Conservatism : Core Themes

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  • Conservatism : Core Themes
    • Human Imperfection
      • Human beings are thought to be morally imperfect. - Humankind is innately selfish and greedy, anything but perfectible.
      • For conservatives, the role of law is not to uphold liberty but preserve order.
      • The world is simply too complicated for human reason to grasp fully. Therefore conservatives are suspicious of abstract ideas and systems of thought that claim to understand what is, they argue simply incomprehensible. They prefer to ground their ideas in tradition, experience and history adopting a cautious, moderate and above all pragmatic approach to the world.
      • Human beings are thought to be psychologically limited and dependant creatures. In the view of conservatives, people fear isolation and instability. They are drawn psychologically to the safe and the familiar, and, above all, seek the security of knowing ‘their place’.
      • Crime is therefore not a product of inequality or social disadvantage, as socialists and modern liberals tend to believe, rather, it is a consequence of base human instincts and appetites. People can only be persuaded to behave in a civilized fashion if they are deterred from expressing their violent and antisocial impulses. The only effective deterrent is law, backed up by the knowledge that it will be strictly enforced.
      • Order ensures that human life is stable and predictable; it provides security in an uncertain world. (Emphasizes the importance of social order).
      • Imperfectible - Humans can't be perfect their nature can't be fixed
    • Property
      • Property - The ownership of physical goods or wealth, whether by private individuals, groups of people or the state.
      • Property is an asset that possess a deep and, at all times, almost mystical significance for conservatives. They believe holding property has a range of psychological and social advantages.
      • In an uncertain and unpredictable world property ownership gives people a sense of confidence and assurance, ‘something to fall back on’.
      • Conservatives therefore believe in caution of management in money and encourage private savings and investment in property.
      • Those who enjoy their own property are more likely to respect the property of others. They will be more aware that property must be safeguarded from disorder and lawlessness.
      • Property gives owners a ‘stake’ in society; they have an interest in maintaining law and order.
      • Ownership of property is an extension of an individual's personality and helps people ‘realise’ themselves, as they see themselves in what they own.
      • By supporting the building of cheaper houses and by allowing tenants to buy properties that they rented from local authorities (Thatcher)
      • Encourage thrift - encouraging private savings and investment in property
      • Encouraging property - land, houses, works of art, to be passed from one generation to the next
    • Organic Society
      • Anomie - a weakening of values and normative rules, associated with feelings of isolation, loneliness and meaningless
      • Conservatives believe that human beings are dependant and security - seeking creatures. This implies that they do not, and cannot, exist outside society, but desperately need to belong, to have roots in society.
      • Conservatives have traditionally thought of society as a living thing, the whole is more than a collection of its individual parts; the whole is sustained by a fragile set of relationships between and amongst its parts.
      • Organic society is fashioned, ultimately by natural necessity
      • Conservatives believe that a society in which individuals know only their rights, and do not acknowledge their duties, would be rootless and atomistic.
      • Organicism - A belief that society operates like an organism or living entity, the whole being more than a collection of its individual parts.
      • Functionalism - The theory that social institutions and practices should be understood in terms of the functions they carry out in sustaining the larger social system
    • Hierarchy
      • Hierarchy - A gradation of social positions of status hierarchy implies structural or fixed inequality in which position is unconnected with individual ability.
      • Natural aristocracy - The idea that talent and leadership are innate or inbred qualities that cannot be acquired through effort or self advancement.
      • Authority - The right to exert influence over others by virtue of an acknowledged obligation to society
      • Conservatives believe in society naturally being a hierarchy, characterised by fixed or gradual social gradations.
      • Social equality is therefore rejected as undesirable and unachievable; power, status and property are always unequally distributed.
      • Conservatives agree with liberals in accepting natural inequality amongst individual: some are born with talents and skills are denied to others.
      • Inequality is an inevitable feature of an organic society, natural aristocracy. Just how the brain works with the heart the different classes of society must work together.
    • Tradition
      • ‘Values and practices or institutions that have endured through time and, in particular, been passed down from one generation to the next’
      • Institutions and customs that have survived, have only done so because they have worked and been found to be of value.
      • Tradition in this sense, reflects the accumulated wisdom of the past. The institutions and practices of the past has been tested by time.
      • For some conservative faith is tradition and a belief in God, other traditions have appeared such as free elections and universal suffrage
      • G.K Chesterton: ‘Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes: our ancestors. It is a democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking around’.
      • Burke: ‘Natural, God given laws should not change’.
      • Tradition gives people sense of rootedness and belonging, makes us feel secure and have a sense of national identity.
      • Change creates uncertainty and builds on insecurity.
    • Authority
      • The belief in hierarchy is strengthened by the emphasis conservatives place on authority.
      • Conservatives believe that authority rises naturally. For example the need to ensure children are cared for etc.
      • Such authority can only be imposed from above, quite simply because children do not know what's good for them.
      • Leadership is a vital ingredient in any society as it is the capacity to give direction and provide inspiration for others.
      • Conservatives believe hierarchy is necessary and beneficial as everybody needs guidance, support, security.


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