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Wrong Turnings

How the Left Got Lost

The Left is in crisis. Despite global economic turbulence, left-wing political parties in many countries have failed to make progress in part because they have grown too ideologically fragmented. Today, the term Left is associated with state intervention and public ownership, but this has little in common with the original meaning of the term. What caused what we mean by the Left to change, and how has that hindered progress?

With Wrong-Turnings, Geoffrey M. Hodgson tracks changes in the meaning of the Left and offers suggestions for how the Left might reclaim some of its core values. The term Left originated during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries sought to abolish the monarchy and privilege and to introduce a new society based on liberty, equality, fraternity, and universal rights. Over time, however, the meaning radically changed, especially through the influence of socialism and collectivism. Hodgson argues that the Left must rediscover its roots in the Enlightenment and readopt Enlightenment values it has abandoned, such as those concerning democracy and universal human rights. Only then will it be prepared to address contemporary problems of inequality and the survival of democracy. Possible measures could include enhanced educational provisions, a guaranteed basic income, and a viable mechanism for fair distribution of wealth.

Wrong-Turnings is a truly pathbreaking work from one of our most prolific and respected institutional theorists. It will change our understanding of how the left got lost.

288 pages | 2 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Economics and Business: Economics--History

History: General History, History of Ideas

Political Science: Political and Social Theory


“Hodgson is among the most interesting scholars writing today on the history of economic and social thought. In Wrong Turnings, he provides a highly illuminating and interesting discussion of the meanderings over the years of the intellectual orientation of the political Left. His arguments broadened and in some ways reoriented my thinking about a number of political and ideological issues.”

Richard Nelson, Columbia University

"With Wrong Turnings, Geoffrey Hodgson has produced perhaps the most ambitious and comprehensive critique of major trends within the global Left—from within the Left—in recent memory."

The European Legacy Towards New Paradigms

"The book is a fascinating read that covers a broad swath of history... A good book promotes thought, and this one did for me... It is worth the read."

Economic Record

Table of Contents



1          Progressive Radicalism before the Left
2          The French Revolution and the Original Left
3          Thomas Paine and the Rights of Man
4          Socialism’s Wrong Responses to the Right Problems
5          Marxism’s Wrong Turnings: Class War and Wholesale Collectivization
6          Down the Slippery Slope to Totalitarianism
7          Keeping Left: In Defence of Democracy and Individual Rights
8          After Vietnam: The Left Descends into Cultural Relativism
9          Final Full Turn: The Left Condones Reactionary Religion
10        Two Open Letters to Friends
11        Capitalism and Beyond: Toward a New Old Left



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