We are often told that the left-wing, right-wing distinction is trivial or irredeemably vague and that various “postmodern” Issues, such as those concerning difference, render the distinction irrelevant. But a recent book by Christopher Cochrane – Left and Right: The Small World of Political Ideas> – tells another story. Continue reading
Tag Archives: equality
Learning from Bernie Sanders
A vision is a story about our common future that touches our hearts as well as our minds. To be effective, the story must, in simple words, portray a future that people would want to inhabit and identify some practicable steps for getting there. The left globally has not been effective lately in presenting such an attractive story-line. But there is an exception: Bernie Sanders, who emerged from obscurity as an independent Senator from Vermont to nearly capture the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Continue reading
Why Identify with Left-Wing Politics?
“A young person who isn’t a socialist hasn’t got a heart; an old person who is a socialist hasn’t got a head.” Is this true?
This old adage suggests that an attachment to the left is merely a romantic and naïve phase that should eventually pass as we mature and gain a more “realistic” understanding. Realism from this viewpoint involves the acceptance that There is No Alternative (TINA) to presently-existing capitalism and liberal democracy, that the most we can expect is some minor tinkering.
But this conservative viewpoint is unconvincing for two reasons. Continue reading
The Left’s Central Dilemma
Sometimes it appears that the democratic left is engaged in the labour of Sisyphus. Sisyphus, according to the Greek myth, was condemned by the gods to spend eternity in an utterly futile task: to push a boulder to the top of a hill, only to see it roll down to the bottom each time. Leaders of the left have their own peculiar burden to shoulder. When progressive parties pursue a moderate strategy of accommodation with capitalism, they may achieve egalitarian gains but rarely enough to satisfy their militant followers. But if they pursue a more confrontational stance vis-à-vis inherited structures of privilege and power, they risk instigating an economic crisis that may usher in a crushing political crisis as well. This pattern is evident in the Global South, the focus of this post, but it probably applies also to the Global North. Continue reading
The NDP’s “Socialism” Debate: Guest Post
Guest Post by Frank Cunningham, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy & Political Science, University of Toronto
Premised on the philosopher, George Santayana’s often-proven adage that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it, this intervention in the (Canadian) New Democratic Party’s current debate over the “S” word situates these deliberations within the history of socialist and social-democratic movements. Continue reading
Can Moderate Social Democracy be Progressive? A View from the Global South
Progressive movements divide into two types. On the one hand, there are leftist parties with a moderate strategy that aim, or at least resign themselves, to implement redistributive programs with the acquiescence of the elites. On the other hand, we find parties that believe that only unrelenting confrontation of existing power structures and inherited privilege will bring the desired results. The division between class compromise and class struggle is fundamental. Continue reading