The Power of Words: a word for neither left nor right

I notice that people often tend to or feel the need to qualify ideas, measures or whatever as either left or right. I understand this is a heritage from the 20th century, but it often troubles discussions for the 21st century.

I sometimes agree to “left” ideas, am sometimes more inclined to go with “right” ideas. Most of the time I think more nuanced and primarily see the need for looking at things differently, see the system and change the underlying structures. That is neither left nor right and it does not fit in the middle either.

It is like this kind of thinking does not exist as long as a word for it does not exist…

Does this trouble anyone else as well? Could/should we come up with a word for it without creating a new “ism”.


I totally agree and have said so in my book “Towards Oikos” in Chapter 5 Simple Economic Complexity

"Surely it is time in Western Democracy to realise that those on the right of the political spectrum have some good ideas and that those on the left of the political spectrum also have some good ideas. Both sides have some dangerously bad ideas too. A wise government would select the best solutions to issues from whatever source and reject the rest of political dogma which ignores economic complexity. Raworth recognises the complexity in economics. So her fourth suggestion is to get savvy with systems and move from mechanical equilibrium to dynamic complexity"

For more detail see


Hi Sjuul1 and mark,

I am brand new here and am not an economist, but a cognitive scientist who studies language. I think that this is a complex issue for a number of reasons, but one of them is that words have inherent ambiguity, or at least they do in ordinary, non-technical parlance. So the same word, applied to roughly the same meaning (here I’m thinking of the “left” “right” example as pointing generally to political bent) can, nevertheless, take on different implications depending on communicative context, and who the interlocutors are. I can imagine situations in which the terms either provide and anchoring for further discourse, or could point to a history (and, say, literature) that can serve to bolster an argument. By the same token, there are many contexts in which terms can be used as dogwhistles or as a form of stereotyping that implies that further consideration is not merited.

I suppose that I tend to think that the social and discourse context in which a term is used is at least as important as the term itself. In any event, I believe that the term “heterodox” has gained traction in several areas recently. I don’t gravitate to the term myself, but I can see its potential usefulness. Hopefully this is a little more clear than mud.

@mark sounds interesting! Your link doesn’t work unfortunately.

@IgnatzMouse I think I understand what you are saying. What we might need is not only another word but a new social and discourse context where we can discuss about the future, publicly, pollitically, philosophically etc. My guess is that creating a new word could help this context to emerge…

@Sjuul1 A good friend of mine, Michael Lynch, is the head of The Humanities Institute at UConn: and one of their initiatives over the last several years has been on humility and conviction. I realize that this is not exactly the same as expressing ideas that are not left, nor right, per se, but there is some overlap in ideas of intellectual humility and ides of open-mindedness, or, to put it another way, ideas expressed without the baggage of labels (or branding). If you are interested, Michael was recently a guest on David Edmonds’ Philosophy 24/7 podcast: discussing intellectual arrogance. Maybe this is a place to start?


may be the link you need

Thanks Tony

How did you generate this helpful link - which actually works?

nothing fancy Mark, I’m just familiar with, domain names and URLs
The URL for your site is simply https:// towardsoikos .home .blog

Agree with you Sjuul1. We need to divert away from ‘ism’ because these are too idealistic or utopian and tend to help us focus too much on the ideals. It is bad to chase ideals? Ofcourse not. But the very well known ideals like Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Ne-liberalism all are meant as tools to help achieve a greater outcome. It is this greater outcome for which a new Meme or Word or Narrative might help us get the focus away from the tools (ísm’s) to the outcome. Maybe we should make it a kind of public game or quiz or whatever to find out if there are good ideas for this. Further on, I also would want to make emphasize not only on this word we are looking for, but also on it’s frequency. Because the higher the frequency, the more people will get good feelings about it and good feelings in turn are a major strategic driver towards change. I once wrote a little blog about this frequency thing:

Most left or right slanted politics are focused primarily on those questions which have no practical or rote answer, but over which there is much debate.

Do we support economies or individuals? Right to life or a woman’s right to choose? Right to liberty or law enforcement? Considering oneself right or left leaning is a way to cleanly and quickly define a set of ideals without debate:

“Liberals” are for women’s rights over the right to life, individuals rights over communities and economies, liberty over lock up, social services over job creation.

“Conservatives” are for community rights over any individuals rights, policies based on majority rather than minority individuals, job creation over social services, and punitive justice over rehabilitation.

There is plenty of disagreement even amongst party members. Most of these aren’t common sense issues and any given change to them doesn’t affect much in the long run. Very rarely, someone suggests a high level policy change with a high level effect, but that type of policy (federal legalization of marijuana in Canada, fundamental changes to child services law in the United States) is most often effected without input from the public. In the Case of Canadian legalization the policy was changed against input from the public, police services, public health, and social services.

Having a new word for being apolitical (by the way that’s the word you want, apolitical) won’t solve the issues to the extent that open, transparent government that allows at least the concerned individuals to have input will. In the US, people with the power to do so are just beginning to take back government.