Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

What's in a Name?

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

What's in a Name?

Article excerpt

To people with an understanding of general semantics, polarized thinking qualifies as simplistic, even counter-productive. The use of labeling falls into the same category. Political terms that suffer from both shortcomings warrant some changes, therefore, or some clarification at least.

The labels "conservative" and "liberal" are generally considered to lie along the political spectrum, where "reactionary" and "radical" represent the respective far ends. These terms are not definitive, however, what are their limits, and how can they be measured? Answers to these questions can only be subjective. Most people want to conserve some things, and we all react strongly to some ideas or events. We may lean towards the liberal, even radical, about other matters. "Liberal" connotes to many an unrestricted appetite for the unattainable, a freewheeling tolerance, even a wishy-washy stance. "Radical" can refer to the political right or the left. Even those terms, left and right, are relative to where one stands--or sits, since they come from the seating orientation of the French National Assembly. "Libertarian," whether used as a formal political party name or as an adjective, is also open-ended. Things get worse when we add "neo" or "ultra" to conservative, for example. "Independent" though, seems safely neutral.

In the United States, "Democrat" and "Republican" typically imply opposing political tendencies in very general ways for most people; but again, the terms involve overlaps. Where does a moderate Republican end and a moderate Democrat start? (For that matter, we believe we live in a democratic republic!)

Operational terms for spots along the political spectrum would be more meaningful. They would eliminate the possibility of absolute, discrete end-points. I propose "progressive" and "retrogressive." To me, these are simply descriptions of the two opposing trends. The mid-point in this spectrum would be "mainstream," a word that connotes the flow of events. Quantitative modifiers would suggest how far left or right one is under any political moniker because each term implies movement in time. Since they represent a continuum, these labels are only relative and still subjective, of course; but because they describe actions rather than attributes, they could be used more descriptively than the formal names of political parties. (Though there was a viable Progressive Party in the last century, "Retrogressive" would not do as a name for a political party!)

"Progressive" has a positive connotation, implying working towards a solution; "regressive" connotes a reversal to some earlier stage of development. Some say that if one is not part of the solution, one can only be part of the problem; in light of these proposed terms, those who are not moving ahead essentially force society to go backward at that point in time. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.