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Eight Ways to Run the Country: A New and Revealing Look at Left and Right 56221st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0275993580
ISBN-10: 0275993582
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Despite the momentary unity prompted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Americans are more polarized than ever, defying the simple demarcations of Right and Left, Republican and Democrat. Veteran reporter Mitchell refines current conventional wisdom about the Right and the Left in American politics. He begins by exploring the historical context for the current political positions and personalities, and the influence of economic and social concerns. Mitchell identifies four main political traditions (republican constitutionalism, libertarian individualism, progressive democracy, and plutocratic nationalism) that have been boiled down to the Left and the Right, in gross terms. These traditions have actually given rise to eight distinct political perspectives, and Mitchell devotes a chapter to each: communitarian, progressive, radical, individualist, paleolibertarian, paleoconservative, theoconservative, and neoconservative. He includes commentary from politicians, religious leaders, and others. In the final chapter, he examines political trends and how the eight political perspectives may change or affect public policy. Readers will enjoy trying to find themselves on the various scales provided. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"Whether a pro-politico, a C-Span junkie, or a political neophyte, Brian Mitchells Eight Ways to Run the Country is the best shortcut I have seen to really knowing what you are talking about when it comes to the complicated 21st century political landscape. power in these increasingly confusing political times." - Examiner.com/Washington Examiner

"Veteran reporter Mitchell refines current conventional wisdom about the Right and the Left in American politics. He begins by exploring the historical context for the current political positions and personalities, and the influence of economic and social contexts. Mitchell identifies four main political traditions (republican constitutionalism, libertarian individualism, progressive democracy, and plutocratic nationalism), that have been boiled down to the Left and the Right, in gross terms. These traditions have actually given rise to eight distinct political perspectives, and Mitchell devotes a chapter to each….Readers will enjoy trying to find themselves on the various scales provided." - Booklist

"Dissatisfied with prior schemes for categorizing political ideologies, Mitchell proposes his own typology. He begins by boiling down political differences down to support or opposition to arche (the concept of rank) and kratos (the use of force by the state and others) and then deriving from this distinction the four political traditions of the Anglo-American experience: republican constitutionalism, libertarian individualism, progressive democracy, and plutocratic nationalism. Further identifying intermediate steps between them, he argues that the contemporary American political scene can be characterized as consisting of eight political perspectives: individualist, paleolibertarian, paleoconservative, theoconservative, neoconservative, communitarian, progressive, radical, and individualist. He offers a chapter on each of these perspectives, detailing how they are the result of differing attitudes towards arche and kratos and the positions this leads them towards." - Reference & Research Book News

"What to my mind makes his book valuable is less its reconceptualization of the categories of left and right than its usefulness as a political and philosophical primer for those who would like to understand the ideological landscape in America….[i]f you'd like to understand and make sense of the various branches of conservatism and libertarianism, as well as the various divisions that exist to this day on the left, Brian Patrick Mitchell has written a useful and worthy introduction that will entertain and inform. Before you know it, you'll know all the lingo, the key people, and a brief history of all these schools of thought. Not bad for such a quick read." - LewRockwell.com
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger; 56221st edition (November 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0275993582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0275993580
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,978,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A. Kass on December 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. We hear various labels bandied about: Liberal and Progressive, Compassionate Conservative and Neo-Conservative, but they remain vague and ill-defined. Instead of just taking another stab at redefining Left and Right, this book boils down the various political ideologies to their fundamental assumptions. The author then uses those concepts to map the political universe. Of course, what makes the book so compelling is that it actually works. The map encompasses the full range of perspectives and explains the political field better than anything else I have read.

What makes this a good and useful book right now is its ability to explain what anyone even casually following the news is observing. With the change of control in Congress, we see the various factions within each party struggling for dominance. We are left to wonder what motivates these battles. Heading into the coming presidential elections, the candidates are similarly appealing to the various factions of their respective parties. This book helps the reader understand what motivates these people and where their ideologies will take them - and us.
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For those of us who for sometime have thought the political field to resemble less an axis with two poles, and more a Chinese checkerboard, this book is most welcome.

First, the Table of Contents:

Preface

1. Schizocracy in America

2. Beyond Left and Right

3. For Common Things: The Communitarian

4. Change is Good: The Progressive

5. Question Authority: The Radical

6. Framework for Utopia: The Individualist

7. Breaking the Clock: The Paleolibertarian

8. For the Permanent Things: The Paleoconservative

9. God and Country: The Theoconservative

10. Mugged by reality: The Neoconservative

11. Postmodern Populism

Chapters 1 and 2 need to be read in order; 3-10 in any order, and 11 at the end.

Second, its weaknesses:

1. mislabeling: "progressive" better called Cultural Marxism ; "communitarian", Socialist Statist and surviving New Dealers; and maybe "individualist", Objectivist

2. lacks an analysis of Cultural Marxism/Frankfurter Schule, and of the Deep Ecology religion.

3. insufficient attention to immigration, the Neocon failure in Iraq, and the new 100 Years' War with Islam

4. no mention of John Lukacs' treatment of populism, or of Christopher Lasch's.

5. no consideration that perhaps most communitarians were born before 1945, most Cultural Marxists after

6. no distinction drawn between The State and government, the latter having always been with us, the former an invention of Machiavelli and Hobbes, and a reality only of the modern world.

7.
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Political discussion has always frustrated me. How could intelligent, well meaning and impassioned people so consistently speak right through each other? How could what was clear truth to one side be self-evident anathema to the other? It is like watching two hands trying to clap but missing each other on every swing.

This failure of communication is endemic to political debate. Not only do opposing sides frequently fail to understand where the other side is coming from, but they often don't even recognize the core of their own views.

In writing this book, Brian Patrick Mitchell sets the ambitious goal of presenting "a conceptual framework to help the reader recognize divergent perspectives in current contention." He succeeded.

He did this by redefining the traditional, and highly unsatisfactory, model of a political left and right and replacing it with a dual axis model that offers significantly more explanatory power in exchange for a small increase in complexity.

Mitchell persuasively argues that traditional left and right is better understood in terms of hierarchy. On the right is a natural bias to hierarchical systems while those on the left have a natural bias to hierarchy-free systems.

To the horizontal axis of hierarchy, Mitchell adds a vertical axis of state power. On the upper end of the axis, state power is seen as a malevolent force which must be suppressed or eliminated, while on the lower end of the axis state power is seen as a positive tool for good.

It may sound rather contrived, but as a conceptual framework it works surprisingly well at describing what Mitchell casts as the eight distinct political traditions in the United States.
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If you have an interest in political ideologies in the United States, then this book is certainly worth reading. It has some valuable insights. Instead of dividing the political spectrum into a simple left vs. right (i.e. "liberal" vs. "conservative") dichotomy, Mitchell relies on a two-dimensional scheme, and identifies eight (or nine) distinct ideological positions. The system that Mitchell comes up with is quite different from other systems that you might be familiar with, such as the Nolan Chart (which is the basis for "The World's Smallest Political Quiz") or The Political Compass. The two dimensions of Mitchell's typology are "kratos" (power) and "archy" (rank). The former refers to attitudes about the legitimacy of using the power of the state in order to achieve desirable social, economic, or foreign policy outcomes. It basically has to do with whether you prefer activist government or limited government. The latter refers to attitudes about the legitimacy of rank. It basically has to do with whether you prefer to live in a highly stratified and paternalistic society in which people are taught to respect and obey their superiors, or an egalitarian society in which people are taught to treat everyone as equals. Using these two dimensions, Mitchell identifies eight distinct ideological positions:

Neoconservatives are paternalistic and they believe in activist government. Theoconservatives are paternalistic but are ambivalent about the role of government. Paleoconservatives are paternalistic but believe in limited government. Paleolibertarians believe in limited government but are ambivalent about rank. Individualists believe in limited government and are egalitarian. Radicals are egalitarian but are ambivalent about the role of government.
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