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A Political Esperanto, or False Friends? - 'Left' and 'Right' in Different Politican Contexts

Seminar: A Political Esperanto, or False Friends? - 'Left' and 'Right' in Different Political Contexts - Jesper Lindqvist (UCD) (with Jos Elkink)

14:00-15:00 (IST) Wednesday, January 27.

Please register for this event here.

Abstract: The Left-Right dimension has been and continues to be a prominent component of advanced representative democracies, which is used to simplify the political landscape. Nevertheless, it is unclear why the same two terms are used in multiple countries. This would imply that the terminology has a similar core meaning in different political contexts. Yet no such stable element has been established in the political science literature. This paper examines five different possible criteria that have been proposed to separate left from right: change/resistance to change, secular/religious, equality/inequality, equality of outcome/equality of opportunity and for/against government intervention in the economy. We examine these criteria in eight different countries (with varying political contexts), by studying responses to open-ended survey questions on what the terms "left" and "right" mean. The data are analysed using quantitative text analysis (more specifically topic modelling through Non-negative Matrix Factorization) to examine how respondents understand the left-right terminology. The overall results demonstrate varied support for the different explanations, with the most support found for equality/inequality, for/against government intervention in the economy, as well as change/resistance to change. We find little evidence for the two criteria secular/religious and equality of outcome/equality of opportunity.

About the speaker: Jesper Lindqvist is a PhD Candidate in the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin. His current research is focused on understanding the meaning of left-right politics in representative democracies. In addition, his research interests also include public opinion, ideological dimensions and democratic representation.