Notes Toward a New Political Taxonomy

Noah Millman writes for the American Scene:

It has become clear to me over the years that one of the causes of persistent confusion in our political arguments is the interchangeable use of taxonomic terms that, while they may have a natural affinity, are not actually synonyms.

Three terms that tend to get used interchangeably are:

Left / Liberal / Progressive

Their counterparts on the other side of the political spectrum are treated similarly:

Right / Conservative / Reactionary

The shades of difference among the meanings of the words within the triads, however, are not minor. One can very well be extremely right-wing without being a reactionary in any meaningful sense — think of Ayn Rand. One can be extremely left-wing without being a liberal in any meaningful sense — think of Lenin.

I propose, therefore, to accentuate the differences between the words commonly lumped together, to clear up all ambiguities by assigning technical meanings to commonly-used terms, and thereby define a three-dimensional space within which political writers and thinkers could more clearly be pegged.

Read more at The American Scene

2 Comments on "Notes Toward a New Political Taxonomy"

  1. Nice article…but I wish them luck trying to hammer that concept through the heads of people who are having trouble seeing the philosophical differences between Communists and Fascists. Ours is a society in the grips of a culture war, and if the theoretically literate pundits can’t be bothered to spell out the differences, we’ll have a damned hard time getting anyone else to grasp them.

  2. Yes certainly there are more than two sides. There are a spectrum of positions on any idea and many ideas in any argument, yet that doesn’t keep people from dualizing any argument into right and wrong so they don’t have to think about the problem and find a compromise and instead can hate someone else for wanting to solve the problem differently.

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