The Political Atlas (4/9) Foreign Policy Spectrum (Intro)

[The cover image of every post in this series is an apolitical mock flag design of my own creation.The flower overlapping the star is a pansy, which represents Free Thought. I will eventually discuss political symbolism in Part 9.]

In the previous entry, we combined the first two dimensions of the spectrum and in doing so laid out a comprehensive map of domestic policy. Now we’re finally going to go beyond the foundation of the Political Compass by introducing a third axis, dealing with foreign policy.

Foreign Involvement Axis

The following continuum relates to how proactively a state interacts with its neighbors, from blurring the lines of individual nation-states almost completely to reclusive self-sufficiency. The same hierarchy vs equality paradigm which underscored the last two dimensions may be applied here as well. In this context, globalist-leaning ideologies represent equality (among all nations) while isolationist-leaning ideologies represent hierarchy (by putting the home country’s interest above others.)

Globalism: The support for Globalization.

Globalization: the trend of increasing interaction between people or companies on a worldwide scale due to advances in transportation and communication technology. Economically, globalization involves goods and services, and the economic resources of capital, technology, and data.

Transnationalism: is a social phenomenon and scholarly research agenda grown out of the heightened inter-connectivity between people and the receding economic and social significance of boundaries among nation states. Transnationalism as an economic process involves the global reorganization of the production process, in which various stages of the production of any product can occur in various countries, typically with the aim of minimizing costs. Proponents of capitalist transnationalism seek to facilitate the flow of people, ideas, and goods among regions.

Internationalism: is a political principle which transcends nationalism and advocates a greater political or economic cooperation among nations and people. The idea that the people of the world should unite across national, political, cultural, racial, or class boundaries to advance their common interests, or that the governments of the world should cooperate because their mutual long-term interests are of greater importance than their short-term disputes.

Interventionism: is a policy of non-defensive (proactive) activity undertaken by a nation-state, or other geopolitical jurisdiction of a lesser or greater nature, to manipulate an economy and/or society. The most common applications of the term are for economic interventionism (a state’s intervention in its own economy), and foreign interventionism (a state’s intervention in the affairs of another nation as part of its foreign policy)

Nationalism: the promotion of a country’s interests and autonomy against those of other countries. Sometimes conflated with Nativism, which is the political policy of promoting the interests of native inhabitants against those of immigrants. Also related to Pan-Nationalism, which is a form of nationalism distinguished by being associated with a claimed national territory which does not correspond to existing political boundaries. (think of the German- Austrian Anchluss, China’s claim over Taiwan and American Manifest Destiny) In its most extreme variations, cultural and ethnic nationalism promote the beliefs that a nation should be defined by shared cultural values or race, respectively.

Non-Interventionism: is a foreign policy that holds that political rulers should avoid alliances with other nations but still retain diplomacy and avoid all wars unless related to direct self-defense. Characterized by the absence of “interference by a state or states in the external affairs of another state without its consent, or in its internal affairs with or without its consent”

Protectionism: is the economic policy of restricting imports from other countries through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, import quotas, and a variety of other government regulations. Proponents claim that protectionist policies shield the producers, businesses, and workers of the import-competing sector in the country from foreign competitors.

Isolationism: is a category of foreign policies institutionalized by leaders who assert that their nations’ best interests are best served by keeping the affairs of other countries at a distance. One possible motivation for limiting international involvement is to avoid being drawn into dangerous and otherwise undesirable conflicts. There may also be a perceived benefit from avoiding international trade agreements or other mutual assistance pacts.

Autarky: is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic systems. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance or international trade. If a self-sufficient economy also refuses all trade with the outside world then it is called a closed economy.

Foreign Policy (Z-axis) & Economy (X-axis)

When we factor economic considerations into the degree of a state’s interactions abroad, we can fit many more ideologies and socio-economic systems into our spectrum than before. Here are a few scattered examples.

Mercantilism: promotes governmental regulation of a nation’s economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. Mercantilism includes a national economic policy aimed at accumulating monetary reserves through a positive balance of trade, especially of finished goods. Historically, such policies frequently led to war and also motivated colonial expansion. (Right-Protectionism)

Economic Liberalism: is an economic system organized on individual lines, which means the greatest possible number of economic decisions are made by individuals or households rather than by collective institutions or organizations. It includes a spectrum of different economic policies, such as freedom of movement, but its basis is on strong support for a market economy and private property in the means of production. Although economic liberals can also be supportive of government regulation to a certain degree, they tend to oppose government intervention in the free market when it inhibits free trade and open competition. Economic liberalism is associated with free markets and private ownership of capital assets. (Right-Internationalism)

Feudalism: a combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labor. Describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs. (Right-Isolationism)

Manorialism: was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the Roman villa system of the Late Roman Empire, and was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe. It was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market economy and new forms of agrarian contract. Manorialism was characterized by the vesting of legal and economic power in a Lord of the Manor, supported economically from his own direct landholding in a manor (sometimes called a fief), and from the obligatory contributions of a legally subject part of the peasant population under the jurisdiction of himself and his manorial court. (Right-Isolationism)

World Revolution: is the far-left Marxist concept of overthrowing capitalism in all countries through the conscious revolutionary action of the organized working class. These revolutions would not necessarily occur simultaneously, but where and when local conditions allowed a revolutionary party to successfully replace bourgeois ownership and rule, and install a workers’ state based on social ownership of the means of production. In most Marxist schools, such as Trotskyism, the essentially international character of the class struggle and the necessity of global scope are critical elements and a chief explanation of the failure of socialism in one country. (Left-Internationalism)

Guevarism: is a theory of communist revolution and a military strategy of guerrilla warfare associated with Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a leading figure of the Cuban Revolution who believed in the idea of Marxism–Leninism and embraced its principles. His ideology promotes exporting revolution to any country whose leader is supported by the United States and has fallen out of favor with its citizens. Guevara talks about how constant guerrilla warfare taking place in non-urban areas can overcome leaders. He introduces three points that are representative of his ideology as a whole: that the people can win with proper organization against a nation’s army; that the conditions that make a revolution possible can be put in place by the popular forces; and that the popular forces always have an advantage in a non urban setting. (Left-Interventionism)

Social Patriotism: is an openly patriotic standpoint which combines patriotism with socialism. It was first identified at the outset of the First World War when a majority of Social Democrats opted to support the war efforts of their respective governments and abandoned socialist internationalism and worker solidarity. (Left-Isolationism)

Social Chauvinism: aggressive or fanatical patriotism, particularly during time of war, in support of one’s own nation (e.g., government, culture, etc.) versus other nation(s), displayed by those who are socialists or social democrats. During World War I, most left-wingpolitical parties took a social-chauvinist stand, with few exceptions. Most Socialists gave up their anti-militarism and their belief in international unity among the working class in favor of “defense of the fatherland”, and turned to social-chauvinism. (Left-Isolationism)

Foreign Policy (Z-axis) & State Power (Y-Axis)

The same, of course, can be done by combining State Power with Foreign Policy.

Multi-nationalism: the establishment or operation of multinational corporations. A multinational corporation (MNC) or worldwide enterprise is a corporate organization that owns or controls production of goods or services in at least one country other than its home country. (Authoritarian Transnationalism)

Imperialism: is an action that involves a nation extending its power by the acquisition of inhabited territory. It may also include the exploitation of these territories. (Authoritarian Interventionism)

Colonialism: is the policy of a polity seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of developing or exploiting them to the benefit of the colonizing country and of helping the colonies modernize in terms defined by the colonizers, especially in economics, religion and health. (Authoritarian Interventionism)

Neocolonialism: is the practice of using capitalism, globalization and cultural imperialism to influence a developing country in lieu of direct military control (imperialism) or indirect political control (hegemony). (Authoritarian Internationalism)

New Imperialism: a period of colonial expansion by European powers, the United States, and Japan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The period featured an unprecedented pursuit of overseas territorial acquisitions. At the time, states focused on building their empires with new technological advances and developments, making their territory bigger through conquest, and exploiting their resources. (Authoritarian Interventionism)

Localism: describes a range of political philosophies which prioritize the local. Generally, localism supports local production and consumption of goods, local control of government, and promotion of local history, local culture and local identity. (Libertarian Protectionism)

Regionalism: is a political ideology that focuses on the national or normative interests of a particular region, group of regions or another sub-national entity. In extreme cases, Regionalism may lead to separatism, which is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group, including full secession. A related term is Autonomism, which is a doctrine which supports acquiring or preserving political autonomy of a nation or a region. (Libertarian Protectionism)

Non-Aggression Principle: an ethical stance asserting that aggression is inherently wrong. In this context, aggression is defined as initiating or threatening any forceful interference with an individual or their property. In contrast to pacifism, it does not forbid forceful defense. The NAP is considered by some to be a defining principle of libertarianism, especially natural-rights libertarianism. It is also a prominent idea in anarcho-capitalism, classical liberalism and minarchism. (Libertarian Non-interventionism)

Tribalism: is the state of being organized by, or advocating for, tribes or tribal lifestyles. Some scholars postulate that human evolution has occurred in small groups, as opposed to mass societies, and that humans naturally maintain a social network. The social structure of a tribe can vary greatly from case to case, but the relatively small size of customary tribes makes social life in such of tribes usually involve a relatively undifferentiated role structure, with few significant political or economic distinctions between individuals. Tribalism implies the possession of a strong cultural or ethnic identity that separates one member of a group from the members of another group. Based on strong relations of proximity and kinship, members of a tribe tend to possess a strong feeling of identity. For this reason, tribalism may also refer to a way of thinking or behaving in which people are loyal to their social group above all else, or, derogatorily, a type of discrimination or animosity based upon group differences. (Libertarian Isolationism)

All three axes together into a crude three dimensional model of the spectrum.


  1. Great job Cassie, I never saw these positions defined before. You are a brilliant young lady, I so glad to have the pleasure of knowing you. I like your Free Thought Pansy flag design. It is an different concept. I always thing of free thought as requiring strength but a pansy is often considered a symbol of feminity and weakness. Good idea, since there is nothing inherently weak about being feminine as you demonstrate by your life.

    1. Much appreciated Ron. I love vexillology (study of flags) and making my own designs for fun. This series provided me a good excuse to use one of my favorites on the site.

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