Political Capability Spectrum, Worldview Analysis and Intervention Compass, Accumulative Stages of Societal Change Theory

Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)
6 min readDec 20, 2019

“People often say, with pride, ‘I’m not interested in politics.’ They might as well say, ‘I’m not interested in my standard of living, my health, my job, my rights, my freedoms, my future or any future.’… If we mean to keep any control over our world and lives, we must be interested in politics.” — Martha Gellhorn

I’ve been politically active for a few years now, and learnt a lot from the experience. So with no further ado, here is a classification device and two socio-political theories I’ve come up with based on said experience:

Death, taxes and politics: the Political Capability Spectrum (classification device)

As much as some people insist that they hate politics, Aristotle was absolutely right in his axiom that man is by nature a political animal. And perhaps Benjamin Franklin should’ve clarified in his writing that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes… and politics!” What some people really mean I think is that they hate some aspect of serious politics, eg frequent leadership spills. But politics is much more than that.

For example, Australians love their footy, and I see that as a form of fun politics. The two teams could easily be called the Government of the day and the Opposition, the referee could be called the Speaker of the House, the cheering crowds are made up of rank-and-file members of the major political parties etc. I could go on, but you get the idea. Political capability is a spectrum that I think looks like this:

The road to war illustrated above is a reference to Carl von Clausewitz’ argument that war is politics by other means, and that’s probably where the Hong Kong “rioters” sit on the spectrum. Australia’s frequent leadership spills sit at the ugly fatiguing realpolitik end, whilst our NRL and AFL Grand Finals sit at the fun warfighting end of the spectrum. People really are by nature political animals.

A new 3D political compass: the Worldview Analysis and Intervention Compass

In serious politics world, if you Google political compass/map, you’ll find various alternatives to the traditional Left-Right political spectrum on a single axis. Here’s an alternative spectral paradigm, through the lens of a Conservatarian (conservative libertarian):

The above and below illustrations are mere categorisations and generalisations of people. People will generally fall in either the Left spectrum or the Right spectrum over a (set of) political view/s, depending on their worldview. Both spectrums are disconnected from each other, but sit next to each other, and naturally clash. However, if Rightists put on Left glasses, and Leftists put on Right glasses, you get this separate but related spectral paradigm:

In other words, if you fall under the Left spectrum, you’re likely to side with the allegedly Oppressed, and therefore Chaos, and if you fall under the Right spectrum, you’re likely to support Order, and therefore the so-called Oppressor. I’ve rarely seen the reverse of this axiom occur, and this is consistent with Moral Foundations Theory, which more or less concludes that of the six foundations of the Theory, Rightists thinks that all six are relevant, while Leftists only attributes significance to three (I’ll let you guess which ones).

As for Centrists, they’ll balance it out in the four spectrums illustrated above. And as mentioned above, people will generally fall in either the Left spectrum or the Right spectrum over a (set of) political view/s, depending on their worldview. For example, someone could be a Leftist on the issue of same-sex marriage, but a Rightist on the issue of abortion. Or they could be consistently Rightists on many issues.

This Worldview Analysis Compass provides cross-bilateral depth to the simplistic traditional Left-Right political spectrum. Now there is a fifth spectrum, which answers the ‘so what’ question of the above four spectrums, and therefore completes the Worldview Analysis and Intervention Compass:

So what if a Leftist and a Rightist have opposing worldviews? What should be done about it? Should government intervene to enforce any of these worldviews? Such worldviews by themselves are objectively harmless. It’s just an opinion, so to speak. From a libertarian perspective, the intervention spectrum is the spectrum that matters the most, because government intervention directly affects people’s lives. So where do you sit on the Worldview Analysis and Intervention Compass?

The Accumulative Stages of Societal Change Theory

I think society goes through many internal lifecycles that the following model reflects:

Institution -> Culture -> Politics -> Law -> Institution -> Culture etc

In other words, law is downstream from politics, politics is downstream from culture, culture is downstream from institution, and institution is downstream from law. The four Accumulative Stages of Societal Change can be defined as follows:

Institution: an organisation founded for a religious, educational, professional, or social purpose AND/OR an established law or practice.

Culture: the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively AND/OR the ideas, customs, attitudes and social behaviour of a particular people or society.

Politics: the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.

Law: the formal mechanism for political rule-making and enforcement. As such, institutions are a central concern for law.

You can see from these definitions how one Stage of Societal Change gives rise to the next Stage, and so forth. As these Stages accumulate then cycles over time, the delineations between each Stage blurs, thereby making modern society a complex web of lots of forces at work.

It helps to understand cultural changes in the West post-World War Two in order to understand how Societal Change occurs. And I did just that recently when I attended ‘Not Ashamed’, the Australian Christian Lobby’s 2019 National Conference. One of the speakers was Dr Stephen Chavura, who talked about what it takes to change something as monolithic as culture. Culture is like the weather: you can’t change the weather as an individual; you can only survive the weather.

Most of the Western world started to experience unprecedented prosperity post-World War Two. Prosperity produces abundance of choice, which leads to existential anxiety, and produces rebels ‘without a cause’. In the case of the West, the increasing availability of the family car contributed to the decline of Sunday church attendance. Why walk to the local church when you can drive elsewhere to do something more fun?

Then the Pill was introduced, which divorced sex from children, and hence affected the traditional human life trajectories of:

Boy -> Man -> Husband -> Father

Girl -> Woman -> Wife -> Mother

You can imagine the extent of the cultural, political and legal consequences of the Pill’s introduction has been for the West, including consequences that continue to arise. Other factors contributing to cultural changes in the West post-World War Two include the Vietnam War galvanising the anti-West movement, and the increase in university participation furthered the galvanisation.

Afternote: Alexander Iulianus responded brilliantly to this blog post, in a way that I think dually completed my theories! Here is his response: https://medium.com/@neoplatonicmuse/i-have-made-this-quite-long-and-i-hope-it-doesnt-read-too-much-like-a-large-ramble-3b6570039aee.

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Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)

Trans-inclusionary radical feminist (TIRF) | Liberal Arts phenomenologist from @notredameaus | Anglo-catholic | all opinions expressed here are my own