conservatism key thinkers

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  • conservatism Key Thinkers
    • Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) Leviathan (1651)
      • Order- An ordered society should balance the human need to lead a free life
        • in a 'state of nature' humans are free from authority. A 'restless desire for power' would lead to war
          • government is established by consent and authorises those in power to preserve order and peace.
        • rational people would sacrifice their freedom and natural rights for security through the establishment of a political authority
      • human  nature- Humans are needy, venerable and easily led astray in their attempts to understand the world
      • humans demonstrate needy and vulnerable characteristics by:
        • Competing violently to obtain basic necessities of life and other material gains
        • fighting out of fear to ensure their personal safety
        • seeking reputation, both for its own sake and to avoid being challenged by others.
      • human capacity to reason is fragile. People's attempts to interpret the world are distorted by self-interest and the concerns of the moment
    • Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Reflections of the Revolution in France (1790)
      • change to conserve has to be undertaken with caution and mindful of the delicate balance in an organic society
      • respect tradition and empiricism because they represent the practises passed down from one generation to the next.
      • the state resembles a living organism like a plant that may be changed through gentle 'pruning' or 'grafting' in order to preserve the stability and harmony of the social and political order
      • reform should be limited and cautious, and be based on empiricism and tradition rather than abstract principles
      • revolutionary change threatens to cut of the 'roots' of organic society (such as the institution and customs that gave it stability) leading to social and political breakdown.
      • Tradition and empiricism represent the accumulated and 'tested' widow of the past.
      • continuing respect for traditions and empiricism promotes social continuity and stability and provides the essential reference points for 'necessary' change
      • tradition encourages social cohesion and security because they offer people a sense of being 'rooted' in, and tied to their particular society
    • Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) Rationalism in Politics (1962) On Human Conduct (1975)
      • human imperfection-society is unpredictable and humans are imperfect. they lack the mental faculties to make sense of a complex modern world
      • conservatismis about being pragmatic
      • a 'rationalist' political leader is inclined to make choices based on the 'authority' of his own reason (rather than partial experience.
        • this encourages the idea that the leader fully understands society and how it should be changed (as seen in fascism and communism)
      • the state should be guided by pragmatism and practical experience
    • Ayn Rand (1905-1982) The Fountain Head (1943) Atlas Shrugged (1957)
      • objectivism: rational self-interest is a virtue. The pursuit of rational self-interest is morally right, based on 'the virtue of selfishness'
      • freedom- support for a completely unregulated, laissez-faire economy, compatible with the free expression of human rationality
    • Robert Nozick (1938-2002) Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974)
      • libertarianism- individuals have rights to  their lives, liberty and the rewards of their labour. They cannot be treated as things or used against their will.
      • self-ownership: individuals own their bodies, talents, abilities and labour. This is threatened by enforced taxation to fund welfare (it gives others part of the individuals rewards) and by state regulation over the individual
      • taxes levied for state welfare are immoral because they treat individuals as a means/resource (rather than an end themselves). Only a minimal state can be justified


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