Right and Left

Endless conversational stimulation is to be found in the fact that the most basic distinction of modern politics is profoundly incomprehensible, and at the same time almost universally invested. Almost everybody thinks they understand the difference between the Right and the Left, until they think about it. Then they realize that this distinction commands no solid consensus, and exists primarily as a substitute for thought. Perhaps the same is true of all widely-invoked political labels. Perhaps that is what politics is.

Spandrell directs a winding, intermittently brilliant post to the topic, which is enriched by a comments thread of outstanding quality. Like the Right/Left distinction itself, the argument becomes increasingly confusing, the closer it is examined. The ‘rightist singularity’ of the title is introduced as a real political alternative to the Left Singularity modeled by James Donald, driven by analogous self-reinforcing feedback dynamics, but into nationalistic rather than egalitarian catastrophe. For societies menaced by the prospect of Left Singularity, it offers an alternative path. China is taking it, Spandrell suggests.

Notably, in passing, Spandrell’s gloss on Donald’s Left Singularity is a gem:

The leftist singularity is based on claiming higher status by being more egalitarian than anyone else. So you get a status arms race in which everyone tries to be more egalitarian than the others. That works because people (and monkeys) take equality to be a good thing.

(To continue, we have to bracket the ‘old’ Right Singularity: the Technocommercial Singularity that Donald’s formula for Left Singularity distinguished itself from. Nobody even mentions it in this discussion. It’s a problem for some other time.)

To backtrack from these digressions: If ‘rightist singularity’ is nationalistic, that aligns the Right with nationalism, doesn’t it? But nothing remotely this crude is sustainable (not when time is involved), Spandrell notes: “the Right isn’t nationalist any more.” He expands, convincingly, in his own comment thread:

What historically has been called Right was about law and order, i.e. leaving things as they are. Tribalism qua nationalism isn’t inherently “Rightist”, in fact originally it was a Leftist subversive meme against the Ancient Regime, but when mass media was invented nationalism was the status quo, i.e. the Right, and political labels have become fossilized since.

As Vladimir (May 25, 22:10) articulates the point:

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn would have a ready answer for you: nationalism is leftism. It is basically another name for Jacobinism. These paradoxes of right-wing nationalism are just another manifestation of the fundamental problem of modern rightism — namely, that a large part of its content is just yesterday’s leftism that the left has in the meantime abandoned for a more extreme left position.

So, I’d say this is nothing but just another mode of leftist singularity.

Or, Spandrell again (May 26, 02:34): “Historical evidence is that nationalism was leftist before socialism appeared further left, making it rightist.”

The Right is yesterday’s Left, or at least, it is soon exposed as such when it appears in its historical and populist guise. When the masses turn Right, they are defending a dated Left, frozen in place by modernist mass media memory, stuck in a black-and-white newsreel, like an insect in amber.

The squirming is over, unless it changes dimensions. Then chaos yawns, despite heroic efforts to restore order (Baker, May 25 17:29; Handle May 25 18:33; Den Beste linked by Peter Taylor May 27 17:47), with Moldbug’s preferred Order and Chaos spectrum sucked — among innumerable others — into the vortex. Tradition and revolution, authority and liberty, hierarchy and equality, greed and envy, independence and solidarity, capitalism and socialism … there’s not even a remote prospect of closure, coherence, or consistency. Every attempted definition intensifies fragmentation. Right and Left disagree (we all agree), but exactly how they disagree — on that there’s no agreement.

Peter A. Taylor (May 29, 06:15):

The left-right spectrum, in so far as it is an honest attempt to make sense of the world rather than mere propaganda, looks to me like an attempt to fit chaos into Procrustes’ bed. … Moldbug loves Carlyle. Carlyle admired Cromwell. Moldbug hates Cromwell. Chaos.

Spandrell (May 26, 08:28), twists it back to the Trichotomy:

Both the Western Right and the Chinese Right are a loose combination of traditionalists, nationalists and capitalists. Which mostly hate each other and never get along when they get any amount of power.

By this point, however, trichotomous diversity starts to look like a mirage of integrity. Right and Left are every difference that has ever been conceived, if not yet, then in the near future. If these signs mean anything more than the war continues, like the black-and-white distinction between chess pieces, no one has yet convincingly shown us why.

Yet perhaps, if Right and Left, apprehended together, mean the basic modern antagonism, the conflict itself, as an irreducible thing, will prove to be the source of whatever sense can be found.

[To be continued …]

ADDED: Whatever you do, don’t miss Handle’s systematic analysis of the question (May 31, 10:09pm below).

May 29, 2013admin 48 Comments »
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48 Responses to this entry

  • Mike Says:

    At the risk of being extremely un-philosophical:

    I am fond of Anonymous Conservative’s theory: left and right are just the political manifestations of r- and K-selection.

    Thus, the conflict between left and right is fundamentally a conflict of reproductive strategy.

    [Reply]

    Arred Wade Reply:

    Frankly, I didn’t think his analysis of density-dependent selection was particularly well-researched, and I think he mixed up the cause and effect .

    An interesting idea, but most of the people who advance it seem to have started from Rushton’s (blatantly inaccurate) viewpoint that LHS is genetic in origin. The majority of variance in reproductive strategy is accounted for by culture, a meaningful component of which is – you guessed it – political views.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 29th, 2013 at 5:53 pm Reply | Quote
  • Orlandu84 Says:

    “Yet perhaps, if Right and Left, apprehended together, mean the basic modern antagonism, the conflict itself, as an irreducible thing, will prove to be the source of whatever sense can be found.”

    Francis Fukuyama, whom I have been reading of late, revived Hegel’s insight that history ended in 1806 with the triumph of the French Revolution over Germany. Here’s the link to the wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_history

    Why bring up the French Revolution and the end of history when talking about Right and Left? From wikipedia again, “The terms “left” and “right” appeared during the French Revolution of 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left%E2%80%93right_politics

    What is even more interesting to me is wikipedia’s definition of “right and left”: “In France, where the terms originated, the Left has been called “the party of movement” and the Right “the party of order.”

    Not much has changed since the French Revolution in what options are presented. We are told that we either favor the Right (the order of the status quo or a previous status quo) or we favor the Left (change for a better world). That these terms have no meaning anymore should be obvious that most real revolutionaries are fighting for principles that have nothing to do with the Enlightenment.

    If the terrorists do not believe in the Enlightenment, why do we? For that matter, why do we have to care? Most people don’t care who’s in charge as long as they have plenty of stuff and entertainment. Bread and circuses work real well for most people. When people don’t have plenty of stuff, however, then they care a great deal. The best example of that kind of care is a peasant revolt, which is not a fun time.

    Can the cathedral keep the fight “within bounds” of Right and Left? So long as it does it continues to be in charge by definition. Like a football referee, it controls the fight. “In charge of what?” however, is the better question. The Cathedral cannot even rule itself. What it does control is a banner increasingly bereft of relevance as more and more people stop believing. I know that I am much happier since I stopped believing in democracy and “modern politics.” I just pray to Jesus, do my work, and call it a day. After all, protesting simply gives strength to the powers that be. What could be a better way to “protest” then to be silent and ignore the fight?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “Can the cathedral keep the fight ‘within bounds’ of Right and Left? So long as it does it continues to be in charge by definition.” — I’m beginning to wonder whether the situation isn’t utterly different, with the Cathedral caught in a machinery of dynamic antagonism it cannot possibly control. Maybe that’s with my (fabulously feathery) right wing Marxist hat on.

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    The Cathedral cannot even rule itself. What it does control is a banner increasingly bereft of relevance as more and more people stop believing.

    Remember that it is the idea that is in control, not the host minds. Individual host minds are constantly being out-flanked by other minds that are hosts to ideas even more Left.

    I know that I am much happier since I stopped believing in democracy and “modern politics.” I just pray to Jesus, do my work, and call it a day. After all, protesting simply gives strength to the powers that be. What could be a better way to “protest” then to be silent and ignore the fight?

    Amen, and I mean that in the agnostic Cult of Gnon way…

    [Reply]

    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    Protest is supposed to be war by other means—If you don’t give us what we want, all us we’ll be an army and string you up. If you are a client of the Cathedral, however, protesting can get you quite a lot, not because of any threat, but because it is a wink, and it looks good for The Narrative in the TV cameras. If you are not a client, protesting get’s you nowhere, because they don’t believe your implicit threat. The day they believe the implicit threat will be a very good day. When enough professional politicians shit their pants, that will be the beginning of Restoration.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 29th, 2013 at 7:25 pm Reply | Quote
  • (meta)tribal madness | raptros_ Says:

    […] Land, also discussing those discussions, […]

    Posted on May 29th, 2013 at 9:04 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alex Says:

    Someone at AltRight recently suggested replacing ‘right’ and ‘left’ with ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ respectively. Verts believe in hierarchy and the primacy of the transcendent; Zonts (or Hors) believe in equality and the primacy of the immanent …

    Perhaps only those who align with the original throne’n’altar Ancient Regime are the true rightists?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    This suggestion is as valuable as half a dozen others, but no more. It gets trichotomized (at least). For instance, capitalism ends up in the leftist camp — Rothbard style — which counts as a reductio in my book, although I accept others will dissent, unless I’m dissenting from them.

    [Reply]

    Alex Reply:

    For instance, capitalism ends up in the leftist camp — Rothbard style — which counts as a reductio in my book, although I accept others will dissent, unless I’m dissenting from them.

    A reductio Charlie Marx faced fearlessly… The left knows its own fathers even as it slays them. [It] has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors” … Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation … All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life …

    (That last bit sounds almost Dark Enlightenment.)

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Perfectly selected citation (as I have come to expect from you). Your initial Vert/Zont articulation of the political spectrum already carried this content implictly, though (which is why I expected capitalism to end up on the chopping block). The contrary way of running things — no more compelling, certainly — would describe the organic, high-solidarity, anti-commercial bonds of traditional ‘Vert’ society as ‘Leftist’ in their opposition to economic liberty, individualism, fluid hierarchy, and emergent inequality, in all respects closer, therefore, to the socialist mentality. It is not that I would expect this way of orienting the axis to be persuasive to anybody without crypto-libertarian inclinations, but it suggests that a generally authoritative definition of ‘the Right’ will be exceedingly hard to find.

    Alex Reply:

    The contrary way of running things — no more compelling, certainly — would describe the organic, high-solidarity, anti-commercial bonds of traditional ‘Vert’ society as ‘Leftist’ in their opposition to economic liberty, individualism, fluid hierarchy, and emergent inequality, in all respects closer, therefore, to the socialist mentality.

    You may have a point there. I remember reading an essay in an anthology of conservative writing in which the author (Irving Kristol I think) remarked that the Old Right and then-burgeoning New Left had certain uncanny resemblences.

    Posted on May 29th, 2013 at 11:12 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    This works, no? http://www.politicalcompass.org/index

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Those things are addictive, but you really want to argue that this one has solved the dilemma-complex satisfactorily?

    [Reply]

    Mark Warburton Reply:

    Not satisfactory, no; but at least it reduces term confusion. A reoccuring problem in every political thread it appears.

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    Another front in the battle of questions: how many dimensions are required to develop a model that is genuinely useful (if possible)? What are those dimensions of? Are they psychologically fundamental and/or do they unavoidably emerge as a result of social order in general?

    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    If human consciousness were simple enough to be understood by us, we wouldn’t be able understand it.

    Posted on May 29th, 2013 at 11:46 pm Reply | Quote
  • spandrell Says:

    All you’re really saying is that my title, ‘rightist singularity’ was inaccurate.

    I didn’t really have a choice, did I?

    My point is: the Left qua “party of movement” will always be based on envy, as its the most powerful mover of minds. And given that the only idea besides egalitarianism with a comparable hold on the human mind is tribalism, it follows that any non-Left, i.e. Right movement will necessarily gravitate to nationalism if it is to have a modicum of success.

    All I’m saying is that that produces a status-whoring singularity too.

    So it’s either Mao, Hitler or Skynet. How about that.

    [Reply]

    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    What about justice, order, “affodable family formation”, getting a wife who hasn’t been buttcoxxed by Tukker Maxxx rmyhes with Glodman Saxchs. lzlzoloolzoolzzz? A tribe, a real one, extends to maybe 200 men… beyond that, “tribalism” is a pure fiction, an abstraction… “nationalism”… and one helluva lot more abstract than, oh I dunno, let those I love be secure in their persons and property and free to pursue our own lives in peace. That is the “rightist” impulse… the impulse to do nothing… and if yer gonna do something, then make damn sure it doesn’t hurt ordinary people. The rightist singularity would result in Switzerland.

    [Reply]

    spandrell Reply:

    “A tribe, a real one, extends to maybe 200 men… beyond that, “tribalism” is a pure fiction, an abstraction… “nationalism”… ”

    Tell me about it.

    But that’s how it works, people get riled up about their national soccer team *way* more than they do about being able to afford a family or justice or virgin brides. There is no “rightist impulse” in 99% of people.

    [Reply]

    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    There is no “rightist impulse” in 99% of people.

    There is if they got kids and bills and a chance to make life better by hard work. Spandrell, you gotta get out to the Chuck-e-Cheese a little more.

    Orlandu84 Reply:

    You sir are essentially correct except that you conflate band and tribe. A band is a group of people around 150 who share a common ancestor. A tribe is a collection of bands that come together in crises to form a bigger but temporary group. You cannot keep tribes together for long periods of time because people cannot exist in groups larger than 150-200. For our brains are designed to know and love that number of people. My proof of this is that the basic group size of a military unit – the company – is between 80-225 persons. I am, of course, borrowing this insight from Francis Fukuyama who got it from evolutionary biology. Accordingly, “tribalism” is not a fiction but just an emergency feature – it is not meant to be permanent.

    [Reply]

    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    Accordingly, “tribalism” is not a fiction but just an emergency feature – it is not meant to be permanent.

    Indeed any civilization to have risen to the level of city or nation-state will have put tribalism largely behind it. I agree that its in our genes ready to come out in times of crisis. But tribalism is quite bad for business. Cities and states work better. Ergo, we accept them. But applying the logic of a tribe to an entire nation of 100k or 100M people is a fiction… an ideology constructed to sell… something else.

    I have to admit of complete agnosticism regarding the right singularity. To be against revolution is to be against singularities, full stop. To be against imposed ideological solutions is to be for natural and local ones. To be against rapid change is to be for a status quo of some sort. To be against anarchical forces is to be for order and discipline and virtue, none of which are fostered in a singularity of any kind. If there is a singularity, you can be sure that leftism is behind it… somewhere… maybe to the right of some other leftism… ala National Socialism, but still leftism of a sort. And remember Hitler’s most potent domestic enemies were the aristocrats who’d rejected Weimar republicanism, as much they did Nazism and as much as they did Bolsheviekism. They were the true right of intra-war Germany. Naziism was a cartoon… a very successful one however. We could use a Goebbels.

    raptros_ Reply:

    but there is also a tribal mode for interactions and I only call it that because thedal sounds stupid and nydwracu would tell me to cut it out.

    admin Reply:

    “The rightist singularity would result in Switzerland.” — I’m with you 100% … except that, as you’re the first to know, there’s no way to get to Switzerland by that route (through acceleration into catastrophe). Sensibly ordered, low time-preference, comparatively free societies don’t conclude any of the vectors we’re looking at. Hence this delightfully tortured conversation.

    [Reply]

    Arred Wade Reply:

    Interesting that abstract thought and the development of complex institutions is a fundamentally male endeavor, and men are typically the drivers of conquest and expansion. Yet today, the “do nothing” wing is stocked by males while young women are the target market for the globalist, “mandatory efficient ordering” crowd.

    Tribalism exists always and everywhere in the lower class. The difference between civilizing a nation and civilizing a single man is one of scale rather than type, and every generation starts afresh. There will never be a time where a level of social consciousness will be entirely “behind us.”

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “All you’re really saying is that my title, ‘rightist singularity’ was inaccurate.” — I don’t think so. ‘Rightist’ is too contested for any thoughtful usage to be dismissed as simply ‘inaccurate’. As for the complexity that ensures it can’t simply be accurate either, blame your own post and comment thread (proximately if not ultimately). For what it’s worth, I think your analysis is highly persuasive — hence massively depressing — since it suggests ‘right wing’ activism is slaved to the leftism of the comparatively recent past.

    “Mao, Hitler or Skynet” has me hesitating for at least half a nanosecond, so it’s probably pushing a decision prematurely. The problem is too interesting to rush.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 30th, 2013 at 12:27 am Reply | Quote
  • spandrell Says:

    “you gotta get out to the Chuck-e-Cheese a little more.”

    I don’t even know what that is.

    Believe me I have a wide range of acquaintances. They all get more excited with a soap opera or rigged election than with virtue and justice. That’s what people do.

    To this day there are 100x more neonazis than neo Hindenburgs, and the Cathedral hunts them down like vermin.

    Switzerland is what you get when you put Germans in a Chechen environment. You have tight local cohesion without the bandit genes. Mormons they aren’t.

    [Reply]

    Ludwig Reply:

    “Switzerland is what you get when you put Germans in a Chechen environment. You have tight local cohesion without the bandit genes. Mormons they aren’t.”

    I haven’t the faintest idea what this means. It sounds like an insight, though.

    – Swiss person

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 30th, 2013 at 2:03 am Reply | Quote
  • Nicholas MacDonald Says:

    Not a bad analysis, though I think I still prefer mine- “left” and “right” are essentially meaningless terms in a democratic game between differing cultures (the reproductive strategy explanation also makes a great deal of sense). The point being that the world is now in the hands of a technocracy that is a mix of what can be traditionally called “left” and “right”, but is in essence both and neither.

    As for singularities, to put it in the vernacular of my homeland, there just ain’t no such thing. “Political singularities” are the slippery slope fallacy run wild, while technological singularities are a figment of overblown MBA-logic about continuous rates of exponential growth. Not to say that the latter singularity doesn’t have some basis in reality- just look at the exponential growth in available processing power over the past thirty years- but it won’t lead directly to the transhuman utopias that Kurzweil and Yudkowsky dream about; it just means we’ll have more processing power than we know what to do with. Software progresses linearly with breakthroughs punctuating the line here and there, but it certainly doesn’t keep pace with the hardware- hence we’re still using decades-old junk code on machines that are light-years more advanced than the ones they were written on. My MacBook Pro has the processing power and data storage of a million 1984 Macintosh computers, but I’m not a million times more productive with my MacBook than I was with my 1984 Macintosh (back in 1990, sigh… I am getting old). Oh, in the sense of data output, I certainly am- but in the sense of being hedonically useful to human flourishing, not even close- maybe a hundred times more productive, if that, though most of that is the difference between being an 8-year-old hacker and being a 31-year-old professional.

    So yes, we’ll probably get a singularity- but it won’t lead to robot gods solving all our problems and turning us into immortal supermen. Both political and technological singularities are simplistic, reductionist models of phenomena that are extremely complex, nonlinear and sensitive to a billion variables that aren’t being taken into account- or, if you like, seven billion complex variables that don’t take well to being reduced to fit the procrustean bed of economists, futurists or philosopher’s molds…

    [Reply]

    Handle Reply:

    I always seem to derive something from Yglesias posts other than the point he’s trying to make. He had a relevant one today which basically stands for the proposition that there exists a reserve army of negative feedbacks waiting to pop up if the previous one fails and slow down or neutralize various singularities. A true defense in depth that stops short of a collapse solution to Herbert Stein’s First Law, “Whatever can’t go on forever won’t”.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 30th, 2013 at 2:35 am Reply | Quote
  • David Says:

    @admin Nice hat

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 30th, 2013 at 3:13 am Reply | Quote
  • Peter A. Taylor Says:

    Spandrell reminded me of this Moldbug quotation:

    “And the Left, in power, must pretend to contend against some great, imagined enemy, which it naturally models on itself.” — Gentle Intro 9a

    The Left has this Underdog shtick. Is this merely a tendency, or is it part of the definition of “Left”? It retains this shtick even when it is in uncontested power.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    I agree entirely, and it does seem to be intrinsic — but it has to be said: they think the same thing about us.

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    It is intrinsic — Leftism is a Neitzcheian Slave Morality. Turning to acknowledge that it is the master would be a form of self-annihilation.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    If prophetic accuracy is the gold standard, Nietzsche doesn’t come out badly. Unfortunately, he doesn’t anticipate us hitting bottom until the final decades of the 21st century.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 30th, 2013 at 1:15 pm Reply | Quote
  • Conservatism Is Dead. What’s Next? | Occam's Razor Says:

    […] Nick Land:  “Right and Left“ […]

    Posted on May 31st, 2013 at 2:02 am Reply | Quote
  • Handle Says:

    1. That there is a problem in assigning political meaning to these terms with any kind of definiteness or agreement is clear, so I suggest we should begin by inquiring into the origins and causes of the problem itself before we embark upon designating a working definition.

    2. I think a decent expression of the issue is the linguistics contrast between Universal Permanent Prescriptivism vs. Particular Dynamic Descriptivism. In other words, the essence of the problem is that different people, in different times and places, have used the same conventions, “Right and Left” to describe different and evolving clusters of preferences regarding social organization and politics that describe a loose network of alliances and affiliations. The further the distance in any factor (time, nation, etc.) between two snapshots of differing political contexts – the less one is able to make a coherent description of social discord that is somehow common to both contexts.

    3. However, since such context-dependent descriptivist definitions of “Right and Left” are bound to confusing and contradictory upon comparison (perhaps a weak remedy could be subscripts defining the context – i.e. Left[France, 1788]), the effort naturally turns toward descriptions which illustrate the overall tendency of controversy over all the contexts. The problem resembles one of Belief Propagation as a “Bayesian Most Probable Explanation” of the data set.

    4. But first it is necessary to quantify the data. So, a primary question from a descriptivist point of view is whether political conversation and behavior is even reducible to a single dimension even in a single context. Obviously this can never be entirely accurate, but if we can say that, say, over 80% of such activity is describable along a sole axis then it’s sufficient pragmatically as a description of the basic structure of political disagreement in the context. Everyone always thinks they’re a special snowflake and part of the 20%, 10% or 5% whose opinions can’t be easily predicted merely by placing them on this axis, but of course that’s almost never an accurate self-assessment.

    5. To extract the context-dependent definitions, one can do a factor analysis of election results, surveys, polls, and for politicians “party affiliation” and “roll call votes” and pay close attention to issues that generate significant controversy. Such a study could tell us the degree of political polarization as well as whether political behavior is indeed reducible to preferential tendencies that lie along a single dimension. For the recent US context, the answer is a definite “Yes, though there once used to be more a regional (and racial-politics dependent) influence as well.

    6. When you examine those clusters, gaps, and dimensions (especially if you have state-by-state granularity – California, I’m looking at you for the future), one can draw a line between the cluster midpoints, and the axis derived from the factor analysis can be extended and extrapolated out in both directions. One extreme can be called “Left” and the other “Right”. My hunch is that the endpoints have been stable for several centuries. This is an empirical way to turn actual behaviors into accurate descriptions of the Left-Right-Split phenomenon in any particular context. And, what Poole, McCarty, and Rosenthal seem to be saying is that over 90% of American thought and behavior can be described by one dimension they call “liberal-conservative” which they define as being primarily about one’s views on the proper role of government – which we can probably fairly simplify and say “Wants a Bigger or Smaller USG”.

    7. But that’s only half the picture, because as Foseti, Dreher, MacIntyre, etc. point out, both clusters, distinct and separated as they may be, remain in strongly progressive territory and closer to the left extreme than the right end point. I characterized this in terms of different understandings of the individual vs. collective interest. Whatever subordinations of the collective in favor of the individual can always be portrayed as a structure of “selfishness”, and in modern times, “Left” has been “Material Selfishness” where “Right” has been “Ego Selfishness”.

    8. Perhaps we should perform a similar exercise for the DEC. And maybe that’s an acceptable description of what’s been happening lately – trying to look for the right end of the axis as potential cynosure – James Goulding’s Schelling point principle – around we can organize and coordinate.

    9. This is all opposed to the hypothetical “Universal Permanent Prescriptivist” definition which we want to both meaningfully and adequately map the political territory over all the realms and ages, and which has proven so elusive for us here. It would also give us a basis to validate or criticize descriptions, i.e. “You are misusing the term ‘right’.” My sense is one must restrict this to huge abstractions like “Universalism vs. Particularism” or “Equality vs. Reality” (both of which I favor) or even Hanson’s semi-socio-biological “Forager vs Farmer” (Which Spandrel has described as which pre-modern social-harmony vision one happens to prefer). Otherwise, one is looking for a Unicorn or questing for El Dorado – something that doesn’t exist. Peter A. Taylor’s “Chaos”.

    10. Prior to the modern and Progressive eras, there were banal and much more salient material interests that correlated with socio-geography or socio-economics and found political expressions that were more profane and material instead of sacred and ideological. Urban vs Rural, Rich vs. Poor, etc. My impression is that in the last century, and especially since WWII, the great game has become increasingly reducible to single-axis ideological descriptions.

    11. Personally, I think it’s more important to focus on the current context, and, while there still remains a certain degree of regional difference internationally, the forces of globalization and Cathedral influence have acted to go well in the direction of homogenizing the structure of the intellectual contest throughout the Empire of Democracy.

    12. And the best description of our current cluster-separation axis is that the difference between Blue and Red is this: “The Left” is the party of, by, and for the Cathedral. The Right is a semi-coordinated, loose and mutually suspicious confederation (very much like the Axis in WWII), and a fissiparous combination of a bunch of strange bedfellows who each respectively have some strong objection to some particular feature of Cathedral governance or some item on the Cathedral agenda. They are so far away from the Rightist end-point that coherence beyond alliance for resistance is all but impossible.

    13. And as I said before at Nydwracu’s, the essence of the Left as Party of the Cathedral is implementing the implications of the Illusions of Equality by whatever means necessary. That is “pretty lies”. The right doesn’t like this set of illusions. Sometimes it has what a secular person would refer to as alternative and conflicting governance-informing myth narrative (like traditional religious belief) that nevertheless yields results more consistent with the reality of human nature. And sometimes it is purely critical and about the opposite of “pretty lies”, which is “ugly truth”.

    14. The split on the right is largely between those who advocate alternative myth-structures to “Equality” and those who prefer the shadowy and sometimes tragically dismal null hypotheses of the Dark Enlightenment. But, fundamentally, here and now, what can we say about this pro vs contra-Cathedral split? This: The Left is the party of Illusion, and the Right the party of Disillusion.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    I would expect some push-back on this from those most sympathetic to Vert/Zont-type poltical articulation (see Alex above). Exacerbating red-blue polarity, especially when defined by concerns related to size of government, generates a spectrum highly-attuned to the arguments of libertarians and their enemies. (I’m quite comfortable with this, whilst recognizing that it’s not going to provide a DE Schelling-point).

    [Reply]

    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    Handle, was there supposed to be a link for “Belief Propagation” in your third point?

    [Reply]

    Handle Reply:

    Indeed there was. Here is another attempt. Posting multiple links in blog comments has also seemed very haphazardly effective to me.

    Here’s one for Factor Analysis (which, for example, goes a long way to supporting the concept of a general intelligence factor g) and Here’s another link that helps to briefly introduce MPE and MAP.

    My point was there are only really two ways to try and define right and left. You can make something up that sounds philosophically plausible and try to explain away all the real world inconsistencies. Or you can let the “political market data” – both what people do and how they themselves use the terms – drive the train and accept that there might not actually be any prominent single factor that corresponds to our hunch concerning the divide.

    If you’re going to use a data-based approach, there are a variety of clever and dynamically-updatable statistical methods that would be most useful. A cursory glance at voteview’s work seems to indicate that in contemporary American politics, there is indeed a very prominent single factor that divides our political alliance clusters. Each ideological camp has pulled apart (a bimodal political distribution – most acutely in California) and has at the same time drawn closer toward their respective centers of gravity – tending to agree with their allies on more and more things.

    What else to call that but “left and right”? If we use other terms that neither match up to the axis of that gap nor are in the language people ordinarily use to describe it (like “verts and zonts”), what the hell good are they? If you’re going to go the prescriptivist route, and especially if you’re trying to have your concept extend meaningfully over large spaces of place, peoples, and time – you’d better be identifying something very deep about human nature and the way we naturally tend to dream our visions of social harmony.

    This would probably have a primitive origin in either hunter-gatherer life or early civilization – genetic predispositions towards we all probably contain to different degrees based on our heritage – but which is also perhaps just a “multiple equilibrium” of the human mind. This is Hanson’s “Farmer v Forager” hypothesis. Those two visions seem to be something like universalist hyper-equal communism or particularist hierarchy. Neither one is an inherently better way to organize interaction in all contexts than the other. Both have their place, and while I usually prefer hierarchy there are times I hunger for equality – like when I’m socializing with my friends and have nothing we’re trying to achieve.

    The main difference is this – hierarchy scales. And it is ideal for accomplishing goals that require large amounts of authority and coordination that can adapt automatically to “market signals” (like war or business). Equality doesn’t scale, and works better in much looser environments that permit more independence. Trying to scale the equality mode (especially in modern times and in economics) to nation-state and global scope, is asking for trouble because it’s unrealistic – people aren’t actually equal. That’s the trouble we’re in. That’s why I contrast it as: Left is Equality, Right is Reality.

    If you dig a little into how the voteview folks defined and divided positions and votes along the “liberal-conservative” axis, then I think what you get is that Left is the Party of Government (except the military) and Right is the party that sometimes tries to cooperate to ineffectively oppose the Left.

    Borrowing Moldbug’s point that there are many more people properly described as being “part of the government” than mere civil service rosters would show – I think it’s perfectly accurate to say the the Left is the Party of the Cathedral and the Right is slowly but surely being dragged in that direction, occasionally kicking and screaming and temporarily clawing back an inch or two here and there.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 31st, 2013 at 10:09 pm Reply | Quote
  • The 2013 Anti-Progress Report | Radish Says:

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  • Porcupine Eater Says:

    I know this is an older post, but I would recommend the thesis made by Norberto Bobbio in Left and Right: The Significance of a Political Distinction. After exhausting every alternative model and criticism of the traditional Left Right scale he concludes that the distinction is a debate over equality. Since humans share equal and unequal qualities, the Left emphasizes socioeconomic and political equality (the ultimate manifestation being some kind of anarcho-socialist left singularity) and the Right emphasizes inequality as being natural, normal, and desirable. Thus a Right Singularity would be ever greater hierarchy and specification (ever greater inequality of class, wealth, race, sex, division of labor, etc) and greater consolidation of political power in the hands of lesser people (the terminus obviously being monarchy/CEO/Fuhrer).
    Obviously this implies that a Left singularity tends towards chaos and the Right towards order (but only of an inegalitarian kind). To argue that Left means “being in favor of change” while Right means “preserving the status quo” seems silly and ahistorical. Bobbio points out that the terms are obviously relative to the situation, so there are those who more left or right in any political debate (Mao is lefter than Deng, but Deng is lefter than Nixon, who is lefter than Charlemagne).

    [Reply]

    Porcupine Eater Reply:

    I think Handle summed up the same point above: “Those two visions seem to be something like universalist hyper-equal communism or particularist hierarchy”.

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 22nd, 2014 at 3:12 am Reply | Quote
  • Cledun Says:

    This is crude and shaky but if left-right is defined as diffusion-of-authority vs concentration-of-authority (as the legitimizing principle of authority) then it occurs to me that Imperium might be the only Right-Wing universalism as Imperium seeks to encompass the world without particular regard to the individuals or masses of individuals in it.

    http://i.imgur.com/DzVzOnw.jpg

    The distinction is between power concentrated in the mass or masses on the left, and power concentrated on individuals or an individual on the right. Polycentrism is a Rightist principle, up until the ideal of Imperium is achieved, and all power is concentrated in a single individual. Yet the way that Empire historically worked was extremely lassaiz-faire and decentralized, culturally, religiously, and even economically as far as the average individual’s daily life was concerned. And so in a way Imperium transcends the spectrum.

    Some historical forms, like Stalin’s Socialism in One Country and Napoleon’s Jacobin Empire don’t fit neatly on the graph. Neither does Anarchism which can take both collectivist and radically individualist forms.

    Early Modern colonial imperialism of a mercantile bent is not quite the same as Imperium (think Caesar and Shahansah), but would still fall on the right half of the spectrum somewhere. And might the kind of Corporate nationalism advocated at times by Moldbug be considered a type of Aristocratic Oligarchy, or perhaps Aristocratic Democracy?

    [Reply]

    Posted on September 9th, 2014 at 12:59 pm Reply | Quote
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