The modern use of the term "left" derives from the French Estates General of 1789, when the nobility sat on the king's right, and the 'third estate' on his left. It might have been the other way round. Indeed, it was the other way round for everyone but the king. However, the terms 'left' and 'right' remain with us, and are now applied to factions and opinions within every political order. The resulting picture, of political opinions spread in a single dimension, can be fully understood only locally, and only in conditions of contested and adversarial government. Moreover, even where it captures the outlines of a political process, the picture can hardly do justice to the theories influencing that process, which form the climate of political opinion. Why, therefore, use the term 'left' to describe the writers considered in this book? Why use a single term to cover anarchists like Foucault, Marxist dogmatists like Althusser, exuberant nihilists like Žižek and American-style liberals like Dworkin and Rorty?
- From Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left by Roger Scruton