What do conservatives mean by the organic theory of society? (10 marks)

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  • Created on: 31-12-14 19:09
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  • What do conservatives mean by the organic theory of society? (10 marks)
    • Essentially this is a view that states, and the societies which function within them, develop naturally
      • They are not social constructs based on ideological blueprints
      • As such, states need to be perceived as single, living and evolving entities
    • Such organic theories can be explained in two ways
      • Conservative political philosophy
        • Traditional conservatives have a preference for established forms of social knowledge
          • see abstract, rationalist thought as depersonalised
        • The integrity of the community within the organic state can be undermined by the ‘relentless march of reason’
          • threatens centuries-old customs and traditions which have stood the test of time
            • which exist because they have avoided natural extinction/ destruction
        • Such ‘organic’ perspectives view states/societies as more than aggregates of individuals
          • Instead, they are perceived as holistic entities which involve ties of mutual dependence
            • in turn, suggest social duties and responsibilities as well as individual rights
            • Could tie in paternalism, based on the notion of 'noblesse oblige'
        • Viewpoints like these lead to an appreciation of the need for strong, caring leadership by elites
          • unlike the masses, possess the attributes, experience and leisure to be qualified to govern
            • albeit with the quiescent support of their deferential supporters
      • Organic analogy
        • The idea that states/ societies are akin to biological organisms
          • that must be protected from harmful internal and external influences
          • Thus, just as the biological organism is dependent on the correct functioning of all of its constituent parts
            • so societies comprise interdependent wholes
            • If one part of the organism/ community is damaged
              • (as a consequence of social revolutions or radical change conducted in haste)
              • the correct functioning of the whole will be affected
                • This accords with conservative antipathy towards rapid change in favour of slow, incremental
                  • ie organic, change
        • the idea of society as a fragile organic entity finds greater expression in continental European conservatism than in Britain
          • but it does help to understand the aforementioned hostility of British conservatism to rapid social and economic change
            • and to the desire to create a paternalistic ethos of ‘faith, family and nation’ as vital parts of the moral fabric of society


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