What is the difference between "left wing" and "right wing"?


Quick Answer

The general consensus among political scientists is that "left wing" includes liberals, progressives, socialists and communists, and the "right wing" includes conservatives, traditionalists, reactionaries and fascists. Political parties can be described as moderate, center-right, center-left, far-right and far-left to more accurately express nuances on the left-right spectrum.

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Full Answer

The left-right political spectrum was born during the French Revolution of 1789. In the French National Assembly, supporters of the king sat on the president's right while supporters of the revolution sat on his left. In 1791, the National Assembly was replaced by the Legislative Assembly, and the seating arrangement continued — this time with moderates occupying the center seats. By the early 20th century, the terms left and right were associated with specific political ideologies.

In the United States, the Democratic Party is generally identified as being on the left, and the Republican Party is generally identified as being on the right. The left-right spectrum has been criticized for being too narrow, as it is possible for a member of a political party to hold positions on the opposite side of the spectrum. For example, the pro-life and pro-choice causes are identified with the right and left respectively, but there are pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans.

Some examples of left-wing ideologies include Stalinism, Maoism, socialism, progressivism, anarcho-communism and social liberalism. Examples of right-wing ideologies include fascism, Nazism, conservatism, neoconservatism, neoliberalism, libertarianism, paleoliberalism, and anarcho-capitalism.

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