Though leftism is diverse, a common thread is a concern with equality. This makes it in part an ideology of status, with political programmes that seek to eliminate status differences or moderate their impact. This is one reason leftists remain concerned with income inequality long after absolute poverty has been eliminated, try to obstruct institutions that reproduce status differences (eg private schools), and favour anti-discrimination and affirmative action laws for groups that have historically had low status.
Almost everyone is status-conscious to some extent, but levels of concern with it vary a lot. Politically, I suspect that people with relatively high levels of status concerns are disproportionately attracted to leftism and to hierarchical conservatism (in Australia, conservatism tends to be populist, but in countries with more aristocratic traditions status-oriented individuals could go left or right). On this theory, those with relatively low levels of status concern would be disproportionately on the liberal/libertarian right, in which individual freedom is prized – who cares what other people think, I am going to do what I want, either alone or with like-minded people.
Continue reading “Status, left and right”