The Political Spectrum

The political spectrum is a representation of differing political positions in relation to each another. A familiar representation is the traditional horizontal axis representing left - moderate - right.

A more complex spectrum developed by Dickenson shows how various political positions relate to each other:1

Dickenson's Political Spectrum

Definitions for terms describing political positions, such as "progressive," "liberal," and "conservative" are not universally accepted. Political scientist and philosopher W.B. Gallie calles them contested concepts:3

… concepts the proper use of which inevitably involves endless disputes about their proper uses on the part of their users [that] cannot be settled by appeal to empirical evidence, linguistic usage, or the canons of logic alone.



1. What are ‘Liberals,’ What are ‘Progressives,’ and Why the Difference Matters, Crissie Brown, PoliticsUSA, June 15, 2013.

2. Political spectrum, Rational Wiki.

3. Contested Concepts in Cognitive Social Science, Alan Schwartz, University of California, Berkeley, May 1992.