A Complicated Dictionary of Political Nonsense

There are a lot of weird, arcane terms in political discourse, including in the rating system I recently published. You don’t need to know what all those terms mean to understand the bias map; this post is merely for the politically curious.

I will define all of the terms I have used thus far that may be a bit jargony, just to explain my thinking on them. For many, I will also provide a link to delve a little deeper into the topic. This may come in the form of a podcast, an article, a YouTube video, and even a book — though books will always be secondary recommendations here, just to make sure a free option is accessible whenever possible.

INDIVIDUALISM

A group of philosophies that focus on the importance, power, and prosperity of the individual.


LIBERALISM

An economic and political philosophy that treats the individual as the basic unit. All individuals technically have equal rights, regardless of inequities that may prevent those rights from being expressed, and the State’s role is to enforce the basic individual rights that keep the Free Market moving.

“What Was Liberalism?” by Olly Thorne on PhilosophyTube
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvoAL-KSZ32e9ziASGC8ZWwrvV4fEXoRj


NEOLIBERALISM

As with liberalism, the basic unit is the individual and individual freedoms. Neoliberalism argues, however, that the State should be active in promoting and protecting the Free Market, and the State should be run LIKE the Free Market, as a competitive, profit-driven enterprise.

“What is ‘Neo’ About Neoliberalism?” by William Davies
https://newrepublic.com/article/143849/neo-neoliberalism


LIBERTARIAN CAPITALISM

Closely related to ANARCHO CAPITALISM, these philosophies argue that the State should completely or almost completely be eliminated. All services should be privately funded, with competition on the Free Market replacing things like voting as the only mechanism for politics.

“The Machinery of Freedom: Illustrated Summary” by bitbutter and David Friedman
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTYkdEU_B4o


COLLECTIVISM

A group of philosophies that prioritize the greater good over that of any single individual within it.


SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

A political system in which a typical capitalist democracy has a robust social safety net, typically including State-guaranteed healthcare and protections for workers, among other things.

“Democratic Socialism Isn’t Social Democracy” by Michael A. McCarthy
https://jacobinmag.com/2018/08/democratic-socialism-social-democracy-nordic-countries


COLLECTIVE ACTION

Any time a group of people organize towards a common goal. In the political sense, it is often used to describe ORGANIZED LABOR action, such as unions going on strike.

“Everything You Need to Know About General Strikes” by Kim Kelly
https://www.teenvogue.com/story/general-strikes-explained


SOCIALISM

A political philosophy centered around the collective ownership of the means of production. Essentially, workers should own their labor, instead of capital owning it.

“What Does It Mean to Be a Socialist?” by Nathan J. Robinson
https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/01/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-socialist


DEMOCRATIC CONFEDERALISM

A broad political philosophy that seeks to tie the root causes of a wide variety of issues together to create stronger, more welcoming communities. As practiced in Rojava, Democratic Confederalism combines democracy, socialism, feminism, environmentalism, and more under a belief that all people have a right to self-determination.

“The Women’s War” by Robert Evans
https://www.iheart.com/podcast/1119-the-womens-war-59464911/


COMMUNISM

A political philosophy that seeks to eradicate social class, money, and the State in favor of collective ownership of both the means of production and consumption.

“Karl Marx & Conflict Theory” by CrashCourse
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR3igiwaeyc


PROGRESSIVISM

A political agenda that argues in favor of social change that push for what they believe to be greater equality.

“Progressives Should Read Progressive History — So They Don’t Blow It This Time,” by Joshua Zeitz
https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/06/01/progressives-history-227037


MEANS-TESTING

Means-testing is a method of modest political reform by which benefits are not universal, but instead depend on the income status of the potential recipient.

“What the Fight Over Means-Testing Is Really About?” by Richard Eskow
https://prospect.org/economy/fight-means-testing-really/


LEGALIZATION

A method of reform in which something that was illegal is made legal, but is highly regulated. This often involves strict licensing and strong State control.

“Criminalization, legalization or decriminalization of sex work: what female sex workers say in San Francisco, USA” by Alexandra Lutnick and Deborah Cohen for Reproductive Health Matters.
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1016/S0968-8080%2809%2934469-9


DECRIMINALIZATION

Decriminalization is a method of reform in which something that was illegal is simply… no longer so. There are typically no special laws or regulations on enterprises that are decriminalized; they are treated as any other industry.

“Sex Work” by Olly Thorne for PhilosophyTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DZfUzxZ2VU


ABOLITION

Abolition is a method of radical political reform in which a system of oppression is eradicated.

“How I Became a Police Abolitionist” by Derecka Purnell
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/how-i-became-police-abolitionist/613540/


CONSERVATISM

Once defined by William F. Buckley as “standing athwart history, yelling Stop,” conservatism is a philosophy that prioritizes structural inequality, in the form of strong hierarchies rooted in an idealized version of ‘traditional values’ above all else.

“Endnote 3: The Origins of Conservatism” by Ian Danskin for Innuendo Studios.
https://youtu.be/E4CI2vk3ugk


NATIONALISM

A political philosophy that that argues that a single personal identity – often but not always ‘Whiteness’ – should be the basis of national identity, and that the function of the State is to ensure that the chosen identity maintains political, social, and cultural dominance, particularly by forcibly oppressing, detaining, or expelling people who do not share that identity from the citizenship.


TRADITIONALISM

Closely related to REACTIONARY POLITICS, this political tradition argues that truth is absolute, knowable, and unchanging, and thus rejects the post-Enlightenment interest in equality, democracy, and secularism. Traditionalism is often tied to religious belief, and it favors fairly rigid hierarchies defined by prescribed social roles.


NEOREACTION

Essentially a modern form of monarchism, neoreaction is a political philosophy that prioritizes the conservative tendency towards hierarchy and takes it to an extreme, arguing that democracy is incompatible with true freedom and that the ideal way to structure society is as a corporation, with a single leader, a strong chain of command, and near absolute power to make changes as he sees fit.

“Behind the Internet’s Anti-Democracy Movement” by Rosie Gray
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/behind-the-internets-dark-anti-democracy-movement/516243/

“The alt-right, explained” by Dylan Matthews
https://www.vox.com/2016/4/18/11434098/alt-right-explained

NEOREACTION, A BASILISK by Elizabeth Sandifer


FASCISM

A radical conservative movement that combines extreme nationalism with extreme (but ahistoric) traditionalism in a violent authoritarian manner. Generally speaking, fascism is defined by an intense in-group which seeks to make permanent war against a ‘degenerate’ out-group.

“Ur-Fascism” by Umberto Eco for the New York Review of Books
https://www.pegc.us/archive/Articles/eco_ur-fascism.pdf


It’s worth noting that these definitions are fairly broad, and many of these terms have alternative definitions that you may see used slightly differently in other outlets. That said, this is how I will be using these terms going forward, barring learning that I was wrong or getting a better suggestion from someone else who joins the project. Assuming anyone does, I suppose.

That’s all for today. Expect a peek at the Ideological Bias Map in the next day or so, before we start digging in to some specific examples of ratings.

See you then!

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