Sociology Index

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The Left And The Right In Politics

What do the terms left and right in politics mean? Left Wing and Right Wing are recorded in English in the 1790s. In the US, the left is a shorthand for the Democratic Party, and the right is a shorthand for the Republican Party. Left refers to people and groups that have liberal views. Left generally means they support progressive reforms, those seeking greater social and economic equality. Far Left is what is considered more extreme, revolutionary views, such as communism and socialism. Groups are referred to as the Left Wing.

Right refers to groups that have conservative views. Right generally means they are disposed to preserving existing institutions. The Right believes in restoring traditional institutions. Far Right is used for more extreme, nationalistic viewpoints, including fascism and some oppressive ideologies. Groups are collectively referred to as the Right Wing.

Left and Right originally referred to seating positions in the 1789 French National Assembly, the parliament France formed after the French Revolution. Relative to the viewpoint of the speaker of this assembly, to the right were seated nobility and more high-ranking religious leaders, and to the left were seated commoners and less powerful clergy.

What does it mean to be in the center? Seating positions starting in the 1789 French National Assembly closer to the center likewise became associated with less extreme or moderate views. Center politics favor moderate positions. People holding these views are often called moderates. Political independents fall at the center of the political spectrum. Center-left refers to groups, or views that are just to the left of the political center in a country. Center-right refers views being to the right of center.