What is the Alt-Left about?

Never before has the Left – in all its different forms – been losing on so many fronts as it is today. Accordingly a new Left is rising from the ashes of the old. I have chosen to label it the Alt-Left, but history may very well decide to go with another term. The important thing is that the Left is destined for radical transformations in light of the many changes the world is currently going through and the major transition towards a global information society.

This is the first in a series of blog posts were I’ll attempt to provide a rough outline of the positions of this emerging Alt-Left. Of course, all of the items are up for discussion and most points are likely to be derided by traditional left-wingers as “centrism” or “liberalism”. But the Alt-Left is not centrist, and even, to some extent, it is anti-liberal. It should not be confounded with the Democrats in the US or Social Democrats in Europe. As you’ll see, the positions I outline in the following few posts can hardly be found in the mainstream center-left.

You will find, over the years, that these positions will become increasingly common. This is because they reflect the attractors of how society is evolving: we are entering a new age, with an entirely new form of global economy and society. This means that many of the Old Left positions become unsustainable, irrelevant or downright counterproductive.

If the Old Left paradigm could transform the world, it already would have. If the labor movement could take over production and turn it into cooperatives, it already would have. Has this movement produced ecological awareness, animal rights, global solidarity, even solidarity within the borders of the affluent countries? Did it even create a genuinely progressive politics of gender, sexuality and identity? The answer is no. Progressives need a new movement, and a new paradigm; an Alt-Left.

Let’s begin with the basics:

Alt-Left basics

“The progressives, then, must adopt more complex stances and rely upon avant-garde groups and networks in order to affect the overall political climate and debate.”

The Old Left still thinks and functions according to the logic and classes of industrial society. In this analysis, capitalism stratifies society into different classes and it is this stratification that must be curbed and eventually brought to an end. The Alt-Left reacts to the class divisions of a postindustrial, digitalized society.

In this kind of society the political game changes dramatically. People have much more complex class divisions, ideologies, interests and identities. Hence it becomes increasingly difficult to “represent” a segment of society.

Instead, you need to target these many complex relationships and try to develop them in a manner that reproduces less inequality and less alienation. One way of doing this is by deliberately supporting the elements of the economy that are less governed by the logic of capital. In the old days, you needed a lot of capital to start a business. Today you need skills, contacts, mutual trust, cultural capital – and a laptop with an internet connection. These are the primary goods and resources that must become more evenly distributed if people are to be empowered.

Because people to a lesser degree are divided into discernible classes and identities, traditional party politics also becomes more difficult to pursue in a meaningful manner – at least if you’re the progressive. This doesn’t affect the populist anti-immigration movements; they can build upon etnhic identities and single issues. The progressives, then, must adopt more complex stances and rely upon avant-garde groups and networks in order to affect the overall political climate and debate. They must work more across and beyond the traditional political parties. An important part of this is to try to improve the quality and inclusiveness of deliberation and political culture. In the end, this should lead to a greater enfranchisement of citizens through innovations within the fruitful field of internet democracy. Delib in the UK is a promising example and the Finnish think-tank Demos have also done impressive work towards this end.

In a better democratic climate the more universal and progressive ideas can win out against the lowest common denominators, the simplistic solutions of populist movements. This, in turn, requires that we relax some of the narratives of “struggle” and “resistance” and the impulse to “fight the power”. We must lead by example, creating more intelligent political processes, a starting point for which is to treat our political adversaries with kindness and respect.

This is the principle of co-development: that we develop the political landscape as a whole. We can’t change people and tell them what to think or who they should be. There are going to be political strands of all kinds. The point is, rather, to make the Left more efficient by arming it with better social technologies, to make the Right pick up and steal some of its ideas and to make the populists less polemic and aggressive.

By means of better deliberation and processes that harness collective intelligence (as described by the MIT Institute of Collective Intelligence), you subtly implant progressive ideas and ideals across the board. This is done in a deliberate and, in a sense, manipulative manner. But it is a very open and transparent form of manipulation – the avant garde groups don’t have anything to hide.

What policies should such a progressive avant-garde pursue? What is the “metamodern virus” that should be spread? Stay tuned for more on the Alt-Left, the next post will address its position on economy.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here.


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11 thoughts on “What is the Alt-Left about?

  1. Corporations should have ” update info classes” for their work force at leasy once a month
    The topics should be a variety of different things thay are important to them to the society and the success of the company they work for
    Like… Enviroment. Health. R&D. Food. Technology. Global Economy. Human Rights. Arts.

  2. Sounds to me like your approach resonates with the ideas of Integral political thought, the Integral Politics of Ken Wilber, the conversations at the Integral Agape forum, and the activism of the Center for Cultural Evolution. Are you familiar with this strand?

    1. Yes, I am acquainted with the works of Wilber whose work I enjoyed immensely. However, his political analysis is very weak and he tends to gravitate towards a lot of New Age nonsense despite his attempts at distancing himself from it. If anything, the metamodern school of thought could be described as post-Wilber or secular integralism.

  3. Interesting post. I think that the left have an important new rôle in reacting to artificial intellegence/robotisation of our economy. The Swiss idea of giving everyone a “dividend” from the proceeds of this huge productivity hike do seem to have a future, once arguments about moral jeopardy and free-loading have been dealt with.

    I have concerns about your method of effecting change by underhand means. This was precisely the way Tony Blair hollowed out the Labour Party in the UK, paving the way for an alliance with George W. Bush, the most right wing US president to date; public/private partnerships which nationalised losses and privatised profits across the public sector. The Party has been trashed by this leger de main.

    People on the right also have concerns about the underhand method of judicial activism employed by the supreme courts of the US and EU bringing in social change through the Law rather than by the more tedious business of getting it through the elected legislature. The rise of Corporate Planet Earth Plc did not happen by accident, if you get my drift.

    1. Hello Paul, thank you. Very interesting point you raise about “underhand means”.

      I suppose a lot of it comes down to how radical and effective social technologies you apply to effect the changes. This is, of course, not a question of either or, but more specifically what kind of policies and developments take place. The British Labour relied a lot upon Anthony Giddens’ “third way”. While it may have some merits, I think that most people are disillusioned with it, and for good reasons too. But this project didn’t build upon a thorough account of developmental psychology, and so it largely acted in the dark. No wonder it was watered down.

      I explore developmental psychology in my first book, “The Listening Society” (out soon) and a corresponding developmental sociology in “The Nordic ideology” (still being written), where I also present six new forms of politics that I believe need to be incorporated into governance at national and other levels. The third way of Blair had little or no such technologies available, which is perhaps a major reason for its relative failure.

  4. Well I started to read this article with some interest but by the time I got to the end I had got lost in the repeated nothing.

    It does ot say anything except that we should pursue an Alt Left with no description of what the Alt Left is or what it syands for.

    Right at the last it then says you will come to the policies in ths next article.

    I think you need to get out of the hyperbole and into ordinary plain speak. Your article is to difficult for me to follow and I am by no means an intellectual vacant, so lw you are going to attract the great unwashed deplorables.

    Speak plain – not your intellectual double speak please

    1. Writing accessibly is a craft in itself and sometimes communication does fail. I will try my best to make you feel engaged and included in future posts.

  5. What you’re suggesting resonates strongly. This is precisely what is going on with p2p , platform cooperatives, new ideas in direct democracy like tthe flux party…many others. The idea is to work to build productively, and constructively superior systems within the old tond work also to bring everyone to the table in living the questions and systemic answers deeply (idead like three horizons thinking are helpful in this )

  6. Alt.Left is a dumb name. It implies the opposite end of the spectrum to Alt.Right.

    If one equates to Fascism, then the other to Stalin-ism, Trotsky-ism etc.

    There is a need for a radical alternative.

    Left v Right became meaningless years ago. The only surprise is people still view the world through this distorting prism.

    The series of articles are written as though essays for a sociology class, full of jargon to earn brownie points, but short on communication of any real ideas. Many of the differences are artificial to make a point.

    The working class, the proletariat, has all but disappeared, and soon will, when replaced by robots.

    Margaret Thatcher recognised this in the 1980s, when she sold them social houses at knockdown prices. Overnight they became home owners, the new middle class, and voted Tory.

    That is the problem Old Labour has with their pitch to a working class that no longer exists, and as a result, their share of the vote is shrinking. As we saw in two recent elections, where they lost one seat and narrowly held the other.

    Not the fault of the leader, a long term trend.


  7. Light on Dark Mountain

    A series of essays and articles that addresses many of the issues raised in the Alt.Left essays and discussions.

    To comment on any essay, need to register with Medium using twitter or facebook account.

    Comment will then appear as a response.

    But if wish to write more than a line, I suggest write as an essay.

    Give a title, highlight as a title, then write body of text where have have links and references at the end.

    By doing this way, will appear as stand alone essay within your Medium account, which can then be shared, linked to from here.

    It will then encourage a wider debate on a progressive alternative.

    We are now post-capitalism. We have a choice.

    Do we want a world of serfs working for apps, Uber, task rabbit, Deliveroo, Wheelys, atomised workers bidding against each other in negative auctions to drive wages below the minimum wage, of zero hours, bullshit jobs, of workers standing in the market place, the literal job market, hoping to be offered a job.

    When a worker offers his labour, it is a perishable good, if not sold today, it cannot be sold tomorrow.

    Or we can have a world of open source, peer-to-peer, sharing, collaborative commons, open coops.

    A world where ordinary citizens organise their own lives, in the political, social and work space.