NTSS over at his blog Carlsbad 1819 has put up a rather good post, The left-right spectrum put in its proper meaning and context
Initially, I thought I would put up a comment over there but as it
ended up being too long I thought I'd make a post of it. I've got a lot
of respect for Nulla and so the the following comments are made in the
spirit of honest criticism.
How you frame a question in
many ways predetermines the solutions to it. How does the Left differ
from the Right is, in my mind, the wrong question, as it tends forces
the mind to concentrate on what are the differences between the two
camps with the assumption
that any difference between the two is
meaningful. Choosing between International Socialism and National
Socialism still leaves you with Socialism in the end.
think that one of the greatest advances in human anthropology has been
the realisation that human rationality is more far more complicated
than we first thought. Rationality, still relatively undifferentiated by
philosophers, has been demonstrated to have both an intuitive and
deliberative component with intuitive rationality being the default mode
of thinking for the majority, even the hi-IQ types.
of the features of intuitive intelligence is that it tends to be
associative in nature, and one of the results of this intuitive approach
is the conflation of conservative with Right and liberal with Left.
Once we start realise that right/conservative and left/radical
catergorisations are associative conflations disentangling things makes
things a lot clearer.
The first thing to realise is that conservative and liberal are primarily temperamental types
with voting behaviour being strongly linked to personality type.
Numerous studies have show temperamental differences between conservatives and liberals. For example, Conservatives
are high on the neuroticism and purity temperamental traits while
liberals are higher on openness and impurity elements.
start analysing politics through this dual lenses of intuitive
rationality and personality type a lot of politics becomes far easier to
Suppose socialism becomes the flavour
of the month. The conservative elements in the population are going to
be advocating for a more structured, "pure" and orderly version of
Socialism while the liberals will vote for its more open liberal
variant. Fascism, is quite literally Socialism made for the Conservative
Likewise, when we talk about the conservative
faction of the Communist party--what would superficially appear to be an
oxymoron-- we're talking about the personality types that don't want
any innovation with regard to communism and stick to the orthodoxy. It
is not deliberative reason that's determining the position, it's the
temperament. Orwell understood this phenomenon completely. He recognised
l" motivated political orientation more than rationality.
It's not as if this some kind of new insight. If we look at Oakeshott's famous definition of what it means to be Conservative:
"To be conservative ... is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to
prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the
possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the
sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present
laughter to utopian bliss."
We see that it
applies just as equally to political theory as it does to cheese. Anglo
Conservatism--with its strong temperamental justification--is largely
devoid of any ideological content. It is simply an
aesthetic/preferential approach to things rather than an epistemological
or metaphysical position.
This type of conservatism is always
going to fail and will drift (in any direction) over time for two
reasons. Given it's conservative nature it's unable to initate
direction, leaving the initiative to the non-conservative elements in
society. Secondly, lacking any fixed ideological or epistemological
positions it will eventually move given enough social pressure and
habituation. As its own cognitive elements become habituated to the
change it becomes to see it as part of "present"-- (Oakeshott was big on
this)---and accepts it now as the new tradition.
it's vital to disentangle the liberal/conservative temperamental
dispostional elements from the epistimological/metaphysical dimension
of the Left/Right divide.
Once we get rid of all the
purity/hierarchy/preference for order stuff what exactly have we got:
What does it mean to be "Right"?
to this discussion.
Once again the Left/Right distinction tends to obscure rather than
clarify. Being anti-Left is of no virtue if the resulting positions and
beliefs are not calibrated to reality. This is the real danger in
defining the Right as the anti-Left, since the it frames the distinction
primarily along the lines of the Left and not upon the relationship of
its positions with reality: the thing that matters.
far as I'm concerned the core distinction between Right and Left is
where they sit on the realist/anti-realist spectrum. Overlaid upon this
are the conservative and liberal temperaments which colour this
distinction. What you end up is with the following matrix.
we strip the tempramental/dispositional elements from the analysis were
left with how the Left and the Right relate to REALITY.
THE DIVIDING LINE BETWEEN LEFT AND RIGHT IS THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO REALITY.
The Right believes in Truth the Left believes in Ideals, no matter how divorced from reality they are.
thing to remember is that those of a conservative temperament are just
as capable of believing in bullshit--i.e. being reality averse--as the
most radical leftist and hence these people are also the enemy.
Calibration to reality is the defining feature of the Right, not a
laundry list of "preference" options.
The thing is that in real
life, given the reality that people are by and large System 1 driven,
people are going to align themselves with others of the same
temperament. Hence we find the strong historical association between
trads/integralists/natsocs and libs/socialists/communists. Their union
is based upon a superficial bellyfeel analysis rather than cool
cognition. The bulk of humanity, even the eggheads, run with their gut
rather than their heads.
disadvantage of this doleful state of human affairs is that the
intuitive conservatives have more sympathy for those who a conservatives
in error rather than liberals in truth. What this means is that
statistically Traditionalists are more likely than not to opt for error
rather than truth when confronted with a novel situation. Exhibition 1:
Meriol Trevor writes of one of the poster boys of the Traditionalist Catholic Right, Pius X
at the time the Holy Office was forced to examine the morality of the
Action Francaise and after long delays reported to the Pope that the
movement's moral principles were not compatible with the Catholic faith.
In spite of this, Pius X decided not to publish the condemnation. Marc
Sangnier, the faithful Catholic democrat, was disowned, but Charles
Maurras, the avowed atheist, was allowed immunity. Seldom has political
sympathy influenced more clearly a papal act, or refusal to act.
that sink in. This champion of Catholic "Orthodoxy" supported a atheist
who thought of the Church with contempt while condemning a faithful
This is one of the main reasons why I like to put the
hurt on the Trads. I recognise that Traditionalism is a repository for a
lof of truth but what I realise is that for a variety of reasons
tradition must be able to be modified or built up in light of the
advance in human knowledge in a way that is compatible with the past.
Traditionalists completely close this option off, and while liberals, by
and large, promulgate error, traditionalists do not allow changes to be
affected even if doctrinally or epistimologically sound.
2: Oh, and here's another howler I found just the other day which is
quite appropriate given the inane utterances of some U.S. bishops
regarding illegal immigration.
de Lubac found himself in opposition to many of the neo-scholastics and
members of the Action Francaise who supported Marshal Petain's Vichy
government. Foremost among these was Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
who was of the view that support for the stance of General de Gaulle
was not merely a case of backing the wrong team, politically or
prudentially speaking, but was actually a mortal sin.
can't make this stuff up. One of the leading Thomistic theologians of
the 20th Century actually though it a mortal sin not to support a Nazi
puppet state. This is why its so important to disentagle conservatism
from Rightism. Simply so as not to make these idiotic mistakes.