Posted by Serge Liberman on February 20, 2005
In Reply to: Shift to the left posted by Serge Liberman on February 20, 2005
As well as in medicine, "a shift to the left" is used other fields as well. In politics, it signifies a shift towards the more social democratic, socialist, communist end of the political spectrum, in these forms moving further from the "right" which tends to be more conservative, reactionary in orientation. In religion, the shift to the left is a leaning away from the more traditional, literalist, fundamentalist interpretation of religious doctrines as recorded in scriptures. The same applies in personal and public opinion - the shift towards more liberal laissez-faire positions from those held as more binding upon an earlier age. While, in statistics, it refers to the left-tending skewing of the normal distribution graph or bell curve when making statistical surveys, eg of changes in public opinion, in population age groups, male-female spread of populations, household income trends, and so on.
All this is probably self-evident. But - while I remain very ready to be corrected - I believe that the "left-right" model is based upon the bicameral parliamentary seating division in which (in the UK, say) the "progressive, reformist" Whigs sat on the left side of the House and the conservative Tories on the right (which may, in turn, be based on some other precursor model).
Am ready to hear any other views.