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What is Left?

 
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 10:22 pm    Post subject: What is Left? Reply with quote

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, so over the weekend I began to do some reading around the issue. Here are some links I looked at:
    - [url=books.google.ie/books?hl=en&lr=&id=OnR3yQh1ZRkC&oi=fnd&pg=PR8&dq=left+critique+of+capitalism&ots=e6Tk2sjFYx&sig=zI9diT48AjmW4LgY-fnsi59gv7I&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=left%20critique%20of%20capitalism&f=true]Beyond Left and Right: the Future of Radical Politics[/url]

    - [url=ecpr.eu/Filestore/PaperProposal/cc60e70d-0115-4220-b062-c8c51f1208d5.pdf]Radical and plural democracy: In defence of right/left and public reason[/url]

    - [url=ecpr.eu/Filestore/PaperProposal/6e11cfc4-529a-4716-b7d5-8819944cacef.pdf]BEYOND THE THIRD WAY: THE SCIENCE OF COMPLEXITY AND THE POLITICS OF CHOICE[/url]
The first is a link to the introduction of a book by Anthony Giddens (an English sociologist) and it gives a good outline of where, as I see it, things lie between Left and Right at the moment. The second link is more about the validity and usefulness of the Right and Left dynamic in democratic politics. The third is a development of the ideas in the first.

As I read the third article I began to realise that the key idea may be that of complexity. One of the things that I have accepted with many years now is that there are no straightforward answers. This, for me, maybe the key difference between the Left and the extremes of Left and Right. (This may also explain why most people vote for parties in the centre, even when they are fed up with the carry on of those politicians.)

In the complication of the centre there is no need for dogmatic or strict ideological adherence to a position, what is used is what will work. For example, the Left acknowledges the massive energy and potential of capitalism, while the Right acknowledges that certain limits on it are necessary; then all involved work to find out the best way to harness that energy and potential. Another example, the Left reshapes its attitude to welfare (viewing it as related to development rather than simple maintenance), while the Right acknowledges that the majority of people want the state to be there for them when things go wrong.

In many ways this is already how countries with mixed economies work, although all of them in different ways (more complexity). One of the other interesting consequences of this is that societies work to encourage their citizens towards developing more complexity within themselves*.

And it is here that I think that the discussion needs to take place between Left and Right. While the conflict between the extremes is interesting and entertaining, I'm not sure that it is that useful. Complexity may be why so many people continue to vote for the perceived failed politicians of the centre (rather than those further to the Right). This may be the power of democracy as a force for expressing the people's lived experience. People experience life as complicated, one where there are no simple answers, and so they are deeply suspicious of those who claim that they have such an answer. (People, because of their lived experience, would rather a mediocre and basically corrupt centrist politician to a principled extreme one.)

So my conclusion is that instead of the most important feature of the Left being: defending welfare, or opposition to capitalism, or expanding the state; the key idea may be complexity, and doing what is necessary to enable and develop complexity within society and individuals by using the available tools (e.g. capitalism and the state). One of the benefits of seeing the Left in this way is that issues such as equality and inclusion are all consistent with increased complexity and so there is a coherence to the position that may not be obvious otherwise.

u.

* This fits perfectly with some of the threads on work and education where people like ali, Vraith and myself have suggested that education needs to undergo a serious transformation to meet the needs of contemporary and future society. (Interestingly, this also fits with the Right's insistence in people taking 'personal responsibility' for their lives.)
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2014 2:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd love to think you're on to something, u. I do agree with you that there are no straightforward answers. I'm reminded of a poster I used to own that said, "For every complex problem, there is a simple solution -- and it's wrong."

But yet we see this increasing tendency of people to think in simplistic sound bites. I think lots of folks who would rather reduce the complexity in our lives, and in our politics, to simple answers, because they don't have to think very hard about them.

And then we have some on the radical Left who seem to be borrowing tea party tactics -- who think the answer to gaining more control over the country is to be *more* dogmatic rather than less. WaPo had an opinion piece on this very thing over the weekend.

(I'll have to click through and read your articles later. I'm actually supposed to be working on a short story right now. Embarassed )
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2014 4:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll have to track it down but some other political scientist concluded* (well, his work seems to indicate if not exactly "prove") that the sort of electoral system we have in the United States (which is a little different than what other other Western-style democracies have) always results in a dominant two-party system that marginalizes anyone not connected to those parties. We know this is true for Presidential elections, where 50.1% = 100% (which is insane).
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2014 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

aliantha wrote:

I think lots of folks who would rather reduce the complexity in our lives, and in our politics, to simple answers, because they don't have to think very hard about them.


I'm not sure that's necessarily why, but otherwise I largely agree. It's nothing new though. We are conditioned to seek the simple answers because our brains are lazy. (Rather, they are energy efficient.)

In a universe with observable cause and effect, we expect there to be a simple explanation.

You drop something, it breaks.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2014 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hashi Lebwohl wrote:
I'll have to track it down but some other political scientist concluded* (well, his work seems to indicate if not exactly "prove") that the sort of electoral system we have in the United States (which is a little different than what other other Western-style democracies have) always results in a dominant two-party system that marginalizes anyone not connected to those parties. We know this is true for Presidential elections, where 50.1% = 100% (which is insane).

Hee, are you sure it was someone important, and not just little old me?
I know, probably not. I'm not that influential on you, and your memory isn't that bad.
But I have pointed that out in a number of threads. It's a structural outcome, mostly due to "winner take all" elections, and enhanced by a few other quirks of our system.

Now, people have pointed out that this isn't necessarily bad in some ways.
For instance, it [theoretically] makes it easier to get rid of people or groups of people if they or their party make bad decisions/enact ineffective or harmful policies.
And, as more proportional/multi-party systems work---they usually give excess influence/power to small segments. The third or fourth place finisher ends up in a stronger position than the first or second.
[[a detail in our method gives us that problem even WITH just 2 parties.
That's why the rural...who are always claiming they're being underrepresented and unfairly beaten up on in actual fact have far more power than their population dictates they should]].

Anyway...I'm still making my way through the OP articles. And I found a quite long, and so far pretty interesting one that speaks to the same topic from another angle...at least it appears to, so far. Only skimmed all of it so far.
I'll be back probably at some point.
Funny thing though...you CAN make simple overarching rules. You just have to be willing to realize and allow for the fact that particulars will be complex in themselves, and that the rules will generate some complexities/inconsistencies. The problem is the complex people with their complex lives can't stand the particular [and inherent/unavoidable] complexities.
You can make a simple, efficient, cost-effective Food Stamps program.
But as soon as one person runs a scam or buys a lobster, or trades for cash to get some smokes, everyone freaks the hell out and demands a bunch of crap that makes it complicated, inefficient, wasteful. Or [fringe] says we should just let them starve.

Edited to fix an and that should have been an or.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2014 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the US, "Left" is pretty synonymous with "statist". The Left, which has been subverted by the extreme progressives, is no longer about equality and liberty. Now it's about knowing what's best for people and forcing "choice" upon them.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2014 11:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the responses, guys!

If what ali linked is true and the extreme left in the Democratic Party is starting to use tactics similar to that of the Tea Party then I think that the centre will open up even more. Of course this is a huge problem in a two party system, but it does create an increased opportunity for the creation of a centrist party.

If the Left focuses too much on the -isms, environmentalism, feminism, fighting racism etc. then I think that it begins to lose touch with many ordinary people's reality. However, by focusing on more general issues like equality, inclusion and protecting civil liberties it will continue to appeal to the large central ground of the electorate.

By inderstanding the inherent complexity of the issues the Left can be more flexible when it is necessary. In Europe at the moment immigration is becoming a bigger and bigger issue, but none of the centrist parties, left or right, can come to terms with it and thus they are losing big-time to the extreme-Right. Recognising the complexity of the issue of immigration and its impact on the people's lived experience would help them formulate policies that were able to directly address the issue and so deny gas to the extremists.

u.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2014 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing I noticed while reading this site and the news out of the us is that I find the 'left' and 'right' americans much harder to understand than those here. It feels much more extreme there and very, very, very, very polarised where the working model seems to be to destroy each other rather than run the country well for the benefit of the people. That is not to say that we don't have our nuts, too. Just my impression.

You are right about the immigration issue going to the extremist right here. Even then, if our politicians were just less afraid of the politically correct calling them racists and so, I think common ground would be easy to find. I vote for miljöpartiet which is part of the left government (but not the biggest party) and I would be very happy if they took on the immigration topic. Even our right coalition does not want to pick up that topic, though, so it is not just the left. Although, the uk seems to be moving that way with Cameron (don't care for him, but if he can make mainstream the issues, then I hope he succeeds). Maybe they will break the gates open for the rest of europe and take the power from the extreme right groups who mainly were former nazi/white supremacist parties.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2014 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vraith wrote:

Hee, are you sure it was someone important, and not just little old me?
I know, probably not. I'm not that influential on you, and your memory isn't that bad.


Who are you, again? Mr. Green I think you have said something like that before but I want to say someone else arrived at the same conclusion you did only I can't recall who said it or where I read it. *shrug*
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