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What is Centrism?

By L. Jablonsky
Updated May 23, 2024
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Political centrism is a viewpoint which tends to avoid extremes on both the left and right of the political spectrum. Centrists may also be labeled as "political moderates" due to a combination of both conservative and liberal opinions, as well as a lack of distinct ideological orientation. Political centrism is typically consensus-driven and pragmatic.

The term "centrism" refers to the viewpoint's location on the political spectrum, which identifies five types of political attitudes. Political radicals and liberals are on the left end of the spectrum, while conservatives and reactionaries are on the right end. The radicals and reactionaries, although having different political viewpoints, tend to advocate extreme change. Centrists fall under the moderate category on the spectrum, and often do not strictly identify themselves as conservatives or liberals. Centrism represents a balance between the political left and right.

Centrists may identify as "political moderates" or "independents," signifying that they do not fully subscribe to certain political ideologies, such as Marxism or Neo-Conservatism. Political centrism is difficult to define in terms of centrist positions on topics such as human rights, democracy, and economics, because centrists have different opinions. They generally adopt a combination of conservative and liberal ideals geared towards a common goal, whether it is individual freedom, equality, or the well-being of the people.

Political centrism tends to be a viewpoint of restraint. Centrists usually embrace the status quo, as they generally do not support radical changes in government structure, law, or general principles of governance. While centrism may acknowledge faults in the political system, centrists usually advocate gradual changes geared towards a specific goal.

Centrists usually believe in finding the middle between the nation's rightist and leftist parties to solve political, social, and economic problems. Moderate politicians may be bi-partisan and craft political coalitions around specific issues. Critics of centrism argue that centrists are stagnant and content with the status quo, remaining in the ideological "middle" for the sake of refraining from extremism. The centrists argue, however, that their opinions are pragmatic, and that they do not cater to special interests or try to fit in with a specific ideology.

Although some centrists may believe that identifying as a member of a political party is antithetical to centrism, several centrist political parties exist throughout the world, especially in Europe. While there is no official centrist presence in the United States, groups such as the Centrist Party and the American Centrist Party support candidates devoted to the public rather than special interest groups or defined political party platforms. There are several centrist political parties in Europe, such as Finland's Centre Party. Other political parties may not identify as "centrist," but their platforms might include both liberal and conservative ideals. Many social democratic parties in Europe are labeled as either "center-right" or "center left."

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Discussion Comments
By anon1002504 — On Dec 07, 2019


Can you please explain how centrists can be radical? What examples do you have that would make some centrists radical?

By anon927055 — On Jan 22, 2014

Centrists can be radical as well. They would be considered Radical Centrists, although critics claim that radical centrists are only marginally different from moderate centrists.

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