What Separates Left from Right? 4

Paul Gottfried argues that what separates Left from Right is not equality vs liberty but equality vs inequality. Thomas Sowell argues that the difference is a constrained vision vs an unconstrained vision of humanity, human society, human potential, and so forth. Others have argued the difference is one of universalism vs particularism, or a linear view of history vs the view that history is either cyclical or simply a series of events with no discernible pattern. Still others say the difference is one of tradition vs the experimental. So which one is it, or is it all of these?

4 comments

  1. This is a question I go over in my head in the shower when I try to decide if I am on the Right or the Left. The answer I come up with is to agree with Gottfried that the Right is accepting of inequality while the Left is not, so therefore I am on the Right. However, this does not comport with the historical distinction between the Left and Right going back to French Revolution days, when the Right, the French royalists, wanted artificially created inequality to continue while the Left, middle class classical liberals, wanted a meritocracy to replace the artificial aristocracy, that is, they were not against natural inequality but artificial inequality. And it is notable that the economic system pushed for by the Royalists was mercantilism, which is similar to the hyper-regulated crony capitalist system today’s pragmatic progressives push for. So, in short, I lean toward the Gottfried definition, but I have reservations.

  2. In past times I’ve described myself as a philosophical rightist and political leftist. Rightist in the sense of having a tragic view of life, a view of human nature as non-malleable, rand regarding conflict and inequality as inevitable and permanent. Leftist in the sense of generally opposed to the status quo, suspicious of institutional authority, and in favor of radically different ways of doing many things. A kind of synthesis of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Nietzsche and Mencken with Jefferson, Stirner, Proudhon, and Bakunin.

  3. There is no longer any clear delineation. Both sides have become an incoherent mess and their views change from issue to issue with no consistent, principled worldview other than what is convenient for them to espouse at the moment of decision.

    I would however agree with Keith that the issue that is the clearest delineating line would be whether you accept there to be a non-malleable Human Nature, with the Left obviously deneying it based on either an Economic or Cultural Deterministic basis, or on some sort of Progressive Historicism.

  4. I think human nature is historically and culturally relative, not universal. For instance, compare the tribal collectivism of primitive societies with the pseudo-individualism of modern capitalist societies. However, I believe these varying natures grounded in spatio-temporal particulars and are therefore non-malleable. Where does this put me?

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