I had this idea a few years ago but am only now formulating it into a very brief sketch.

My idea is that very broadly, and in a very theoretical sense, politics can be divided into a double helix rather like DNA.  In this political double helix, there are four major alternating positions, composed of two complementary pairs (I say complementary based on Neils Bohr’s Contraria sunt complementia).    When I say that each pair is complementary, they can potentially harmonise effectively together, when necessary, though they are as different from one another as yin and yang.  Each of these positions is really a kind of ideological space within which there is a multiplicity of different parties and philosophies which are constantly changing their names and manifestations over time.

(Picture above taken from this website)

For the sake of simplification I describe these as colours.  I am also using examples from British political history because I am in the UK, though their application is obviously universal.  The perspective is based in large part on the pathfinding Political Compass analysis (which followed earlier four-way political diagrams such as the Nolan Chart) which is then aggregated with the idea of the double helix that was at the centre of the discovery of DNA.

The first two complementary opposites are BLUE and YELLOW.  In British history, these represent CONSERVATISM and LIBERALISM.  Here they originally took the form of the TORY party and the WHIG party, with the latter changing into the Liberal Party and its various offshoots (primarily now the LIBERAL DEMOCRATS) and the former being officially the CONSERVATIVE party but still nicknamed the Tories.  It is currently interesting that at the time of writing there is a Coalition government between these two forces – throughout the 19th century these two were opposed to each other and alternated in government (the era of Disraeli’s Conservatism and Gladstone’s Liberalism) but under the surface Socialism and Labour were on the rise (particularly as a result of the widening of the franchise in 1832, 1867 and 1884 which gave more people the vote, and particularly those lower in the class hierarchy).  The rise of the Socialist left supplanted Liberalism which became relatively marginalised in the 20th century.  The 20th century then became dominated in the UK by alternating Labour (broadly authoritarian-left) and Conservative (broadly authoritarian-right) majority governments.

The other two complementary opposites are RED and GREEN.  Red has always been associated with SOCIALISM and COMMUNISM.  It developed later than the two other opposites and grew primarily as a lower-class response to them, with the long-term rise of the LABOUR party amongst others.  The far later development, which has been occuring under the surface of British politics (and at a far slower rate than that of other countries such as Germany), is the rise of environmental politics with the GREEN party and various others (the previous General Election, in 2010,  saw the first ever Green MP elected as one member of the opposition to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat/Blue-Yellow Coalition government).  Environmental concerns are a feature of politics in all four quadrants and parties and individuals rooted in all four have potential solutions to environmental problems to put forward but they have a particularly strong and essential role to the play in the rising libertarian-left.

Broadly speaking – and again, this is a theoretical approach to categorising – the BLUE maps to the Authoritarian-Right and the YELLOW to the Libertarian-Right.  The RED maps to the Authoritarian-Left and the GREEN maps to the Libertarian-Left on the Political Compass way of organising different ideological positions.  Individual views and ideologies as well as pragmatic manifestations of them are, of course, fluid and in movement and change based on reactions and responses of others, and so this way of viewing the situation is, as I stress, theoretical and abstract.  The broad policy platform of a particular politician could be plotted on that map but obviously will be in constant flux like the river of Heraclitus.  I would argue that, broadly speaking, the BLUE and the YELLOW conform to the masculine side of politics and the RED and the GREEN to the feminine.  It is interesting that the word ‘Labour’ was associated not just with Labour but with childbirth, and that one of the underlying philosophies of the rising Green movement is that of Gaia, named after a Greek goddess.  I do not necessarily mean that individual women vote left and men right (statistically as I understand it that is by no means the case from one country to another) – instead what I mean is that broadly speaking the values and philosophies of the left can be seen as feminine and the right as masculine.  It is also possible that they are related to brain hemispheres, so that the left wing corresponds to the right brain and the right wing to the left brain, just as the right brain corresponds to the left side of the human body and vice versa.  It might also be possible to argue that the four quadrants map on to other divisions such as those between land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship in the economic sphere (with, possibly, LL mapping to land, AL mapping to labour, AR mapping to capital and LR mapping to entrepreneurship).

This analysis from the Political Compass site argues that European governments in 2008 were overwhelmingly authoritarian-right. Source: http://www.politicalcompass.org/euchart

I would argue that in practice an individual may have a range of different elements of all four in terms of their political views, but that a party in the aggregate and in general tends to crystallise opinions into a particular area or trajectory within the compass.  Various Political Compass websites have done strong and interesting analysis on different parties and leaders which has shown, generally speaking, a broad rightwards shift across Europe during my lifetime, so that leftist parties have often felt the need to move rightwards in order to get elected (this is obviously debatable).    As with everything in life, however, this is not fixed, and politics is in constant flow like the River Thames.  Intuitively, I would argue that a political process will work most successfully when it is based on as open conversation as possible.  That conversation must naturally involve conflict, because politics is based on different narratives about the world; for that conflict to be most productive, people must be allowed to articulate their narratives as openly and clearly as possible and politicians should try to be as honest as possible about what they believe and what they intend to do rather than attempt to be something they are not in order to be elected.  I would personally argue that a system of politics will function best when there is space for a plurality of different views.  When only one view is allowed or a narrow set of views predominate, the danger is tyranny, totalitarianism and top-down rule with their inevitable repressions and paralysis.

A lot of those Political Compass websites, which have broken new theoretical ground, have useful online surveys where you can answer questions to get a broad idea of where you personally stand on political matters and so which organisations or parties you might be drawn to.

I leave it entirely open as to whether a particular political perspective is somehow related to our DNA and therefore whether we are born with political predispositions or whether we are born as a blank slate or tabula rasa; the question of political nature or nurture is not one I can answer in any meaningful sense at this moment in time.

This is, at the risk of reductionism and over-simplification, and also at the risk of the domination of abstractions over empirical realities, the Double Helix of Politics.

Below is a picture of the double helix structure of DNA.  My fundamental idea is that BLUE and YELLOW (authoritarian and libertarian right) form a kind of base pairing and that RED and GREEN (authoritarian and libertarian left) form another base pairing similar to the Watson-Crick DNA base pairings of nucleotides (adenine or A forms a pairing with thymine or T and on the other hand guanine or G forms a base pairing with cytosine or C).

Below that is a picture of a Rubik cube.  I loved these as a boy but have to confess that I cheated by peeling off the stickers and sticking them in the right places because I found it too difficult to solve it naturally.  I confess like an Alfred Hitchcock film.

Subsidiary note: the four-way system is a quaternity.  It may be possible to correlate it to other quaternity systems, for example with Carl Jung’s theory of four psychological types arranged in two pairs.

I stress that these correspondences may be useful and again they are heavily abstract and theoretical; the map, as ever in human life, is not the territory, although maps can be useful in helping to reduce complexity and navigate through it in life.