Monday 30 May 2016

What is the meaning of Right Wing/ Conservative/ Republican/ Reactionary?

The answer is that there is no real, substantive, solid meaning to the terms Right Wing/ Conservative/ Republican/ Reactionary - all definitions are arbitrary and incoherent, hence unconvincing.

There is a meaning to Left Wing/ Socialist/ Liberal/ Progressive - and I think we all know what that is although we often mistake the emphasis, which has changed and continues to change - because its agenda is negative - its coherence over the centuries destructive.

But 'the Right' is in reality Religion: Religion as the basis of socio-political organisation. Religion is therefore an aim, not a programme, not a blueprint.

There can be no non-religious Right, no secular Right - because, to base a society on non-religious principles is in practise to exclude religion from the public sphere as a reason and explanation - and this is itself a Leftist principle. It is, indeed, the primary, original and foundational Leftist principle.

The millions of people who regard themselves as Right Wing but who do not favour a religion as the unifying basis of social organisation, are deluded. There is no such political ground for them to occupy. They are actually a type of Leftist, a Leftist with - perhaps - an unusual emphasis, but that is all.

Non Religious self styled Rightists are aimed in the same direction as other Leftists because they use the same evaluative criteria, which is hedonic, this-worldly, human, mortal and psychological: the pleasure-pain, gratification-suffering scale.

(By contrast the primary Religious scale of evaluation is located outwith, elsewhere than, the mortal, human world.)

In sum, the Right is on the Left. Because if you don't regard Religion as the basis of society, you are on on the Left.

To summarise - the polarity of political life lies between a society organised on and around the basis of some Religion - and Leftism, which is organised on some other basis.


ted said...

I agree with Religion being a fundamental demarcation between Left and Right. I also heard it put as external and internal causation, meaning the the Left sees all social ills resulting from systems and institutions and the Right sees these ills resulting from a lack of cultural and individual constraints and virtues.

But there is an exception here, since I have been drawn to some Western Buddhist circles in the past, and I have found almost all people in these communities have co-opted Buddhism as a Leftist religion. The irony here is the original Buddhist teachings were all about self restraint and personal responsibility, but the Leftist Buddhists have placed more the emphasis around the meaning of Compassion and how the State should be a conduit for these values. (I might add this nothing new in Christian circles too, with the movements around liberation theology.)

I suppose we could argue whether or not Western Buddhism is a real religion, or even appropriate for a country that was found on Judeo-Christian values, but I did want to point out just as secular Rightists may be deluded, so may be the case with religious Leftists.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ted - For sure - not all thngs that call themselves a Religion are indeed a Religion - not in the sense required here to be a basis for a society.

William Wildblood said...

So true. I am often called right wing because I reject the destructive ideology of the left. My response is to say that you are defining me in your leftist terms but I don't accept that definition because to me the opposition is not between left and right, whether economically or socially, but between those who deny God and those who acknowledge him and see him as primary, not just an add on to a basic humanism. Not that this ever convinces anyone!

George said...

So the choice is acceptance or rejection of God?

I think it is, indeed, that simple, yet so many ways this simple dichotomy seems disguised!

John Fuerst said...

"There is a meaning to Left Wing/ Socialist/ Liberal/ Progressive - and I think we all know what that is..."

"Leftism" as understood both in differential psychology and political philosophy is, basically, sociopolitical equalism. Call this "ordinary sense leftism" (OSlefism). Opposition or insufficient obsequious to that goal, which can take many forms, is called "rightism" (OSrightism). Conservativism can be OSleftist (as in the x-USSR) or OSrightist (as in the US). Ditto religion.

"But 'the Right' is in reality Religion"

Call this "Bruce Charlton Right" (BCrightism) then -- which resembles Mencius Moldbug's confusing "right as order". OSleftists would be perfectly happy with a religious or a political order, thus BCright or MMright, which incessantly pushed for sociopolitical equality of the relevant (to them) kind. And they oppose Christianity only insofar as it is perceived as hindering the advancement of this (now typically measured in term of outcome equality). Obviously, millions of people can contemporaneously opposed both OSleftism and religion.

I don't understand why you would try to redefine well understood terms. In what way does your conception add clarity?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ JF - But there is no clarity! The current nomenclature has National Socialism as ultra Right, it has the current UK government as Tories! All modern mainstream politics is on the Left - Obviously.

The reason is that they are all utilitarian in their ethics -referencing policy to some variant of the greatest happines/ least suffering of the greatest number/ most important people. Modlbug is explicitly utilitarian.

Therefore modern differences in politics merely amount to disagreements over the means to reach the identical end, or differences about the people whose happiness matters.

BTW Leftism is not about equality - not even in theory - and has not been for at least 50 years. The reason I say this is given in Thought Prison and Addicted to DIstraction - my mini-books which are now free online. Leftism has no positive agenda, but a negative agenda - it does not know what it want, but what it does not want. That is why the Left is continually metamorphising and changing its targets.

Misanthropist said...

The larger problem is that the left-right divide is something of a false dichotomy designed to confuse, divide and distract from the reality of things and the general power structure. The terms 'left' and 'right' are still of some use in understanding certain kinds of political psychology, but largely irrelevant to the bigger picture.

I think we have established that the left are largely nihilists. The right, on the other hand, are largely people that have little in common other than opposition or skepticism towards whatever the left advocates at any time. But a taxonomy based on 'nihilists' versus 'nihilist skeptics' makes little sense.

Bruce Charlton said...

@M - "a taxonomy based on 'nihilists' versus 'nihilist skeptics' makes little sense. "

Nice phrase. BUt of course I am saying tha the nihilist-skeptics are also nihilists - but have not followed through their assumptions realize the fact.

The argument of this can be found in Eugene (later Fr Seraphim) Rose's book Nihilism:

Bruce Charlton said...

One aim of this article is to clarify that the non-religious people who imagine themselves to be opposed to The Left are mistaken. They are part of the same overall movement.

The secular 'Right' opposition to Leftism could be compared to the infighting that goes on within the ever-expanding state bureaucracy - conflicts over funding, manpower, status etc - one officie trying to do down the others. But the background and dominating reality is of ever-expanding bureaucracy; and in the big picture and over time, these inter-departmental squabbles pale into insignificance.

The shared aim of Left and secular 'Right' is the materialist/ positivist/ reductionist worldview as the basis of public life, strangely running in parallel with the utilitarian aim of human psychological feelings as the bottom line.