Is conservatism a single doctrine?

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Is conservatism a single doctrine?

Similarities

  • Tradition - institutions values and practises that have endured through time and, in particular have been passed down from one generation to another. Traditional and the conservative strand of the new right are in agreement that they favour continuity and want to avoid radical changes. demonstrated by Burke: "no generation should be so rash as to consider itself superior to its predecessors" - argument that traditions are a representation of the accumulated wisdom of the past and as such should be respected and preserved for future generations. desire to avoid change demonstrated by opposition to concept of removing bodies such as the House of Lords or the monarchy, as well as the preservation of symbols of traditional English culture such as red post boxes and London buses. However, it does accept that change is inevitable and should not be resisted, but favour continuity
  • Human Nature - traditional, one nation and neo-conservatives all agree that humans are psychologically, morally and intellectually imperfect - they are unable to efficiently regulate their own lives, meaning a strong state was required to do it for them (paternalism). humans are security seeking and prefer the tried and tested as opposed to the unknown, meaning they are drawn to the comfort of the state with its regulation and traditions. This forms the basis of the traditional opposition to change as well as reinforces the view of neo-conservatives that an authoritative government is required to regulate the lives of citizens (they are particularly concerned with moral imperfection of humans and their capacity for crime, blaming social unrest in the 1970s and 1980s on the abolition of the death penalty in 1964).
  • Organic Society - the belief that society operates like an organism or living entity, the whole being more than a collection of its individual parts. society is held together by the bounds of tradition, authority and a common morality. Key doctrine of traditional conservatism (society perceived in terms of class hierarchy, in which there is a harmonious hierarchy rather than social conflict. national government has a duty to serve and protect the interests of society as a whole). One Nation support this notion as well, believing that society is held together by an acceptance of duty and obligations (they believe that those at the top of the social hierarchy have a duty to look after everyone else, known as noblesse oblige). Neo-conservatives also believe in the organic society, particularly a natural, static and social hierarchy, the heart of which is a strong authoritarian state.
  • Authority - right to exert influence over others by virtue of an acknowledged obligation to obey. Traditional conservatives support authority and patriotism, favouring discipline, law and order. One Nation conservatives also favour strong and controlling state, especially in law and order. Conservative new right endorse an authoritarian state - defined by a fear of social fragmentation that is the product of liberal reform and spread of 'permissiveness' which undermines established structures of society by questioning authority - which arguably was the case in the 1960s and 70s, thus seek to strengthen leadership and authority in society. Paternalistic-neoconservatives seek to strengthen community by restoring authority and social discipline, and are different for authoritarian neo-conservatives.
  • Hierarchy - a graduation of social positions or status; hierarchy implies structural or fixed inequality in which position is unconnected with individual ability. Traditional conservatives see society as a natural hierarchy without conflict (harmonious hierarchy). One Nation conservatives believes that society is naturally hierarchal, but also the inequalities of wealth and social privilege give rise to an inequality of responsibilities (wealthy and privileged must shoulder the burden of social responsibility - noblesse oblige). Conservative strand of the new right endorse the view that society is naturally hierarchal and headed by natural governors. these conservatives endorse the view that within society there are those that are destined to lead and those that aren't (no such thing as equal opportunities for all)
  • Property - the ownership of physical goods or wealth, whether by private individuals, groups or the state. Traditional conservatives support the concept of property, believing it is passed down from one generation to the next and encourages positive social values (such as support for the property of others as well as a desire to work to make the money to acquire more property etc) and gives people a stake in society which they desire, being security seeking creatures. One Nation conservatives further endorse this view, demonstrated by Harold Macmillan in the 1990s, who criticised Thatcher's policy of privatization, claiming it was the same as "selling off the family silver". Neo-conservatives believe that social order and stability can be obtained by the maximum possible extension of state ownership

Differences

  • Tradition - institutions and practises that have endured through time and passed down from one generation to another. Liberal strand of the new right endorse radical change, opposing traditional features such as the state, particularly state control over the economy - thus calls for the 'rolling back of the state'. One Nation conservatism is also willing to accept change in order to prevent social revolution, leading to the passing of legislation such as the Second Reform Act of 1867 which granted voting rights to the working class and improved housing conditions as well as hygiene - these changes were attempts to reduce the divide between the rich and poor classes, which one nation believes is the cause of social revolution.
  • Human Nature - takes a more individualistic approach, arguing that humans are rational and self-seeking, directly contrasting with the view of the other strands. this belief that humans can make their own moral and economic decisions is translated in support for the free market, which is a mechanism through which individual choices will lead to progress as well as calls for a minimal state - this is the biggest area of tension within the new right
  • Organic Society: the belief that society operates like an organism or living entity, the whole being more than a collection of its individual parts. Liberal new right endorse a mechanistic view of the society - it is a collection of individual parts as collectivism restricts individual initiative and saps self-respect. view summed up by Margaret Thatcher "There is no such thing as society"
  • Authority - right to exert influence over others by virtue of an acknowledges obligation to obey. Liberal strand of the new right campaign for minimal state, believing strong states are a realm of coercion and restriction. They endorse negative freedom - removal of external restraints on individuals: 'rolling back' the state and social welfare as social welfare creates a 'culture of dependency' which saps initiative and leads to reliance on the state as opposed to reaching self-actualisation (it is the cause of people not being able to achieve their full potential as opposed to being the cure). leads to increasing unemployment which causes raise in inflation which threatens entire basis of market economy - only solution to this is to cut public spending (practised by Thatcher and Reagan)
  • Hierarchy - a graduation of social position or status; hierarchy implies structural or fixed inequality in which position is unconnected with individual ability. liberal new right conservatives believe there is no such thing as society / have an individualistic view of society, meaning they don't believe in hierarchy.
  • Property - the ownership of physical goods or wealth, whether by private individuals, groups or the state. Liberal new right believes in the concept of privatization and the withdrawal of government from society (privatization - transfer of state assets from the public to the private sector, reflecting a contraction of state responsibility). believe property is something that is earned and as such represents individual merit (ability and hard work), meaning that property is an absolute right. such a positon contrasts with the traditional conservative belief that property also entails duty. Nozick condemned all policies of welfare and redistribution as a violation of property rights.

Overall comparison

Single doctrine to a large extent - largest tension resides between the two strands of the new right. Neo-liberals prioritize economic libertarianism and believe that the individual is rational enough to make their own decisions. Neo-conservatives are more like the traditional and one nation strands of the ideology and prioritize social order (meaning that they endorse paternalism and authoritarianism in the form of a larger state) 

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