Value Ordination: Political Paradigm as Argumentation

Innumerable are the number of political compass tests which one can take online, from Playbuzz to PoliticalCompass.org to the 8 Values Github Test, all of which are sifted through and poured over, studied and analyzed by the takers thereof as if in the action of so doing they will confer some hidden and eldritch wisdom unto the reader. The popularity of political compass tests however, does not lie in their viewing by the takers thereof but in their viewing by everyone else. People that are likely to take political compass tests are also likely to be highly engaged in politics and thus are already well aware of their own political views and where they are likely to lie on any given political compass test (unless the given test happens to be poorly constructed, and thus, woefully inaccurate). They are not really seeking out what their ideological positions are but are rather looking for a shared visual platform where their ideological uniqueness can be shown to others. A narcissist’s past-time.

The fixation here is more upon the position of the individual along the political compass than upon the ideas which place them there. This is reflective of American political discourse more generally, where discussions are generally started with the prompt, “Well The Left,” or, “You see this is just what The Right has been trying to do for years now-”

Right and Left are, of a certainly, highly useful linguistic tools but there is here a problem which manifests itself whenever a particular political moniker becomes more important that being correct, that is to say, logically parsimonious (utilizing economy of explanation to arrive at a conclusion).

That may sound like a obvious truism; certainly it is true but it is far less discernible that it is readily obvious. Such is evidenced by popular internetisms like, “There is nothing to the Right of me but the wall.” Meaning, of course, that there is no one more Right-wing than the person whom is spouting the aforementioned phrase. This is only a positive however if the Right-wing views which the speaker holds are actually correct. That is to say, Right and Left are not arguments in and of themselves, nor is a statement of any ideological inclination. To say, “That is a Communist position!” is only a sufficient position in as far as it is actually wrong/illogical; it is not wrong merely by dint of being associated with Communism (which, by and large should be suspect for its historical record of death and intense political instability). Thus, for the previous example, it should, make the argument more suspect but it should not incline one to dismiss it out of hand.

Such is also true with rebuttals like, “But that is Authoritarian!” Well… why is that a bad thing? One should really be asked to explain.

In short, in the American context, the political Left and Right are all too often interjected in place of argumentation. Whenever the words Left-wing and Right-wing are utilized as a argument unto themselves, rather than as placeholders for extremely wide-ranging idea-sets, one knows that one’s opponent has woefully lost the plot.

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