My name is James Gluck, and I am currently doing a Masters degree at Victoria University. I’m doing a project entitled Radicals, Reformists or Revolutionaries? Studying Ideologies of the Left and I have been kindly allowed some space here on The Standard to inform people on the Left about my research, and more widely distribute a survey that takes up part of the project.
The Left is harshly contested ground. In Aotearoa, as well as overseas, political parties such as Labour – the ‘Left’, has been accused of being no better than their counterparts and political opponents. This is hardly a new phenomenon, and one of the commonly held tasks of the radical left has been to ‘expose’ the ‘true’ ideology of the social democrats. It is clear that defining what it means to be on the Left is a key political task that activists and those engaged in the political process attempt to carry out almost day-to-day. Sue Bradford’s recent work is making an attempt to help the Left (or rather a specific section of the Left as she admits) bind together and work in more cohesion. This is an important goal. In my view, a difficulty in creating a cohesive Left lies in separating out debate over policy and debate over ideology.
We use the term ‘ideology’ in a huge variety of ways, ranging from being a short hand for political theory, to an essentially derogatory ‘slur’ for those whose ideas we don’t like. Continually calling the National Government’s policies “Neoliberal Ideology” is a useful political statement; for one, it states continuity and complicity with similar governments internationally, as well as working against the concept of policy as a kind of commonsense ‘working out’ by National. What this tactic also does, however, is make it difficult for us to try to gain a deep understanding of how National, and National supporters believe the world works. In a similar vein, when we use the word ‘Ideology’ derogatively towards others on the Left, it often leaves us without a way to understand, and potentially critique, the policies and ideas we disagree with. When I talk about ideology, I am referring to something more complex – an individual’s view of how the world works, changed and shaped by our social interactions.
What I wish to do is to try and build a deep, nuanced, and multi-layered understanding of the ideologies that exist on the Left. Without starting out from preconceived definitions, and without forcing people into boxes that they do not identify with (in short, without using ideological labels as a substitute for more detailed information) I aim to allow participants to explain their views.
This research is in two parts: an online survey aimed at a large sample, which involves a set of statements on political and social concepts; and a set of focus group interviews aimed at more deeply exploring any complexities or contradictions that build a more detailed picture of ideology. At the current time, I am running the survey, which is available online and should take less than 10 minutes to complete. The survey link is here
All of the entries are anonymous and no personal information will be identified from it. IP addresses are recorded in order to prevent multiple entries: this information is password protected and will be accessed only by me and my supervisor. All individual responses will be destroyed at the conclusion of the project.
If there are any questions about this project I would be more than happy to talk.