Left political traditions, in this chapter, refer to systems of political thought and theories of political action that aim to transform existing political and economic institutions so as to increase substantially the political and economic power of ordinary people, to eliminate or reduce invidious forms of social inequality, and to prevent private interests from trumping the common good. Although the Left (so defined) shares some goals with liberalism, civic republicanism, and even conservatism, it differs from those political traditions (as generally understood) in that it does not seek to legitimate existing political, economic, and constitutional structures or provide an account of how modest reforms might help them work better. Rather, it aims at root-and-branch systemic change. What role leaders and leadership have to play in that transformative project raises particularly interesting and difficult issues that we will aim to demarcate.

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Copyright © 2010 by SAGE Publications, Inc. This book chapter first appeared in Political and Civic Leadership: A Reference Handbook. Reprinted with permission by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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