From the most prestigious university environments to informal chats between friends, when we talk about politics we inevitably use some kind of system that allows us to characterize, classify and interrelate the different political ideologies that exist.

We are all used to using the right-left system, which although we could describe it as simplistic or reductionist, this old characterization that comes from the events of the French Revolution still maintains some utility.

To escape from that one-dimensional scheme that we know as the right-left dichotomy, during the last century various graphs and conceptual maps have been created to represent the political spectrum in a more precise and detailed way. 

The most successful example so far has been the Nolan chart. Using a two-dimensional model, David Nolan creates in 1969 a multiaxial system of political ideologies that allows us to visually order groups as progressives, conservatives, centrists, liberals, and authoritarians.

Despite the popularity of this chart, it has significant flaws.

Nolan’s big mistake was conceptualizing his model based on degrees of “personal freedom” and “economic freedom”, since these are closely related and do not represent independent variables.

The imprecision of the terms and quadrants that Nolan uses in his diagram lead to erroneous deductions that have become common prejudices:

  • A conservative is an enemy of freedom.
  • A progressive is a safeguard of freedom.
  • A conservative cannot be an interventionist.
  • A progressive cannot be a free trader.

Note: in Spanish the terms conservative, liberal and progressive do not have the same meaning as in the USA, since they preserved the original meaning. (Example: liberal always refers to someone inside the classical liberal tradition) 

Although The Political Compass corrects several flaws in Nolan’s diagram, it does not offer a precise conceptual system for characterizing, classifying, and interrelating different political ideologies.

For these reasons, I would like to propose a superior model, a simple diagram, but one that allows us to order the political spectrum more precisely.

Needless to say, the content and theory behind my diagram is fallible, objectionable, and open to improvement.

The purpose of this project is not to serve the academy, but as a tool to complement the learning of different tendencies and authors.

I would like to thank Valentín Berardi (@CriaturaI), a partner in this project, who, based on his programming knowledge, played an essential role in preparing the political test and perfecting the diagram.

I present the “New Political Spectrum”


To develop a political spectrum that allows us to accurately classify and interrelate the different ideological groups, we must use conceptual axes that represent the fundamental debates in political thought.

The economis axis reflects the interventionismfree market or socialism-capitalism debate in which we can distinguish three large groups:

  1. Those who defend the legitimacy of private ownership and the institutions of a free market economy
  2. Those who antagonize the first position, favoring social ownership and a planned economy.
  3. Those who have an eclectic position, adopting an intermediate position.

The political axis reflects the authoritarianismanarchism debate, a theme that has political, anthropological and epistemological elements. We will also distinguish three groups:

  1. Those who advocate a social order based on voluntary agreements, rejecting the legitimacy of any authority or rule that is imposed by force.
  2. Those who antagonize the first position, advocating a social order based on strong authorities or hierarchies that guide or direct society in a paternalistic manner.
  3. Those who have an eclectic position, adopting an intermediate position.

The social axis reflects the conservatism-progressivism debate. This is the new element that will give this graphic a superior precision.

Why a third axis?


The current use of “progressivism” as a synonym for social democracy or marxism, and of “conservatism” as a broad category of figures ranging from Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, and Otto Von Bismarck to George W. Bush is theoretically and historically absurd.

Conservatism and progressivism should not be understood as systematized political ideologies, but rather as attitudes or mental models with which we analyze social reality.

This does not differ from the characterization made by authors such as Russell Kirk, who in “The Conservative Mind” stated that conservatism is a mindset that we can describe by means of “canons”.

Various studies have suggested that having a conservative or progressive mindset has correlations with neurocognitive factors. This does not mean that there is a direct cause, but the possibility that there are neurobiological factors can shape us to see social reality in a conservative or progressive way is interesting.

The point is that these different mentalities can lead to a bipolarity within the same political ideology, a conflict of emphasis and priorities that commonly creates divisions that we tend to associate with internal “right-left” wings.

Within classical liberalism, for example, we find a conservative liberalism (tradition that begins with Edmund Burke) and a progressive liberalism (tradition that begins with John Stuart Mill).

Bearing this in mind, in our third axis we will also find three groups:

  1. Those who analyze social reality in an essentialist and teleological way, assuming the existence of an order and a natural law knowable by reason, revelation or tradition. They emphasize duty, virtue, and human nature. They are “conservatives”.

  2. Those who antagonize the first group, analyzing social reality in a constructivist and existentialist way. They deny the existence of an order or natural law, whose precepts they characterize as outdated and inflexible. They emphasize the autonomy of the individual and the self-creation of his life project. They are “progressive”. 

  3. Those who have a mixed look are “pragmatists”. They share elements with progressives and conservatives.

the chart

In this system we find three conceptual axes with three major trends in each of them.

In all, that gives us twenty-seven ideological positions, which in turn can be grouped into larger ideological families.

The chart attempts to illustrate these variables in the twenty-seven cells, columns, and levels.

Associating each of the twenty-seven variables to a specific movement or author has its limitations.

The examples are a gross simplification, but I hope it gets the job done.