A New Model of Political Space

New, but also eerily familiar....

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This model originally developed out of some work I did years ago trying to find out what political terms actually meant in ordinary speech. This is what I came up with, although the suggested place for Anarchism is my addition.
The model shows the underlying conceptual structure for the way most people think and talk about politics. If you work with it I think you will find that it holds up very well. Of course, people who call themselves "Communists" will object to the position of Communism in the New Model. But it is ordinary speech being looked at here, not specialized political vocabularies. I discuss the New Model further,just a little, below. But there is a lot in it, and I think you'll find that playing around with it is productive of insight. I'd very much like to hear back from you about it.

For those who can't see this diagram it is a circle on a Cartesian graph, the Y axis labelled

Freedom and Equality

"Freedom" here has the simple liberal sense of "absence of restraint". Both freedom and equality are understood to be good things in a politicial sense, and they are also understood to be in tension with each other.

In tension with each other but not however opposites. It is clear, for example, that the values of freedom and equality mingle in democracy, even at the simple level of voting for representatives. Freedom and equality can be thought of as aspects of a deeper quality, call it "liberty". If the diameter of the circle is thought of as 20 units then the "liberty" value of democracy can be quantified as approximately 34 (17 out of a possible 20 on each of the Freedom and Equality axes), the highest possible value on the circle. Socialism and capitalism each have a "liberty" value of 30 (= 20 + 10) while communism and fascism have a value of 10 (= +10).

If one begins form the Democracy point then the clockwise direstion corresponds to the Right on the conventional Left/Right line, and anti-clockwise to the Left. Anarchists should especially note that the perception that places us "left of communism" is not helpful in terms of this model. "Left of communism" also "right of fascism" and is the nadir point with the lowest liberty value on the circle, approximately 6.

Abstract Nature of New Model

It will be seen that the New Model does not directly represent the real world. What some people call "socialism" others may call "democracy" or even "capitalism". The point is, that is exactly what does happen in the real world. (Consider the different analyses of the former Yugoslavia.) The aim of the New Model is to capture the conceptual sytem underlying what people think and say about the world. Before presuming to teach one must try to understand.

The Radius of Possibility

The radius of the circle can be taken to represent the organizational capacities of a given society, including its technical base but also its psychology and sociology, its fund of ideas. A simple hunter-gatherer society might be expected to have a small radius of possibility, in terms of the diagram above its liberty value could be neither much more nor much less than 20. Anarchism depends for its realisation on expanding the radius of possibility. A large radius of possibility gives the potential for increasing liberty....but also for decreasing it. Notice the nadir point "left of communism" has a liberty value of 6, below the hunter-gatherer level. I think this may help explain why some who consider themselves "left of communism" are attracted to primitivism. If one starts at the nadir point then decreasing the radius of possibility will in fact leaD to an improvement in liberty.

Anyway it is a useful diagram, and I ahve by no means exhausted the possibilities in it with this brief exposition.

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