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Challenging Left Liberalism Part 1 – Of Labels and Definitions

It was heartening to get a positive response to the open call to debate on  challenging the Liberal Left monopoly in the public discourse.

Full details on how to participate in this Open debate can be found here.

In the run up to this Open debate, there will be a series of posts on Offstumped to flesh out the underlying issues.

We begin this Curtain Raiser with a focus on Labels and Definitions.

To make this debate meaningful there has to be a broad consensus on the definition of Left Liberalism.

It would be useful to frame this definition from the point of view of the tension between the Individual, Community and the State.

It would also be useful to characterize this tension along the three axes of – Cultural and Economic Choices the Individual must make and Strategic choices the State must make to preserve itself.

So how must we define Left Liberalism ?

The label Left Liberalism must refer to any ideology or policy that advocates all of below.

#1 Primacy of Individual over Community and the State in making Cultural Choice

#2 Illegitimacy of Community in making any Cultural Choice on behalf of Individual.

#2 Primacy of the State over Community and primacy of the Community over the Individual in making Economic Choice

#3 Illegitimacy of any autonomy to the Individual in making Economic Choice

#4 Illegitimacy of any autonomy to the State in making choices to preserve itself

How do I know if I am opposed to “Left Liberalism” ?

You should consider yourself opposed to “Left Liberalism” if you fail the illegitimacy test i.e. if you believe it is legitimate for any one or more of the below:

#1 It is legitimate for either the Community or the State to make some Cultural choices on behalf of the individual (to some degree and under some circumstances)

#2 It is legtimate for the Individual to have some autonomy in making economic choice (to some degree and under some circumstances)

#3 It is legitimate for the State to have some autonomy in making choices to preserve itself  (to some degree and under some circumstances)

The degree to which you may believe in the legitimacy of above and the circumstances under which you may so believe could be the basis for defining other Labels.

But broadly speaking if you are opposed to any kind of blanket illegitimacy to the above positions then you should consider yourself opposed to Left Liberalism.

What if Left Liberals make compromises consistent with above, How then do we tell the difference ?

Left Liberalism is not above political compromises on the 4 core tenets outlined previously .

In fact if anything Left Liberalism has Institutionalised a certain class of compromises with near total consensus on the grounds of perceieved victimhood of socio-cultural Minority Communities.

Thus Left Liberalism also believes that

#1 It would be legitimate for the State to make cultural choices on behalf of the individual on the pretext of protecting the Minority Community from the tyranny of the Majority

#2 It would also be legitimate for the State to make economic choices on behalf of the individual and in favor of the Minority Community to reverse discriminate against the Majority

#3 It would be deeply illegitimate for the State to make autonomous choices on Strategic Issues to protect itself  since such choices could discriminate against the Minority Community

Some more questions on Left Liberalism

Is Left Liberalism synonymous with Psuedo Secularism ?

Psuedo-secularism at best describes an opportunistic political compromise  on one issue. It is not coherent as an ideological label for it tells us little to nothing about the tension between the Individual, Community and State along the three axes of Cultural, Economic and Strategic choices.

Is there a distinction between Communism and Left Liberalism ?

While Communism and Left Liberalism agree on the Primacy of State and Community over the Individual in making economic choice, there are perhaps atleast two major points of difference between Communism and Left Liberalism.

#1 In Communism the State overrides the Individual and Community in making Cultural choices

#2 In Communism the State also enjoys a blanket autonomy on making Strategic choices to preserve itself

Based on the above it is perhaps safe to say that Indian Communists are really Liberal Leftists.

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Filed under: DesiPundit, Left Liberalism, Progressivism

14 Responses

  1. Vivek says:

    Brilliant Yoss! I wish my social textbook @ school were so enlightening!

  2. Pub Chick says:

    For a change, can you stop dropping random political cliches and tell me what you actually mean? It makes my head hurt reading this random cocktail identities.

  3. psecular says:

    hey chick, for a change, how about u start using your head instead of chickening out at the sight of definitions and data.

  4. Pub Chick says:

    Umm, what definitions and what data, darling?

    The last time I went to school, which admittedly was a long time ago, they defined data differently. Maybe things have changed. But that does not stop you from explaining it to me.

    Now tell me what data was used here. And how one can “sight” it. And why the repetition of cliches constitutes any definition. Then, please go on to explain what the author actually means.

  5. Venkatesh says:

    Pub Chick,

    You have a cool sense of humour and a way with words. Keep it up.

  6. [...] The first in this series of posts defining Left Liberalism can be found here. [...]

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  8. [...] Of Labels and Definitions – offers a definition for what is Left [...]

  9. @offstumped
    I think this post has amazing clarity. Thank you for articulating it. Although it is partly covered one aspect of liberalism, which I think is the most contentious, must be included. Liberals while claiming complete freedom for individual should be achieved at all costs actively neglect responsibility of individuals which is most important for collectivism (used as a synonym for politically neutral meaning for communalism). This is a core contentious issue between “us and them”. It also important because it has been clearly shown that this liberal claim does not achieve mutual benefit for Economic Transactions (we can draw an analogy for Social Transactions). It is through Liberal Paradox and Impossibility Theorem that this has been clearly established and has been well received. Adding this item will make arguments against left liberals stronger.

    We need to work on theoretically establishing why left liberalism has flaws. It is definitely possible.

    Some of my crude arguments are here. They are very personal in nature and are not well researched but have some valid arguments (read I wont defend everything in them). Thanks again for the clarity that your post establishes.


    PS: I have found Bertrand Russel’s – Political Ideals very useful in understanding some of these concepts.


  10. Buzzbharati says:

    Would a left-lib support white minority rights in, say, South Africa or Zimbabwe or Hindu Minority rights in Malaysia or Pakistan or Bangladesh?

    I don’t think so.

    Is this definition supposed be universal or just in Indian context?

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