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Hanzi Freinacht:

"The Old Left, from Marx to the humanist Marxists to the mainstream of Left and center-left politics, is ostensibly humanist. It is about humanity and her interests, her role in the world. The world, and politics, are seen through the lens of a taken-for-granted idea about “humanity”. Humanity and her interests are taken as an unquestioned point of departure.

The Alt-Left is based upon an anti-humanist perspective. This can mean several different things. Most importantly, it simply means that you break away from the anthropocentric worldview, i.e. that humanity is seen as the center of existence. Since Nietzsche, we have seen a line of progressive thinkers who argue that we cannot really make a rational argument that delineates humanity from the rest of existence. Foucault noted that any attempt to once and for all bolt down “a nature of man” can only be met with a philosophical laughter. In our days you have ideas such as Manuel DeLanda’s “flat ontology”, in which human realities are not seen as any “more real” than those of other living creatures or even physical objects. And you have a wider family of ideas such as “posthumanism”, in which humanity is itself viewed as a fleeting, malleable and political category – and transhumanism, in which humanity is seen as just a step on a wider range of the development of consciousness, one that will inevitably be biologically transformed by applications of technology, in effect merging with technology in various ways.

If we no longer take humanity’s primary importance for granted, it becomes impossible to argue that only human interests should be the aim of politics. This leads us to some of the developments of deep ecology, in which the biosphere is taken as the basic political unit. Perhaps more practically applicable is the thinking that involves the interests and rights of animals – from Peter Singer’s arguments in Animal Liberation, to Gary Francione’s abolitionism (seeking to “abolish” animal slavery) and developments of thinking in animal rights, such as in the critical leftwing sociologist Corey Lee Wrenn’s development of these thoughts and the psychologist Melanie Joy’s exploration of how people justify the exploitation of animals.

The next point is to view psychological development as key to reforming society. If humanity isn’t really a static category, this also means that humans can develop and change: we can become more complex thinkers, more far-sighted, begin relating to more subtle and existential aspects of life – and we can become healthier and happier. All of these things have been studied in adult development research (which reveals that people are at different stages of development), positive psychology and meditation research. The point is that the institutions of today are hardly geared towards supporting such growth; but they certainly can be. Creating the frameworks for such psychological development can be more productive than growing the economy and redistributing its spoils.

To see the inner dimensions of life and society leads us away from a materialistic worldview and towards a more holistic one. For instance, if someone becomes richer, how will they use their wealth? That depends on such things as personality, norms, emotions and relationships. Even the greatest material security and comfort can be insufficient if our ability to experience life in full is dulled. Even the fairest distribution of material goods might produce miserable lives if people’s relationships are not of sufficient quality. Cultural and psychological forces can topple governments and wreck economies. Subtle shifts in people’s values and emotional intelligence can save billions of dollars – and, in extension, millions of lives." (