Game theory shows that in a single game, self-interested actors defect from cooperation when it offers them an extra profit. This risk is considerably reduced if the same actors play many games. In this case, players may mutually sanction defection, which then becomes less attractive. This is exactly the case in a steady power-sharing arrangement, as it allows actors to develop mutual trust. An additional advantage for cooperation is found if politics involves different cleavages for which the opposed camps, for instance the left or the young, are not the same. This leads to different coalitions from issue to issue, cementing an important aspect of the ongoing process of power-sharing: Political actors opposed today on a particular issue may find themselves as coalition partners tomorrow on a different issue. Mutual respect and amicable relations even with the opponent (of today) are the result.

- Swiss Democracy by Wolf Linder

I do not understand the sentence I emphasized. It mentions "opposed camps" then say "for example the left or the young". Think I don't understand is: Is the left and the young are opposed camps to each other? If so why does the author says "or" instead of "and"?

If not, is "left" (or the young) an opposed camp all alone? It is opposed to what?


In this paragraph the left and the young are two divisions of society that may overlap - they are neither identical nor distinct. That means (from a game theory perspective) that you can't think of them as opposed. Cooperation and opposition between members of those groups can shift when different issues are considered.

The opposite of young would be old, of left would be right (though of course in reality these are not sharp boundaries).

Grammatically speaking, the "or" is specifying a particular example of categories that overlap. Using "and" instead would probably be OK, but "or" is a little better since "and" might be construed as one single category of left youths.


In my opinion this is simply a very poorly written sentence. I agree that the meaning is probably as interpreted by Ethan Bolker. However, as Ethan says "the left and the young are two divisions of society that may overlap ... you can't think of them as opposed". And yet Linder seems to describe them as being opposed.

Maybe the excuse is that Wolf Linder's first language is not English (I believe the book was originally in German) and Linder himself or the translator has made a bad job of the translation. Failing that, the author was not thinking clearly when he wrote it. My advice? Put it down to incompetence and move on!

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