Horseshoe Politics

Abhinav Dholepat
3 min readJan 22, 2020

Why Our Views On Traditional Political Ideology Must Adapt

A Political Wordcloud

Political views have traditionally been placed into two sides, the ‘left’ and ‘right’. This way of thinking has dominated the political punditry and rhetoric. Accusations of being ‘far-right’, ‘far-left’ or a mere ‘centrist’ have developed into words that are expected to be self evident accusations and mockery that are used to gain political points.

Don't get me wrong, being ‘Far-right’ or ‘Far-left’ deserves a certain level of criticism. However, the point here is not whether having extreme political views should be justified or equalized in any way with other political thoughts. The point is how we use these words and increasingly how these words have come to require no explanation or further clarification. Additionally, the general public have come to detach themselves from the actual meaning or implication of having a ‘far-right’ or ‘far-left’ ideology become mainstream.

Even the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ wing come from a fundamental assumption that the political spectrum can be explained on a straight line segment. With ideas of liberalism, socialism and communism on the left; while conservativism, populism, ethno-nationalism and fascism on the right. Although it represents the political ideologies on a spectrum, this type of representation fails to convey either an intent or more importantly the characteristics and consequences of the far ‘left’ and ‘right’ ideologies.

The Modern Political ‘Compass’

One can take a quiz online that better allows one to understand where they stand politically. This is determined by answering questions related to economic and social views of an individual. However, this still divides the political spectrum to ‘left’ and ‘right’. Adding another axis of either ‘authoritarian’ and ‘libertarian’ does improve the model by still fails to explain the characteristics and consequences of extreme political ideology.

The Early Version of The Horseshoe Theory

Jean-Pierre Faye is credited with pioneering the ‘Horseshoe Theory’. This illustrates how political ideologies are better represented by a Horseshow instead of either a straight line or a compass. When we consider the political ideologies in this manner, it becomes easier to understand how both the ‘far-right’ and the ‘far-left’ ideologies rely on extensive collective interest and are essentially authoritarian and bureaucratic megalithic super structures. In this volatile political environment where accusations disguised as buzz words are thrown around in order to undermine a political opponent. The problem exacerbates when the public often accepts these criticism without requiring further explanations. It in very important to realize that the solution to one ‘extreme’ ideology or perceived extreme ideology must not be an overcorrection that leads to the support of the opposing extreme ideology.