The Pathos of Politics (76) The Political Spectrum

The Political Spectrum

The ordinary resources of empirical observation and ordinary human knowledge give us no warrant for supposing that all good things are reconcilable with each other. ~ Russian British Jewish sociopolitical theorist and historian Isaiah Berlin

An ideology is a doctrinal belief system about an idealized social order and the means to attain it. Ideology is a political belief system, much like religion is a spiritual belief system, and science an existential belief system.

Logically, the proposed solution to a problem, such as an increase in government regulation, should not influence one’s belief in the problem. But it does. The cure can be more immediately threatening than the problem. In general, people deny facts that threaten their ideologies. ~ American business scholar Troy Campbell

The 3 belief systems – political, religious, scientific – are invariably intertwined, and ultimately reflect personal character. Besides one’s view on human nature and its condition, a person’s political ideology roughly corresponds to a generalized level of fear, self-control, optimism, and comfort with change. Compared to liberals, conservatives are more afraid, less optimistic, more skeptical, have greater attention regulation and task persistence, and dislike change.

Deeply embedded in conservative and liberal politics are 2 different models of the family. Conservatism is based on a Strict Father model, while liberalism is centered on a Nurturant Parent model. These 2 models of the family give rise to different moral systems. ~ American linguist George Lakoff

Faith in free will figures strongly within the framework of ideology. Conservatives tend to attribute causality to personal effort and control, whereas social liberals are more likely to cite external factors, such as culture and economic climate.

As believers in free will, conservatives are inclined toward individual liberty (within certain moral boundaries), whereas liberal concerns are of social opportunity and equity. Conservatives tend to be more religious; liberals, more secular.


Ideology involves a perspective on the present and a vision for a preferred future, almost always presented as a material improvement. Hence, an outstanding feature of ideology is its offer of hope.

In prescribing a course of correction, ideology is action oriented. As ideologies are intended for mass consumption, they typically have a motivational tone. Politicians throughout the political spectrum have at least 1 thing in common: their appeals are directed to the aspirations of the Collective.

Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto are more similar than different. Jefferson cited British repression. Marx cited capitalist subjection. Addressed to a wide audience, both cite grievances that justify revolution to a more just social order that proffered the hope of greater freedom.


Political thought, behavior, and emotion are powerfully driven by political identities. ~ American political psychologist Karen Stenner

The designations left and right originated during the French Revolution, based upon where Assembly members were seated in the room. The left was considered the “party of movement,” while the right was “the party of order.”

An ideology invariably involves a disposition to change. 18th-century classical liberalism grew the ideological roots from which democracy sprouted. From this liberalism emanates a bias to see movement to something new as positive progress. But progress has no intrinsic value.

Political labels are commonly used to signify level of discontent with the status quo, the vector in which change is desired, and how quickly.