Left and right and other nonsense

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Wed, 2006-02-08 01:27

I've tried telling you lot I'm neither left nor right (though you continue to put me on the 'Right' on your blogrolls). I've tried telling you that libertarians are neither Right nor Left, but 'North' (but I still hear people calling libertarians "extreme right"). And I've tried pointing out that your traditional Left-Right spectrum is simplistic and one-dimensional and blurs too many important distinctions to be worth a pinch of shite, as compared to the diamond-shaped 'Nolan' spectrum that has real depth, and great descriptive power. (See for example here, here and here, and that picture of NZ's political spectrum over there on the, ahem, right.)

I've told you and told you, but have you listened? Have you bollocks.

You bloody lefties, and you boring buggers trying to make the world safe for 'centre-right government' -- you just don't listen, do you? You just don't listen -- not even to each other. There's all sorts of pointless insults (and there's nothing so sad as an insult without a point), and all sorts of confusion as a result of simply not being able to accurately describe someone's political position accurately, and then getting hung up on how someone's been labelled rather than dealing with their actual political position.

Even good, honest people can get confused in this way. They end up arguing about angels on the heads of pins. People like Dr John Ray, who in an otherwise sound review of Stephen Hicks's superb book Explaining Postmodernism wonders why Hicks "uses the term 'Right' in a peculiar way -- no doubt through political expediency."

[Hicks] seems to think you can be of the political Right and also be a socialist! That enables him to avoid upsetting the applecart with regard to Hitler. He admits that Hitler was a socialist who differed only in detail from the Communists but still calls Hitler a Rightist! Calling Hitler a Leftist would in academe cause Prof. Hicks to be consigned to outer darkness, of course. The only sense I can make of Prof Hick's usage is that he is using "Right" to be synonymous with "Nationalist" but that is pretty sloppy when one considers that, at least from Napoleon on, there have been plenty of Leftist nationalists. Perhaps he just has not read Friedrich Engels, who was as fervid a German nationalist and racial supremacist as Hitler was. (See, for instance, here and here and here and here). And, yes, the Engels I am talking about is the co-worker of Karl Marx. Or were Marx & Engels not Leftists? I think in this matter I have to say that Prof. Hicks gets himself into absurdities as big as those he ennumerates among the postmodernists...

In most normal usage, Rightism would be identified with conservatism...

A tangle of confusion due to a confusion of terms, it would seem; a Gordian Knot that Stephen Hicks tries to untangle in his reply. " 'Right' and 'Left' are contextual terms," he says. In the contexts mentioned by Ray, "Right and Left are secondary variations on a primary collectivist theme."

You say that "In most normal usage, Rightism would be identified with conservatism". But then you have to ask: What are you conserving? What established traditions are you going to the mat for? And that is highly variable, depending on what your country's history is. The Rightists of the French Revolution were about conserving feudalism. The Rightists of the Republican party in America are about conserving America's mix of republican and democratic traditions. It would be a mistake then to identify the two "Rights".

Also I don't know that Rightism has always meant conservatism: Heidegger and Moeller, for example, saw themselves in part as wanting to conserve and rejuvenate German traditionalism, but they also saw themselves in part as revolutionaries wanting to overthrow what they took to be a regime that had sold out to capitalism, scientism, technology, and so on.

Much enlightening stuff on the way, but perhaps I could suggest to both gentlemen that they might slash through their terminological Gordian Knot by simply recognising that 'Right' and 'Left' are no way to accurately describe anyone. As Lindsay Perigo pointed out some time ago in The Free Radical, 'Right Plus Left = Wrong.'

NZ's Political Spectrum -
Not PC
Left Wing - Right Wing -
The World's Most Popular Political Quiz - Advocates for Self Government
Postmodernism Deconstructed - Dr John Ray
Reply to Dr John Ray - Stephen Hicks
Right Plus Left = Wrong - Lindsay Perigo


Bikemessenger's picture

You have that problem too?

I had to add a "Don't Blame Me I voted Libertarian" bumper sticker to avoid being taken for a left-wing nut job!:


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