Carrol Cox cbcox at
Thu Jan 27 11:40:32 PST 2000

Doug Henwood wrote:

> Lots of reds don't like talking about desire, but I
> think they should.

This brings back what was my most vividly unpleasant (and repeated) experience of the '60s: the endless hours spent in meetings (large and small, local, regional and national) discussing what should be discussed (followed by discussions of whether we should be discussing what to discuss). I remember in particular walking out of almost all the plenary sessions of the 1969 national convention of the New University Conference because discussing what to discuss was taking up nearly the whole of the discussions. Jan and I came away from those experiences with a rule of thumb we have insisted on ever since in any organization in which we had influence: that if someone wanted a topic discussed there was only one legitimate way to express that desire [ :-) ] -- and that was to start discussing it and see what happens.

Now as far as I can see Desire is not a topic -- that is, it is not an abstraction but a mere label for a number of varieties of human activity which have nothing in common other than that label. For example, the phrase "sea animals" is such a generalization (naming both sea lions and tarpon, crabs and blue whales). So someone who officially announced that biologists should discuss sea animals would be looked at askance. (Incidentally, according to cladistic biologists, lung fish are more closely related to cows than to tarpon.)

So before I would be very interested in discussing desire I would need some slight indication that it is not a catch-all category gathering together quite different things. I strongly desire that left intellectual life give serious attention to honoring the distinction between labels and explanations.

Just what is it you want us to discuss.? Start discussing it and maybe we can discuss it with you.


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