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Beyond Left and Right

Updated on February 14, 2019
Saul Grandier profile image

master in political science from ULA. Currently studying a PHD in political science at USB

Left or right?

Maybe you identify with some of these wings of politics. Perhaps you locate yourself on the far- left or the far- right. Well, I want to tell you that the left and the right represent just one axis of politics. I have uploaded a coordinate system or Cartesian plane (I did my best) where the X axis represents the classic Left-Right dichotomy; and the Y axis represents the older but still underestimated dichotomy: State and individual.

More than meet the eye

You are not sure of where you are? Well, I give you a small exercise. Try to answer it honestly.

Do you agree with the following sentences?

1. Abortion must be legal.

2. Euthanasia must be legal.

3. Same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt a child.

4. Marijuana must be legal

If you answered affirmatively to all the previous sentences then you belong to the third quadrant; that is, you give priority to the individual and society.

Do you agree with the following sentences?

1. The death penalty, sometimes, is an option.

2. Immigration to the country must be minimized and strictly controlled

3. Taxes on imports of foreign products are a good way to protect jobs in my country.

4. Unions cause more harm than good.

If you answered affirmatively to all the previous sentences then you belong to the first quadrant; therefore for you ,the market, the status quo and the state are the most important.

Do you agree with the following sentences?

1. Your country should give foreign aid to third world countries.

2. Taxes must be increased for industry to protect the environment.

3. The government should provide health care to citizens free of charge.

4. A strong army is an instrument of foreign policy better than a strong diplomacy.

If you agree with all the phrases then consider yourself a representative of the second quadrant; You are one of the people that gives priority to society and the State.

Do you agree with the following sentences?

1. Prostitution must be legal

2. If a person is born poor it is not his fault, but if he dies poor it is his fault

3. The minimum wage causes more damages than benefits

4. The government has many useless programs

If you agree with each of the sentences you are surely from quadrant number four so the individual and the status quo and the market are the most important aspects for you.

Axis & Quadrants

Therefore, each one of us understands politics not just by axes but also by quadrants.

The Y axis explains that there are people who prefer an interventionist State and peopleo who prefer a State that intervenes as little as possible in society. Then, the dichotomy would be: More State and less individualism / More individualism and less State.

People who want a strong state usually do not trust in others nor individual freedom. They consider that freedom is dangerous. They could easily commune with the ideas of Hobbes who claimed that the State was made to regulate the relationship between people because they feared one another (Man Is Wolf to Man- Homo homini lupus). Those who advocate individualism believe in positive freedom, that is, they know what to do with their freedom and trust that others also know what to do with it.

The X axis, on the other hand, explains that there are people who prefer a Market at the service of the Society, while there are others who prefer a Society at the service of the Market. The dichotomy of the X axis would be: More Market and Less Society / More Society and less Market.

The X axis accounts for the relationship between the means of production and the distribution of wealth. For those who prioritize society, production must be to satisfy the basic needs of the inhabitants, while those who prioritize the market affirm that the welfare of society is conditioned by wealth and profits.

What is known as right-wing must also be understood from the conservative point of view; it is from the right-wing who defends the status quo; and it is from of the left-wing the one who wants to revolutionize society. Of course, this makes sense only in societies where the historically excluded groups continue to be excluded and the historically dominant groups still ruling.

The quadrants

Now, with respect to the quadrants:

The first quadrant combines the right-wing with the State and embraces from conservatism to fascist postures. Some might say that Nazism and fascism were neither left nor right. But I will not let them ruin my Cartesian plan and I will say this: the survival of the fittest, the concept of lebensraum, Social Darwinism, eugenics, scientific racism, of which hundreds of thousands of people like Ota Benga were victims, are ideas conservative, from white –mostly-Protestant- men. I will say more: while the Bolsheviks put an end to the bourgeoisie, the Nazis allied themselves with it.

But in this quadrant are also the conservatives, the defenders of the status quo, those who follow the ideas and customs of their parents. They also defend the sovereignty of the state and advocate a large and strong army.

The second quadrant combines the left-wing with the State and goes from social democracy to the Marxist-Leninist left. Its extreme would be a State that exercises control of the means of production and controls the lives of citizens. This State pretend to be defenders of human rights, of equality and of the environment but with fierce oppression.

The third quadrant is social liberalism, this is, the combination of the the left with the individual; this kind of liberalism can go so far that it reaches communism. Yes, communism. Communism has not existed anywhere in the world. So far it has only been a great utopia of the left-wing. In communism there is no State but neither exploitation of man by man.

Finally, the fourth quadrant combines the right with the individual so the result is liberalism; and one of its highest expressions in neoliberalism. According to Bilbeny, in neoliberalism, the State no longer deals with the individual, it practically leaves it to its fate. One end of this quadrant would be raw capitalism or absolute Laissez- faire, a world where only the fittest can survive, with no place for old men.

Although I have tried to simplify, as you have seen, it is quite complex. In the next chapter I will take up these ideas again because I will try to explain the characteristics of the electors.


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