Why the Left Has No "Ethical Vocabulary"

Christine Smallwood’s interview with historian Tony Judt in The Nation ended with a much-too-brief exchange about religion and the left. Here it is:

Smallwood: I come from a very religious background, and it seems to me that people on the left are so embarrassed about the language of morality that they’ve ceded the ground to the right.

Judt: I totally agree. I think it’s a catastrophe for both sides. What it means for the left is that it’s got no ethical vocabulary. What it means for the right is that it smugly supposes that it’s got a monopoly on values. Both sides are completely wrong. There used to be a tradition of left-wing ethics, Orwellian if you like, or pre-Orwell. I’d like to say parenthetically that I come out of a sort of secular dissenting Jewish background, but one with some of the same thoughts of the old dissenting churches–Christian, Jewish–of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in which there was a natural correspondence of social values and ethical criteria. And the divorce between them has been one of the disastrous results of the last half-century. I’d love to contribute to re-forming that link.

More! I want more!

Source: The Nation

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