The ‘Political Compass’ and Class Politics: A Better Way to Classify Ideologies?

Most people interested in politics will have come across ‘The Political Compass’, which markets itself as an improvement on ‘The Left-Right Spectrum’ (which those interested in politics will also probably have come across). It’s basic idea is that the Left-Right axis should be kept as a gague of economic views, but supplemented with a vertical ‘authoritarian-libertarian’ axis. B47E81B8FE3F4E54829E1EB4059FE270

This gives four corners, as indicated right:

(Note that this approach gives no obvious way to reflect issues such as feminism vs. antifeminism, environmentalism, racism, etc.)

Is this any good? I think it’s major problem is that although it’s presented as replacing the left-right spectrum, it’s actually a different sort of thing. It is, so to speak, a classification ‘from first principles’ that sets up abstract criteria and then compares people’s views to them. It’s spirit is almost like that of a scientific experiment that tries to isolate certain variables and then model them. What it ends up doing is asking two (very broad) questions – about capitalism and about personal freedom – and then tell you how you answered them.

The left-right spectrum doesn’t do this. It looks at the complex and messy reality – of divergent all-encompassing worldviews, and how they imply views on particular issues, and how this plays out in practice, and who will ally with who, and tries to group this into hazily-defined but (at least somewhat) practically-relevant lumps.

The first method might be more appropriate if people’s political opinions were formed in a purely intellectual process of debate and inquiry, but if this weren’t the case – if, in fact, systematic interests lay behind most if not all production of ideology – then we would expect that the most relevant ideological contours would actually be based on fault-lines that weren’t always immediately obvious at the ideological level, and which could best be understood in terms of a certain sense of ‘partisanship’.

That would suggest that ‘the left’, whatever particular ideals they espouse, are partisans of a particular side; the ‘right’, partisans of another. This approach also has the virtue that it can deal better with different views of what the basic questions of value are – whereas the political compass’ approach has to assume that, say, ‘personal freedom’ is an important issue for all views, and that they define it in the same way.

However – isn’t there some usefulness in trying to spread the left-right spectrum out over at least two dimensions? It does seem strange that Hitler and Stalin must be placed at opposite ends despite their similarities, for example. So what if we tried to combine the merits of both – to look for a schematic representation that could incorporate more information than a mere line, while retaining the ‘class-partisanship’ approach of the traditional left-right spectrum?

That’s what I want to try to do today! I may not do it very well, but that’s ok. BetterCompass

See second image, right (and bear in mind the colours may not always be most appropriate, I was trying to balance historical associations with making it look pretty overall).

So what’s the idea? The idea is that four major trends all appear as paths leading away from the grey muddy centre: liberalism, socialism, nationalism, and conservatism.

All ultimately are best understood in class terms, although only two are specific to a certain class. Socialism, as is conventionally assumed, seeks the interests of the proletariat, i.e. it seeks a society without private capital, on behalf of the class whose members have no private capital.

Liberalism, again not saying anything too strange or novel, seeks the interests of the bourgeoisie, of those who do own private capital and seek a return on it. But the ambivalence of liberalism comes from the differentiated of this class into the petit-bourgeoisie, who have little capital, and whose interests (and hence ideology) can potentially move close to those of the proletariat, and the haute-bourgeoisie, who have loads of capital and are thus a proper ruling class.

This merges them into conservatism, which is not the ideology of any particular class but rather a body of ideas and sentiments that any established ruling class can use to defend its position and hold back change.

So what then is ‘nationalism’? It is the converse – a body of ideas and sentiments that any non-established ruling class (or class-section) can use to establish itself. This can mean both a ruling elite that used to be established but whose legitimacy has been undermined and need to re-establish control (when it is likely to be most reactionary, as in Fascism), and also an aspirational ruling elite seeking to mobilise layers of the oppressed to change society and put them in power (when it is likely to be progressive at first, as in Stalinism or Anti-Colonial nationalism).

At the intersection of nationalism and socialism is what I would call ‘populism’, movements that take some features of socialism but use them merely for cosmetic changes – of which, in a sense, authoritarian socialism is the more radical version.

Conversely, around the intersection of liberalism and socialism, at the real extremities, are the different flavours of ‘anarchism’, some more socialist, some less, but all recognising the importance of ensuring economic equality and fighting the power of big business. The ‘anarchists’ who don’t recognise this, anarcho-capitalists, are over at the extreme conjunction of conservatism and liberalism.

Now, obviously the right-left axis does still fit into this: insofar as socialism and liberalism are both left-wing, and insofar as they are close relatives (both because ideologically their values are the same – freedom, equality, reason, etc., and because in practice if they are true to themselves they come together), and insofar as nationalism and conservatism are both right-wing, the left-right spectrum is pretty much vertical here. The reason for which, obviously, is that the left is, at the most abstract level, the ideology of the weak againt the strong (i.e. oppressed and exploited classes) and the right is the ideology of the strong against the weak (i.e. ruling classes).

But note what has happened to the ‘centre’. The traditional left-right axis had to make ‘the centre’ simply mean ‘moderation’. But on the view here advanced, there are actually three points that are half-way between right and left: the moderate centre, and then populism on the one hand, and right-libertarianism on the other – the latter two being, potentially, ‘extreme centrist’ positions.

I think it’s reasonable to call them this because populism often does deliver valuable gains, even if for cynical reasons – even if populist politicians are just ‘using’ the masses, there is a certain power in being used, since it means that your concerns must at least be listened to, and your activity solicited. On the other hand, consistent right-libertarians are on the good side on plenty of issues – war, civil liberties, immigration.

We can also see to some extent where Stalin and Hitler connect and differ – both are extreme ‘nationalists’, if ‘nation’ is defined broadly enough, i.e. broadly enough as to make ‘extreme nationalist’ synonymous with ‘totalitarianism’. But they stand beside different borders – one the border with racist, hierarchical, big-business-supporting but not-quite-fascist conservatism, the other the border with collctivist, masses-empowering, socialism.

We can similarly avoid lumping authoritarian socialists in next to anarchist socialists, or else deciding which is ‘more left’ or ‘more radical’ – they are both equally far from the centre, but one is closer to liberalism and the other is closer to nationalism.

So that’s about the extent of what I’m trying to do here. The ‘political compass’ makes some of these distinctions, though it misses, say, the difference between an extreme but very non-fascist conservative, and a relatively non-conservative fascist – since both are profoundly authoritarian, but in different ways (only one is totalitarian). You could in a sense draw it onto my diagram (with the social libertarian/authoritarian axis going horizontally) but it doesn’t give any sense of the class-based partisanship that links together different ‘political opinions’.

It may have been noticed that there’s no mention of feminism, or other such ‘unconventional’ ideologies – that’s true. This schema focuses on conventionally-defined ‘politics and economics’, because it seeks to clarify the role of politico-economic classes. A different schema could perhaps be drawn for, say, sex-classes, though I’m less confident about what it would look like.

Note that if such a schema were drawn, we could again apply the left-right dimension to it: the ideology of oppressed groups (e.g. feminism) would be left-wing, and the ideology of oppressing groups (e.g. sexual conservatism) would be right-wing. So the left-right spectrum is something broader (precisely because so simple) than most more detailed analyses.

So there, that’s my shot at it. Obviously it could be improved, I hope – especially by finding a way to not make anarchism orange. And it embodies my own political opinions, although hopefully not so egregiously as to make it entirely opaque to those I disagree with. Thoughts?

17 Responses to “The ‘Political Compass’ and Class Politics: A Better Way to Classify Ideologies?”

  1. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    An interesting link, but I find myself sympathising with the commenter who says “Who is this piece aimed at? What are you trying to tell us?” I’m also unclear why ‘right-communitarianism’ gets included as a ‘progressive’ strand of thought. It also seems heavily weighted towards prominent members of the Labour Party.

  2. SnowdropExplodes Says:

    One issue I find with your diagram is that it isn’t instantly clear whether a political position is always plotted as a point on the outside circle, or if the interior is also a part of the design.

    The reason I mention this is because it isn’t clear how you would compare where two people lay on a direct line between, say Anarchism and Fascism (diametrically opposite on the diagram). On the other axis you have “Anarcho-Capitalism – Classical Liberalism – Centre – Populism – Stalinism” but again, it’s not clear what makes the distinction between each. I’m not convinced that Stalinism could really be classed as “populism taken to extremes”, nor that right-wing libertarianism/anarcho-Capitalism necessarily is the result of taking “Classical Liberalism” (if by that we mean the ideas of Locke, Mill, Paine etc) to extremes, even if there are clear lines along which development might lead from one to the other. Also, is populism diametrically opposite liberalism, and if so, what qualities about each identify them as such?

    Another point that comes from this is that it’s unclear what lives at the centre. I am struggling to see nationalism as being automatically the opposite of liberalism, even in the terms as you’ve defined them; and while you’ve placed socialism as diametrically opposite conservatism, from the descriptions you gave, all three non-conservatism quadrants could claim to be part of the diametrical opposite.

    I’m going to suggest that what lives at the centre isn’t “a muddy grey” of non-conviction, but rather, “the reins of power” or possibly, “the status quo” – what lives in the centre is political power, and so moving away from the centre leads to stronger and stronger statements of economic power in antagonism to governmental (political) power. Liberalism tends to focus on individual economic power against government control while nationalism puts the economic power of those belonging to a particular grouping (but not class) in antagonism to the government. Likewise, conservatism puts the economic power of the economic ruling class in antagonism to political power (and thus, as observed in actual political life, conservatism having the power of a ruling class is much better able to influence the “centre” than any of the other groupings). Socialism puts the economic power of the economic working class against the government of status quo.

    In this conceptualisation, the effect of these antagonistic pressures is not, in fact, to erode government as such but to change government so that it restricts one group’s economic power less than it affects the other groups’. To model different governments by various classifications (liberal, conservative, socialist etc) is therefore simply to say which groups that government battles and which ones it allows more power. A totalitarian government of any leaning is obviously plotted closer to the centre because it believes in keeping more power to itself.

    This way, you can plot Stalin and Hitler closer together because they both believed in centralised government power; in fact, on your diagram, “populism” would be on the outside while Stalinism would be on the inside. On the opposite side, closer to the middle would be planned economies that nevertheless tend to benefit the ruling class (e.g. governments investing in businesses to keep them afloat) with classical liberalism being further out, and anarcho-capitalism further still.

  3. SnowdropExplodes Says:

    I did have one final point to add (I felt it would get lost if I tacked it on the end of my last novel of a comment!) – it appears to me that in the way you describe nationalism and liberalism, each are effectively trying to turn the wheel in opposite directions – the liberalist wants it to turn anti-clockwise (so that the liberal ends up as the conservative, because once he has power he wants to use the mechanisms of power to keep it!) while the nationalist wants to turn the wheel clockwise (again, so he ends up in the seat of power, using conservatism as a means to keep the wheel where it is). This can perhaps be used to explain the paucity for the socialist of using the parliamentary route to socialism: whichever way the wheel turns, the socialists furthest advanced to power have to go via liberalism or nationalism, which dilutes and ultimately erodes completely anything other than lip-service to socialist principles.

  4. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    So my counter-novel…

    “it isn’t instantly clear whether a political position is always plotted as a point on the outside circle, or if the interior is also a part of the design.”
    As you seem to have picked up, the outside is the most extreme and ‘fringe’ positions.

    I’d also say, in general, with ‘nationalism’ I wasn’t thinking so much specifically of concern with ‘the nation’ but with any abstract unity of that sort which requires differently-placed people to pull together.

    “it isn’t clear how you would compare where two people lay on a direct line between, say Anarchism and Fascism”
    Well, I don’t want to look at it exactly as an ‘axis’, i.e. a single specifiable thing. It’s more the upshot of the bundles of values and habits of thought involved in the different ideological traditions. For instance, the idea that people can look after themselves, choose wisely, understand the world, and so on if given the chance, and the idea that people are inherently evil and need to be tightly controlled – liberalism and socialism both endorse the former, among other ideas, and conservatism is very keen on the latter, while nationalism throws up the functionally similar idea that people have no value as ‘selfish’ decadent individuals and acquire virtue only as part of something greater. Someone in the centre is likely to hold all of these ideas to different degrees and in different settings, while someone at either extreme holds one idea very ‘consistently’ and actively rejects the conflicting idea.

    This also relates to your various questions about which things are ‘the diametric opposite’ of which other things. I don’t think that’s how I’d be putting it (it feels a bit too ‘essentialising’). Rather, I’d say that they’re located by sharing ideological languages. It’s quite easy for a statist socialist to start talking nationalism with only quite a small change in their language; while it’s quite easy for a libertarian socialist to shade into mere radical liberalism, etc. ‘Family resemblances’ etc.

    At the same time, I think it also reflects the underlying class dynamics. The established ruling class can in general cope fairly well with liberal or nationalist demands, in that those who are today an aspiring ruling elite or small business can satisfy their aspirations without necessarily unseating the older authorities. They can’t cope with socialism so much because (lapses into orthodoxy monotone) the emancipation of the proletariat implies the end of all authority and exploitation.

    Which is rather what you said with the ‘turning the circle’ comment.

  5. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “what lives in the centre is political power, and so moving away from the centre leads to stronger and stronger statements of economic power in antagonism to governmental (political) power”

    There’s some truth in this, in that being in power tends to mean having to compromise more, whereas if you’re just some nerd in a basement somewhere you can be much more ideologically consistent and extreme. But your way of expressing matters seems to make an extreme government impossible – which it isn’t.

    It also, I think, makes the mistake of treating the state as potentially neutral between different class interests. You can have a totalitarian state that defends the interests of a long-established ruling class, and or that defends the interests of a freshly-established ruling class (which may even be largely identical with the state or party apparatus itself). But totalitarianism just isn’t a tool that can serve the interests of, say, workers. The same goes in a more qualified way for state power in general, revolutionary proletarian dictatorships aside.

  6. SnowdropExplodes Says:

    Okay, you seem not to have understood what I meant by “what lives at the centre”.

    I didn’t mean “Government is necessarily moderate” or “Government is neutral between class interests”. Instead, I was looking for a way to modify the diagram while keeping it in two dimensions, to add a “Statist-Devolutionist” element to it. That means being in the centre under the adaptation I wanted to suggest is to be at the most extreme centralised government control, while being on the edge is to be the most extreme devolved-power position.

    On each quadrant, you would then have: Conservatism going between laissez-faire capitalism at the edge and heavily-regulated trade and conditions at the centre (not necessarily in ways that would help workers, but more likely in ways that suit the current Captains of Industry and the ruling political elite). Nationalism going between something akin to the Borg Collective at the centre to something akin to the US “militia” groups at the edge (or, if it’s a branch of nationalism specifically related to race, then maybe “legal slavery” in the centre and “race war” at the edge). Liberalism going from (possibly) protectionism or “big government” (this seems like the natural position for universal health insurance, for example) at the centre to libertarianism at the edge. Socialism going from centralised “planned economy” at the centre to devolved “workers’ collectives” at the edge – at the centre, the economy would be run by the centralised government for the benefit of the workers according to the government’s assessment of what that would be.

    This also helps illustrate how, for example, the planned economy of Stalinist Russia could end up becoming so similar to a state-controlled capitalist system.

  7. SnowdropExplodes Says:

    Heh – I must have skimmed past this bit before:

    the idea that people can look after themselves, choose wisely, understand the world, and so on if given the chance, and the idea that people are inherently evil and need to be tightly controlled – liberalism and socialism both endorse the former, among other ideas, and conservatism is very keen on the latter

    I think I disagree with the characterisation there, I don’t think the correlations are as strong as you suggest. On my suggested modification, I would put “People are inherently evil and need to be tightly controlled” as being the position in the centre (i.e. the basic ideology behind promoting government power) and “People can look after themselves, choose wisely, understand the world” at the edges.

  8. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    Well, I think this does embody the idea that statism is something that you can plot perpendicular to other ideological trends, which I don’t think is true, and it seems like it produces some rather strange outcomes.

    -why is socialised healthcare a liberal, not a socialist idea?
    -why does ‘libertarianism’ go so far away from ‘laissez-faire capitalism’?
    -why is the ‘rugged individualism’ of non-racist anti-state militias not a particular version of self-reliant liberalism?
    -moreover, what’s occupying that niche in countries other than the US? Generally non-US ‘nationalist militias’ seek strong government, just once it’s the right government. The racist US militias, similarly, are surely a substitute for a racist government – the KKK was founded after the Civil war, i.e. in response to the government becoming less able to legally terrorise black people. The opposition between ‘race war’ and ‘legal slavery’ is clearly not an ideological difference but a perception of a different situation.

    In essence, it seems like you’ve taken a specific ideological trope – the big-government vs. personal freedom trope, principally a creation of liberalism and extended, in a different style, by radical socialists – and tried to impose it on all 4 of the big ideologies. But it doesn’t fit with conservatism, or with nationalism, so you’ve had to substitute either flavours of strongly anti-state liberalism (free market capitalism, survivalism) or a form of virulent racism/nationalism that isn’t anti-state in theory but happens to be so in practice.

  9. Db0 Says:

    In regards to choosing a colour for Anarchism: I can’t believe you missed black ;)

  10. SnowdropExplodes Says:

    -why is socialised healthcare a liberal, not a socialist idea?

    I’m looking at the form it takes. I think different ways of delivering universal healthcare are more or less liberal or socialist depending on the structures offered. As I understood it, the Obama administration’s universal healthcare proposals were about universal/socialised health insurance, which I would class as more of a liberal position, whereas the NHS is closer to direct provision of healthcare, which I would characterise as a more socialist form (consider – if you take the NHS towards the edges of the circle, away from government control, then you get hospitals run on the basis of “from each according to their ability, to each as according to their need” in medical care – but if you take the Obama administration’s socialised health insurance closer to the edge of the circle, then you get self-interested hospitals, insurance companies etc, each looking out for their own profits – i.e. what the US has at the moment).

    -why does ‘libertarianism’ go so far away from ‘laissez-faire capitalism’?

    Because there’s left-wing versus right-wing libertarianism (which you plotted on your original chart as “anarcho-capitalism” on the right-wing, versus “anarchism” on the left-wing). Obviously, the more right-wing you get the closer you get to laissez-faire capitalism. Strictly, laissez-faire capitalism goes at the border between conservatism and liberalism on the edge of the circle; maybe a better way to describe the edge of the circle at the middle of conservatism might be “estate-ism” – the belief that the wealthy/ruling elite have the right to run their own affairs as they see fit – this is distinct from the liberal position because the liberal position has everyone running their own affairs whereas the devolved conservatism position has the landowner/business owner as the only person who can run affairs to his liking; this is different again from the militias because in the militias it is the militia as a group running things to their own liking. This way, we can have “Fascism” as being the “statist” version, and “vigilantism” as the “devolved” version of the overlap between conservatism and nationalism.

    -why is the ‘rugged individualism’ of non-racist anti-state militias not a particular version of self-reliant liberalism?

    Because the essence of a militia is that it is a group organisation, not “one man against the world” but “our group against the world” – like your definition, “any abstract unity of that sort which requires differently-placed people to pull together.” In essence, it’s the “we look after our own here”, as opposed to liberalism’s “every man for himself”. See the remark above about the position of vigilantism.

    -moreover, what’s occupying that niche in countries other than the US? Generally non-US ‘nationalist militias’ seek strong government, just once it’s the right government.

    I think most non-US groups veer strongly towards populism or vigilantism, at either edge of nationalism – so the pure “militia-ism” in between is less strongly represented elsewhere.

    The racist US militias, similarly, are surely a substitute for a racist government – the KKK was founded after the Civil war, i.e. in response to the government becoming less able to legally terrorise black people. The opposition between ‘race war’ and ‘legal slavery’ is clearly not an ideological difference but a perception of a different situation.

    My first response to this is that “perception of a different situation” is a key element in your initial definitions of liberalism and nationalism – as we discussed the “turning wheel” forces before.

    While I would agree that the KKK represents a “replacement government” formation (putting them closer to the middle on my schema) I would hazard that my perception is some of the skinhead/racist gangs in Western and Central Europe are much more concerned with self-policing exclusion or subjugation of other races, than with seeing government-controlled situations. The desire for government power to restrict immigration is an element that moves them away from the outermost extreme, but I think the tendency in that movement is towards non-government control.

    I suspect we have different basic assumptions about how political movements are related to one another and so agreement is going to be impossible. But it’s certainly interesting debating the possibilities of a “better” political compass!

  11. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “I suspect we have different basic assumptions about how political movements are related to one another”
    Hmmm perhaps. I think that setting up ‘axes’ and such things is a mistake because it takes the concepts of our tradition and assumes that they can make sense of the others. In short, different ideologies are not different answers to the same question, as much as different sets of questions and answers.

    “the Obama administration’s universal healthcare proposals were about universal/socialised health insurance, which I would class as more of a liberal position”
    That seems odd to me, and not how I would have seen it.

    “if you take the NHS…away from government control, then you get hospitals run on the basis of “from each according to their ability, to each as according to their need”…but if you take the Obama administration’s socialised health insurance…then you get self-interested hospitals, insurance companies etc, each looking out for their own profits”
    That doesn’t feel like a relevant issue, tbh. The ideological point is to provide healthcare that’s not dependent on personal wealth – it seeks different degrees of compromise with the healthcare industry.

    “Strictly, laissez-faire capitalism goes at the border between conservatism and liberalism on the edge of the circle”
    Right, like I had it – because it takes the liberal ideological framework and gives it a largely conservative content.

    “[anti-state conservatism] might be “estate-ism” – the belief that the wealthy/ruling elite have the right to run their own affairs as they see fit – this is distinct from the liberal position because the liberal position has everyone running their own affairs whereas the devolved conservatism position has the landowner/business owner as the only person who can run affairs to his liking”
    But this is still something phrased in the language of liberalism – indeed, it’s always been a part of liberalism. ‘All men are created equal’ has usually meant only a sub-set of men, the ‘educated’ ones, those who have shown themselves to be ‘masters of themselves’. It still seems more like the point of contact between liberalism and conservatism, rather than traditional, slow-reforming, anti-theoretical, anti-rationalist, pro-religion conservatism.

    ““perception of a different situation” is a key element in your initial definitions of liberalism and nationalism”
    I don’t see what you mean here. The two are fairly distinct languages and sets of concepts. The language and concepts of the pre-civil war slave-government and the post-civil war KKK are pretty much the same.

  12. SnowdropExplodes Says:

    But this is still something phrased in the language of liberalism – indeed, it’s always been a part of liberalism.

    Hardly! Or rather, it is hardly unique to (or even originated with) liberalism. I know that some people nowadays like to view the Magna Carta as this big step forward towards liberalism, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how the barons saw it. The feudalism of Medieval England I think is an example of what I’m talking about here, and I don’t think that it can be expressed in liberal terms.

    ““perception of a different situation” is a key element in your initial definitions of liberalism and nationalism”
    I don’t see what you mean here. The two are fairly distinct languages and sets of concepts. The language and concepts of the pre-civil war slave-government and the post-civil war KKK are pretty much the same.

    What I mean is that in your definition of liberalism, you wrote, “But the ambivalence of liberalism comes from the differentiated of this class into the petit-bourgeoisie, who have little capital, and whose interests (and hence ideology) can potentially move close to those of the proletariat, and the haute-bourgeoisie, who have loads of capital and are thus a proper ruling class.” That to me implies that a liberal only remains liberal until hir circumstances change – that is, until zie has a “perception of a different situation”.

    Likewise, in defining nationalism, you write “This can mean both a ruling elite that used to be established but whose legitimacy has been undermined and need to re-establish control (when it is likely to be most reactionary, as in Fascism), and also an aspirational ruling elite seeking to mobilise layers of the oppressed to change society and put them in power”, so again, it seems as though nationalism is only a response to an altered circumstance in general, and a change in circumstance (i.e. gaining power) can lead to adopting a new position.

    So, liberalism in one way, and nationalism in a different way, both contain elements of “perception of a different situation” as being at the heart of the ideology.

    I’ve had a go at drawing my own “compass”, and I’ve posted it to my blog: http://afemanistview.blogspot.com/2009/09/improving-political-compass-idea.html

  13. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “The feudalism of Medieval England I think is an example of what I’m talking about here, and I don’t think that it can be expressed in liberal terms.”
    Well no, but how often is it expressed at all nowadays? Similarly, where are we to put the Divine Right of Kings? We don’t put it anywhere, because it’s not around now, and while we may make some progress at mapping out relationships between the ideologies that are currently widespread, currently an ‘understood language’, I don’t know how we would do so for ‘all ideologies ever’. I’m sure there was something like ideology that was used by feudal lords resisting state centralisation – but the ideology is largely past now, just like that class situation.

    “a liberal only remains liberal until hir circumstances change – that is, until zie has a “perception of a different situation”.”
    But that’s not true, is it? More to the point, people can hold beliefs that, by the links I’ve claimed here, fit to the interests of classes not their own. The ‘fit’ between class and ideology is only a very overall generalisation – individuals don’t mechanically change their beliefs whenever their circumstances change (although they can do so un-mechanically sometimes).

    By contrast, a klansmen can at one and the same time hold the beliefs appropriate to non-state racist terror and the beliefs appropriate to state-based racist terror, just judging that one is possible now but the other not. The adjustment to circumstances is made consciously, not by the gradual process by which, for instance, the progression of different forms of liberalism reflected the changing position of the bourgeoisie.

  14. Lindsay Says:

    I like it; I also like your contrast between nationalism and conservatism — that the latter functions to bolster whatever faction is currently in power, while the former can be used to propel a new faction into power. I hadn’t thought of that before.

    (I also think that “conservatism,” as you’ve defined it, is identical to the “center,” as Snowdrop defines it. That centrism “is the status quo” I don’t think means all governments are “centrist” in some abstract, objective way — it means that, wherever on the political spectrum a sitting government may fall, a centrist will not be comfortable with the idea of overthrowing or substantially changing it).

    Also, when I was taught about the left-right spectrum, I learned it was a circle, with extreme right and extreme left (say, Hitler and Stalin, or Pinochet and Pol Pot) coming together.

    I like your drawing better, but that one does avoid the problem of putting two really-quite-similar political philosophies opposite each other.

  15. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “I also like your contrast between nationalism and conservatism”
    Yeah – I don’t know if you’ve heard of ‘One Nation’ Toryism – a big strand of thought in the UK conservative party. Basically, as I understand it, after an extension (not complete) of the Franchise, which a lot of Tories had opposed, this movement arose that wanted to ‘re-unite’ the ‘two nations’ of rich and poor into ‘one nation’, and focused on shared symbols, traditions, and token reforms. It’s a good example of where nationalistic framing can be used to re-establish stability after a partial loss of power.

    “when I was taught about the left-right spectrum, I learned it was a circle, with extreme right and extreme left (say, Hitler and Stalin, or Pinochet and Pol Pot) coming together.”
    Yeah I’ve seen this version, and it’s transparently pro-centre. ‘Extreme’ libertarians on either side mysteriously disappear so that the only place for ‘freedom’ is in the middle, avoiding the ‘excess’ of either wing.

  16. John Says:

    Just had an idea that popped in my head. Everyone wants to rule the world! If you’re weak (feeling used by something) then you want the power compass to favor yourself. If you’re strong (feeling in control of something) then you also want the power compass to favor you. So if you’re a strong leader of a company or nation then you want the power compass to favor people like you – less taxes on leaders or executives, comfort based on how much money you earn or how many people you lead. If you’re a (weak) employee working under others, you might want more taxes on wealthy (stronger) people and comfort based on how much you do for others or how much you’re indifferent to your own power over others. Basically, it seems to me that everybody wants power and control, they just want it in different forms so that the end result is it favors them.


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