Apologies if the question is too vague.
By “materialist” politics, I mean political reasoning and action that is primarily focused on the goal of optimizing measurable outcomes for people, in such metrics as monetary wealth, access to nutrition, health, educational achievement, equality, various measures of freedom, etc. By “symbolic” politics, I mean political reasoning and action that is primarily focused on words, labels, the use of language, images, and the perception of political factions “winning” and “losing”.
Obviously, there has always been a measure of both foci in the political arena. In my opinion, politics, especially in the English-speaking world, has been rapidly moving towards a heavier emphasis on the symbolic in the 21st century.
Question: Is there any academic work that attempts to separate and measure material and symbolic political foci, assess their relative weights in determining political outcomes in different locales and at different times in history?