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Domhoff, G.W. (1969/1970). But Why did They Sit on the King's Right in the First Place?. Psychoanal. Rev., 56D(4):586-596.

(1969/1970). Psychoanalytic Review, 56D(4):586-596

But Why did They Sit on the King's Right in the First Place?

G. William Domhoff, Ph.D.

Folklore has it that the “Right” is good and the “Left” bad in Western thinking, particularly political thinking, because of the seating arrangements in the French National Assembly of the eighteenth century—the nobles sitting on the king's right, the then-upstart capitalists sitting on his left.1 However, Theodore Thass-Thienemann, an expert on psycholinguistics, has shown that this right-good, left-bad polarization has been present for a very long time in the entire Indo-European language family, as well as in Hungarian, a non-Indo-European language.2 Further, psychologist Sylvan Tomkins has shown that the underlying assumptions dividing the political Left and Right are also the basis for age-old ideological disputes in mathematics, philosophy, science, and child-rearing.3 The work of these two men suggests that the real problem is why the nobles supposedly sat on the king's right in the first place.

A simple explanation for the Left—Right dichotomy seems to follow from an inborn bilaterality, for all known cultures are right-handed to varying degrees. It would thus be natural that the less useful hand would be considered “bad” and that “good” and “bad” could be symbolized by Right and Left. However, according to those who have studied handedness, the predominance of right-handedness is not an obvious given to be accounted for genetically.

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