Modernity and Ambivalence

It is because of the anxiety that accompanies it and the indecision which follows that we experience ambivalence as a disorder – and either blame language for lack of precision or ourselves for linguistic misuse. And yet ambivalence is not the product of the pathology of language or speech. It is, rather, a normal aspect of linguistic practice. It arises from one of the main functions of language: that of naming and classifying. Its volume grows depending on the effectivity with which that function is performed. Ambivalence is therefore the alter ego of language, and its permanent companion – indeed, its normal condition.

Introduction in Modernity and Ambivalence  by ZYGMUNT BAUMAN

The Resilience of Ambivalence

Ambivalence is a side-product of the labour of classification; and it calls for yet more classifying effort. Though born of the naming/classifying urge, ambivalence may be fought only with a naming that is yet more exact, and classes that are yet more precisely defined: that is, with such operations as will set still tougher (counter-factual) demands on the discreteness and transparency of the world and thus give yet more occasion for ambiguity. The struggle against ambivalence is, therefore, both self-destructive and self-propelling. It goes on with unabating strength because it creates its own problems in the course of resolving them. Its intensity, however, varies over time, depending on the availability of force adequate to the task of controlling the extant volume of ambivalence, and also on the presence or absence of awareness that the reduction of ambivalence is a problem of the discovery and application of proper technology: a managerial problem. Both factors combined to make modern times an era of particularly bitter and relentless war against ambivalence.

Modernity and Ambivalence  by ZYGMUNT BAUMAN

C Wright Mills and Ambivalence

Nowadays men often feel that their private lives are a series of traps.  They sense that within their everyday worlds, they cannot overcome their troubles, and in this feeling, they are often quite correct:  What ordinary men are directly aware of and what they try to do are bounded by the private orbits in which they live; their visions and their powers are limited to the close-up scenes of job, family, neighborhood; in other milieux, they move vicariously and remain spectators.  And the more aware they become, however vaguely, of ambitions and of threats which transcend their immediate locales, the more trapped they seem to feel.

The Sociological Imagination