Hold the phone, comrades -- "liberal" is not really "left"
Contrary to popular usage, "liberal" is qualitatively different from "left." It is a centrist
position meant to preserve the status quo by allowing a few reforms that help appease or co-opt efforts at basic systemic change sought by the left.
Part of the confusion in terminology comes from the ever-present tendency in politics toward subverting the language. It's a political weapon first recognized and instituted in the popular mind in Orwell's novel 1984
, but is certainly alive and well today.
It goes back a lot further, of course -- the politically-mindful Confucians in ancient China asserted that "good government begins with calling things by their right names."
To get a handle on liberalism, referring to its history is probably the best way to steer clear of the subjectivity involved in semantic wrangling about the term. Left-oriented European historians like those of the Annales
school (Braudel, Wallerstein, Arrighi et al) give us some pretty interesting background on the matter.
As a policy, liberalism apparently came out of the Congress of Vienna of 1815 and Europe's massive reorganization after the defeat of Napoleon, who represented the culmination (at that time) of the "Age of Revolutions."
The powers-that-be recognized that revolutionary tendencies among the masses meant the established power structure could no longer be sustained by the current system of monarchy, so reforms were put in place with the aim of appeasing them -- a program of concessions to "the dangerous classes."
These included free public education, "patriotism" bolstered by universal military service, widening of suffrage into non-landowner classes, and somewhat later, social insurance.
As Wallerstein puts it, "In response to burgeoning masses of disenfranchised wage-workers, Western states began a program of 'palliative' reform."
This also included establishing our present notion of "social progress," which helped stabilize the status quo, since the promise of it created patience among those classes who would otherwise be quicker to agitate.
Yes, we're talking labels, with all the standard disclaimers hereby invoked. Still, I'd say that in blunt terms, "liberal" is ruling-class, "left" is working-class.
I'd also suggest that anyone comfortable with the label "left" would also accept -- or at least, not be offended by -- the label "socialist." Certainly, that works for Bernie Sanders!
--#liberal #left #class #socialist #statusquo #progress #revolution