Saturday, March 5, 2011

Are stories inherently left-wing?

That's the position taken by Tyler Cowen (who, for the record, is an emphatically moderate libertarian), in response to a liberal reader who wanted to find the definitive left-wing novel as a counterweight to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged:

I would say that the story per se is usually left-wing, in both good and bad ways. It elevates the seen over the unseen, can easily portray a struggle for justice, focuses on the anecdote, and encourages us to judge social institutions by the intentions of the people who work in them, rather than looking at their deeper and longer-term outcomes. Precisely because the story is itself so left-wing, there won't be a definitive example of the left-wing novel. Story-telling encourages context-dependent thinking, although not necessarily in an accurate manner. One notable feature of Atlas Shrugged is how frequently the story-telling stops for a long speech or an extended dialogue, in order to explain some first principles to the reader.
But a commenter on Facebook disagrees:
I don't think the story is a bad form for conservative thinking, even if in practice most novelists have been left-wing. The basic themes of identity, conflicts between good and evil, and personal struggles over adversity, temptation, etc all fit with both the novel and conservative thinking. But the novel is not at all suited to social science thinking, which . . . looks for systemic patterns. Social scientists dismiss as outliers events novelists would see as deeply significant.
Also: "Art is right wing."


MnMark said...

The Grapes of Wrath....there's your iconic left-wing novel.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The Jungle is the first that came to my mind.