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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: October 2009



To define what is “left” within the European cultural and political experience, scholars have come up with a variety of focuses. The connotation of “left” may be independent of any school or doctrine and may identify a position of loyalty to the original programs, to the statu nascenti doctrine, or to the spirit of the original creed. This conception justifies such terms as “ dynastic left” (liberal parliamentarians who installed Luis Philippe [1830] on the throne but later opposed Guizot in the name of the original manifesto); fascismo di sinistra (the original radical corporativist and anticapitalist spirit of the fascist movement, as expressed in the San Sepolcro manifesto of 1919 or in the punti di Verona); and “Catholic left” (linked closely to the original evangelical message of solidarity and egalitarianism and to the social doctrine stemming from it). More typical of philosophical analysis is to view “left” (and “right,” of course) as referring to patterns of thought and behavior that are embedded profoundly and permanently in human nature: “to become” versus “to be” change versus conservation; the ontological opposition between a right-handed and a left-handed cosmology. Another tradition is to search for the permanent value, or constant guide, of the left – the general principle that it embodies and that differentiates it from any other current of political thinking. The emphasis is most frequently placed on the value of “equality,” although this is defined in different ways. Finally, in a more historically defined context, “left” is a spatial location, originally linked to the position within the parliamentary hemicycle.