Principles of leftist politics

This is an outline of some key principles of leftist politics (or at least postmodern leftist politics) as I understand them. It is an attempt to inventory where I agree with progressivists.

I believe I agree with progressivists on the following principles on subjective biases:

  • We see the world from a subjective standpoint that reveals and conceals selective aspects of the world around us and presents an image of the world that is always biased to some degree.
  • Most people are unaware of their subjective standpoint, and have succumbed to a state of naive realism. That is, they confuse what they selectively experience, intuit, think and feel with reality itself. They do not appreciate the degree to which their objectivity is subjective.
  • Even those who do become aware of their subjective standpoint, and learn how subjectivity functions in general, remain unaware of the innumerable particular ways their subjectivity biases their perceptions, beliefs, logic and behavior.
  • Subjective awareness maintains vigilant awareness of its own unawareness.
  • The most reliable way to expand or sensitize one’s own awareness is to listen to others and to learn where one’s own experience and understandings differ from others.

In other words, I believe, with progressivists, that we are unavoidably subject to unconscious processes that limit and shape what we can experience and know.

I also agree with progressivists that our subjective standpoint is socially conditioned, to some degree. Progressivists believe it is mostly, if not totally, conditioned. I think varies person to person.

  • A subjective standpoint is largely socially-conditioned. Where we are positioned in the social order, the roles we are expected to perform in various social setting, the treatment we are accustomed to receive, the norms by which we are judged, the groups who accept us and those that exclude us, etc. shape who we are, not only to others but to who we are to ourselves.
  • For the most part, we are unconscious of our social conditioning and the role it plays in our subjective standpoint.
  • To the degree our social position works out to our advantage, it is likely to go unnoticed. We are more likely to notice an injustice when it harms us in some way. If it harms someone else, we will be complacent about it. If we benefit from the injustice, we will want to justify it as somehow for the greater good or necessary or built into nature and therefore inalterable.
  • The justifications of the powerful are rarely outright conscious lies. They are often believed sincerely and passionately. They flourish is conditions of incuriosity and taboos. Infractions are met with dismissal, scoffing, ridicule, denial, fragility, condemnation, rage, terror or violence, escalating roughly in that order.
  • The very group identity of the powerful might be unacknowledged, or even unknown to them. It might be evaded through misdirection or deflection. When confronted, they might deny the very existence of its own identity. A powerful identity will resist being named, and will treat the naming as an infraction and deal with it along the usual escalation: dismissal, scoffing, ridicule, denial, fragility, condemnation, rage, terror or violence.
  • Those who are on the wrong side of power are keener observers of how power works and how power shapes subjectivity, because the pain and fear of their situation makes its problematic nature conspicuous, and coping with powerful people’s subjectivity necessitates understanding them and predicting their actions.
  • The vulnerable naturally develop empathy and insight.
  • Powerful people, on the other hand, can manage weaker people without needing to understanding their subjectivity. The powerful don’t have to care what other people think, and therefore often don’t. They can overpower and coerce compliance, socially, economically, legally and with physical force.
  • Some of the choicest luxuries of power: being in a position to impose social roles on others, being free to think whatever you want about them, forcing them to perform those roles, with the eventual goal of making them internalize their subordinate roles.

In other words, I share with progressivists the belief that truth is socially constructed, that the powerful are disproportionally responsible for this constructed truth, and that this truth serves to perpetuate and increase their own power. Let’s adopt the Marxian term for this kind of socially-constructed truth: dominant ideology.

I also agree with progressivists on some of their views on political action.

  • Political consciousness is a matter of rejecting the dominant ideology, rooting out all internalized subordination, and reconstructing or adopting a new ideology to oppose it.
  • Political action requires joining forces with others in a similar social position, aligning on oppositional ideology, building practical alliances and forming group solidarity.
  • Often these allies are others who were forced into the same or analogous defined social roles, and who share similar experiences of having them imposed and being made to perform them.
  • In this process of political activation, old imposed social roles are seized, re-valuated, re-possessed and re-internalized as politically activated social identities. Identity formation key to solidarity.

Leftist politics revolve around these processes of awareness, consciousness, alliance, solidarity and resistance against powerful groups who wish to preserve and strengthen the existing social order, especially its current power relations and the dominant ideology that helps preserve it.

If you believe you are a leftist, and especially if you consider yourself a progressive, please give me feedback on where you agree or disagree.

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