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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

It's Time to Stop Dividing Politics Into Left and Right



Today in a Comparative Politics class I had a professor deliberately make the class classify the British Labour and Tory Parties on the left right continuum . . . He had the class advance the position that right wing means economic liberalism and that left wing means state ownership more than it does progress and liberalism both of these positions misalign with historical reality and construct a straw man out of real historical political positions.This would make some form of sense in speaking to a 101 class that had no rudimentary understanding of politics, but at this point it's just absurdly shallow.


Why on earth do we still adhere to the simple and reductionist political model of the left right divide? Are we too stupid to understand anything else? Or is it that our intellectual superiors are so patronizing as to suggest that we don’t need to know more or perhaps don’t care; if that is the case they are in a direction violation of their scholarly duties.


Even most vote compass or political alignment quiz sites use an axis which represents libertarian vs autocratic tendencies and statist vs capitalist ideas and classifies them as such. It’s a sad day when the hordes of the internet can manage to better classify the diversity of politics than an instructor in a University Lecture Hall.


We know that the terms left and right originated with the seating pattern that emerged in the French National Assembly during the course of the revolution where the monarchists (Feuillants) sat on the right side of the hall, and the Revolutionary Liberals (Jacobins) sat on the left side of the hall. Why do we still insist upon placing the 18th century concepts on to modern politics?


The British Conservative Party in Wellington's day, cannot be compared to conservative party of David Cameron or Margaret Thatcher, they are so different as to be almost completely alien to one another so why persist?


Why do we call the labour party, whether new labour or old, left wing? Why would someone classify Blair’s Labour party as anything remotely similar to the Labour Party under the leadership of Clement Attlee? Why call Marxists and Socialists left wing in general if the concept referred to radical liberals?

These antiquated labels do more harm than good and simplify political discussion immensely. I know they will not disappear, but you would expect a professor of political science, someone whose career depends on political analysis, to be more nuanced than that.