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If only politics would make me feel simple and produce no sense of loss.

Is this keyword about ambiguity or ambivalence? Ambivalence is not just simple pessimism or a clear political contradiction. Nor is it simply a state of self-doubt (do I have a right to make a political claim, do I know what I want or just what I don’t want, is the political sphere worth my investment, do I know enough, am I an authoritarian asshole or too weak and lame, is my claim stupid . . .?). It points to a state in which one is pulled strongly on so many sides that one can feel smart and nuanced or paralyzed and compromised, or, finally, pragmatic: things have to proceed in states of ambiguity, and I feel ambivalent about this but the absence of it would be devastating.

In short, there is no politics without ambivalence. What distinguishes some styles from others is how that ambivalence gets played out, what happens to mixed feelings in the process. It might even be a medical condition!

1912 Lancet 21 Dec. 1730 ‘Ambivalency’, a condition which gives to the same idea two contrary feeling-tones and invests the same thought simultaneously with both a positive and a negative character.


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