Last month I mentioned a fun and original system of political classification. Now I'd like to try my own hand at inventing one.
1) The first distinction concerns one's conception of political dispute: Rationalists believe that politics is (ideally) a rational endeavour, and that reason can resolve political disputes, eventually leading to convergence (at least among ideally rational agents). Subjectivists think it's all just a matter of personal preference, or a 'battle of wills'.
2) Another meta-political distinction (which I consider hugely important) is between procedural liberals vs. radicals. Radicals are most fundamentally committed to the advancement of their substantive political ends, by whatever means necessary. Liberals, by contrast, are primarily committed to the integrity of the political system as a whole. Recognizing their own fallibility, they see upholding just procedures -- e.g. democratic institutions, and the rule of law -- as more important than obtaining their preferred outcome on substantive (first-order) political issues.
This suggests that radicals will be more open to violent revolution and imposing their views on others, whereas liberals will tend to prefer piecemeal reform through legitimate channels. (Though I suppose liberals could support revolution against tyrants or unjust institutions.)
[Aside: I think there are good utilitarian reasons to be a procedural liberal. See my post: 'investing in rational capital'. Come to think of it, I should add that one to my list of 'favourite posts'.]
3) Concerning the locus of political power, we have the distinction between managerialists vs. democrats. Managerialists think that politics is the business of politicians, and that ordinary folk should keep their distance. Democrats think that civilians should be politically empowered, through deliberative democracy and the like.
4) Concerning the extent or exercise of political power, we may contrast individualists vs. communitarians. The essential difference is whether one favours the autonomy of individuals or of groups. Individualists believe that the proper aim of politics is limited to enabling each individual to rule over themselves. Communitarians hold that the majority should rule over the minority. (Or, more charitably, that communities should be self-determining.)
5) Statists vs. Hayekians: Note that this distinction concerns one's empirical beliefs rather than ideals. Statists believe that good results come about through centralized planning. Hayekians are more inclined to trust 'the wisdom of crowds', and hence favour decentralized solutions (including the free market and commons-based peer production [think wikipedia]).
6) Attitudes towards change: Progressives vs. Burkeans. Progressives are more optimistic and open to political experimentation, whereas Burkeans are cautious of change and prefer the 'tried and true'.
7) Distribution of political power: universalists think that political decisions and laws should apply everywhere, whereas federalists think that different geographic communities should have a degree of political independence.
8) Sense of justice: Egoists vs. Altruists. Egoists don't think we have any politically enforcable obligations to help others (say through redistributive taxation). Altruists do.
9) Scope of justice: Cosmopolitans are concerned about global justice. Nationalists think we only have duties to those in our own communities or nation states.
I think the first eight axes are all conceptually distinct from each other, even if some more naturally go together than others. Are they adequately exhaustive, or can you think of other important distinctions I've missed? (The traditional economic "left/right" would seem captured by #5 and #8. And social lib/authoritarianism by #4.)
So... I'm a rationalist liberal democratic individualist Hayekian progressive federalist altruistic cosmopolitan (*gasps for breath*). How about you?