Friday, November 14, 2014

An interesting mapping of political philosophies

Jerry Pournelle came up with a quite interesting replacement for the old political "left" vs. "right", one that is both interesting and different:
The two I chose are "Attitude toward the State," and "Attitude toward planned social progress".

The first is easy to understand: what think you of government? Is it an object of idolatry, a positive good, necessary evil, or unmitigated evil? Obviously that forms a spectrum, with various anarchists at the left end and reactionary monarchists at the right. The American political parties tend to fall toward the middle.


"Attitude toward planned social progress" can be translated "rationalism"; it is the belief that society has "problems," and these can be "solved"; we can take arms against a sea of troubles.

Once again we can order the major political philosophies. Fascism is irrationalist; it says so in its theoretical treatises. It appeals to "the greatness of the nation" or to the volk, and also to the fuhrer-prinzip, i.e., hero worship.
It all works out like this:

The whole discussion is very interesting, as you'd expect.  And it dates to 1986 (!).  That's one smart dude.


Isegoria said...

Yeah, it was already old when I stumbled on it, back in 2007, while reading his thoughts on Fascism on Pearl Harbor Day.

Brad Richards said...

It's a good chart, but I think it can be better explained:

- The left-right axis is a scale of authority. On the left, individual rights are paramount. On the right, the state has all the authority.

- The up-down axis is the size of government. At the bottom you have small government. At the top, the state runs everything.

One nice thing about this is that it explains the confusion in American politics, because people only look at the left-to-right axis. For example, few people can explain the difference between socialists and fascists; they only differ on the vertical axis.

Interestingly, if you only look at the horizontal axis, Democrats and Republicans are also indistinguishable. And in truth, both are right-wing parties, big on state authority. They just want that authority for different reasons.

Pournelle's collections include some very thoughtful political essays mixed in with thumping good science fiction stories. Among others, I've read his "There will be War" series so many times that it is totally dog-eared. The books are from Cold War days, but some truths are eternal. Recommended.