Ideology

From The Standard:

Broadly, there are two groups of ideologies, the Left that believes in collective strength, fairness, equality, and the Right that believes in individualism, the right to act in one’s own interest, the right to possess whatever you can win. The society and economy we live in, while ultimately supported and constrained by the natural world, is the product of the competition and compromise between these two fundamentally different ways of viewing the world.

I find it hard to believe anyone can write that with a straight face. The left/right dimension does have some utility, but to privilege left and right is surely a product of tribalistic party politics. In any case, the factors mentioned are not all there is to the spatial metaphor. The Nolan chart should be the bare minimum in talking reasonably about left/right ideology.

To be fair, there’s some reasonable stuff in the same post: 

The people at the Jobs Summit haven’t put their ideologies to one side because they can’t. People can’t view problems ‘objectively’ because there is no objective reality, we can only ever view things through the prism of our ideologies.

I agree entirely if “no objective reality” means “no neutral way of evaluating competing values”. Ideology isn’t just about values, however, it’s also about our model of how the world works, which obviously includes some factual beliefs. 

Fittingly, there’s the typical partisan head-butting in the comments.

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4 Responses

  1. I, that is Steve, agree entirely but I wasn’t writing a hand-wringing first year pols paper. The target audience has a broad range of political knowledge, so sticking to the basic left/right wing dichotomy, which underlies the partisan lines in our legislature and every other one, was sufficent, I thought.

  2. Fair cop. I guess I’m criticising the general tendency to treat current political alignments as if they are the only valid ones. It’s the “The society and economy we live in, while ultimately supported and constrained by the natural world, is the product of the competition and compromise between these two fundamentally different ways of viewing the world.” statement I have the biggest problem with.

  3. And I don’t think the half of the left/right dimension you cite is the main thing underlying partisan lines in NZ and other legislatures: social liberalism also matters a lot.

  4. I think it’s a bit quick to say that the right doesn’t believe in collective strength, it just expresses in different ways. Isn’t nationalism more typical of the right than of the left? What is nationalism other than a right-wing manifestation of the subsuming of the individual to the collective?

    Contra Brad, though, I’d argue that left-right dimensionality does seem a roughly right characterization of NZ politics though. Self-placement on a left-right scale massively predicts party preference, and inability to place oneself on such a dimension correlates strongly with political ignorance rather than with off-dimensional self-placement.

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