Correspondence

Left, Right, Up, Down

Since the time of the French Revolution, the labels "left" and "right" have served as universal symbols on the road atlas of modern politics. The exact meaning of the symbols has never been clear, especially when they are applied outside the narrow streets of practical politics and extended to the broader ranges of philosophy, religion, and even aesthetics. Nevertheless, like "A.M." and "P.M." or "A.D." and "B.C.," left and right have become indispensable to the mental and verbal organization of otherwise incomprehensible phenomena.

Because they originally pertained to the different sides of parliamentary assemblies in the wake of the French Revolution and served to distinguish those, on the left, who supported the revolution and its legacy from those, on the right, who opposed it, left and right might retain some clear meaning if employed in that sense. Insofar as the ideological legacy of the revolution is captured in its motto of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," and insofar as contemporary politics still revolves around these terrible pleasantries, then we might continue to lump certain schools of politicians and political thinkers as "left" and others as "right."

But throughout the 1980's (and probably henceforward) such schools seem to be out for a long vacation. What is called the "right" in American politics today...

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