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Wednesday, November 3, A.D. 2010
What to Do with the Left?

—Not what to do with them actually, which would be to round them up and ship them to a lunar Van Diemen’s Land for crimes against civilization, but what to do with the Left orthographically. I have been inconsistent in this manner, as I am not sure when I should capitalize the “l” in left and its forms. There also seems to be no standard convention that writers follow. The following discussion applies to the use of the Right, as well.

I always try to capitalize Communist and its forms because Communism has always been an ideology of specific parties. We capitalize Republican, Conservative, Labour, National Socialist, and such words when they refer to particular political parties, and the Communists have always been members of Marxist political parties. Communism is not simply a general political philosophy, as socialism is.

The Left, though, is a general term that is not a political party but rather a way of categorizing a particular political orientation. There may be a “Left Party” somewhere, and then Left would always be capitalized when referring to that party. In general usage, though, the Left designates a field of political attitudes rather than a specific party. So, why should I capitalize something so amorphous? I do not capitalize various ideological components of the Left, such as liberal, socialist, or progressive, except when those words designate actual parties. Why, then, do I capitalize the Left?

Perhaps, I capitalize the Left to distinguish it from the common, directional uses of left. The “L"eft emphasizes the abstraction, though I admit that I do not consistently employ other words in such a way. Consider, for example, Plato’s forms. Many writers capitalize the forms for the same reason that I capitalize the Left, though I do not follow that convention. I do, however, sometimes capitalize the Good when it refers to the ultimate good in the Platonic sense, though I think that this distinction is more useful. When one writes in the context of Platonic metaphysics, one refers to the forms without normally having to mention form in its common sense, whereas one frequently must write about various lower goods when one explains “the Good.” Moreover, capitalizing the Good reminds the English reader of our way of writing God, and I intend the parallel.

Even if I consistently capitalize the Left, I still wonder what to do with its forms. I think that the way the French use national adjectives might be best. For example, the adjective German is allemand. So, the language is allemand, and a cheese can be allemand. However, when the adjective stands as a noun and refers to a person, the substantive is Allemand. Hence, un Allemand parle allemand. If I followed this convention, a Leftist would propose leftist policies. A reader, though, might not notice the pattern and become annoyed at the perceived inconsistency. However, why should the Left not consist of Leftists?

I do not feel like editing former posts, but I think that I should attempt to use the French proper adjective convention when dealing with the Left. If only all Leftists would suffer the French treatment, too, like their predecessor Robespierre . . .

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, November 3, Anno Domini 2010
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