Value orientations, political conflicts and left-right identification: A comparative study

Authors

  • ODDBJØRN KNUTSEN

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, Norway
      Oddbjørn Knutsen, Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1097 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo-3, Norway Phone: +47 2 2854279; Fax: +47 2 2854411
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Oddbjørn Knutsen, Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1097 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo-3, Norway Phone: +47 2 2854279; Fax: +47 2 2854411

Abstract

Abstract. Have the meanings of ‘left’ and ‘right’ changed during the last twenty years? In this article the ten-point left-right self-placement scale is correlated with three central value orientations (religious/secular, economic left-right and materialist/post-materialist values) to examine whether associations between these value orientations and the self-placement scale have changed from the early 1970s to 1990. Four theories about the changing meaning of the left-right language are presented. These theories about the irrelevance, persistence, transformation and pluralisation of the meaning of left and right are tested by using Eurobarometer data from eight West European countries and the second wave of the European Value Study from 1990. The data provide strong support for pluralisation theory. Left-right semantics have an impressive absorptive power, describing an over-arching spatial dimension capable of incorporating many types of conflict. Left-right semantics are significantly correlated with religious/secular values, remain highly correlated with the dominant industrial value orientations (economic left-right values), and are increasingly associated with materialist/post-materialist value orientations. The new meanings of left and right are added to the old meanings.

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