Sunday, January 15, 2023

Verlan Lewis & Hyrum Lewis's "The Myth of Left and Right"

Verlan Lewis is a visiting Scholar in the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and the Stirling Professor of Constitutional Studies at Utah Valley University. Hyrum Lewis is an associate professor of history at Brigham Young University-Idaho.

They applied the "Page 99 Test" to their new book, The Myth of Left and Right: How the Political Spectrum Misleads and Harms America, and reported the following:
The body of our book is short, so page 99 is the first page of the conclusion. Here is a telling quote:
Ever since the terms “left-wing” and “right-wing” emerged during the French Revolution, we have been asking the wrong question. Instead of asking, “What is the essential characteristic that binds ideologues together?” we should have been asking, “Why do people share the same views on so many distinct political positions when there is no essential characteristic binding them together?” This book has shown that social conformism is the best answer.
Browsers opening to page 99 would get an excellent sense of what the book is about since the Conclusion is a summary that wraps up the research and sends the reader off with a compact explanation of everything they’ve just read. But more than anything, page 99 describes why we think our project is important: there are two theories of ideology that we address in the book—the essentialist and the social theory. To us, the essentialist theory, which says that left-right ideologies (such as “liberal” and “conservative”) are unified by a common philosophy or ideal, should wind up on the ash-heap of history. It is an obviously false model that crumbles under cursory examination, but, sadly, our society is currently in thrall to it. We are hoping that a “Copernican revolution” of sorts will help people see that their cherished ideologies are nothing more than sets of unrelated positions that are bound socially, not naturally, and that shedding the false notion that the many political positions considered left (abortion rights, higher taxes, affirmative action, etc.) or right (anti-abortion, lower taxes, against affirmative action., etc.) are somehow connected will lead to a more thoughtful, open-minded, charitable politics in which compromise and humility, rather than dogmatism and anger, are the norm.
Learn more about The Myth of Left and Right at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue