Persistent Duality: A Critique of 'Beyond Left and Right' Ideologies

Nathan Coombs

Research output: Book/ReportBook


With almost tiring regularity, over recent decades the call to move ‘beyond left and right’ has been rehearsed by party leaders, political commentators and academic theorists. Left and right are blamed for Western democratic paralysis and for entrenching outmoded forms of tribalistic, ideological partisanship unable to surmount the contemporary problems of globalisation, cultural pluralism and climate change. This book makes an intervention against the ‘beyond left and right’ discourse, arguing that it is hampered by an insufficiently realist conception of the social and economic forces which perpetuate the division. Rather than left and right being redundant ideological categories carried across from Cold War era antagonisms, as they are so frequently portrayed, Persistent Duality instead argues that they are grounded in a deep social rift caused by capitalist value extraction. Adopting an Althusserian concept of determination by the economy in the ‘final instance’, the book contends that in order to understand the persistent salience of left and right as political categories, one can do so by bringing to light the necessary aporias reached by all attempts to transcend them. The first theoretical chapter of the book thus positions its thesis within the broader literature surrounding the ‘beyond left and right’ idea, and offers an experimental take on ideology as it relates to economic determination, engaging the work of Louis Althusser, Slavoj Žižek, Anthony Giddens and Michael Freeden along the way. In the following four chapters, the theoretical framework is then tested with respect to the work of four ‘beyond left and right’ public intellectuals: John Gray, George Monbiot, Frank Furedi and Phillip Blond, offering a critique of their globalist, environmental, risk society and localist variations of the idea, respectively.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2014

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