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In politics, the portion of the political spectrum associated in general with egalitarianism and popular or state control of the major institutions of political and economic life. The term dates from the 1790s, when in the French revolutionary parliament the socialist representatives sat to the presiding officer's left. Leftists tend to be hostile to the interests of traditional elites, including the wealthy and members of the aristocracy, and to favour the interests of the working class (seeproletariat). They tend to regard social welfare as the most important goal of government. Socialism is the standard leftist ideology in most countries of the world; communism is a more radical leftist ideology.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on left, visit Britannica.com.