Framework 2: Political values

Brad C. Anderson

Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues developed a framework of values to explain differences between liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. They developed this framework in the United States of America but have since tested it across many cultures.

The following video presents an overview of this framework, while the subsequent paragraphs present a written summary of this framework. Though the video describes five value categories, Dr. Haidt later added a sixth, which the following written description includes.



The following list presents the six categories of values:[1]

  • Care/harm: This value encompasses our attitudes towards caring for others and our responses to people who cause harm.
  • Fairness/cheating: Fairness represents equality (equal outcome) or proportionality (a person’s outcome matches their contribution). These values represent our attitudes towards fairness and how we view cheaters.
  • Loyalty/betrayal: This value captures our attitudes about people who show allegiance towards a group they belong to, as well as those whose actions undermine the group.
  • Authority/subversion: This value encodes our view about showing respect to hierarchical relationships.
  • Sanctity/degradation: This value captures our attitudes towards purity. Here, purity is defined broadly, including freedom from disease, contamination, pollution, or however individuals or groups define such things.
  • Liberty/oppression: This value informs our perceptions of when it is appropriate to use force to control others’ actions.

These values are active in all humans. The importance individuals assign to each value differs, however.

Dr. Haidt mapped these differences along political lines to explain why politics can be so divisive. Most people view the values of care and fairness as necessary. People who identify themselves as liberals, however, define fairness as equality, whereas conservatives view it as proportionality.

People describing themselves as conservative tend to hold loyalty, authority, and sanctity in high esteem while liberals assign them a low priority. Libertarians, who can be either liberal or conservative, tend to prioritize the value of liberty.

The above sections demonstrate we can view values in multiple ways. Remember, there is no single “right” framework to understand values. Different frameworks seek to explain different behaviours. For example, the public sector framework seeks to understand how public sectors operate; the political framework addresses why politics can be divisive. Importantly, different cultures may possess disparate value systems.

When interacting with different groups, it is important to recognize the values guiding your behaviour and the values the other group pursues. Understanding where your values overlap and differ from theirs is an important first step to creating a productive relationship.[2]

After reading this section, you may wonder why human society has so many different values guiding its behaviour. The next section explores that question.


Key Takeaways

  • Different cultures may venerate different values
  • Several frameworks organize and describe the values in our society.
  • A framework of public sector values seeks to understand the role values play in the public sector. This framework identifies several values and places them into the following categories:
    • Contribution to society
    • Transformation of interests to decisions
    • Relationship between administrators and leaders
    • Relationship between administrators and the environment
    • Intraorganizational aspects of administration
    • Behaviour of employees
    • Relationship between administrators and citizens
  • A framework of political values seeks to understand why politics is so divisive. This framework identifies six values:
    • Care/harm
    • Fairness/cheating
    • Loyalty/betrayal
    • Authority/subversion
    • Sanctity/degradation
    • Liberty/oppression
  • If you wish to create productive relations, first understand the values guiding your behaviour and then seek to understand the values guiding other people’s behaviours.

  1. Haidt, J. (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Pantheon Books.
  2. Haidt, J. (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Pantheon Books.


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Framework 2: Political values Copyright © 2020 by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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