Conservatism Core Themes

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  • Conservatism
    • Tradition
      • Tradition refers to values, practices and institutions that have endured through time and have been passed down from one generation to the next.
      • Natural Law
        • For some, an emphasis on tradition reflects their RELIGIOUS FAITH. If the world has been created by 'God' then challenging any traditional customs is challenging the will of 'God'
      • The Accumulated Wisdom of the Past
        • 'Society is a partnership between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are yet to be born' - Edmund Burke
        • 'The democracy of the dead' - G.K. Chesterton
        • A Darwinian belief - Institutes have survived because they are good
      • Tradition  Generates a Sense of Identity
        • Tradition is reassuring and creates a sense of security and belonging.
          • The royal family are not distinguished. They are they because they always have been.
    • Human Imperfection
      • Conservatives believe that humans are imperfect & unperfectable
        • Human beings are psychologically limited & dependent creatures
          • People fear isolation & instability
          • People are drawn to the safe & familiar and above all seek the security of 'knowing their place'
          • Conservatives are prepared to sacrifice liberty in the case of social order
          • The state's purpose is to provide security in an uncertain world
        • Humans are morally imperfect
          • 'Badness' is rooted in the individual.
          • Humankind is innately selfish & greedy
          • The only deterrent to 'badness' is law, strictly backed up with punishment.
            • Long sentences
            • Corporal Punishment
            • Capital Punishment
        • Humans are intellectually imperfect
          • The world is too complicated for humans to grasp fully
          • 'The political world is boundless and bottomless' - Michael Oakeshott
          • 'A conservative will always wish to ensure that the cure is not worse than the disease' - Michael Oakeshott
    • Property
      • Property provides security
        • It is something for people to 'fall back on'
      • Ownership of property promotes respect for other people's property
        • Property owners have a 'stake' in society - an interest in Law + Order
      • Property can be regarded as an extension of the owner's personality
        • People see themselves in what they own. Burglary is so abhorrent because it invades our personalities
      • Property socialisation creates a depersonalised society
      • The present generation is the custodian of the wealth of the nation and has a duty to preserve & protect it
    • Hierarchy & Authority
      • Hierarchy
        • Nature & society are naturally hierarchical
          • Social equality is undesirable & unachievable
        • There must be leaders and followers.  Managers & workers. Men who go to work & women who stay at home.
        • Social mobility on any large scale is dangerous
        • Paternalism: The ruling class knows best
      • Authority
        • Conservatives do not accept the liberal belief that  authority arises out of a contract made by free individuals.
          • Consent is not that important.
            • A child does not give his parents consent to govern
              • Authority must always come from above, never from below
        • Authority is necessary & beneficial
          • Everybody needs the guidance and support of knowing 'where they stand'
        • Authority should have limits but they must be natural, not constitutional
    • Organic Society
      • Human beings are dependent creatures
        • They do not and cannot exist outside of society
          • They desperately need to 'belong', to have roots in society
            • Humans should not make their own realities; disconnected from society.
      • Rights must have corresponding responsibilities
      • Society is like an organism, not a machine. Organisms are not just a collection of parts that can be re-arranged
        • Organisms are more than the sum of their parts. They are shaped by natural factors, not human ingenuity
      • Society is not made of rational individuals being self-interested
      • By virtue of existing, institutions are worthwhile & desirable


Old Sir

A Very comprehensive coverage of the various themes affecting Conservative philosophy. Really useful for students who want to be reminded of these themes so they can then turn to more detailed reading to fill in gaps in understanding.

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