Left and Right
The Significance of a Political Distinction
Bobbio argues that left and right are not absolute terms, but represent a shifting map of the political spectrum, relative to the particular cultural and historical contexts of a given time. The distinction continues to endure because it reflects the essentially antithetical nature and dynamics of democratic politics. In his accessible yet provocative style, Bobbio constructs a historically informed, analytic division of the political universe along two foundational axes, from equality to inequality, from liberty to authoritarianism. He then charts the past and present tendencies of the left and the right, in both their more moderate and more virulently extreme forms. Ultimately, for Bobbio, the measure of post-modern democracy will indeed lie in where and how we situate ourselves relative to these critical left/right parameters, in whether we cast ourselves, our votes, and our era in terms of political expediency, social viability, or moral responsibility.
A bestseller in Italy, where it sold over three hundred thousand copies, Left and Right is an important contribution to our understanding of global political developments in the 1990s and beyond.
Preface to the First Italian Edition
1: A Challenge to the Distinction
2: Extremists and Moderates
3: The Left/Right Distinction Survives
4: In Search of the Criterion which Governs the Distinction
5: Other Criteria
6: Equality and Inequality
7: Freedom and Authoritarianism
8: The Pole Star
A Reply to the Critics (1995)