Horseshoe theory

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The horseshoe theory asserts that the far-left and the far-right on the left-right political spectrum are not on the opposite and opposing ends of a linear political continuum. Rather, they closely resemble one another, analogous to the way that the opposite ends of a horseshoe are close together. The theory is attributed to French philosopher and writer Jean-Pierre Faye.[1] Proponents of the theory point to a number of similarities between the far-left and the far-right, including their supposed propensity to gravitate to authoritarianism or totalitarianism. However, the horseshoe theory has also received criticism.[2][3][4] The criticism is described on the English WIkipedia page: Horseshoe theory#Criticism.

Relation to the Eysenck model

The 20th-century psychologist Hans Eysenck described something similar, with radical-conservative and authoritarian-democratic axes, in an effort to illustrate perceived similarities between Nazis and Soviets located at opposite reaches of the classical spectrum. The U-shaped plot of Eysenck’s diagram is congruent with the “Horseshoe Theory,” in which the traditional spectrum bends so that the left and right wings approach each other, two opposites attracted by their mutual distance from the political center.


  1. Encel, Frédéric; Thual, François (2004-11-13). "United States-Israel: A friendship that needs to be demystified". w:Le Figaro. Paris. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2009-02-13. Jean-Pierre Faye's famous horseshoe theory (according to which extremes meet) finds verification here more than in other places, and the two states of delirium often mingle and meet, unfortunately spreading beyond these extremist circles. But contrary to the legend deliberately maintained and/or the commonplace believed in good faith, Israel and the United States have not always been allies; on several occasions their relations have even been strained.
  2. Filipović, Miroslava; Đorić, Marija (2010). "The Left or the Right : Old Paradigms and New Governments". Serbian Political Thought. 2 (1–2): 121–144. doi:10.22182/spt.2122011.8.
  3. Berlet, Chip; Lyons, Matthew N. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press. p. 342.
  4. Pavlopoulos, Vassilis (2014). Written at Birkbeck, University of London, 20 March 2014. "Politics, economics, and the far right in Europe: a social psychological perspective". The Challenge of the Extreme Right in Europe: Past, Present, Future (Event). The Challenge of the Extreme Right in Europe: Past, Present, Future. Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism in partnership with the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London, supported by Birkbeck Institute for Social Research.CS1 maint: location (link)