The Traditional Political Spectrum

We have covered a wide range of political ideologies, and in this final section, we will bring them all together. As you read this article, look at the image of the traditional political spectrum. Where do you think that you fall on this spectrum? Are you in the center, left-of-center, or right-of-center? Like many people, you may have a hard time answering this question definitively, especially since political views are multidimensional. Frequently, people are not wholly ideologically consistent, and they tend to fall on different places on the spectrum depending on the specific social, economic, or political issue in question.

The traditional political spectrum models different political positions by placing them upon a left-right geometric axis.

 

Learning Objective

Compare and contrast left-wing and right-wing political ideologies

 

Key Points

  • Most long-standing spectra include a right wing and left wing, which originally referred to seating arrangements in the 18th century French parliament.
  • Originally, support for laissez-faire capitalism was expressed by politicians sitting on the left, because these represented policies favorable to capitalists rather than to the aristocracy.
  • As capitalist economies developed, the aristocracy became less relevant and were mostly replaced by capitalist representatives.

 

Terms

  • Laissez-faire: An economic environment in which transactions between private parties are free from tariffs, government subsidies, and enforced monopolies with only enough government regulations sufficient to protect property rights against theft and aggression.
  • Affiliation: A club, society, or umbrella organization.
  • Spectrum: A range; a continuous, infinite, one-dimensional set, possibly bounded by extremes.

 

Background

The traditional political spectrum is a way of modeling different political positions by placing them upon one or more geometric axes symbolizing independent political dimensions. Most long-standing spectra include a right and left, and according to the simplest left-right axis, communism and socialism are usually regarded internationally as being on the left, opposite fascism and conservatism on the right.

Traditional political spectrum

The traditional left-right political spectrum

The terms "right" and "left" refer to political affiliations which originated early in the French Revolutionary era of 1789–1796, and referred originally to the seating arrangements in the various legislative bodies of France. The aristocracy sat on the right of the Speaker (traditionally the seat of honor) and the commoners sat on the Left, hence the terms right-wing and left-wing politics.

 

Origins of the Political Spectrums

Originally, the defining point on the ideological spectrum was the ancien regime ("old order"). "The Right" thus implied support for aristocratic or royal interests and the church, while "The Left" implied support for republicanism, secularism, and civil liberties. Support for laissez-faire capitalism was expressed by politicians sitting on the left, because these represented policies favorable to capitalists rather than to the aristocracy, but outside of parliamentary politics, these views are often characterized as being on the right.

As capitalist economies developed, the aristocracy became less relevant and was mostly replaced by capitalist representatives. The size of the working class increased as capitalism expanded and began to find expression partly through trade unionist, socialist, anarchist, and communist politics, rather than being confined to the capitalist policies expressed by the original left. This evolution has often pulled parliamentary politicians away from laissez-faire economic policies, although this has happened to different degrees in different countries.

Thus, the word "left" in American political parlance may refer to "liberalism" and be identified with the Democratic Party, whereas in a country such as France these positions would be regarded as relatively more right-wing, and "left" is more likely to refer to socialist positions rather than liberal ones.

 

Left-wing vs. Right-wing

In left-right politics, left-wing describes an outlook or specific position that accepts or supports social equality, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality. It typically involves a concern for those in society who are perceived as disadvantaged relative to others and an assumption that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished. In left-right politics, left-wing describes an outlook or specific position that accepts or supports social equality, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality. It typically involves a concern for those in society who are perceived as disadvantaged relative to others and an assumption that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished.

In left-right politics, right-wing describes an outlook or specific position that accepts or supports social hierarchy or social inequality. Social hierarchy and social inequality are viewed by those affiliated with the Right as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, whether it arises through traditional social differences or from competition in market economies. It typically accepts or justifies this position on the basis of natural law or tradition. Although the term 'right-wing' originally designated traditional conservatives and reactionaries, it has also been used to describe neo-conservatives, nationalists, Christian democrats, and classical liberals.

In modern parlance, left-right has acquired the added dimension of the balance of governmental power and individual rights, wherein moving left increases the power of government and moving right the rights of individuals. In this view, "reactionary" has the aspect of "anarchy". This introduces, or exposes, a limitation in this simple binary spectrum, whereby social views of left-right, fascists, and totalitarian systems are on the far right; whereas by a balance of government to individual power, fascists and totalitarian systems are on the far left.


Source: Boundless
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Last modified: Tuesday, 29 September 2020, 1:24 PM