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Norberto Bobbio in Left & Right: The Significance of Political
Distinction, agrees with Diamond that the left/right axis is best
defined by the struggle between equality v. inequality." Doctrines
can be assessed as more or less egalitarian according to the greater
or lesser number of persons involved, the greater or lesser quantity
or worth of the benefits to be distributed, and the criteria used in
distributing these benefits to certain groups of persons."8 Turning
to methodological issues, Bobbio labels those who resort to authoritarianism
and reject democratic method "extremists," and those that accept
the rules of democratic conduct "moderates." Bobbio then argues
that the duality of freedom v. authoritarianism is a separate dimension
that spans left and right.
Methodological Propensity for Various Right-Wing
Therefore an additional continuum for viewing the right would be methodological,
in which a variety of topical interests would be pursued using tactics
that ranged from democratic civil discourse to armed revolution. (See Chart
Many groups in all the sectors have at least some philosophical roots
in orthodox versions of Calvinistic Protestant Christianity, especially
support for heterosexual patriarchy, individualism, and a free market economy.
The WASP has its sting.
Intent and effect are separate issues when studying social and political
movements. For example, movements that pursue supremacy and power often
rationalize it as promoting justice and democracy, this is especially true
with forms of right-wing populism.
There is overlap at the margins of the sectors, and some ultra-conservative
political ideologues such as Pat Buchanan and Sam Francis draw from several
tendencies. Nonetheless, the various branches of the right each have distinguishing
characteristics and operate as self-conscious movements.
There is a dynamic relationship among the various sectors of the right.
The activist right pulls conservatism over in terms of both militancy and
ideology, and simultaneously pressures liberals to concede the center and
retrench. A vigorous activist right opens recruitment opportunities for
the far right. At the same time the dramatic excesses of far right provides
a cover for ideological victories of the activist right and conservative
right, and makes them seem more reasonable.
Diamond points out that the distinct sectors of the right are sometimes
system supportive and sometimes system oppositional. They form shifting
alliances based on shared goals that vary across time and topic.9 This
is an especially useful concept since the same type of paramilitary far
right groups that assisted government agencies in spying on civil rights
and antiwar dissidents in the 1960's were busy forming anti-government
armed militias and blowing up federal buildings in the 1990's.
It is erroneous to conclude that since there are often shared themes on
the right that all right-wing groups work together. For instance the conservative
Heritage Foundation is a long-standing critic of the far right LaRouche
network, some traditional conservatives are offended by the sweeping changes
proposed by the more reactionary and ultra-conservative activists in the
New Right. The far right views both the activist right and conservative
right as weak-willed wimps or active agents of the global conspiracy to
enslave patriotic White Americans. Far right groups such as the LaRouche
network, Liberty Lobby, and the Christian Identity movement attempt to
join more moderate activist right and conservative coalitions, but guilt
by association is unethical and inaccurate, despite its popularity as a
direct-mail fundraising pitch by liberal watchdog groups. It is not fair
to presume that all conservatives are on a slippery slope toward reaction,
nor that all reactionaries are inevitably borne on a transmission belt
toward fascism. Migrations do occur, but they occur in both directions,
just as on the left.
A number of analysts over the years have suggested variations of a chart
that arrays political groups on multiple dimensions.10 (See
When analyzing any social or political movement multiple aspects must
be assessed independently with an eye toward establishing where on a polar
continuum the movement is currently located.
The polar dimensions listed in Chart Four are just a few of the more important
dimensions that can be considered. To make matters even more complicated,
any movement will experience drift back and forth along these continuums
over time. A complex analysis must consider topic, method, and historic
Multidimensional Model of the
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8 Norberto Bobbio
10 [deleted online]