Left and Right: The Small World of Political Ideas 9780773597440

How left/right ideology has evolved in the postwar era and changed Canadian politics.

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Left and Right: The Small World of Political Ideas
 9780773597440

Table of contents :
Cover
Title
Copyright
Contents
Acknowledgments
1 Introduction
2 The “Meaning” of Left and Right
3 Ideology, Dimensionality, and Asymmetry
4 The Structure and Content of Left / Right Differences
5 Left / Right Positions and Polarization
6 Left / Right Persistence and Evolution
7 Citizens’ Left / Right Orientations
8 The Rise of Left / Right in Canadian Politics
9 Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

left and right

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LEFT and RIGHT The Small World of Political Ideas

christopher cochrane

McGill-Queen’s University Press Montreal & Kingston • London • Chicago

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©  McGill-Queen’s University Press 2015 isb n isb n isb n isb n

978-0-7735-4578-6 (cloth) 978-0-7735-4579-3 (paper) 978-0-7735-9744-0 (eP DF ) 978-0-7735-9745-7 (eP UB)

Legal deposit fourth quarter 2015 Bibliothèque nationale du Québec Printed in Canada on acid-free paper that is 100% ancient forest free (100% post-consumer recycled), processed chlorine free This book has been published with the help of a grant from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, through the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program, using funds provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. McGill-Queen’s University Press acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund for our publishing activities.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Cochrane, Christopher, author Left and right: the small world of political ideas / Christopher Cochrane. Includes bibliographical references and index. Issued in print and electronic formats. isb n 978-0-7735-4578-6 (bound). – is bn 978-0-7735-4579-3 (paperback). – isb n 978-0-7735-9744-0 (eP DF ). – is bn 978-0-7735-9745-7 (eP U B ) 1. Right and left (Political science) – History – 20th century.  2. Right and left (Political science) – History – 21st century.  I. Title. ja83.c58 2015

320.509

c 2015-903990-8 c 2015-903991-6

This book was typeset by Interscript in 10.5/13 Sabon.

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To Christine, Julia, and Meaghan

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Contents

Acknowledgments ix 1 Introduction  3 2  The “Meaning” of Left and Right 10 3  Ideology, Dimensionality, and Asymmetry 34 4  The Structure and Content of Left / Right Differences 52 5  Left / Right Positions and Polarization 76 6  Left / Right Persistence and Evolution 106 7  Citizens’ Left / Right Orientations 125 8  The Rise of Left / Right in Canadian Politics 145 9  Conclusion 175 Notes 183 Bibliography 187 Index 203

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Acknowledgments

Writing this book took longer than I expected and it would have benefited from some more time still. As it turns out, answering the straightforward question that I had to address in this book, about the “meaning” of left and right, meant confronting and ultimately abandoning fundamental beliefs that I had taken for granted, and in some cases cherished, for as long as I can remember. This book shows where I ended, but not where I started or expected to end. I wish I could liken the experience to a steadfast adventurer navigating an uncertain course and ultimately discovering new territory. The reality, however, is more akin to a child rushing headlong into a maze that turned out to be far larger and more challenging than he could have imagined. I spent a lot of time over the past decade thinking my way to dead ends. There were messages etched on the wall, but it was not until I realized the complexity of my predicament that I took those messages as seriously as I should have. I would not have made it far without the many earlier contributions on which I draw throughout the book. I have benefited from contributions over the years from many friends, colleagues, conference discussants, and anonymous reviewers whose comments and criticisms pointed me down the right paths and barred me from the wrong ones. I am particularly grateful to Todd Hall, Steve White, Chris Alcantara, Delton Daigle, Daniel Lee, Matt Hoffman, Phil Triadafilopoulos, Neil Nevitte, David Rayside, Jim Farney, Fahd Husain, Graeme Hirst, Steven Brown, and Alain Noël. I am also grateful to Jacqueline Mason, my editor at m q u p, for reaching out and bringing this project to publication, and to Grace Seybold for her close reading and careful editing of the manuscript.

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x Acknowledgments

This book has been published with generous financial support received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Awards to Scholarly Publications Program, as well as from the Office of the Dean and Vice-Principal (Academic), the Office of the VicePrincipal (Research), and the Office of the Chair of Political Science at University of Toronto Scarborough (U T S C). I am grateful to Grace Skogstad, Rick Halpern, and Heinz-Bernhard Kraatz for the financial and other forms of support that they provided throughout this project. This book was written in the outstanding and supportive research environment that has been cultivated at U T S C. None of this would have been possible without my wife, Christine. I will never get back the two years far from home, or the many evenings and weekends since. It wasn’t worth it, but I did what I could to make it count.

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left and right

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1 Introduction

The words “left” and “right” anchor a language of political disagreement that citizens and experts employ widely in democratic countries. Norberto Bobbio (1996, 1) observes that “‘left’ and ‘right’ are two antithetical terms which for more than two centuries have been used habitually to signify the contrast between the ideologies and movements which divide the world of political thought and action.” Alain Noël and Jean-Philippe Thérien (2008) describe the left and the right as two “contrasting worldviews” that emerge in virtually every ­society. The words “left” and “right” signal rival positions in debates about abortion, homosexuality, capital punishment, gun control, law and order, social welfare, public transportation, taxation, immigration, and the environment, among other issues. The language of left and right is so pervasive and enduring that many now wonder if the left-right division is not inherent to humans as humans, a manifestation of genetically underpinned ideological cleavages that shape in similar ways the lines of political division across issues, countries, and time (Alford et al., 2005; Hibbing et al., 2014). What is left / right disagreement? There is no shortage of short answers. Left / right has been defined, for example, as an “assimilative super issue” and as the “established ideological spectrum” of Western democracy. These definitions change the question rather than answer it. What is an “assimilative super issue” and what is an “ideological spectrum”? Despite the matter-of-factness with which people understand and speak of politics in left / right terms, nobody, not even thoughtful experts, can say precisely what these words mean. For every idea that someone associates with the left or the right, there turn out to be, upon further investigation, some actors on that side

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who do not possess it, and some on the other side who do. Thus, searching among the properties of actors for the peculiarities that distinguish those on the left from their counterparts on the right has not succeeded at uncovering an authoritative conception of “left” and “right.” The word “left” applies with equal facility to a socialist union-organizing factory worker at the turn of the twentieth century and to a bicycling environmentalist schoolteacher at the turn of the twenty-first. The word “right” applies, among other things, to fascist revolutionaries and to free-market–supporting libertarians. To be sure, some interpret the widespread use of these words as a sign of their substantive meaningfulness. “A collective representation as powerful as this one,” Noël and Thérien (2008, 16) argue, “must have an intelligible and enduring meaning.” Others, however, draw the opposite inference. For Marcel Gauchet (2006, 259) “[t]he wonderful power of right versus left comes from the infinite openness of the terms, whose meaning can always be added to or altered. The search for an ultimate meaning is thus inevitable yet pointless, since it was the very latitude of the pair that allowed it to take hold.” Indeed, there are sceptics who argue that these words, if they were ever meaningful and relevant, carry little relevance for modern politics. To the extent that they do, moreover, their meaning varies willynilly from place to place, time to time, or even person to person. The words “left” and “right” “are easily ‘unloaded’ and ‘reloaded,’” Giovanni Sartori (2005, 299) argued, “for they lack any semantic substratum.” Sartori was tempted to relegate these words to the “rhetoric of politics” and to exclude them altogether from the “­science” of it (2005, 70). The central argument of this book is that the sceptics are mistaken. The left / right divide is not declining in importance, and the meaning of these words does not vary willy-nilly from country to country, person to person, or time period to time period. To the contrary, the language of left and right describes a meaningful, perceptible, and quantifiable pattern of political disagreement that persists over time and across countries. Far from being of little use to the science of politics, the very persistence and diversity of left and right reflects phenomena that ought to be of central concern to political science. Left / right political disagreement highlights the phenomena of ideational diffusion and evolution. It provides an opportunity to examine how people see, categorize, and orient themselves to the political world around them. And it opens a window on the elusive concept of

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ideology: its nature, its structure, and the ways in which individuallevel and system-level characteristics interact to shape it. The ease with which reasonably informed observers of politics use the language of left and right to communicate information across places and time periods, despite the inability of thoughtful experts to agree about what these words mean, is a reminder that the most important things in politics are rarely, if ever, under the control of the people that study them. Scholars did not invent the categories of left and right, and thus these words do not belong to us. What left and right describe, this book argues, is “out there” in the real world (cf. Noël and Thérien, 2008, 12) – it is not only the words themselves that are out there, but also what these words describe. It is ultimately up to the reader to decide how successfully a book makes its case. Thus, setting aside in the interests of clarity a good deal of intellectual debt that will soon be readily apparent, my contention is that the dominant understandings of left / right are incomplete, that the concepts employed to investigate it are at the root of the problem, and that this misunderstanding underpins disagreements about the nature of the left / right divide. These include disagreements about the “meaning” of left and right, about the longevity of the left / right distinction, and about what people convey, if anything, when they orient themselves in left / right space. To be sure, left / right does not apply to everything; it does not manifest itself in exactly the same way in every time and place; and it is not always and everywhere the most important component, or even an important component, of political disagreement. Indeed, left / right is interesting precisely because it does not apply to everything. Left / right is still worth studying, despite already extensive coverage, because, like a stereographic picture, it seems to appear to us when we look at it closely, and then fades from view when we look at it too closely. And left /  right is especially interesting from a Canadian standpoint, because it did not exist for three-quarters of the country’s history, and then emerged, seemingly all of a sudden, in recent decades. “It is a disturbing paradox,” Sartori (2005, 24) observed, “that our growing quest for precision and measurement should be paralleled by a growing neglect of weighting words and by a growing imprecision of the words chosen.” Political theorist Michael Freeden (1996, 47) laments the pervasiveness of what he calls the “black box” approach to empirical social science. The black box approach focuses on the causes, consequences, and usefulness of measures while

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remaining ignorant and even agnostic about the real nature of the concepts that the measures are supposed to be measuring. Whether or not Sartori and Freeden are correct in their empirical assertions, their criticisms deserve serious consideration, particularly from those who believe that the purpose of any science is the discovery of how things actually are – to get the story “right,” in other words – rather than the development of theories that are demonstrably false but nonetheless useful in some domain of enquiry. Where, if not to “left” and “right,” are Sartori and Freeden’s criticisms more likely to apply? The words “left” and “right” anchor the everyday language of politics and the formal equations that model it. Yet, there is no consensus among citizens or experts about what these words mean. Indeed, there is no consensus about the basic question of whether these words convey much at all about the connections between ideas and actors in the political world. What, if anything, lumps together the ideas and actors on the left? What, if anything, lumps together the ideas and actors on the right? The inability to specify precisely the definition of left and right has posed a serious challenge to the contention that that these words signal something meaningful about the connections between political actors and ideas in democratic societies. Yet, the fact that people know the left from the right when they see it, and that political scientists have been able to measure left / right differences, is an equally serious challenge to the contention that these words are but empty linguistic vessels with no “semantic substratum.” “[I]f the Left-Right distinction did not exist,” John Jost (2009, 130) stressed, “… scholars of ideology would need to invent its equivalent.” To be sure, many contend that ideological disagreement – and especially their own ideology – is too complex for the simple boxes and “rigid categories” of left versus right (for a discussion and critique, see Weltman and Billig, 2001). As we shall see in the following chapters, the left and the right are not boxes, they are not simple, and their boundaries are anything but rigid. The left and right, this book argues, evolve over time, and persist across countries, like “family resemblances.” This is what existing measures detect as left / right; it is what experts perceive as left / right; and it is what citizens in democratic countries orient themselves to, and in substantively meaningful ways, in left / right terms. In chapter 2, I address the way in which a common presupposition about how left and right should be defined can obstruct our capacity to see what it is, even when we know that we are looking at it. This

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Introduction

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presupposition motivates the efforts to discover the meaning of the left and the right by pursuing the “core” idea or dimension that underpins the left / right division. When this pursuit turns out to be fruitless,  the presupposition also motivates the conclusion that these words lack a “semantic substratum.” The morphology of left and right does not align with this “classic” understanding of concepts. This does not mean, however, that these words do not align with observable and meaningful patterns of connections that actually exist between ideas and actors in the political world. Like the “small world” phenomenon, actors and ideas acquire similarities and differences by virtue of their membership in a broader network that they do not possess in isolation from that network. “Left” and “right” describe “family resemblances” that appear in a network and “fade from view” when we examine the components in isolation from that network. In chapter 3, I discuss how ideology is often conceptualized as a “belief system.” The “content” of a political belief system is the set of preferences that actors harbour about political issues, and its “structure” is the way in which actors put different political issues together into bundles of constrained ideas. Most scholars contend that the structure of left / right disagreement is “multi-dimensional” rather than “single-dimensional.” Dimensionality is a probabilistic concept. Thus, empirical exceptions do not disprove claims about the dimensionality of left / right differences. Yet, actors on the left and the right think about the same issues from the vantage point of different kinds of considerations. These different considerations, in turn, constrain ideas about different ranges of political issues. Thus, the content and the structure of ideas differ on the left and the right. Drawing on evidence from surveys of experts about the policy positions of political parties in Western democratic countries, this chapter finds evidence that the dimensionality of political disagreement differs on the left and the right. Left / right disagreement is asymmetrical and thus not easily reducible to separate dimensions. Chapter 4 applies tools for visualizing complex networks to an analysis of data from the Comparative Manifesto Project (Budge et al., 2001; Klingemann et al., 2006; Volkens et al., 2012). The Comparative Manifesto Project (c mp ) is a systematic human-coded content analysis of the ideational content of political party platforms for elections in Western democratic countries since the end of the Second World War. If the language of left and right denotes a meaningful ­pattern of connections between actors and ideas, then this language

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should align with a pattern that emerges from the way in which actors and ideas cluster together in a complex network constituted by the interconnections between them. The results of the analyses indicate that the everyday language of left and right aligns with a discernible pattern that emerges from the interconnections between parties and ideas in Western countries. Chapter 5 addresses the issues of measuring the left / right positions of political parties and the left / right polarization of national party systems. Political scientists have innovative strategies for measuring left / right differences; these measures, though they may be models or simplifications, produce convincing and reliable estimates of party positions across countries and elections. These measures also align with how regular citizens and political experts speak of parties in left / right terms. This chapter models the arguments from previous chapters and compares the outputs to some prominent existing ­measures of party positions and polarization. In chapter 6, I trace the persistence and evolving morphology of the left and the right in the platforms of political parties from Western democratic countries since the end of the Second World War. I look at the four schools of thought (as per Kitschelt and Hellemans, 1990) about the continued relevance of the left / right divide in the politics of Western democracies. The “persistence theory” posits that the contemporary left / right divide is but a different manifestation of the same line of left / right ideational conflict from the past. The “irrelevance theory” asserts that left / right differences are no longer salient features of political disagreement in Western democratic countries. The “transformation theory” proposes that the left / right divide persists, but that the left and the right are now very different than they used to be. The “pluralisation theory” asserts that the old line of left / right division persists, but that the language of left / right now encompasses altogether different lines of division that bear no connection to these earlier conflicts. The results of the analysis in this chapter indicate that the left and the right have evolved in the postwar period. As new ideas emerge and old ones fade away, the cores expand and the peripheries change, but the left and the right persist nonetheless. Chapter 7 examines the subjective left / right identities of citizens in democratic countries. According to many public opinion surveys, a plurality of citizens self-identify with the centre of the left / right scale, while fewer and fewer respondents self-identify at either extreme. If this is the case, however, why are there so few political

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parties in the very centre of the left / right continuum? Major political parties do not converge on the position of the median voter, as one might expect. Convergence does not occur even in the two-party system in the United States. This discrepancy between prediction and observation has inspired a number of innovations to the spatial model. The results in this chapter suggest that the discrepancy may stem from the very nature of the left / right divide, particularly as it relates to the meaning and meaningfulness of the political “centre.” Left  /  right self-­ identification reflects a balance of consideration between actors and ideas on the left and the right. An alignment of actors in the centre is not normally as meaningful as is an alignment of actors on the left or on the right. These results are consistent with the “directional theory” of voting. In chapter 8, I focus on the Canadian political landscape specifically. The dominance of the Canadian Liberal Party throughout most of the twentieth century represents one of the few cases where a genu­ inely centrist party dominated a national party system. C ­ anada, however, is also one of the few countries where a meaningful left / right divide was long assumed not to exist. Despite the longstanding dominance of the “brokerage account” of Canadian politics, some political scientists argued in the 1980s and 1990s that the Canadian political system was changing. The rightward turn of the Progressive Conservative Party in the 1980s, these scholars argued, and especially the emergence of the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance in the 1990s, transformed Canadian politics. This chapter examines these arguments from the standpoint of the concepts and measures developed in earlier chapters. For most of the twentieth century, the brokerage system was an accurate depiction of left / right politics in Canada. That system flew apart more recently. The Canadian party system has changed from the brokerage era that made Canada a “perplexing case” among advanced capitalist democracies (Brodie and Jenson, 1980, 3) to a system of left / right political disagreement more typical of party systems in other affluent democratic countries. I explore how Canadian citizens have perceived this change, and have oriented themselves to the left / right divide in substantive and politically consequential ways. This book argues for the persistence, the usefulness, and the fundamental social reality of the terms “left” and “right.” The discussion in the following chapters will make that reality clear.

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2 The “Meaning” of Left and Right

Most scholars trace the origins of the words “left” and “right” to the seating arrangement of the Estates General in the years leading up the French Revolution (Laponce, 1981, 47–51). In the Estates General, radical democrats and their sympathizers sat to the left of the king; supporters of the clergy and the aristocracy sat to his right. This provided a shorthand for writing and talking about the main line of political disagreement in French society at the time. It was an accident of historical convention that the revolutionaries sat left of the king and the supporters of the establishment sat to his right (Bobbio, 1996, 33). If the groups had sat on different sides, or the king at the other end, then the left would be the right, and the right would be the left. In this respect, the words “left” and “right” are arbitrary. What was not arbitrary, however, was that the people on each side chose to sit with certain people, and against certain other people. “I tried to sit in different parts of the hall and not to adopt any marked spot,” one member reflected in 1789, “but I was compelled absolutely to abandon the left or else be condemned always to vote alone and thus be subjected to jeers from the galleries” (quoted in Gauchet, 2006, 266). The seating arrangement reflected a pattern of political disagreement that predated by many years the seating arrangement itself. The language of left and right described this pattern; it played no role whatsoever in creating it. Nowadays, few disagree about the importance of the words “left” and “right” as properties of political disagreement. Citizens and experts across a wide range of countries use these words to describe the preferences of political actors on a number of policy

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issues. People also use these words to orient themselves politically (Benoit and Laver, 2006; Huber and Inglehart, 1995; Inglehart and Klingemann, 1976; Klingemann, 1979; Knutsen, 1995; 1998a; 1998b; Lambert et al., 1986). Yet, despite the historical origins of “left and right” as a description of political disagreement, there is no consensus about the usefulness of these words as descriptors of modern-day politics. For some, these words are too simple to represent the complex reality of political disagreement. For others, their meaning is too vague. For still others, these words mean altogether different things in different countries or time periods. Some even suspect that the meaning of these words varies from person to person within countries at any given point in time (Nevitte et al., 1989, 502). From the perspective of these sceptics, “left” and “right” are empty linguistic vessels into which people can pour just about any substantive content (Arian and Shamir, 1983). The words refer to many different things, but they say little to nothing about the connections between these things. On the one hand, there are reasons to question this sceptical view. First, why does the language of left / right not apply to every line of political division? It applies to a wide range of divisions, but not to all of them. There is no left and right on the question, say, of whether and to what extent the power of the sub-national governments should be increased or decreased, or of whether the official religion of a country should be Catholic or Protestant, or of whether the language of a country should be Dutch or French. These questions are just as amenable to disagreement between actors. Yet, the language of left / right assigns positions about some questions “to the left” and “to the right,” and it relegates positions about other questions to something else. Thus, the left / right divide does not appear to be “indeterminate” in the sense that it includes all political divisions and thus denotes none of them (Sartori, 1970, 1042). Second, people appear to use the language of left and right in remarkably similar ways. Consider the findings of Ryan Bakker and his colleagues (2012). Bakker et al. asked informed observers of politics in different countries to indicate the left / right positions of hypothetical political parties. In each country, Bakker et al. described the parties to the respondents in the following way: •

“Party A views the provision of a social safety net as important, but believes there is a short trade-off between welfare spending

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and economic competitiveness. It favours limiting government regulation to instances of market failure, and prefers cuts in social spending over new taxes to meet rising social needs.” • “Party B views the equalization of life chances for all citizens as an important goal of government. It favours active government in regulating domestic and international markets, and supports steeply progressive taxes to fund redistributive social programs.” • “Party C believes in small government. It favours minimal ­regulation of domestic and international markets, supports the privatization of many government operations, and opposes high taxes to fund redistributive social programs.” (8–9) Bakker et al. discovered variation across countries in terms of where, precisely, respondents positioned these hypothetical parties on an eleven-point scale of left / right, which ranged from a low of 0 at the far left to a high of 10 at the far right. The experts in Bulgaria, for example, situated Party B at position 1 on the scale, whereas the experts in Latvia situated the same vignette nearer to position 3.5. The experts in Spain situated Party C at about position 9 on the left / right scale, whereas the experts in Slovenia situated that same vignette closer to position 7. It would seem, therefore, that the experts disagreed about the specific left / right positions of the political parties. Yet, despite these differences, virtually all respondents agreed about the relative position of Party B, which supported active government intervention in the economy and redistributive social programs. Of the 280 experts surveyed, 98 percent situated Party B to the left of the other two, and 73 percent situated all of the vignettes in exactly the same order. Thus, respondents within and between contexts disagreed somewhat about the position of each vignette on the left / right scale, and they even disagreed about the distance between vignettes. They nonetheless agreed overwhelmingly about where at least one of the vignettes stood in relation to the others. In other words, they shared a common understanding, given only the policy positions of these nameless parties, of the criteria that move actors “to the left” and “to the right” of other actors. On the other hand, however, there is also evidence to support the sceptical view that “left” and “right” are but empty vessels. People may orient themselves in left / right terms and agree to a considerable extent about the relative left / right positions of political actors, but they do not appear to know, or to agree about, what these words

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actually mean. In a survey of Europeans, Hans-Dieter Klingemann (1979) found that while most Europeans orient themselves in left / right terms, many could not offer any definition of these words. Of those that did, moreover, many of the definitions were idiosyncratic and many were incorrect (Klingemann, 1979, 230).1 Jean Laponce (1981, 121) found in his interviews with university students that although students used these terms, they offered very different definitions of these words. Norman Luttbeg and Michael Gant (1985, 83) uncovered a similar pattern for the words “liberalism” and “conservatism” in the American electorate. In a 1984 public opinion survey of Canadians, Ronald Lambert and his colleagues (1986) found that while 60 percent of Canadian voters situated themselves on a left / right scale, only 40 percent would venture a definition of these words. Of this 40 percent, moreover, no more than half provided similar definitions of the left, and far fewer provided similar definitions of the right (Lambert et al., 1986, 548). Even experts are uncertain (Bienfait and van Beek, 2001; Corbetta et al., 2009; Wain et al., 1977). “The more we have inspected the image of the Right,” Hans Rogger and Eugen Webber (1965, 5) noted, “the less sure we have become of what it is” (quoted in Eatwell, 1989, 3). René Rémond was similarly dumbfounded. “What then is the man of the Right?” Rémond (1966, 20) asked. Of course we have a general concept of this term. Personal ­experience and memory bring to mind several characteristic examples such as a landed proprietor, an industrialist, a simple peasant, a career officer, or even a doer of good works. But what do these men have in common? On what do they agree which makes them all vote for the same ticket despite differences in background, occupation, and condition? Habit answers like an echo, clerical, but the map of France indicates entire regions … where at present the drift to the Right seems to move at the same pace as the growth of religious indifference. Authoritarian or liberal? Next to men whose entire program can be summed up in the desire to reinforce the authority of the State sit others whom one does not have to press very hard to make them admit that the State is a kind of absolute evil. This line of argument could be continued: other examples would only uselessly lengthen the list of variations and would add nothing to the force of the ­demonstration. Each affirmation automatically gives birth to

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its opposite, contradictions become the rule, and the anomalies become so numerous that they raise doubts even about the most commonly accepted ideas. “Thus,” Rémond concluded, “the more one tries to define the Right the more its outline changes, its features blur, its aspect decomposes.” “However difficult to pin down and define,” Noël and Thérien (2008, 27) observe, “the left-right cleavage looks like common sense to most citizens … There is this little something, this ‘je ne sais quoi’ that says it all.” When it comes to “left” and “right,” people seem to know it when they see it, but lose sight of it when they try to define it. Why might this be? d i s c ov e r i n g l e f t a n d r i g h t

Some words acquire their definitions via construction, rather than discovery. In scientific nomenclature, for example, named categories classify objects that share certain specific characteristics. The word “vertebrate,” for instance, lumps together, by definition, animals with a spine. In the same way, the word “postmaterialism” lumps together, by definition, people who prioritize “belonging, self-expression, and the quality of life” over material and security concerns (Inglehart, 1990, 66). In both examples, it is possible to infer, a priori, that the objects to which these words refer possess certain characteristics because these characteristics are necessary and sufficient conditions for membership in the category that each word describes. The words “left” and “right,” however, do not belong to those who study them. Thus, scholars must discover rather than invent the meaning of these words. Despite disagreements between experts about the precise meaning of left and right, what the vast majority of definitions share in common is that they are all, directly or indirectly, inductive. Jean Laponce (1981, 9) begins his classic study of left / right by noting that “at no point in the following chapters do I impose my own definition, my own perception, my own ‘vision’ of what is left and what is right.” “What I call ‘political Liberalism,’” George Lakoff (2002, 21) writes, “characterizes the cluster of political positions supported by people called ‘liberals’ in our everyday political discourse: support for social programs; environmentalism; public ­education; equal rights for women, gays, and ethnic minorities; affirmative action; the pro-choice position on abortion; and so on.” In

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defining conservatism, Herbert McCloskey (1958, 36) explained, “[w]e have made an earnest effort … to extract from the tradition of self-styled conservative thought … a set of principles representing that tradition as fairly as possible.” Kenneth Benoit and Michael Laver (2006, 130) adopt an a priori approach to defining left / right, which they describe as “deciding, on the basis of the available ­evidence, that left and right in the system under investigation are primarily about economic policy, for example, or about some combination of economic and social policy.” In constructing their index of left / right differences between parties, Ian Budge and his colleagues (2001, 21–2) note that “[a] first question about its construction is why issues were grouped in this way. There is after all no logical or inherent reason why support for peace should be associated with government interventionism … [and] the three concerns of the Right could in theory vary quite independently of each other. The fact remains however that ideologies and parties do put them together.” Matthew Gabel and John Huber (2000, 96) define left / right “inductively and empirically as the ‘super-issue’ that most constrains parties’ positions across a broad range of policies.” Detlef Jahn (2010), in his analysis of some of the problems inherent to fully inductive definitions of left and right, proposes a mix of induction and deduction. Jahn’s deductive component builds from Bobbio’s argument that equality and inequality are the foundations of the left / right distinction (Jahn, 2010, 751–2). Bobbio, however, reached this conclusion inductively. “Let me first make clear,” he writes, “…that it was not my own idea that the fundamental rationale of left-wing movements is the aspiration for equality. I took it as the expression of common opinion, and developed it in two of the chapters and notes” (Bobbio, 1996, 94). As these examples illustrate, scholars attempt to discover the meaning of the left and the right a posteriori; they do not invent it a priori, by their very definition of the words. The effort to discover through observation the meaning of left / right confronts two fundamental problems. First, how can we know that we are observing an actor that is “to the left” or “to the right” of another actor if we do not know what “to the left” and “to the right” actually mean? A common “perception-based” approach to this problem involves taking the actors’ word for their own left / right position. McCloskey (1958) employs this approach when he extracts con­ servative principles “from the tradition of self-styled conservative thought.” Many others employ this approach when they use left / right

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self-identification as a measure of a person’s (e.g. Jost et al., 2008, 128), or a party’s (e.g. Barnes, 1971, 170), left / right position. A similar approach involves taking other people’s word for the left / right positions of actors. Lakoff (2002, 21) applies this strategy when he defines liberalism in terms of “the cluster of political positions supported by people called ‘liberals’ in our everyday political discourse.” Benoit and Laver (2006) use it when they solicit the judgments of experts about the left / right positions of political parties. A different “pattern-based” approach involves searching for the meaning of left /  right in the observable patterns of connections between ideas and actors in the political world (Gabel and Anderson, 2002). This is the approach that Budge et al. (2001, 22) utilize when they group issues in their left / right scale based on how “ideologies and parties … put them together.” It is also the approach that Gabel and Huber (2000, 96) employ when they define left / right as “the ‘super-issue’ that most constrains parties’ positions.” This approach shifts the search for left and right to the ways in which actors and ideas cluster together in the empirical world. In this approach, points of agreement bring actors together and points of disagreement push them apart. Likewise, ideas cluster together when the actors that support one idea support the other, and they fragment when the actors that support one idea oppose the other. If the actors that support free-market capitalism are more likely to oppose immigration, then support for free-market capitalism and opposition to immigration are “clustered together.” If the actors that support free-market capitalism are less likely to oppose immigration, then support for freemarket capitalism and opposition to immigration are “pushed apart.” In these ways, agreement brings actors together and disagreement pushes them apart. Positive associations bring ideas together and negative associations repel them. Perception- and pattern-based approaches are useful and reasonable ways of studying left and right. Neither alone, however, is sufficient for exploring whether the language of left and right connotes something meaningful about the connections between ideas and actors in democratic societies. On the one hand, perception-based approaches provide little information about what connections, if any, people perceive. People may label both opposition to immigration and support for free-market capitalism as “right-wing.” They may also label both the National Front in France and the Liberal

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Party in Australia as “right-wing.” This does not imply, however, that opposition to immigration and support for free-market capitalism are in any way connected in the empirical world. It also does not imply that the National Front and the Liberal Party share any common policies. On the other hand, however, there is no way to infer from a pattern of connections between ideas and actors in democratic societies whether or how it corresponds with what people perceive as the left / right divide. Categories in language may correspond to patterns of connections in the empirical world. Analyses of the patterns alone, however, cannot establish the correspondence. Thus, when it comes to discovering the meaning of left and right, perception- and pattern-based approaches depend on one another. These approaches are different starting points, rather than stand-alone solutions, to the first fundamental problem of discovering through observation the meaning of left and right. Discovering the meaning of left / right confronts a second fundamental problem, however. What researchers discover through observation depends on a number of pre-existing assumptions. “Facts do not organize themselves into concepts and theories just by being looked at,” Gunnar Myrdal (1953, vii) argued. “Except within the framework of concepts and theories, there are no scientific facts but only chaos. There is an inescapably a priori element in all scientific work.” Some of this “a priori element” is inherent to the questions that researchers pose. Each political actor, for example, possesses many different characteristics, including a location, size, age, name, and so on. Thus, there are myriad ways in which to sort and arrange these actors for the purpose of categorization. In questions about patterns of ideological disagreement, however, it makes sense to focus on similarities and differences between political actors in terms of the ideas that they advance on the questions about which they disagree. In this case, the a priori element is the question itself, a point that Karl Popper (1963, 46–7) illustrated by commanding his students to “observe” without providing instructions on what they should look at. The a priori element does not end with the question that researchers pose, however. It can extend as well to assumptions about what the answer to the question should look like. If we were to assume, for example, that catching a cold required physical contact with an infected person, we would miss incidents of transmission even if we observed them in progress. Pre-existing assumptions about

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what to look at, and what to look for, shape observation. These latter assumptions, as we shall see, may conceal the nature of the left / right divide even when we know that we are looking at it. the classical view

In an important article about concept formation in the study of comparative politics, Sartori (1970, 1038) argued that “[c]lasses are required to be mutually exclusive, i.e., class concepts represent characteristics which the object must either have or lack” (emphasis added). When it comes to the study of left / right, this “classical view” pervades existing efforts to discover the meaning of these concepts. Thus, researchers search among the actors on the left and the right for the characteristics that unite and distinguish them. As Rémond (1966) exemplified, prominent attempts to define “left” and “right” propose and reject definitions from the vantage point of this basic assumption. According to Christopher Frederico and his colleagues (2011, 687), “one of the most important psychological antecedents of ideological self-placement is authoritarianism” (see also Hetherington and Weiler, 2009). Yet, pointing to examples of libertarian and authoritarian elements on both sides of the left / right divide, Bobbio (1996, 77–9) has “some difficulty in accepting that this division can be used to distinguish between left and right.” Laponce (1981, 117) does as well. Laponce instead emphasizes the centrality of religion versus secularism (182). “[T]he right is the domain of the sacred,” Laponce writes; “the left, that of the profane” (127). Citing examples of a prominent strain of atheism on the right, Bobbio (1996, 42–4) criticizes Laponce’s claim about the place of religion and sanctity in the left / right divide (see also Bienfait and van Beek, 2001, 174). Bobbio (1996, 60) describes left / right disagreement as being, in essence, about “equality” on the left and “inequality” on the right. Ronald Inglehart (1990, 293) defines the “core meaning” of left / right as “whether one supports or opposes social change in an egalitarian direction” (see also Jost et al., 2008, 126). Noël and Thérien (2008, 19) agree with Bobbio and Inglehart that the left / right divide revolves around equality. Citing Margaret Thatcher’s radical transformation of Britain, however, they do not see support for change versus tradition as a defining element of the left / right divide. Moreover, Noël and Thérien (2008) disagree with Bobbio and Inglehart that the divide is between equality on the left and inequality on the right. For Noël and Thérien (2008),

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the left / right divide reflects the differing views of actors about the “meaning of equality,” rather than in their attitude or pursuit of it, as Bobbio (1996, 60) and Inglehart (1990, 293) claimed (see also Haidt, 2012, 138). The classical view does not preclude graded or relational categories. On this point, however, it is important to distinguish between the “extension” and the “intension” of a category. The extension of a category refers to the list of things that belong in the category. The intension of a category refers to the criteria that a thing must possess in order to belong in the category.2 The extension of the category “tree” is the set of all trees, and the intension of the category “tree” is the set of the characteristics that an object must possess in order to be considered a tree. This distinction is important from the vantage point of the classical view. Although the classical view requires a definitive (either/or) specification of the intension of a category, it permits gradated (more/less) specifications when it comes to the extension of a category. As Sartori (1970, 1038) put it, “two items being compared must belong first to the same class, and either have or not have an attribute; and only if they have it, the two items can be matched in terms of which has it more or less” (emphasis added). Thus, Sartori concludes, “the logic of gradation belongs to the logic of classification” and “‘category concepts’ of the either-or type cannot give way to ‘gradation concepts’ of the more-than-less-than type.” Differences between objects in the extent to which they possess the attribute that defines a category mean that objects may differ in the extent to which they belong in that category. In this way, the extension of a category may be graded and relational, but its intension cannot be. A key property that left / right disagreement shares in common with left / right space is that the objects of interest in both cases stand only in relation to each other. A point does not have a position in left / right space except in relation to some other point. An actor or issue position cannot agree or disagree except in relation to some other actor or issue position. There is no universal point of reference in left / right space, or in left / right disagreement, to which to compare all actors or issue positions. In this sense, the left / right positions of actors and issue positions are a function of some frame of reference. One person may consider both the Democratic and Republican Parties to be close together and “to the right.” A different observer with a different frame of reference may consider these parties to be

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far apart, with the Democrats “to the left” and the Republicans “to the right.” One observer may consider support for a regulatory regime that restricts abortion at later periods of gestation, but permits it unconditionally in earlier periods, as “to the left.” Another person may consider that same position as “to the right.” Even so, both observers may agree that the Republicans are “to the right” of the Democrats and that support for unrestricted access to abortion is “to the left” of support for more restrictive policies. This scenario is compatible with the classical view. In this case, the “extension” of left and right is relative and gradational, but the “intension” is not. Peter Mair, for example, draws attention to the relational aspect of left / right in his overview of the historical evolution of the left / right divide. “As once left-wing groups were challenged by even more radical opponents,” Mair (2007, 212) observes, “they became more closely identified with the center and right, while their new left-wing rivals, in turn, were sometimes pushed toward the center by the mobilization of still more radical groups.” In Norway, for example, “the once left-wing ‘Venstre’, which opposed the more right-wing ‘Høyre’ in late nineteenth-century Norway, was itself pushed to the right following the mobilization of the Norwegian Labour party in the early part of the twentieth century, while the Labour party in its turn was pushed to the right following the emergence of the smaller Socialist Left party in the Late 1970s.” Thus, “although the terms left and right entered … common usage,” Mair argues, “their referents slowly changed as the political spectrum as a whole shifted in a more radical direction through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” What changed in Mair’s example, it seems, was not the policies advanced by the traditional parties. Rather, the introduction of new left-wing parties expanded the frame of reference leftward, and thus the parties that were on the left in the old frame of reference were in the centre in the new frame of reference. Yet, an obvious question remains: on what basis can we say that these new left-wing parties were “more left-wing” than their traditional counterparts unless we harbour some understanding of the characteristics that move parties “to the left” and “to the right” of one another? As Mair’s example illustrates, the extension of left and right is inherently relative and gradational. Membership in the left and the right is always a question of degree rather than of fitting on the inside of clear and fixed categorical boundaries. This is not the problem, however, that the multiplicity of definitions of left and right poses for the classical view.

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We can easily understand why two people might disagree about whether any particular actor belongs in the left or the right, just as they might disagree about whether any particular individual belongs in the set of “tall people” rather than “short people.” The problem in the case of left / right is that there is no specification about what it is that moves actors in the direction of either category. Actors on the left have more or less of what, precisely, than actors on the right? No matter how abstract the answer to this question, there seem to be, upon empirical investigation, many exceptions to every rule (Honderich, 1990, 208–13). It is easy to find examples of religious left-wingers, right-wing atheists, militaristic left-wingers, pacifist conservatives, right-wing socialists, elitist liberals, egalitarian grassroots conservatives, intolerant left-wingers, tolerant conservatives, left-wing nationalists, right-wing internationalists, left-wing traditionalists, right-wing revolutionaries, and so on and so forth for every one of these defining elements of the left and the right. The classical view motivates the effort to discover the “intension” of left and right by identifying from among the characteristics of actors what unites and distinguishes those on each side. Careful observations about the patterns of ideological disagreement reveal no such characteristics. Thus, many conclude on this basis that the “left” and “right” are but “empty vessels” or that they are not “content specific” (Nevitte et al., 1989, 502). These words refer to many different things, but imply nothing about a connection between these things. The “Small World” Phenomenon Political disagreement does not exist, however, in a social vacuum; it exists only in a network of actors. The agreements and disagreements between actors give rise to connections between them, and the connections between actors give rise to a network. Crucially, however, the components in a network acquire certain properties by virtue of their membership in that network in addition to any properties that they possess outside of the network. Not the least of these properties are their connections, both negative and positive, to the other components within the network. Consider, for example, the “small world” phenomenon. This phenomenon takes its name from the idiom that complete strangers often utter upon meeting for the first time and realizing that they share some number of common acquaintances (Milgram, 1967; Watts and Strogatz, 1998). Scholars use this idiom as a metaphor for

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properties of social and many other types of networks, from power grids in the United States to the neural networks of worms (Watts and Strogatz, 1998). For present purposes, the key point of the metaphor is that two strangers who have no direct contact with each other may nonetheless share common contacts with other people. This provides an important point of caution for the study of left / right disagreement. As soon we look at actors or ideas in isolation from the network in which they are situated, we lose sight of any similarities and differences that they possess by virtue of their connections to the other actors and ideas in the broader network of political disagreement. If we search, as in the classical view, actor-by-actor, or idea-byidea, for the characteristics that unite and distinguish those on the left and the right, we may well miss altogether the meaningful pattern of similarities and differences that binds actors and ideas together. By way of demonstration, imagine the hypothetical scenario illustrated in Figure 2.1. In Figure 2.1, each row represents a different actor and each column represents a different issue. The numbers arranged vertically to the left of the Figure represent each of the 36 actors. The letters arranged horizontally at the top of the column represent each of the 12 issues on which the actors disagree. The entries at each coordinate correspond to the preference of a particular actor on a particular issue. Thus, for example, the entry at coordinate [1,A] represents the preference of Actor 1 on Issue A, the entry at coordinate [1,B] represents the preference of the same actor on Issue B, and so on. For the sake of simplicity, the scenario confines the preferences of actors to pro, con, and neutral positions, which are represented in the Figure as ‘1’, ‘-1’, and blank spaces, respectively. For ease of readability, Figure 2.1 clusters together the actors with the most similar positions, and it uses the same sign for their positions on each issue. This generates an artificial degree of clarity, but it does not affect the nature of the pattern.3 Notice that the easiest clusters to identify in Figure 2.1 are the six clusters of actors that most closely resemble each other: Actors 1–6 on issues ABCDEF; Actors 7–12 on issues DEFGHI; Actors 13–18 on issues GHIJKL; Actors 19–24 on issues ABCJKL; Actors 25–30 on issues DEFJKL; and Actors 31–36 on issues ABCFGH. Expanding beyond these core groups, however, the connections between actors appear to break down. The set of positions for Actors 1–6 aligns with the set of positions for Actors 7–12 on issues DEF. Similarly, the set of positions for Actors 7–12 aligns with the set of positions for Actors 13–18 on issues GHI. Actors 1–6 share no common positions,

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

A

B

C

D

E

F

1 1 1 1 1 -1

1 1 1 1 -1 1

1 1 1 -1 1 1

1 1 -1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 -1

1 -1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 -1 1

-1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 -1 1 1

-1 -1 -1 -1 -1 1

-1 -1 -1 -1 1 -1

-1 -1 -1 -1 1 1

H

I

1 1 -1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 -1

1 -1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 -1 1

-1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 -1 1 1

-1 -1 1 -1 -1 1

-1 1 -1 -1 -1 1

1 -1 -1 -1 -1 1

-1 -1 -1 1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 1

-1 -1 -1 -1 -1 1

G

-1 -1 -1 1 -1 1

-1 -1 -1 -1 1 -1

-1 -1 -1 1 -1 -1

J

K

L

1 1 -1 1 1 1 -1 -1 1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 1 -1 -1 -1

1 -1 1 1 1 1 -1 1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 1 -1 -1 -1 -1

-1 1 1 1 1 1 1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1

Figure 2.1  A network of political disagreement.

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however, with Actors 13–18. Likewise, the set of positions for Actors 19–24 aligns with the set of positions for Actors 25–30 on issues JKL. The positions of Actors 19–24 also align with the positions of Actors 31–36 on issues ABC. Actors 25–30, however, share no positions in common with Actors 31–36. In looking at the patterns of agreement within the network, in short, multiple clusters seem to appear in the pattern in Figure 2.1. Political alignment, however, is not just about agreement; it is also about disagreement. Agreement brings actors together and disagreement pushes them apart. The small world phenomenon, moreover, encourages us to consider that actors come together and separate through similarities and differences in their connections to the other actors in the network. To the extent that actors are allies of one another’s allies or opponents of one another’s opponents, they draw together. To the extent that actors are allies of one another’s opponents or opponents of one another’s allies, they push apart. From this perspective, Actors 1–6 and 13–18 share no common positions, but they agree to the same extent with Actors 7–12: Actors 1–6 agree with Actors 7–12 on issues DEF; Actors 13–18 agree with Actors 7–12 on issues GHI. Notice as well that Actors 1–6 and 13–18 disagree to  the same extent with Actors 19–36. Both groups disagree with Actors 19–36 on three issues. Indeed, Actors 1–6 and 13–18 disagree more than do Actors 7–12 with Actors 19–36. Thus, in terms of specific positions, Actors 1–6 and 13–18 share more with Actors 7–12 than they do with each other. In terms of their opponents, however, Actors 1–6 and 13–18 have more in common with each other than they do with Actors 7–12. Actors 1–6 and 13–18, in short, have similarities in terms of the characteristics that they acquire by virtue of their membership in this network that they do not have in terms of the characteristics that they possess outside of this network. They bind together, in short, by a “small world phenomenon” and not by their direct connections to each other. To the extent that having a common ally or a common opponent is a positive connection between actors, and to the extent that being an opponent of one another’s ally, or an ally of one another’s opponent, is a negative connection between actors, then two clusters emerge in Figure 2.1: Actors 1–18 versus 19–36. Let us imagine that people decided to call these clusters “left” and “right.” Let us further imagine that we set out to discover through observation whether the words “left” and “right” correspond with a meaningful pattern of political disagreement. To be sure, we already know that such a correspondence

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exists in Figure 2.1 because the scenario produces it by design. This is not the point of the scenario, however. The point is that even in this highly simplified scenario, the empirical foundation of the clusters disappears when we look, from the vantage point of the classical view, actor-by-actor, or issue-by-issue, for some common point of agreement between the actors on each side. There is no single idea harboured by even a majority of the actors on either side. Moreover, the clusters would seem arbitrary when examining a subset of the issues or actors in Figure 2.1 in isolation from the broader network. If we looked only for points of agreement between Actors 19–36 (say, the “right”), then we might conclude on the basis of these observations that the membership of these actors in the same category was something other than the logical outcome of a clear and discernible pattern that brings these actors together. The illusion of arbitrariness is the consequence of our decision to compare the actors in terms of similarities in their positions on issues. What unite and distinguish the actors in each cluster, however, are not just the similarities in their positions. Actors come together by similarities in their respective connections, both positive and negative, to the other actors in the network. The direct connections between actors in terms of their sets of positions constitute the network of political disagreement. The clusters in the network, however, emerge as much from shared connections to other actors in the network as they do from the direct connections between actors. Thus, the more we try to define either cluster in terms of the specific ideas that unite and distinguish the actors within it, “the more its outline changes, its features blur, its aspect decomposes,” to quote Rémond (1966). This does not indicate that the clusters are meaningless or arbitrary, or that there is no way to define these clusters in terms of patterns in the sets of ideas that individual actors advance. What it indicates, rather, is that the pattern of interconnections between sets of ideas can produce tangible clusters that are not reducible to any single idea within these sets, or to any “core idea” behind them. The classical view leaves us incapable of defining such a pattern even when we know, as in Figure 2.1, that we are looking straight at it. We come back to some empirical implications of this point in chapter 3. a n a lt e r n at i v e v i e w

The classical view, although dominant, is not the only vantage point from which to approach the task of discovering through observation

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whether the language of left and right corresponds with a perceptible pattern of political disagreement. A body of literature in psychology and philosophy challenges the clear and well-defined boundaries that concepts are supposed to possess in the classical view (Mervis and Rosch, 1981; Lakoff, 1987; Margolis and Laurence, 1999). As Michael Freeden (1996, 67) argues, “such conceptual utopias are not the stuff of which normal human thinking is made.” More than this, however, the fabric of reality is very often not made of such “conceptual utopias” either. There are only degrees of similarity and difference between objects in the empirical world. Thus, the categories that people construct to make sense of reality are invariably fuzzy. The classical view that categories are not fuzzy – i.e., that categories are rigidly delineated by defining characteristics – distorts our image of reality by concealing the small, incremental differences between objects that underpin, among other things, the evolution and interconnectedness of species (Mayr, 1982; Dennett, 1995). These small incremental differences, however, do not imply that the categories that we construct are “arbitrary,” or that they do not correspond with clusters (Frohock, 1978) or patterns (Mervis and Rosch, 1981) of observable characteristics. What they do imply, however, is that the nature of the correspondence may be very different from that which the classic view supposes. In his classic study of ideology, Karl Manheim (1936) wrestled with the question of how ideas and ideologies are connected. On the one hand, Manheim cautioned against thinking about ideologies as if they exist independently of the ideas of individuals: “There is no such meta-physical entity as a group mind which thinks over and above the heads of individuals or whose ideas the individual merely reproduces,” Manheim argued (2). On the other hand, however, he also cautioned against the tendency of thinking about ideology in terms of specific ideas that individuals share in common. “The individual members of the working class … do not experience all the elements of an outlook which could be called the proletariat Weltanschauung,” Manheim observed. “Every individual participates only in certain fragments of this thought-system, the totality of which is not in the least a mere sum of these fragmentary individual experiences” (52). For Manheim, ideologies are about ideas, and ideas belong to people. Yet, ideologies are not about the intersection of people’s ideas – i.e., “every individual participates only in certain fragments of this thought system.” Ideologies are not about the union of people’s

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ideas – i.e., they are “not in the least a mere sum of these fragmentary individual experiences.” If an ideology is about neither the union nor the intersection of people’s ideas, then what is the relationship between ideas and ideologies? As the simplified hypothetical in Figure 2.1 demonstrated, interconnections between the sets of ideas that individuals harbour can produce meaningful clusters that are neither the union nor the intersection of these sets of ideas. Ideologies, conceptualized in this way, are “emergent properties” of the interconnections between the sets of ideas that actors advance. There are various definitions and typologies of “emergence” (O’Connor, 1994; Bedau and Humphreys, 2008). Emergence is sometimes characterized as the holistic notion that a whole is “greater than the sum of its parts,” or perhaps that the whole is “not reducible to its parts” at all (Jervis, 1997, 12–13). For present purposes, however, emergence describes a situation in which a system has characteristics that are not reducible to the characteristics of the components that interact to produce the system. “If I place two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen in chemical juxtaposition,” Reuben Ablowitz (1939, 2) observes, “I get one molecule of water. Now both hydrogen and oxygen are gases, and water is a liquid; and the wetness of water is a characteristic that could not possibly have been deduced from the nature of its components; it is a new characteristic that is attributable only to the structural organization of the molecular level of existence.” Emergent properties characterize a wide range of systems, including neurological, biological, ecological, legal, economic, political, and social systems (Holland, 1998; Hayek, 1952). Life itself is an emergent phenomenon. As the example of water illustrates, the ways in which the components of a system interconnect may generate a system with characteristics that are not reducible to the characteristics of the components themselves. These emergent properties are no less perceptible or “real” by virtue of their irreducibility. The liquidity of water is as real as the gaseousness of hydrogen and oxygen, for example. Family Resemblance The concept of “family resemblance,” a manifestation of which is illustrated in Figure 2.2, provides an alternative vantage point from which to look for evidence that the language of left / right describes a  pattern of political disagreement. Ludwig Wittgenstein ([1953]

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Figure 2.2  Family resemblance – the Kennedy family at Hyannis Port, 1931. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

2009) used the metaphor of “family resemblance” to describe a pattern of connections between the different objects that people often lumped together into the same conceptual categories.4 A family resemblance is an emergent property. The metaphor of family resemblance describes a pattern that emerges from similarities across ­multiple characteristics, rather than similarities on any single characteristic. Similarities across multiple characteristics “overlap and crisscross” in such a way that similarities on any single characteristic “crop-up and disappear” as one moves from object to object within the resemblance (Wittgenstein, [1953] 2009, 66). One group of people in a family resemblance may share a common eye and/or hair colour, while a second group within the resemblance shares neither of these things. Each of the people in this second group may share other and different sets of characteristics with each of the people in the first group. Some may share the “family eyes” and the “family nose,” but different chins; others may share the family eyes and the family chin, but different noses; still others may share the common chins and distinctive noses, but have different eyes; and so on and so forth across all of the people and all their other characteristics. Notably, the pattern of connections that the metaphor of family resemblance describes is not reducible to the intersection, the union, or any kind of “averaging” of the characteristics of a set of objects. It

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would not make sense, for example, to abstract from the characteristics of a family resemblance some “pure family member,” as each member would bear at best a family resemblance to this abstraction. An actual member of the family could serve as effectively as any abstraction as a representation, or “prototype,” of the family resemblance as a whole. The metaphor of a family resemblance describes a pattern that emerges from the network of interconnections between objects. The network is crucial. Two people may share in a family resemblance by virtue of similarities with other people rather than through their direct similarities with each other. Consider a scenario in which two children do not look like each other in the sense that they do not share a greater number of similarities beyond those that most children share. We may say, in this case, that we cannot see a family resemblance between them. Yet, if we saw these children together with two other children, and we observed that both of the first two children shared a high number of distinctive characteristics in common with each of these other two children, then the family resemblance between all four children would suddenly appear. Each child in the family would share more characteristics in common with the other children in their family than they would with children from outside of their family. But just as these children do not all have to share any single characteristic in order to resemble each other, so too do none of these children have to resemble any single other child in order to share in the family resemblance of which they are all constituent components. As in the case of the small world phenomenon, the people in a family resemblance acquire similarities by virtue of their membership in a network that they do not possess in isolation from that network. More fundamentally, however, a family resemblance only emerges from a network of interconnections because it implicates, by necessity, some comparison to people outside of the family resemblance. A family resemblance appears only in the presence of a comparison to members outside of the family, with whom the family members share fewer things in common (and thus more differences) than they do with each other. If not for this basis of comparison, there would be no background against which to contrast and thus observe the greater degree of similarity between the people inside the family resemblance. Indeed, we may say that people look more or less alike to the extent that they share a greater number of common differences from other

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people. Thus, characteristics that are rare in the population as a whole, but common among the members of a family, are more central to the resemblance than are characteristics that are common in the population and only somewhat more common within the family, or rare within the population and only somewhat less rare within the family. Notice, in this context, that the relational and gradational question of “more or less” applies not just to people’s degree of membership in a family resemblance. It also applies to the characteristics that people must possess in order to share in a family resemblance. From the standpoint of defining a category in terms of the characteristics of the objects within it, both the extension and the intension are relational and gradational. In sum, the concept of family resemblance provides a different vantage point from which to approach the task of discovering through observation whether the words “left” and “right” correspond with a meaningful pattern of political disagreement. First, the resemblances between actors occur across their multiple characteristics rather than on any single characteristic. Thus, no single position, nor any “essential core,” is necessary or sufficient for membership in either the left or the right. Second, the resemblance between actors may operate through similarities in their connections, both positive and negative, to other actors, rather than through their direct connections to each other. Thus, pairs of actors within each side may share no common characteristics when examined in isolation from a broader network, and yet many common characteristics when examined in the context of the broader network. Third, some characteristics may be more or less central to a resemblance than others. Thus, the relational and gradational questions of “more or less” apply not just to degrees of membership in each category, as in the classical view, but also to the criteria that define membership in each category. Some actors are “more left” and “more right” than others, and some characteristics move actors more “to the left” and more “to the right” than others. perception and reality

Political scientists did not invent the language of left and right. Regular citizens and experts in a number of countries use these words, in remarkably similar ways, to describe the positions of political actors on a wide range of policy issues. Although people in different countries use these words in very similar ways, they are often

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incapable of specifying what these words mean. When they do specify a definition, moreover, their definitions often differ. This applies to citizens as well as to political experts and even to scholars of the left / right divide. To be sure, the definitions that scholars propose seem to be aiming at, and hitting, some common aspect of the empirical world of political disagreement. These definitions seem to describe political disagreement too accurately, and different definitions are too similar to each other, to be wrong and arbitrary. Even so, there turn out to be, upon empirical investigation, many exceptions to every definition. Although there are more exceptions to some definitions than to others, there are exceptions to all of them nonetheless. Thus, even the most thoughtful experts have not succeeded at specifying precisely what, if anything, these words describe about the pattern of political disagreement in the empirical world. Many conclude on this basis that these words do not correspond with a pattern of political disagreement. “Left” and “right” refer to many different things, but do not imply a connection between these things. “The capacity of our senses for pattern recognition,” Friedrich Hayek (1994, 68n3) observed, “clearly exceeds the capacity of our mind for specifying these patterns.” This is especially true when our presuppositions about what the specification should look like do not align with the pattern that we actually perceive. The classical view, which pervades existing efforts to define left and right, reduces the definition of a category to the intersection of characteristics that unite the objects inside a category and those that distinguish them from the objects outside of the category. Thus, existing efforts to discover through observation the meaning of left and right proceed by attempting to uncover (or abstract) the characteristics that unite the actors on one side and distinguish them from the actors on the other. Although this classical view of categories has dominated Western thought for thousands of years, there are good reasons to doubt that it accurately characterizes people’s thinking about the real world, or that it accurately characterizes the real world itself. The similarities and differences that our categories denote are inherently relational and gradational. Similarities and differences also emerge from the multiple observable characteristics that objects possess. Objects acquire similarities and differences by virtue of their membership in a network of “overlapping and crisscrossing” connections that they do not possess outside of that network. This may explain why so many people know left / right when they see it, but none of them can

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say precisely what it is. People see left / right in the network of interconnections between actors and ideas in the political world, but lose sight of it when they try to define left / right in terms of the characteristics that the actors on each side possess. From this vantage point, “left” and “right” refer to a pattern of political disagreement in a network, which is what people see as left and right, rather than to any single property that the actors or ideas on each side share in common, which is what people attempt to discover when defining these categories. Left and right, like ideology in general, emerge from the interconnections between ideas, but they are not reducible to these ideas. If “left” and “right” refer to a pattern of “family resemblances” between political actors, then this may also explain why people offer different definitions of these words, and why some of these definitions seem to be more accurate than others. People appear to use typical members of a category, or “prototypes,” to anchor their conceptions of left and right (Lakoff, 2002); people also use prototypes to anchor their conceptions of “birds,” “trees,” and just about every other category (Lakoff, 1987). Yet, no person observes the totality of a system in all of its intricacy. Most people pay closer attention, for example, to the politics of their own countries and time periods than to the politics of other countries and time periods. Even people that look at exactly the same part of a system are unlikely to perceive that part in exactly the same way (Frege, 1948, 213). Thus, the image that a word conjures in the mind of one person is not identical to the image that it conjures in the mind of another. These understandings are not so different, however, that they rule out any possibility of communicating about the world. A skilled group of artists sketching portraits of the same model may never draw identical pictures, but they invariably recognize in one another’s portraits the model that they set out to draw. To be sure, the connections that we observe have a lot to do with the characteristics that we prioritize. Patterns in the world do not determine linguistic categories, but they do appear to constrain them (Berlin and Kay, 1969). Languages seem to operate, if imperfectly, as forms of collective intelligence that allow us to pass knowledge between ourselves about the world around us. To be clear, people do not think about the properties of a family resemblance, or about conditional probability, when they classify themselves or other political actors in left / right terms.The argument of this book, however, is not about how people think; it is about what people see. We often use words whose meaning we are incapable of

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articulating precisely. Different people also understand the same words in different ways. It does not follow from the existence of varying conceptions that the meaning of left / right is altogether different from context to context or person to person, or that the language of left / right does not correspond with an observable pattern that is actually “out there” in the political world. To the contrary, different conceptions and different prototypes of left and right may be similar to each other in the same way that the different parts of the network are similar to each other – for example, as a family resemblance. Some actors and some ideas are more central to a resemblance. Thus, some definitions are more accurate as descriptions of the resemblance. Even so, the resemblance invariably “fades from view” – its “aspect decomposes” – when we look for its meaning in the specific characteristics of the actors or prototypes on each side. The resemblance emerges from a complex pattern of “overlapping and crisscrossing” connections in the context of a broader network. People perceive with casual ease patterns that they cannot articulate even on their best day and at their full cognitive potential (Hayek, 1994). We are “hardwired” by evolution to perceive patterns, not to explain them. Of the types of patterns that we are particularly adept at perceiving, it is difficult to imagine that “family resemblances” are not among them.

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3 Ideology, Dimensionality, and Asymmetry

As the last chapter demonstrated, the definition of left and right need not be reducible to characteristics that actors possess outside of a network of political disagreement in order for these words to convey something meaningful about the tangible connections between actors inside that network. Yet, the many existing definitions, which proceed as if they do, are not as easy to dismiss as their critics sometimes make them out to be (see for a discussion Jost, 2009, 131). It is important to note what the classical view does not imply about categorization. It does not imply that all objects within a category must share any specific manifestation of the characteristic that distinguishes them. Instead, the characteristic can have different manifestations.1 This is not merely the “dead hand of Plato,” to borrow an expression from Richard Dawkins (2009), where abstract concepts or appeals to occult essences provide on their own the logic of classification. It is, rather, an acknowledgment that the real world is not a deterministic one. It is one thing for an observer to say that different positions link together because some single concept encapsulates those positions in the judgment of the observer. This kind of claim is beyond empirical scrutiny and it replaces one conceptual problem with another. It is an altogether different thing, however, for an observer to say that different positions link together because some underlying concept encapsulates those positions in the minds of political actors. This claim is empirically testable. Even so, there are sound reasons to expect variation in the manifestation of this underlying concept. Technical explications of these reasons appear in many other places.2 It is the intuitive conclusion of these explications, however, that is most relevant here. We can infer the presence of an underlying and

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invisible characteristic despite random variation in its manifestations in the same way as we can infer the location of a shooter’s target despite random variation in the position of the bullet holes. The more bullet holes that we observe and the greater the extent to which they cluster around a single point, the more confidently we can infer the presence and location of the target. This same logic applies to the realm of ideas. Political actors express ideas in many observable ways, including in their answers to questions in public opinion surveys and in the positions that they advance in election campaigns. If different expressions are but different manifestations of a single and more general characteristic, then these manifestations will be associated, empirically, in a large sample of actors. That is, they will tend to co-occur in the same actors, even if random variation means that no single manifestation invariably occurs. As in the example of the shooter, the greater the number of different manifestations that we observe and the greater the extent to which they cluster together (i.e., are associated empirically), the more confidently we can infer that they are the manifestations of a common underlying characteristic. From this vantage point, the dominant conception of “ideology” or “belief system” in quantitative social science provides a way of extending the classical view of left / right to a non-deterministic world.3 According to Philip Converse’s classic definition, a belief system is “a configuration of ideas and attitudes in which the elements are bound together by some form of constraint or functional interdependence.” By “constraint,” in turn, he meant, in the static sense, “the success we would have in predicting, given initial knowledge that an individual holds a specified attitude, that he holds certain further ideas and attitudes” (Converse, 1964, 207). And, in the dynamic sense, “the probability that a change in the perceived status (truth, desirability, and so forth) of one idea-element would psychologically require, from the point of view of the actor, some compensating change(s) in the status of idea-elements elsewhere in the configuration” (208). This twofold definition of constraint transcends levels of analysis. How could a researcher predict, “given initial knowledge that an individual holds a specified attitude, that he holds certain further ideas and attitudes,” except on the basis of regularities in how actors, or the researcher, put these ideas and attitudes together? This implies that ideology transcends the individual. Yet, how could a researcher know whether “a change in the perceived status … of one idea-element would psychologically require… some compensating change(s) in the status of

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idea-elements elsewhere,” except by asking or otherwise gauging how the actor interprets the connection between these idea-elements? This implies that ideology is internal to the individual actor. This ambiguity resolves a core tension in political psychology by bridging an individual-level conception of ideology as “psychological in nature” (Jost, 2006, 653) with the fact that what is important for political disagreement are aggregate-level regularities in terms of how people bundle ideas together (on this point, see for example Billig, 1984, 447–8). Each individual actor harbours a “package” of ideas. If these packages differ entirely at random from actor to actor, then there is no “structure” to political disagreement, and therefore a discussion of ideology contributes nothing to our understanding of political disagreement. The actors that agree on one question are always as likely to agree or disagree with any other actor on every other question. In reality, however, these packages do not vary entirely at random from actor to actor (Stimson, 2004, 68). Some ideas cooccur regularly in the same packages and other ideas virtually never do. Opposition to abortion, support for school prayer, and opposition to gay marriage are different ideas, and some people harbour one of these ideas and not the others. Yet actors tend to bundle these ideas together. Thus, if we wanted to predict whether actors oppose gay marriage and support school prayer, we would have more success predicting with knowledge of their position on abortion than we would have without knowledge of their position on abortion. That is, we would have success “in predicting, given initial knowledge that an individual holds a specified attitude [abortion], that he holds certain further ideas and attitudes [gay marriage and school prayer].” To this extent, some source of “constraint” binds these ideas together. An underlying source of constraint can represent the defining property of a category from the standpoint of the classical view. It can serve, to recall Sartori’s formulation, as the attribute that two items must “either have or lack” in order for them to “be matched in terms of which has it more or less.” In the context of left / right, this provides a way of satisfying the classical view by specifying what it is that actors on the left “have more or less of” than the actors on the right. Indeed, scholars often describe a source of constraint as a “dimension” or “line” of ideological disagreement. The set of constrained issues constitutes the dimension. The sets of opposing positions on each of these issues provide the endpoints of the dimension. Thus, actors that disagree as strongly as possible on all of these issues

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are at opposite ends of the dimension; every other actor is somewhere in between these two points. In this way, ideology is a “line” of political disagreement. The source of constraint means that the actors who agree on some question are systematically more likely to agree on some other questions as well. It does not imply, however, that all actors always agree on all of these questions. Thus, rejecting a definition of left / right that posits, for example, “equality/inequality” as the source of constraint that divides the left from the right is considerably more challenging than finding some actor on the left who disagrees with the “egalitarian position” on some issue, or some actor on the right who agrees with it. Classic definitions of left / right, when characterized fairly, do not fall apart at every observable exception. Drawing on evidence from surveys of national experts about the policy positions of political parties in Western democratic countries, this chapter engages the concept of dimensionality as it applies to the left / right divide. Scholars sometimes conceptualize the left / right divide as a single dimension of ideological disagreement (Downs, 1957; Budge et al., 2001; Laver and Budge, 1992). Much more typically, however, they conceptualize left / right as two and sometimes more dimensions (for a summary, see Knutsen, 1995, 65). Left / right may be composed of a “social” and an “economic” dimension (e.g. Blais et al., 2002, 112), or an “economic” and a “liberty/authority” dimension (e.g. Evans et al., 1996; Kitschelt, 1994, 17), or a “new” left / right and an “old” left / right dimension (e.g. Cole, 2003, 218; Flanagan and Lee, 2002, 252; Hooghe et al., 2002, 985; Evans, 1993, 135). Scholars often represent these dimensions schematically as two orthogonal axes. The left (or liberal) position anchors each axis at one end and the right (or conservative) position anchors each axis at the other. At first glance, these multi-dimensional conceptualizations appear more realistic than do their single-dimensional counterparts. Scholars often uncover the dimensionality of left / right differences through factor analysis (e.g. Warwick, 2002, 106; Middendorp, 1993, 215; Gabel and Huber, 2000, 96). Multiple dimensions also allow for far more complexity in left / right disagreement. Yet, they raise problems of their own, including the problem, identified in the previous chapter, of why people talk about some but not all “lines” of political disagreement in left / right terms. If the different “lefts” and “rights” share no connection, then why is it, as Lipset (1981, 5101) observes, that in country after country these lefts and rights find themselves in the same coalitions, if not the same parties?

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More fundamentally, however, what all multi-dimensional conceptualizations have in common is the simplifying assumption that left / right disagreement is a contest between actors within the structure of political disagreement, whatever that structure happens to be (for a similar criticism, see also Sniderman and Theriault, 2004, 1 ­ 40–1). As this chapter argues, however, left / right disagreement is also a contest between actors about the structure of political disagreement. Actors on the left and the right differ not only in terms of their positions on issues; they also differ systematically in how they bundle political issues together in the packages of ideas that they advance. Thus, the dimensionality of political disagreement is not exogenous to left / right disagreement; it is a component of left / right disagreement. ideology

Not everybody has always been comfortable with the view that the left / right divide reflects a bipolar opposition between sides (e.g. Stokes, 1963, 373; Laver, 2001, 70; Cochrane, 2010; 2013a; 2013b). In the early 1980s, for example, Pamela Conover and Stanley Feldman (1981) argued that liberals and conservatives – the dominant American manifestations of left and right – did not hold opposing opinions about the same issues. Left and right are different ideologies, they reasoned. As a result, it did not make sense to suppose that these different ideologies would preoccupy themselves with the same set of issues. Rather, each side cared about different issues. Conover and Feldman used this argument to account for the peculiar finding that the Americans who expressed favourable evaluations of liberals did not necessarily express negative evaluations of conservatives, and  vice versa. Conover and Feldman’s argument that the liberal/­ conservative division was not, in fact, bipolar did not rise to the level of accepted wisdom in the literature on left / right differences (Green, 1988). First, there was an apparent empirical problem. Jean Laponce (1981), for example, had found that left-wingers and right-wingers did tend to emphasize the same kinds of issues. Second, there was an apparent matter of logic. As Richard Brodie and his colleagues put it (1993, 146), “Liberalism and Conservatism are alternatives, thanks to the logic of political competition. To favour one is to oppose the other. To support a liberal policy implies one should oppose the conservative alternative; or more exactly, it is understood to imply this by people who understand the structure of American politics.”

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Ideology is not just about the issues that matter to political actors, nor the positions that political actors adopt on these issues. Rather, ideology is also about the ways in which different actors “bundle” ideas together. In other words, ideology is about the “structure” as well as the “content” of political disagreement. It is difficult to imagine that natural or logical connections between different kinds of  issues exist in the absence of pre-existing beliefs, priorities, and  understandings of the world. Support for increased government spending, for example, does not logically require support for increased taxation, at least not in the absence of pre-existing assumptions about how the economy works. An imaginary “state of nature” for public opinion would involve issue positions swirling around randomly issue-by-issue and actor-by-actor. Thus, when systematic clusters of ideas do emerge, it suggests that some underlying influence affects simultaneously the preferences of multiple actors about multiple issues (see also Stimson, 2004, 68–9). This underlying influence could be a group membership, a personality trait, or some combination of these and other things. Exposure to information, moreover, is probably crucial for activating these influences. Yet the key point, for present purposes, is that opinions about multiple issues cluster into bundles when underlying influences affect simultaneously the preferences of actors about more than one of these issues. Conceptualizing policy positions as ideas that do not exist a priori provides a few reasons for assuming that Conover and Feldman (1981) were probably onto something when they doubted the bipolarity of the left and the right. First, diametrically opposing levels of exposure to a particular influence do not generate opposing opinions. Non-exposure should have no effect on opinions, rather than an equal and opposite effect on the same range of opinions. Strongly pro-choice positions on abortion do not stem from “non-religion,” even though non-religion may underlie indifference and non-­opinions about the issue. Conversely, strongly pro-life positions on abortion do not emerge from non-feminism, even though a non-commitment to gender equality may also underlie non-opinions and indifference about abortion. Thus, different opinions about precisely the same issue stem nonetheless from different sources. For that matter, the same opinion about the same issue can also stem from different sources. Two individuals can share the same opinion for entirely different reasons. These different reasons can in turn underlie opposing opinions about some other issue. A highly religious citizen and a

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xenophobe may hold an identical opinion about gays and lesbians, but they may part company in their opinions about abortion and immigration. Thus, the extent to which two individuals share common cause across multiple dimensions of political disagreement is contingent not simply on their agreement on a single issue, but also on the reasons for their agreement on that issue. Second, most of the best-known influences on people’s ideas do not generate comprehensive bundles of opinions about the universe of politically salient issues. Whatever the innate propensity toward religiosity, the dominant religious traditions in Western countries proscribe homosexuality and abortion but are not as consistently one-sided when it comes to tax policy and government spending initiatives. Thus, there is no guarantee that the complete preferences of any two individuals cover the same range of issues. Individuals may agree on some issues and disagree on others, but it is also possible that there could be no agreement or disagreement of any kind in cases where two or more sets of preferences plough altogether parallel seigneuries of ideational terrain. Taken together, there are few ­reasons to expect that symmetrical opposition across multiple dimensions of political thought is a characteristic of real-world political disagreement (Cacioppo, 1997, 7). Even if the actors on the left and the right, as a whole, care about the same set of issues and adopt opposing positions on those issues, there may still be differences between the left and the right in terms of how the individual actors on each side organize those positions into bundles. Content and Structure The “content” of a belief system is the set of preferences that an actor harbours about political issues. The “structure” of a belief system is the way in which an actor puts different political issues together into bundles of constrained preferences. Actors that think about politics from the vantage point of altogether different ideas not only disagree in their positions on issues; they also disagree in their views of how different issues fit together logically in the political world around them. Thus, the content and the structure of belief systems are likely to differ on the left and the right. Consider, by way of illustration, the simplified hypothetical scenario in Figure 3.1. The Figure depicts four hypothetical sources of attitudes about eight different policy areas: welfare, taxes, law and

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Figure 3.1  Asymmetrical structure of disagreement.

order, patriotism, minorities, the military, gay marriage, and abortion. Suppose that on all eight of these items, there is disagreement between a left-wing position and a right-wing position. Imagine, further, that a commitment to equality is the main source of influence behind the left-wing positions on each of these issues.4 Yet, just because a commitment to equality underlies left-wing positions about this range of issues, it is a mistake to suppose that the opposite of a commitment to equality – i.e., a commitment to inequality – necessarily underlies right-wing opinions (see also Giddens, 1994, 251). People on the right need not wake up in the morning and ask, “how can I promote inequality today?” Imagine for the sake of argument that a commitment to proportionality – i.e., “you should get what you put in” – underlies right-wing opinions about welfare, taxes, and law and order (Haidt, 2012); that authoritarianism underlies rightwing opinions about law and order, patriotism, militarism, and minorities – including gays and lesbians; and, finally, that religion underlies right-wing opinions about gay marriage and abortion. In this hypothetical scenario, the underlying influences that constrain right-wing opinions are qualitatively different from the single source that constrains left-wing opinions. These different influences not

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only generate opposing positions on these issues, but they also apply, in this example, to different ranges of these issues. A commitment to proportionality need not be associated with right-wing opinions about abortion rights, same-sex marriage, or minorities. A commitment to religion need not be associated with right-wing opinions about welfare programs, taxes, minorities, or the military. A commitment to authority need not be associated with right-wing opinions about welfare, taxes, or abortion, even if it does happen to be associated with opposition to gay marriage.5 Figure 3.1 is hypothetical, and there is no reason to suppose that the effects of some influences cannot vary across countries or time periods. Different religions may promote different ideas about gay marriage and abortion, and some religions emphasize other ideas such as the provision of social welfare. Likewise, a system of freemarket incentives or support for gay rights may be an established tradition in one context and not in another. Thus, these issues may draw support from traditionalists in one context and their opposition in another.6 If left-wing and right-wing positions stem from different sources of influence, however, and if there is little reason to assume that altogether different sources of influence apply to opinions about identical sets of issues, then there are also reasons to expect systematic differences between actors on the left and the right in terms of how they package issues together. Political actors who think about the same issue from the standpoint of altogether different considerations may disagree not only in terms of their opinions about that issue, but also about how that issue fits together “logically” with other issues in the political environment. The content and the structure of opinions, in other words, come from the same place (see also Sniderman and Theriault, 2004). From this perspective, ideological contestation does not play out within a fixed and agreedupon structure of political disagreement. Rather, the structure of political disagreement is at the heart of the contest. left/right asymmetries

Evidence for asymmetry in the clustering of ideas by political actors emerges to the extent that left positions on one issue are associated with left positions on some other issue, but right positions on these same issues are not in turn associated with each other, or vice versa. In other words, the actors on the left may put these issues together

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while the actors on the right do not, or vice versa. This kind of pattern reflects a difference between the left and the right in terms of how the actors on each side link different issues together. These kinds of asymmetries have implications for our understanding of political disagreement. Imagine, for example, that opposition to abortion is not at all associated with support for free-market economics. Indeed, imagine instead that the actors who oppose abortion are somewhat less likely than are other actors to support free-market economics. Yet imagine further that opposition to abortion and support for free-market economics are both associated with identical positions on a wide range of other issues about which actors disagree, including support for a law-and-order agenda, opposition to universal childcare, and so on. It makes little sense, on the one hand, to say that the positions on all these questions are manifestations of some common underlying influence. The positions of actors on abortion and free-market economics are not associated with each other. Yet it makes little sense, on the other hand, to say that there is no substantive basis for linking positions on these questions together. Opposition to abortion and support for free-market economics are both likely to co-occur, in this example, with an identical cluster of positions on a wide range of other issues. The actors that disagree on the questions of abortion and free-market economics nonetheless cluster together, in the network as a whole, given their high level of agreement on law and order, universal childcare, and other issues. Left / right asymmetries in the clustering of ideas could underpin this kind of scenario. Even if the opponents of abortion are indifferent about free-market economics, and free-market supporters are indifferent about abortion, they may nonetheless find common cause in a context where those actors that support abortion are the same ones that oppose free-market economics. In this case, support for abortion and opposition to the free market represents a single belief system for the actors on one side, even though these are a part of two separate belief systems for the actors on the other side. One side’s bundle, however, provides a basis for the other side’s coalition. The more strongly one side pushes its bundle of positions, the more strongly it reinforces the other side’s coalition. All of a sudden, abortion opponents and free-market supporters may find common cause in the context of political disagreement. This is the practical consequence of a key argument from chapter 2. Actors and ideas that lack connections directly to each other may nonetheless acquire a very

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high degree of propinquity by virtue of commonalities in their ­connections to other actors and ideas. In the early 2000s, Kenneth Benoit and Michael Laver surveyed 1,009 national political experts from Western democratic countries about the policy positions of the political parties in their homelands. In addition to a question about the left / right position of the parties, Benoit and Laver asked the experts for the positions of each party on a common battery of policy areas. Four of these areas in particular often emerge in discussions of left / right politics: “taxes versus spending,” “social liberalism,” “immigration,” and “the environment.” For each of these areas, the survey asked the experts to situate the parties on a twenty-point scale that ranged from an extreme “left” position at one end to an extreme “right” position at the other. On the issue of taxes versus spending, the scale ranged from “promotes raising taxes to increase public services” at the low end to “promotes cutting public services to cut taxes” at the high end. The question about social morality juxtaposed “favours liberal policies on matters such as abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia” with “opposes liberal policies on matters such as abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia.” The environment question compared parties in terms of the extent to which they “support protection of the environment, even at the cost of economic growth” rather than “support economic growth, even at the cost of damaging the environment.” The immigration question was anchored on the left by “policies designed to help asylum seekers and immigrants integrate” into the country, and on the right by “policies designed to help asylum seekers and immigrants return to their country of origin.” Each of these issues is associated with the left / right positions of the parties as the experts recorded those positions. Individually, party positions on these issues account for between two-thirds and three-quarters of the variation in how experts positioned the parties on the general scale of left / right. Collectively, they account for more than ninety percent of the variation. Figure 3.2 summarizes the distributions and compares the positions of the parties on these four policy areas. Each panel in Figure 3.2 illustrates the empirical association between party positions on two of these issues. In all cases, lower values correspond to increasingly left-wing positions and higher values to increasingly right-wing positions. Each row and column of the matrix corresponds to a different issue. When an issue is atop a column of the matrix, that issue represents the horizontal axis for all of the scatterplots in that column.

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When the issue is to the right of a row of the matrix, that issue represents the vertical axis for all of the scatterplots in that row. Thus, the panel in the second row of the first column – panel [2,1] – compares party positions on taxes versus spending (the horizontal axis) to party positions on social morality (the vertical axis). The panel in the third row of the fourth column [3,4] compares party positions on the environment (the horizontal axis) to party positions on immigration (the vertical axis). The panels along the diagonal of the matrix, beginning at the top left [1,1] and ending at the bottom right [4,4], summarize the distribution of the parties across all of the possible positions for the variable in that column. Notice from these panels that the political parties distribute somewhat unevenly across the left and right on the issues of social morality [2,2] and immigration [3,3]. About sixty percent of the 153 parties are to the left of the centre (i.e.,