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Friday, May 27, 2005

Multiple dimensions: left & right

Warp speed in the blogosphere. I start a post on how transcending a simple binary right/left model doesn't cover all the necessary territory, when I get an email from Kevin Baker making precisely that point:
The general consensus is that a simple one-dimensional political scale is horribly inadequate. At a minimum, a two-dimensional map is required, with "Left (liberal) - Right (conservative)" being one axis, and "Libertarian - Authoritarian" being the other axis. Even this is inadequate but it is much more informative than the simple Left-Right dichotomy. There's even a "Political Compass Test."
I heartily agree with Kevin on this. A. Lawrence Chickering, in a book called Beyond Left and Right: Breaking the Stalemate, argues similarly that, at minimum, any useful conversation has to posit that both left and right have their respective freedom wings and authoritarian wings; hence "free left" and "order left"; "free right" and "order right." Philosopher Ken Wilber pushes the envelope further with his own quadrant system. Wilber is a brilliant thinker and an excellent writer, but his highly theoretical work is not light reading. But if you're up for serious exploration of these concerns, start here for the theoretical underpinnings of his integral model of knowledge. Then take a look at his essay specifically about integral politics. After you've finished all that, you'll deserve a break, so I suggest perhaps going here and bringing along some of this. Don't despair if you're not heavily into theory, or if the right/left divide (two parts? four parts? more?) doesn't usually rob you of a good night's sleep. I do Big Theory here only rarely, partly to honor my favorite Monty Python character, Ann Elk. OK, I can't leave it there. See next post.