A Six-Axes Political Compass

A political compass that attempts to comprehensively explain all political movements, ideology and positions by building upon ideas from Brian Patrick Mitchell, Karl Marx and Dani Rodrik. A dwarf of an idea on the shoulders of giants. Quiz available at — https://6axes.github.io/

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The Six-Axes Political Compass

You are likely familiar with the “Left” and the “Right” of the political spectrum. The “Left” being associated with communism, socialism, progressives and in America liberals. The “Right” being associated with conservatism, tradition and authoritarianism.

You may have also come across the Political Compass, like the one below. Which splits political ideology across two axes of Authority & Economic values. Creating the Authoritarian & Libertarian — Left and Right.

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Source: Wikipedia

While these splits are a good start and have some explanatory power. They start to break down even when trying to explain mainstream political factions such as Neoconservatives vs. Paleo-conservatives, or Progressives vs. Social Democrats and most definitely the split between Trump Republicans and the other groups of Republicans.

In this post, we’ll attempt to resolve these mysteries by employing some well thought and researched ideas as well as some new ideas in the world of political philosophy to expand the axes of political thought to six measuring political positions on Authority, Rank, Economic Aspiration, Economic Control, Nationalism and Diplomacy.

We start the first 2 axes focused on (2) the size and power of our ideal government and (2) our view of society and how it should be organized.

Brian Patrick Mitchell is an American Political Theorist who in his book Eight Ways to Run the Country provides us with the first framework to look at these axes.

Kratos, from Greek -kratia (power) indicates the power the state can bring to bear to achieve its policies. Whether these policies are of the “Left” or of the “Right”.

Archy, from Greek -archos (rule) indicates the amount of “Rank” we’d prefer society to uphold. This is from the same root -arche as in the word hierarchy. This axis refers to the traditional hierarchy of power we would prefer society to follow. Power such as that of — the ruler or king over the ruled, religious leaders over their followers or the faithful, the patriarch or father over the family, and in some cases the majority over the minority.

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Source: Wikipedia by Redfalcon6

The expressive power of this analysis already reveals the fissures between Republicans and Libertarians i.e. they would both prefer that the role of the state be minimized, but the Republicans prefer that traditional values and roles be upheld while the Libertarians would not hold a strong view on this.

Also revealed is why some on the Right-wing circles compare Stalinist Communism with Nazism. Both ideologies preferred Kratos i.e. strong state-power. Though they both differed on Arche and whether traditional hierarchies should be maintained (in the case of Nazism and Fascism) or completely upturned (in the case of Stalinism and Maoism).

These 2 axes however do not completely paint the picture with regards to matters beyond authority & society. For example on matters of the economy or foreign affairs. Mitchell believes the difference between Neoconservatives and Paleo-conservatives is one solely of how much Kratos state-power they would like to see wielded. Whereas a lot of political analysis suggests the more pertinent contrast is one of Foreign policy and the type of Nationalism (Civic vs. Ethnic).

Here is Mitchell’s rendering of the political environment which we will further refine.

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Source: Wikipedia by Redfalcon6
Source: Wikipedia

Karl Marx the German political theorist and economist, and the intellectual founder of Marxism which has given way to Communism, Socialism and other social movements in his book Das Kapital brought to the forefront the struggle between the ruling classes (the bourgeoisie) that control the means of production and the working classes (the proletariat). Communism intended to control capital and capitalists and allow the working labor classes freedom, as opposed to the traditionally Feudal and the more recent Corporatist ideologies that seek to control the power of labor.

Political Economists have also researched and written about the conflict between Equity (An economic system that attempts to maximize utility across all citizens) and Efficiency (An economic system concentrated on maximizing the output of the economy). With these ideas we create our Economic Axes —

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The two Economic Axes

Dani Rodrik, the Turkish economist and Harvard professor of political economy has researched the impact of globalization on the economy and politics. His ideas are best presented in his post on the trilemma of the global economy.

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The Trilemma — Source: Dani Rodrik’s weblog

The Authority (Kratos or state-power) a nation can employ, Economic output and integration with the world at large are all intertwined. A nation can either decide to engage internationally, i.e. following cosmopolitanism (From Greek cosmo-polite “citizen of the world”) or look inward for self-sufficiency or for Autarky (From the Greek auto — self and arkein — suffice). As Capital flows internationally it needs force or the rule of law to protect it. Nations may decide to use multi-lateral agreements or might as erstwhile empires did to control their colonies.

Nationalism is the belief that a nation’s or national sub-unit’s rights to self-determination and self-government is based on their existence as a “nation”. One type of nationalism creates a nation out of adherence to a shared political creed and the civic participation. Therefore anyone can be a citizen of the nation if they participate and fulfill the requirements of the state. Another type of nationalism stresses the importance of shared cultural values such as same language, ethnicity or religion. Michael Ignatieff explains this in much more detail in his book. A lot of research and educational material exists on this as well.

We now have our final two axes of — Nationalism and Diplomacy (or international relations).

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In conjunction with our Axes on State-power/Authority (Kratos) and Rank (Arche) we have all the tools in our tool-belt.

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The Six-Axes Political Compass

With our six axes now defined we are now ready to start analyzing political ideologies and positions. In this post, we will analyze contemporary political positions in the United States.

Neoconservatives

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Neo-conservative Six-axes

George W. Bush is famously known for his position as a Neoconservative. Neconservatives or “Neo-cons” as a part of the larger conservative movement would prefer to preserve traditional hierarchy and values. Even though the American conservative movement has been traditionally known to support “small-government” the Neo-cons are known to be flexible on this. On the economic axes the Neo-cons are in favor of economic efficiency and believe in Supply-side economics . The Neo-cons would rather not control capital and oppose regulations, regarding labor control, the Neo-cons are open to allowing trade unions. The Nationalism/Diplomacy axes are the ones were the Neo-cons differ from other American conservative positions.

Progressives

The Progressives are the wing of the Democratic Party that are concerned with advocating for social reform. Their focus on upturning existing hierarchy and rank is a differentiator. They would like to use state-power but not to the extent of other extreme forms such as communism. They are centrist on the question of Economic equality vs. efficiency as they would prefer to allow the free market to produce more goods and services, and also tax the wealth generated to provide services (welfare) to those who are unfortunate. While they’d prefer to have some controls on capital especially with regulations to protect consumers and the environment, they are not further down the axis as the Greens or Communists. The Nationalism & Diplomacy axes are another differentiator between Progressives and Democratic Socialists. Progressives strongly prefer civic nationalism and are more Cosmopolitan in their outlook i.e. they want to engage more with the broader world. Hillary Clinton is well known as someone representative of this political position.

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Progressives

Democratic Socialists

Bernie Sanders and his politics is a good representation of Democratic Socialism.

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Democratic Socialists
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Trump Republicans

You can take a quiz that attempts to answer these questions.

By heading to — https://6axes.github.io/

Thoughts on Politics

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