The Left is in crisis. Despite global economic turbulence, left-wing political parties in many countries have failed to make progress in part because they have grown too ideologically fragmented. Today, the term Left is associated with state intervention and public ownership, but this has little in common with the original meaning of the term. What caused what we mean by the Left to change, and how has that hindered progress?
With Wrong-Turnings, Geoffrey M. Hodgson tracks changes in the meaning of the Left and offers suggestions for how the Left might reclaim some of its core values. The term Left originated during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries sought to abolish the monarchy and privilege and to introduce a new society based on liberty, equality, fraternity, and universal rights. Over time, however, the meaning radically changed, especially through the influence of socialism and collectivism. Hodgson argues that the Left must rediscover its roots in the Enlightenment and readopt Enlightenment values it has abandoned, such as those concerning democracy and universal human rights. Only then will it be prepared to address contemporary problems of inequality and the survival of democracy. Possible measures could include enhanced educational provisions, a guaranteed basic income, and a viable mechanism for fair distribution of wealth.
Wrong-Turnings is a truly pathbreaking work from one of our most prolific and respected institutional theorists. It will change our understanding of how the left got lost.