In Search of Clarity: Unraveling the Complexity of Political Ideals

Otti Vogt
2 min readApr 19, 2024


In the labyrinth of modern politics, clarity often proves elusive amidst a cacophony of conflicting voices and values. However, in modern Western democracies, discussions frequently gravitate towards the four quadrants on the left side of the figure, each with its unique origins and distinctions: conservatism, libertarianism (classical liberalism), modern liberalism (and social democracy) and communitarianism.

At the origin of this constellation lies the evolution from earlier natural or divine law absolutism, symbolized by point A, where laws, rights and obligations often find their roots in nature or God’s will.

The 18th century marks the genesis of the original political divide, symbolized as B, which delineates the ideological chasm between conservatives and classical liberals. Classical liberals emerge as vanguards of individual freedom, laying thus the foundation of modern Western politics. Their ethos revolves particularly around the primacy of negative freedom — liberation from coercion and interference, historically rejecting the grip of religious institutions, feudal lords, and the aristocracy.

Transitioning to the 20th century, classical liberals evolve into libertarians, diverging significantly from modern liberals or social democrats, who place a strong emphasis on equality and positive freedom — the freedom to fulfill one’s potential and achieve well-being. While they champion measures aimed at fostering broader human capabilities and reducing social inequalities, Libertarians accentuate individual autonomy to the extreme, often advocating minimal state intervention. Consequently, clashes emerge over the size and configuration of the modern welfare state.

Progressing to postmodern times, we confront the ontological divide at point D, where profound differences emerge between the ideal of unencumbered personhood advocated by all liberals and a communitarian ideology, emphasizing relational self and mutual existence — “I am because you are.” A final shift takes us towards a collective “Us”, leading towards the radical utopia of socialist unity and a classless collective state, opposing traditional notions of individualism. This step also highlights a final metaphysical distinction, under E: socialism or communism, focusing entirely on material concerns, contrasts with the original idealism, centered on spiritual values.

Lastly, clearly contrasting views of the state emerge: a mainly European stance sees it as the guardian of an objective and universal ideal, while Anglo-Saxon perspectives often view it as an arena for power struggles over subjective interests.

It can be truly fascinating to embark on the journey through political ideologies, where past, present, and future intersect in a tapestry of diverse beliefs, understanding of self and cosmological ideals. 🌟

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Otti Vogt

Disruptive thinker, amateur poet and passionate global C-level transformation leader with over 20 years of experience in cross-cultural strategic change