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Left-wing politics are political positions or activities that accept or support social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality. They typically involve concern for those in society who are perceived as disadvantaged relative to others and a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished.
According to Barry Clark:
Leftists... claim that human development flourishes when individuals engage in cooperative, mutually respectful relations that can thrive only when excessive differences in status, power, and wealth are eliminated. According to leftists, a society without substantial equality will distort the development of not only deprived persons, but also those whose privileges undermine their motivation and sense of social responsibility. This suppression of human development, together with the resentment and conflict engendered by sharp class distinctions, will ultimately reduce the efficiency of the economy.
The political terms Left and Right were coined during the French Revolution (1789–1799), referring to the seating arrangement in the Estates General: those who sat on the left generally opposed the monarchy and supported the revolution, including the creation of a republic and secularization, while those on the right were supportive of the traditional institutions of the Old Regime. Use of the term "Left" became more prominent after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 when it was applied to the "Independents". The word "wing" was appended to Left and Right in the late 19th century, usually with disparaging intent, and "left-wing" was applied to those who were unorthodox in their religious or political views. For example, William James, in Will to Believe (1897), wrote "If the Hegelian gnosticism, which has begun to show itself here and in Great Britain, were to become popular philosophy, as it once was in Germany, it would certainly develop its left wing here as there, and produce a reaction of disgust."
The term was later applied to a number of movements, especially republicanism during the French Revolution in the 18th century, followed by socialism, communism and anarchism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Since then, the term left-wing has been applied to a broad range of movements including civil rights movements, feminist movements, anti-war movements, and environmental movements, as well as a wide range of parties.
- Smith, T. Alexander; Tatalovich, Raymond (2003). Cultures at War: Moral Conflicts in Western Democracies. Toronto, Canada: Broadview Press. p. 30.
- Bobbio, Norberto; Cameron, Allan (1997). Left and Right: The Significance of a Political Distinction. University of Chicago Press. p. 37.
- Lukes, Steven. 'Epilogue: The Grand Dichotomy of the Twentieth Century': concluding chapter to T. Ball and R. Bellamy (eds.), The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Political Thought.
- Thompson, Willie (1997). The left in history: revolution and reform in twentieth-century politics. Pluto Press.
- Clark, B. (1998). Political economy: A comparative approach. Westport, CT: Praeger Press.
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- Realms of memory: conflicts and divisions (1996), ed. Pierre Nora, "Right and Left" by Marcel Gauchet, p. 248
- Maass, Alan; Zinn, Howard (2010). The Case for Socialism (Revised ed.). Haymarket Books. p. 164. ISBN 978-1608460731.
The International Socialist Review is one of the best left-wing journals around...
- Schmidt, Michael; Van der Walt, Lucien (2009). Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism. Counter-Power 1. AK Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-904859-16-1.
anarchism is a coherent intellectual and political current dating back to the 1860s and the First International, and part of the labour and left tradition
- Revel, Jean Francois (2009). Last Exit to Utopia. Encounter Books. p. 24. ISBN 978-1594032646.
In the United States, the word liberal is often used to describe the left wing of the Democratic party.
- Neumayer, Eric (2004). "The environment, left-wing political orientation, and ecological economics". Ecological Economics 51 (3–4): 167–175. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2004.06.006.
- Barry, John (2002). International Encyclopedia of Environmental Politics. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0415202855.
All surveys confirm that environmental concern is associated with green voting...[I]n subsequent European elections, green voters have tended to be more left-leaning...the party is capable of motivating its core supporters as well as other environmentally minded voters of predominantly left-wing persuasion...
- Arnold, N. Scott (2009). Imposing values: an essay on liberalism and regulation. Florence: Oxford University Press. p. 3. ISBN 0-495-50112-3.
Modern liberalism occupies the left-of-center in the traditional political spectrum and is represented by the Democratic Party in the United States, the Labor Party in the United Kingdom, and the mainstream Left (including some nominally socialist parties) in other advanced democratic societies.
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