A political spectrum is a system to characterize and classify different political positions in relation to one another. These positions sit upon one or more geometric axes that represent independent political dimensions. The expressions political compass and political map are used to refer to the political spectrum as well, especially to popular two-dimensional models of it.
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Most long-standing spectra include the left–right dimension which originally referred to seating arrangements in the French parliament after the Revolution (1789–1799), with radicals on the left and aristocrats on the right. While communism and socialism are usually regarded internationally as being on the left, conservatism and reactionism are generally regarded as being on the right. Liberalism can mean different things in different contexts, being sometimes on the left (social liberalism) and other times on the right (conservative liberalism or classical liberalism). Those with an intermediate outlook are sometimes classified as centrists. Politics that rejects the conventional left–right spectrum is often known as syncretic politics, although the label tends to mischaracterize positions that have a logical location on a two-axis spectrum because they seem randomly brought together on a one-axis left–right spectrum.
Political scientists have frequently noted that a single left–right axis is too simplistic and insufficient for describing the existing variation in political beliefs and included other axes. Although the descriptive words at polar opposites may vary, the axes of popular biaxial spectra are usually split between economic issues (on a left–right dimension) and socio-cultural issues (on an authority–liberty dimension).