Left and Right: labels well past their sell-by date

Why do we all go around labelling ourselves “Left wing” and “Right Wing“? An anthropologist landing from Alpha Centauri would find a bewildering variety of tribes: Hard Left, Soft Left, Centre Left, and so on all the way out again on the other side to something called the Hard Right. It’s more like one of those pH charts that chemists use to measure acidity and alkalinity than a rational description of political economy. How did we get here? According to Evan Andrews of the History site:

The split dates to the summer of 1789, when members of the French National Assembly met to begin drafting a constitution. The delegates were deeply divided over the issue of how much authority King Louis XVI should have, and as the debate raged, the two main factions each staked out territory in the assembly hall. The anti-royalist revolutionaries seated themselves to the presiding officer’s left, while the more conservative, aristocratic supporters of the monarchy gathered to the right. [1]

Hang on. 1789? Wasn’t that rather a long time ago? And hasn’t rather a lot happened since then, such as Industrialisation, De-industrialisation, Feminism, the Interweb and a few other Broad Societal Trends, to use a term beloved of economic historians? Well, yes they have. So does this “Left” “Right” stuff really map on to a society standing on the verge of quantum computing, biological engineering and a five hour working week?

We think the split is , and always has been, between Progressives and The Other Lot (confession: we can’t think of a name for them yet). Down the years, Progressives have gone by various monnikers, including Whig, Liberal, and New Labour in the UK-you can create your own list for homework if you wish. Haltingly, and at great distance, we dare to detect a few common themes: that Justice supersedes Order. That change can lead to better things. That the more people you include, the more potential your society has to grow. And that information should flow as freely as possible.

Of course there are arguments for The Other Lot, some of them very good indeed. But they are deeply fractured (see The Kronenbourg Question, LSS 7 2 2022), whereas none of the Progressive beliefs cancel each other out, and can actually be mutually reinforcing in certain circumstances

A new coalition built around progressive beliefs would include businessmen anxious for a well fed, well educated work force, scientists and professionals, the educated, the young, workers of all classes, and groups whose historical legacy is to be excluded and alienated, such as women and minorities, all united by the beliefs we have espoused above. A coalition of Opportunity, in fact.


#Left #Right #French Revolution #progressives

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s