Politics and Philosophy

Exploring Political Issues Through Philosophy

 

Left and Right

Defining the Left and the Right

By

William F. Pray

 

 

Historical note on origin of the concepts Left and Right

Background on why the concepts are important.

An important misconception on the meaning Left and Right.

Human nature as a leading principle for understanding the Left and Right.

The Right’s view of humanity.

The Left’s view of humanity.

Where the different view lead.

Summation

 

We use these political terms often enough – Left and Right.  We see them in print. We hear them in media outlets.  How many of us really understand their meaning?  Do we fully understand the philosophical positions that lay behind the words, Left and Right?  What exactly distinguishes the political Left from the political Right?  If we were to fully grasp the ideas and elements that distinguish one position from the other would it change our minds on any political debate?  The answer is yes, quite possibly it would.  Education in any respect readjusts our alignment to whatever subject is under study.  Knowledge of the real difference between the Left and the Right will blow away much of the absurdly pernicious propaganda that swirls around political wars.

 

History of the words and background to the debate

  The words: The history of the words, Left and Right, are not really essential to defining the words, but the knowing will point us in the appropriate direction. 

During the French Revolution (1789-1799) those members of the National Assembly that favored strong constraints on the Monarchy and the adoption of a republican reform – the radicals of their day – sat to the left of the podium, a podium nominally occupied by the King.  Those members of the National Assembly who stood in opposition to radical change and favored a continuation of the old aristocratic order – rule by the nobility and the clergy – sat to the right of the King.  The physical positioning of the Assembly members by political disposition caused the word ‘Left’ to become synonymous with progressive movements, and the word ‘Right’ to become synonymous with conservative positions. 

Background: While the above is historically accurate, our political language has evolved making the original meanings an oversimplification. There exists a wide variety of Left-Wingers who show a good deal of unevenness in their desire for change, and the types of change.  There are Right-Wingers for ‘progressive’ change, no matter how modest. At times the Left seems to reflect much of what we would tend to call conservative judgments, and at times the Right seems equally prone at to espouse Leftist sentiments. 

For example, it would be greatly simplify matters if we could see something such as self-interest as the pivotal element in these proposals.  Such a pure reflection of self interest would go a long way toward making visible the boundaries between the Left and the Right.  Sometimes this is done, but it is not accurate. If we are to understand why it is that some people with apparently no self-interest in a furtherance of an existing social order continue to support it, or why many individuals who have self-interest in the old way of doing things, yet want to do away with it, we cannot take the meaning of ‘self-interest’ for granted.  Self-interest may be present, but often as a symptom, not a cause.  If anything, trying to reduce concepts of Left and Right to self-interest creates more confusion than it resolves. If there is not a universal understanding for the meaning of ‘self-interest’ then self-interest must rest on something more basic. This is just one example of why we need to get at this basic ideological substructure which supports the superstructural positions held by the Left and the Right.

  We must uncover the unspoken, rudimental distinctions that cohere with those superstructural concepts – such as self-interest – with which we are more familiar.  To do this we must bring the assumed features of the Left and the Right to the surface.  One way to approach this is to deal with one type of misconception that not only hampers a clear understanding of Left and Right, but can also steer us in the direction of a correct view of Left and Right.

 

A confusing misconception about the Left and the Right.

          The political spectrum is circular.  A major claim by some is that the political spectrum is circular rather than a straight line.  In this way the extreme Left and the extreme Right can be made to appear symmetrical instead of polar opposites.  This circular view is not just incorrect, but often intentionally incorrect.  This incorrect view is based on a representation of both the Left and the Right which, when pushed to their extremes, will meet in a dictatorial system where freedom and civil rights are suspended in favor of absolute totalitarian control. The examples of Stalin’s USSR (representing the Left) and Hitler’s Germany (representing the Right) are frequently offered in support of this circular conceptualization.[i] 

To the casual observer these two examples of political societies do appear to share many of the same features.  Looked at superficially – in much the same way a visitor from another planet might observe the superficial similarities of our race and those of chimpanzees and conclude that we are of the same species – the similarities are striking enough to generate a misinterpretation.  For our visitor from another planet, it would take a good while to unravel and analyze enough of these ‘similar features’ to understand that humans are not chimpanzees.  Likewise, it would also take a considerable amount of time to establish a background sufficient for the casual political observer to discern the actual differences between Nazism and Stalinism[ii], or for that matter to recognize the differences between the British Parliamentary form of government and the US Congressional form of government. 

It is possible to bypass such a lengthy process and still get at a root of the misconception by identifying a crucial understanding that distinguishes the Left from the Right; not just distinguish but demonstrate that the Left and the Right are opposites.  We need to examine the basic ‘given’ that supports the philosophies of the two ways of looking at what is practical in the world.  That given is two very different understandings of the nature of the human species.  Having brought these ‘givens’ to lights, we can then connect them with the consciously articulated arguments.  Exploring the two views on human nature is the fastest and most certain way to segue into a complete understanding of the difference between the Left and the Right. 

 

Human Nature

At the most basic level, we must look at the way in which the two perspectives, Left and Right, view the complete operating mechanisms of the biological system, genus Homo – or what we might choose to simply call human nature.  As trivial as it might seem at first, it is on the basis of this orientation toward human nature that all else rests concerning the political ideas of the Left and the Right.  It is how this different understanding of human nature develops into the politics of the Left and the Right that we will demonstrate.

 

 

The Right’s view of humanity

The Right’s view of humanity’s basic nature is one of the most commonly held views.  It is arguably the least complicated of the two positions, Left and Right, though its development into political theory is far from smooth and uncomplicated. 

There are two views held by the Right.  While they are similar, they should not be overlapped.  One view we might call Hobbesian, (after the 17th century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes) and the other view theological (in the western world, Christian-Judeo-Islamic) in orientation.  This second, the theological view, is often coupled with an incorrect understanding of Hobbes.

Hobbes: At the very beginning of his much misunderstood work, The Leviathan, Hobbes states: “Homo homini lupus,” or “Man is wolf to man.”[iii]  It is here that the misreading of Hobbes typically begins.  Hobbes did not intend for this statement to imply that Homo sapiens was wolf by nature, or that he contains within himself some corrupting seed of violence or evil.  Rather Hobbes meant that the malice of all against all was the inherent result of the emergence of humanity in a world he described as a ‘state of nature,’[iv]  that is, a situation lacking a governing authority that would keep individuals, in their quest for survival, from tearing at each others throats. 

Hobbes rejected a state of original sin, or some notion that innate evil lurked within the human breast.  Rather, he considered that such a state of the “war of every man against every man” was merely the logical outcome of each rational individual’s egoistic, subjective-relativism, coupled with the solitary struggle for personal survival.  To correct this situation where “life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” a strong, authoritarian government (i.e., The Leviathan) must rise too arbitrate the struggle for personal survival.  That governing state, The Leviathan, would end this intolerable condition where a “state of nature is a state of war.”  

Different readings of Hobbes have facilitated Right-Wing conclusions concerning the nature of an appropriate government.  An interpretation of The Leviathan as merely an arbitrator between conflicting individuals is favored by those of a Libertarian (i.e., Right-Libertarianism[v]) persuasion. A strong, authoritarian government that would hold the human passions in check by coercion, and force cooperation to prevent this war of all against all is advocated by various totalitarian ideologies.[vi]  A typical representation of this latter interpretation of Hobbes can found in theories of fascism.

The Christian-Judeo-Islamic view:  This Right-Wing view of human nature differs in one key point from that held by Hobbes.  Mainstream western religious viewpoint places at the center of our species a seed of sin that is more condemning than the egoistic, subjective-relativism of Hobbes.  For the religious of this persuasion, we humans cannot escape the wickedness of our original, sinful nature.  This view finds its way to the notion that the evil existing at the heart of humanity must be contained and dominated by strong authority, both ecclesiastical and temporal.  This view of human nature cannot be called freedom in any sense, nor can it be outrun or negotiated away. Only by accepting it and embracing it can our nature be transcended, or at least, ameliorated.  It is this idea of an uncompromisingly flawed humanity that opens the gates for justification of the most harsh and authoritarian of governments.

Of the two positions – the Hobbesian or the religions view of a flawed humanity – the Left has the most difficult time coming to grips with that view of humanity as put forth by Hobbes.  The difficulty for the Left is that Hobbes seems less definite in his concept of human nature as ultimately evil.  For Hobbes human nature is not evil in some spiritual or innate sense.  According to Hobbes human nature is merely self-serving.  This is a position that is difficult to argue with. The theological position lacks the same realistic straightforwardness as the Hobbesian position.   The religious perspective is ethereal and other-worldly, and more vulnerable to reason and logic – at least from the point of view of the Left.

 

The Left’s view of humanity.

The Leftist position on humanity is more complex that that held by the Right and arguably more difficult to sustain in the face of ‘common sense’ and the ‘evidence’ of everyday experience. 

Like the Right, the Left would advance two views on the human condition.  The first would find that human nature is positive, and the second is that human nature is a myth, that there is no such thing as human nature.

Human nature as positive:  This view of human nature states simply that Homo sapiens are possessed of a nature is complex and multi-dimensional.  Among those dimensions is one that is characterized by a well meaning altruism and beneficent impulses.  According to the Left, we humans, by our nature, tend to be cooperative, supportive and protective of other humans.  Obviously, by such a view humanity is to be judged in positive terms, rather than negative terms.  Political theories such as those espoused by the Enlightenment philosopher J.J. Rousseau and those of the 18th century, Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin emerged from variations on a ‘positive’ human nature.  It should be noted that neither Rousseau nor Kropotkin are as naive as a superficial reading of this position on the human condition would make them appear.  Their two views, while different, are coherent enough to have withstood considerable testing.

Rousseau.   This philosopher would not have taken the position that our species was good in some absolute spiritual or moral sense.  It was Rousseau’s position that in ‘the state of nature’ human action was animal action, where notions of good and evil simply do not apply.  Like all the animals on our planet, Homo sapiens living in a ‘state of nature’ were merely attempting to survive with as little conflict as possible.  In a ‘state of nature’ our species, like any animal, show a disinclination toward violence for its own sake, and take to violence only for the purpose of basic survival, which would include violence associated with mating.  Other than that, Rousseau would claim that Homo sapiens, like all animals, avoid violence solely for some perversely wicked ‘inner need,’ or for the sake of some artificial ideal.  Wanton violence, according to Rousseau, is a product of a civil society that was built on a corruption of the basic animal need for survival.  Rousseau often stated that the first person that ever fenced in a piece of land and declared: “This is mine!” was the inventor of civil society, and the inventor of the violence necessary to keep that plot of land the personal property of the claimant. According to Rousseau, this is the origin of violence beyond the human need to survive, and violence for the sake of an abstract ideal, i.e., private property.  It is civil society that is the creator of good and evil, and the corrupter of human nature.  The human being, by its nature, is without sin or any impulse to do evil, per se.[vii]

Peter Kropotkin would have taken a different view. Kropotkin, much more so than Rousseau, adopted a firm belief in the defined character of humanity as possessing a thing called ‘human nature.’  Kropotkin based his view on the assumption that in nature the animal species that survived best were possessed of an innate instinct which triggered mutual aid and mutual protection for the species. Evolution had generated an ‘instinct’ to cooperate.  In this way, Kropotkin had adopted the Darwinian argument to suggest that the animal species which demonstrated the greatest propensity for mutual aid would survive the best and thus pass these genes for cooperation along to their ancestors.[viii]  He argued that not just lesser animals, but human beings also showed this inclination to aid and protect, for cooperation and sheltering, which accounted for their success as a species.  For Kropotkin – as for Rousseau – it was civil society that distorted ‘human nature,’ though in Kropotkin’s case it was a human nature that was innately cooperative.

There is no such thing as human nature.  The Left’s second perspective on human nature formally emerged in the early 19th century and continues into the 21th.  It is the view that human nature is a myth, a fanciful and imaginary construct.  Well meaning, but wrong, generating more problems than it solves.  There is no human nature, not as that held by Rousseau, or Hobbes, and certainly not as that held as strongly by Kropotkin.  We might take Karl Marx and J.P. Sartre as proponents of this philosophical point of view.  Though both Marx and Sartre deny the existence of an innate human nature, they differ somewhat in their positions.

Karl Marx, who is without a doubt an established member of the Left, is complicated when it comes to the question of an innate human nature.  His writings are voluminous, and he was not shy about using the term ‘human nature,’ but he is not entirely clear in the use of the word and concept.  It would seem that on balance Marx considered that we humans have basic drives we all recognize.  We human’s are possessed of drives to reproduce and sustain ourselves, which of course can also be said about dogs and caterpillars.  The interpretation of human behavior offered by Marx is that these basic animal drives are shaped by the cultural rituals governing sexual reproduction[ix] and the manner in which we physically produce the substance for survival.  In other words, Marx would claim that human nature is malleable and is a thing sculpted by the forces of history, both large and small.  Aside from our hardwired sexual drive (i.e., seen as a social drive) and the need to feed ourselves (i.e., seen as an economic drive), those elements we could call our ‘animal nature,’ there is nothing fixed in our human system.  Bounded by history our ‘human nature’ is created and established by the social and economic forces around us.

J.P. Sartre.  This 20th century philosopher will press the envelope on this issue of the denial of human nature. Our individual ‘nature’ is formed by our choices.  For Sartre even these sexual and survival ‘needs’ are not beyond choice.  The only unalterable element to our existence is freedom, not nature.  We are utterly and completely free.  We can choose or not choose to engage in sexuality.  For that matter, we can choose to survive or not survive.  Certainly, for Sartre, the forces of history are not the determining factor in some construction of a human nature. For Sartre there is no determining factor beyond what we choose to be a determinate.  For Sartre we are the creators of our own human nature.  This leads to a sort of irony which Sartre recognizes.  Our nature must be the freedom to choose our nature.

Of these two positions, viz., that there exist a human nature which is positive and cooperative (Rousseau, Kropotkin), or there is no fixed human nature (Marx, Sartre), the Right has the more difficult time with the latter.  To say that there is no human nature, other than that one which is constructed by the forces of history, or drafted by the individual facing the moment, makes for an elusive political target, one that sifts like sand through the finger of a changing history.

 

Where our view on human nature will lead us.

            At this point it should not be a big leap to reach the idea that the political philosophies of the Left and the Right derive a huge portion of their ideological superstructure from these assumed givens on the state of human nature – or lack of it..   Both the Left and the Right espouse political theories that are (or should be) founded on these underlying axioms of the human conditions; at all events the theories should be demonstrably compatible with the assumptions.

           

The Right. 

It follows from the negative view of human nature adhered to by the Right that the structure of the social order will do nothing to change that which cannot be changed. The selfish and violent nature of the human animal is unaffected by the design of the cage.  The Right will argue that the wickedness inherent in our species is utterly immune to any alteration of the political, economic or social structure.  The evidence is readily available.  Just look around, the Right will claim, just look to experience, to history.  Societal change in the face of the eternal egoistic selfishness in human nature is more than a waste of time.  It is cruel to hold out hope where none exists.

To fully understand the reach of this Right-Wing perspective on human nature we need to look at the possible ends of the thinking.  The view of humanity as being acquisitive, grasping and selfish, will support two radical extremes – the fascist and the Libertarian – these two systems of thought are far from mainstream conservative thinking, and also quite dissimilar from each other.  Surveying these two extremes will offer a quick look into the overall position of the Right.

Fascism and Libertarianism, as political philosophies, share very little in common. Their view of human nature bear underlying similarities, but those similarities make for two political theories that lead in two very different – we might even say, ‘opposite’ – directions.  Fascist theory rallies for total government control and domination, while Libertarianism presses for the complete (or nearly complete) absence of government coercion. 

For the fascist, freedom is a myth.  The fascist will argue that freedom in a state of nature is only the freedom to rape and pillage.  One can find genuine freedom only in a strong political state where human passions can be corralled and controlled.[x]   Freedom is not freedom to do, but freedom from – from the fear of all that is human.  Egoism must be channeled and cooperation coerced.  In this forceful way, we can find the only true freedom, the freedom from the wickedness of our own human nature.  People must be compelled to act in their own best interests.  Though it seems a logical conclusion, this is Hobbes pushed to an extreme he would not have sanctioned.

For Libertarianism, by way of contrast, freedom is only possible in the absence (or near absence) of coercive interference from the political state.  Fascism insists that the overall good of society can best be brought about by a political system which will dominate and control corrupt elements within human nature.  Libertarianism presses for a non-coercive, indeed, non-governing civil society that takes these ‘evils’ in human nature for granted and inescapable, but however, it is through the intelligent release and protection of these egoistic forces inherent to human nature that the overall good of society is achieved.[xi]

These two ideological derivatives from a similar starting point on human nature could not be more different.  How can the fact of different conclusions derived from similar beginnings to be for us most instructive?  First of all, a common premise with inconsistent conclusions might imply that there is something fundamentally wrong with their assumed premise.  That is, if their shared understanding of human nature arrives at divergent conclusions, then it is possible that there is a problem with their basic reading of human nature.  A through going analysis of this premise and divergent conclusions lies well beyond the scope of this paper.  What is emphasized here is that fascism and Libertarianism derive almost nothing in common or consistent from a shared premise.  If nothing else, this should give us pause.

More orthodox Rightist philosophy will center itself in mainstream conservative views.  Namely, that social change is not merely irrelevant to the nature of humanity, but is in fact dangerous for two reasons.  First, it is dangerous in that upsetting an established social order, the results are unpredictable with chaos likely to ensue.  The most probable outcome of wholesale change, given the nature of humanity, is the swapping of one ruling elite for a different elite, and a perhaps worse elite. Here the Right offers as an example the Russian Revolution, whereby the aristocracy was dumped for Stalin.  Secondly, even to suggest that solutions can be discovered in a fundamental change to the social order will fuel false hope that social change will change the unchangeable nature of humanity.  Mainstream Right-Wing conservatives ultimately justify resistance to change because of the assumption that human nature is immutably possessed of egoistic self-serving intentions.  The conservative might ask: Why change a known for an unknown?  Attempts at social change would either be irrelevant or actually serve only to promote greater friction and tumult within civil society.

 

The Left

            The position of the left is far more contentious, but paradoxically tends to show greater consistency.  The Leftist position is contentious because the perspective on human nature seems to fly in the face of the evidence, which creates the greatest, fundamental problem for the Left.  The Leftist position offers greater consistency because even extreme Leftist positions tend not so much to differ in kind, as for example do fascism and Libertarianism, but to differ only in degree.  Socialism and Anarchy appear to be extremely different, but at bottom both these positions are founded on a faith in egalitarian and democratic principles.[xii]   Socialism and Anarchy differ by the degree of democratic reform not the kind.[xiii]

            Throughout the Left there is the feeling that if human behavior is conditioned by the social and historical forces in which the individual finds themselves, then a change in the surrounding social forces will lead us different choices in individual behavior.  Both the Marxist and the Sartreian will agree that we are free to choose, but we must choose among exiting alternatives.  To paraphrase Marx: we humans are free to make history, but not exactly as we please. Some form of this reasoning is consistent throughout the Left.  The individual will learn only what the environment teaches, and obey the deepest precepts of the cultural mores, and choose a style of life and a way of being from among the recognizable, existing alternatives.  Place the individual in a different environment with different cultural mores, and the individual will learn differently, choose differently and behave differently.

            The American Liberal is clearly not a socialist, just as the socialist is not an Anarchist.  Yet, all these positions will take the same position that a changed social system will bring a change in human activity and behavior.  People will steal food because they are hungry. Offer them food and they will stop stealing food. 

            While consistent in their view point, this Leftist viewpoint rests on a contentious premise.  That uneasy premise is the ultimate malleability of human behavior.  This in turn is based on the notion that human behavior either rests on a structure of goodness or an absence of structure.  It is this view of the human condition as fundamentally good, or the ultimate tabula rasa, that is debatable.

To demonstrate the extent of the contentiousness of the position, the Right would counter the Left stating that there clearly is a human nature, and that nature is not good.  Even with full bellies, people will steal.  Just examine the evidence of every day life, or look back through history.  No matter how much you give a humans they still want more.  Human beings, no matter the social system of the social relations, are relentless in their aggrandizement.  Greed is in their nature.

            The sometimes acrimonious debate surrounding human behavior versus human nature poses the greatest difficulty for the Left.  Do we witness behavior or do we witness innate characteristics?  To see a person stealing food is one thing. To say that the act is the result of hunger requires a brief logical extension that requires at least a modicum of training and education.  A small difficulty easily surmounted:  When people are hungry they will steal food.  It does not require a Ph.D. to make the connection.

 However, a larger difficulty arises when we attempt to assess stealing food with the same logical model as we might use when considering a Ponzi scheme, or insider stock trading. The inside trader might already have billions in the bank, so why does the trader ‘need’ more?  The trader is not ‘hungry’ so why the criminal behavior?    It is nearly effortless to see greed as the culprit and human nature as the ultimate villain.

It is not that the Left is caught flat-footed and without a reply.  If there is a problem with a reply it is proportional to its complexity.  As the action becomes increasingly complicated, the reply becomes increasingly complicated.  It is here that the explanation becomes a creature of greater education and training.  The explanation for inside-trader, ‘white collar crime,’ for example, brings in culture, ideology, sociological and psychological paradigms, etc., all learned designs.  The Leftist, to be consistent, would insist that the more complex explanation is the correct one and not the simplistic ‘human nature is evil’ explanation.  This complexity increases the difficulty for the Left to effortlessly insist that human behavior and human nature are learned structures and not innate.  A lack of background in this regard makes both insight and discussion difficult, but not impossible.

The bottom line here is the Left can and will take a stand that if a human nature exists in any form it is driven by positive forces and bad behavior is a corruption of those forces.  It does not really matter if the Left takes the view that there is an innate nature to humanity, or there is no innate nature, the Left will consistently agree that social environment is a strong determinate in human behavior. Freedom and choice are matters of learned response to available alternatives.  If changes are made to the alternatives within the social environment, human behavior will change accordingly.  At the heart of these more or less feisty claims the Left has remained consistently loyal.

 

A Summation

First.  There is a clear oppositional, ideological understanding that distinguishes the Left from the Right.

Contrary to a common misconception, the political spectrum does not represent a closed circle, but a line where the fundamental difference between the Left and the Right are their differing views on what drives human behavior.  The Left and the Right have very different views on ‘human nature.’

Second, either human behavior is derived from an inherent predisposition to act in certain ways, or human behavior is not the result of any predisposition.        

The Right’s claim is clearly expressed: there is a human nature such that the individual is disposed act primarily in predictable ways.  Humanity, by it’s very nature, will almost exclusively act in their own selfish interests. If not that point of view, then a theoligic one that characterizes human behavior as a reflection of an inherent evil, a species wide flaw, such as original sin.

The Left is less clear on this point of the existence of a human nature.  In general, the Left would hold that either human behavior is the result of a learned pattern of behavior, or can be seen as the result of rational choices made from understood alternatives.  In any case, bad behavior is either a perversion of the natural inclination toward benevolence and cooperation or the result of choices made out of misunderstanding, a fearfulness, or some other malleable factor.

Third, all the political theories and arguments of the Left and the Right are a reflection of this background position on human nature.

Fourth, as these assumed positions on human nature are irreconcilable, any Left-Right debate that ignores these differences is superfluous and extraneous and nearly


[i] To show how confused and sometimes bizarre this circular position can become, study a by no means unusual offering at http://www.oicu2.com/afc/leftright.html

[ii] This in no way denies the similarity of many elements that appear in all authoritarian societies.  In fact, concerning Stalinist regimes, and fascist regimes, many elements are similar, even if their espoused goals are different.  This has lead many to claim that Stalinist regimes are actually more fascist than socialist, or to use the vernacular of this study, more Right that Left, and the vocalized justifications for the similarities are more rationalization and propagandistic apologies for the authoritarianism. Whether this represents an accurate picture depends on individual analysis and sometimes the underlying motives for such an assessment.

[iii] Hobbes is not the first to use this expression, “man is wolf to man.”  It can be traced back through many writers at least to the Roman playwright Titus Macchius Plactus.

[iv] The phrase, state of nature, is a common employed construct used by political philosophers to indicate a situation where there is no governing authority with the power to use coercion to gain obedience.   Political philosophers are quite aware that such a condition has probably never exited in historical times, and may well have never existed.  The ‘state of nature’ is part of a ‘thought experiment,’ constructed solely for the purpose of theoretical discussion.

[v] There is a Left-Libertarianism, but due to the constrains on this brief examination, this minority view, that is, Left-Libertarian, will not be considered. The term Libertarianism in this paper will be used in all cases to mean Right-Libertarianism.

[vi] By no means is this the only conclusion for the Right to draw.  Libertarian theory (occasionally, though not completely correctly, has been referred to as Right-Wing Anarchy) will typically also draw from Hobbes a picture of a rational humanity lost in struggle. Their conclusion (see Ayn Rand) is that the state of nature is not a state of war, but a state of freedom.  The struggle represents freedom and the best appropriate action is to let the struggle ensue.  This is an oversimplification of Rand’s philosophy, but it is fair to say that from the Libertarian point of view the best, wisest, and most deserving individuals will use this freedom to gain the greatest advantage, and this is deservedly so since it is the outcome of a free and open contest. Consequently a role for government should be minimal, if existent at all.   This Libertarian perspective is a minority viewpoint.  The major players on the Right (e.g., Plato, Thomas More, and a few of the more sophisticated, modern fascists) have drawn conclusion more in keeping with the Hobbesian tradition of the necessity of an authoritarian and absolutist ruling body to control the human condition.

[vii] This leaves open the question of rather Rousseau thought there was such an element to humanity as an innate human nature.  There is some debate on this point, but it seems clear that if Rousseau did have such a belief in a universal human nature, it was a weak belief.

[viii] There is a good deal of modern research that encourages this evolutionary point of view, for example, see: Nigel Barber, Kindness in a Cruel World, (Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, 2004)

[ix] Marx’s interest in sexual activity was generally restricted to the cultural and political implications of sexual ritual.  The psychological dimension of sexuality, per se,  was left to later individuals with an interest in Marxism such as the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957)

[x] For detailed analysis of fascism, and telling quotes concerning the nature of fascism by one of its founders, Benito Mussolini,  see Ingersoll and Davidson, The Philosophical Roots of Modern Ideology, (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2001) especially p. 219

[xi] For an elucidation of Libertarian theory see David Boaz, Libertarianism, A  Primer, ( The Free Press, New York, 1997)

[xii] The question of rather or not Liberalism truly represents a Leftist position is a legitimate one, but one beyond the scope of this paper.  Sufficient to say that Liberals often present a confused picture of a philosophy that at once wants to argue for the underdog as a victim of circumstances, yet without showing any serious interest in changing the fundamentals of those circumstances.

 

[xiii] Identifying socialism as anti-democratic, or dictatorial, is the result of a misreading of mainstream socialist theory.  Iin any case socialism is predominantly an economic theory, not a political one.

 

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