I have never understood what people meant when they discussed left wing and right wing policies.
I knew that there were different political parties and I could grasp the implications and consequences of individual policies, but I never learned about the political spectrum and how each party stands within it.
I decided it was time to learn.
When I was researching this, the information was so convoluted I almost gave up. There were so many different academic investigations and geometric expressions of the spectrum that it was almost impossible to consolidate anything. However, here’s the essential meaning of the terms right wing and left wing politics as I know it. There are a couple of long words, bear with me.
The terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ (in politics) originate from the French Revolutionary era of 1789-99. They initially referred to the seating arrangements of the legislative bodies of France. The aristocracy (the privileged) sat to the right of the Speaker and the commoners sat on the left.
The monarchist political system at the time was called the Ancien Régime – The Old Order. Here, “The Right” implied support for aristocratic or royal interests as well as the interests of the Church, and “The Left” implied support for more civil liberties and the interests of the working class, poor peasantry and the unemployed.
To this day, that’s what it generally means.
The left wing typically supports social equality, which means focusing on trying to bridge the gap between the disadvantaged and the rich.
The right wing typically accepts this disparity and supports social inequality, viewing it as inevitable, natural or traditional.
This struggle in defining whether or not there should be a social hierarchy is the central idea to left-right politics.
Hope you found this information as useful as I did. As a student of economics, a working knowledge of politics goes a long way!
- ‘Right Wing’ and ‘Left Wing’ are painfully outdated terms (laurakbrindley.wordpress.com)
- The Enigma of Right Wing Politics (solutionscase.wordpress.com)
- What’s Left of the Union? (bellacaledonia.org.uk)