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July 12, 2007


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I worry about using the word "we." Although it seems to be necessary for rhetorical purposes and whatnot, for social and political movements at least it can include those that would otherwise be excluded. It seems to privilege presence; ie. those that are immediately present or in the room. Last term while I was attempting to teach, I really began to shy away from using the word in order to not diminish the difference between 'teacher' and 'student.' Then, precisely while I was supposed to be focusing on the lecture, my mind would wander off into a debate with myself about whether 'we' is fitting for a course or not. My worry is that it attempts to do away with the difference that exist in any class or situation. I suppose this is a problem about being with others.


Not Often--interesting and fair point. I think there is a huge difference between a classroom and a political alliance, movement, party, aspiration. I don't say 'we' in the classroom. It's interesting, though, that some folks have a deliberate pedagogy of breaking down hierarchies and that sort of thing. I find that approach misleading and disingenuous--not all relations are or should be equal. Parenting small children is one example. A classroom is another.


Good points and all - especially with regard to pedagogy, parenting, etc. But in the end I'm comfortable with "We the people"


I have had many negative experiences of such a 'we' and hence am particularly apprehensive to use it. In activist contexts in particular such a 'we' is often wielded to erase difference and to establish a fantasy of unity when the 'internal' work hasn't been done to set up relationships and structures that can make such a 'we' possible. Todd May's recent book 'Gramsci is Dead' has some useful analysis of what such a 'we' might look like. He draws out a genealogy of anarchism, via NSM's, feminism, indigenous sovereignty struggles and post-structuralism (Foucault and Deleuze especially) to present quite a compelling case for anti-capitalist (and Bush, war etc) resistance that is based upon solidarity and difference.

John Reeve

Just because Bush didn't win in 2000 doesn't mean 'we' are the majority, unless you include the Democrats who would have won with Gore in that we.

Based on the Democrats who live around me I, as a leftist, would feel a little queasy about refering to them as 'we' except in the most general 'we' the humans who live here kind of way... never in the 'we' who aren't capitalists kind of way.

Perhaps that is the kind of anti-we-ness expressed by your collegue.

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