had joined the ISO and were actively involved. I never joined for a variety of reasons, but within a few years all of my friends had actually been purged from the ISO. Some of whom had given many hours and days of their busy lives to it. As to the New Party, I haven’t heard–or read–anything about it in years.
The peace I’ve made in my own mind is to find organizations working for something tangible and to let my thinking roam the halls of utopia. Since moving here, it’s been limited to marching with people and writing stuff, but that too will change when the right group comes along.