Both the culture war and the class war reveal the importance of the political in social life, as well as a broader political spectrum beyond just liberal and conservative.
For the past twenty years or so, there has been two accusations directed toward liberals and conservatives in various media and public debates. The liberals accuse the conservatives of waging culture war, while conservatives accuse the liberals of waging class war. Liberals have been afraid to engage in the culture war since that would require taking an oppositional stance to what has been considered traditional and therefore wholesome. Conservatives are reluctant to engage in the class war since that would reveal a complicity in the current economic drawbacks and exploitation through the various stages of capitalism in the modern era. From an impartial perspective, the two conflicts reveal that there are radical and traditional poor people as well as radical and traditional rich people. The term radical in a cultural sense can be aligned with the new and the avant garde, and the term traditional can be seen as a reluctance toward cultural change or even a direct atavism. For clarification, it should also be noted that the use of the terms rich and poor would imply a difference of opinion on how the benefits of an economy should be distributed and who are the most important actors in an economy. Being poor would imply a collective distribution and action, while being rich would imply an individual distribution and action. In other words, the poor might be inclined to form groups to achieve economic goals, considering their conditions, and the rich would emphasize rugged individualism, also considering their conditions.
With the transition from an industrial to an information economy, the political spectrum in terms of ideology has appeared to expand. Along with the scale of what was originally considered left and right there is the perpendicular scale of old and new, also known as traditional and radical, that intersects what was once known as liberal and conservative. The original spectrum is then revealed to be an economic scale, while the second spectrum is cultural. The breakdown of linear functional structures has resulted in a more complex area of political identification. The older sensibilities of liberal and conservative, embedded in the economic, do not seem to fit the current political situation. Only those who want to perpetuate the status quo would want to force the new landscape into the outdated map. With this new two-dimensional graph of ideology, there are clearly grey areas where one can find the new disenfranchised. They are disenfranchised because the new arm of the graph is not yet fully recognized. The change of economic, and then cultural conditions, create the need to expand the model of the spectrum. A more comprehensive understanding of ideology and political agenda-formation will result if the spectrum model is acknowledged as growing a new arm. That new arm would be the spectrum from traditional to radical that is at a right angle to the spectrum of rich and poor, formerly considered right and left in a purely economic perspective.
The economic divide separates the rich and the poor, while the cultural divide separates the traditional and the radical. These perpendicular divisions need to be seen together, or else it becomes relatively easy to obscure reality in favor of false ideology and ready-made propaganda. Without these two divisions together, there is the appearance of all poor being traditional conservatives and subsequently under the negative rule of a radical liberal elite who are rich. As Thomas Frank has noted, this shift in appearance gives the impression that the poor are threatened more by liberal Hollywood than conservative corporations. There is a denial of a possible history of the radical poor alongside the false image of corporate interests as hardworking entrepreneurs. The true economic elite hides behind the controversial cultural issues in order to make sure that things overall do not really change against their interests. For cultural issues that are removed from a discussion of the economic structure serve only to distract voters and any successful cultural change toward the new is limited, isolated, and eventually subsumed under the commodification of culture. What binds the cultural and economic divisions together in a perpendicular formation in reality is the third division of the political. The political division is one between decentralization and centralization, which can also be seen as a separation between statism and anarchism or between hierarchy and grassroots democracy. Since the political deals with and organizes the cultural and the economic as subsets of the social, the political division determines how the cultural and economic divisions are perceived and acted upon. The political is one of action that works with the structural alignments of the economic and the cultural.
The political discourse will be more open and less limited in terms and vocabulary if there is an expansion beyond one dimension that moves from left to right and back again. The fluidity of political affiliation is a healthy aspect in a society, and is an example of multivalence within the social as well as a sign of free agency. The existence of free agency can allow the potential for the social to move in the most beneficial direction regardless of the particular political orientations of individuals. This mosaic of single-issue alignments enhances the competition and equilibrium of factions. Factions are a side-effect of both political action and awareness in a democracy. As long as there is a decision to be made by a vote, there is the debate to convince on that issue. In order not to extinguish expression and also innovation, factions must be tolerated. Their organization and movement is the engine of a democratic process that could develop toward universal conformity or multiple singularities of freedom. This marketplace of ideas tests issues on merit rather than repetition or abstraction under ideology. People, becoming part of different groups based on different opinions of different current issues, makes the population of established coalitions or movements heterogeneous. This will in turn erode the bedrock of ideology and make any generalization difficult and secondary. Here, the individual needs and desires can return and work in such a way as to enrich and refresh the collective and make it more effective in societal acts. In other words, there can be synergy between the individual and the collective within democracy.
The two-dimensional graph reflects this trend toward single-issue alignments, how they build up into various political coalitions and movements, and is an attempt to map out this phenomenon. These coalitions and movements are dependent upon the parts that are voters who are oriented toward particular viewpoints on politics, culture, and the economy. As time passes, and as changes in society and economics escalate, there is the beginning of a recognition of the third dimension of the political spectrum. This is the dimension of political action, a tendency to move from up to down and could be described as moving from statist hierarchy to anarchist grassroots democracy. As the overall graph achieves new dimensions, the ability to describe the overall political landscape becomes more accurate and any misunderstanding in study and debate can be avoided. The conditions of our world, how they shape people in terms of thought and what those people can do to affect those conditions for their benefit, will eventually determine the rate at which ideological profiling can grow towards more precision.