10 January 2007


Greg links to another one of those tests that tries to place you on their version of the political map.

I find these questionairres puzzling because they rely so heavily upon completely charged, partial, and partisan statements. More importantly, these statements are taken from broader sets of political, ideological, and social discourses, and, so far as I can tell, the question is often trying hardest to see whether you recognise and are comfortable with that discourse. That is, they aren't actually asking you to reject or accept putative statements of fact or truth - even though this is the form the actual questions take. Instead, they are checking to see whether the statement resonates with you.

But the difference between these two modes of discourse (truth and resonance) creates some dilemmas. Thus, what to make of this question?

A significant advantage of a one-party state is that it avoids all the arguments that delay progress in a democratic political system.

You see, I count myself as something of a radical democrat; in almost every case, I'll favour democracy. But faced with answering whether the above statement is true or not, what do I do? Because,...well, yes, 'I agree' (I even strongly agree) that the above statement is true: a one party state does get things done. I'm not a big fan o the things it 'gets done', but it certainly gets them done.

If the question were: do you favour the liberty afforded by radical, particapatory democracy over the efficient decision-making of more authoritarian forms of government, then I can easily answer in a way that probably tells them what they want to know. But they don't want to ask questions like that.

Now, what does this tell us about the current state of society, politics, etc.? I haven't figured that one out yet. But the fact that they aren't really asking you direction questions but instead trying to tap into discourses in this way....I think that might be significant.


Transient Gadfly said...

Here's the one that got me:

"Some people are naturally unlucky."

What does that even mean? Does it mean that some people are born poor and black? That's a statement of fact. Does it mean that if two people come from the exact same socio-economic background and have the exact same economic opportunities put before them, that one might "win" in the capitalist sense and one might "lose"? That too is a statement of fact. Or does it mean that a rogue Probability Wave surrounds some people, sending their best laid plans to ruin and making them allergic to blueberries when blueberries are their favorite food in the entire world?

I am, by the way, a radical anarcho-leftist according to this thing, which is odd on account of I believe that any government is duty-bound to protect the powerful and monied from doing harm to the weak and disenfranchised.

Transient Gadfly said...

sorry to insist on the obvious, but these things are always like this. i used to teach one that told you your gender at the end. fun in the classroom, pointed, and very interesting precicely because it was such obvious crap. (though it did include the following BRILLIANT question: does canada suck or what? a) yes. b) yeah.) it also thought TG was a girl. and then afterwards he got to click the feedback message, "you bitches, i'm a guy." also funny, pointed, interesting, but only because of how ridiculous even my students thought it was. i feel like that's what's fun about these -- what your reactions to the questions, rather than your, uh, answers, reveal about you. TG came home and said, "did you read sam's post today? it was soooooo totally sam. it used the word 'discourse' like 20 times."

p.s. of course, i love canada.


Lilita said...

I agree with Mrs. TF: the fun here is in the taking. I found myself saying "oh goodness!" in response to a lot of questions (such as "The prime function of schooling should be to equip the future generation to find jobs.") and wondering, like TF himself, what the heck others meant (such as "First-generation immigrants can never be fully integrated within their new country." or "Multinational companies are unethically exploiting the plant genetic resources of developing countries." Not a lot of nuance going on here, for all their claims of non linear, two-dimensionality. But still, fun!

So according to this lovely graph, I am a leftist libertarian, a little bit more left and a little bit more libertarian than Ghandi. Which result is, in a word, amusing.

p.s. the husband and I like Canada, too.

sageblue said...

Of course the real question is why I love these things. I don't have an answer to that question though.

Yes, some of the questions were either baldly obvious or completely inscrutable. I think what would perhaps be more interesting is a test that would be more inscrutable so that I wouldn't know what it was asking (e.g., for the one that Sam references about one-party systems, I think I disagreed, because I read into what they were advocating was tyranny), but then turned out to be an accurate measure of one's political values. That's what was so good about the gender test: so many of the questions seemed to be non sequiturs so I couldn't put my critical lens to use and figure out what they were really asking.

tenaciousmcd said...

I'm a Gandhi or Mandela. Natch.

Seriously, though, almost all of these "political compass" things are raw libertarian propaganda. They're designed to get you thinking that you're "really" a libertarian of some sort (right or left) by giving you questions that will skew you to the bottom half of the curve, while creating errant estimations of contemporary political figures that put them in the top half. (Did you see where they put Tony Blair? Ha!) You're supposed to come out seeing yourself as an anti-establishment crusader against "the Man." If they can sell some copies of Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman in the process, well that's a bonus.