A2 Political Ideologies - Conservatism

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CONSERVATISM
Conservatism, as a political attitude, is defined by the desire to conserve and is
reflected in a resistance to, or at least suspicion of, change. It grew in reaction to
growing pace of political, social and economic change symbolized by the French
Revolution.
British conservatism drew heavily on the Burkean idea of prudent change in order to
conserve. Prudent change is meant as a willingness to confront realities,
acknowledge the possible necessity of evolution in a given circumstance, without
giving away too much. Conservatism is therefore both a conservative and a pragmatic
philosophy. European monarchies, horrified at the French revolution that threatened
their own power and privilege, became increasingly entrenched in their conservatism
and defended hereditary principles and privilege, as well as autocracy with favour.
Conservatism, as an ideology, marginally adapted to shifting political circumstances in
the 1920s and only made significant moves towards adopting liberal and progressive
values after WWII (Heywood, 2000).
The core themes of conservative ideology are: tradition, human imperfection,
organic society, hierarchy and authority and property.
Tradition
A central and recurrent theme within conservatism is its defence of tradition.
Emphasis on tradition is a reflection of religion, implying that the existing
social order and hierarchy is natural and God-given. Thus the disposal of the
ancien regime in France was an act against God and something that should be
resisted.
Institutions such as the HoL and the Monarchy have stood the test of time
and should not be discarded or subject to ill thought out reform that
damages continuity.
Disregarding tradition is akin to discarding the wisdom of the ages.
Tradition is venerated because it gives a sense of continuity to society
(nothing should be given up easily) and a sense of rootedness and identity to
the individual.
It locates them with sense of place and time. Traditions have stood the test
of time and therefore should be preserved for future generations. We should
respect the actions of the dead, who will always outnumber the living,
reflecting an almost Darwinian belief that institutions have survived because
they have worked and are of good value.
Human imperfection

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Human beings, by their very nature, are incapable of perfection.
Any attempt to perfect human beings, their social arrangements or their
social institutions is bound to end in dismal failure and at worst could result in
gross abuses of individual liberty.
The imperfectability is central to conservative thinking. Humans are limited
psychologically, emotionally and in terms of their capacities. They desire order
and stability and as they are imperfect, require a strong central authority to
provide it.…read more

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Authority develops naturally, rather than through a contract in liberalism.
Inequality is essential for the maintenance of society, functional as each class
performs own essential functions contributing to society.
Strong state upholding public order and punishment.
The government should not be too strong and should remain limited to the
extent to which it interferes with people's lives.
Oakeshott argued that politics was about limited government that was not
designed to `make people good or even better'.…read more

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Revolution or even reform would weaken these bonds, fragmenting order and
leading to a concomitant reduction in stability. Even despotic rulers should
always be obeyed because even the smallest of challenges to authority was
dangerous.
Authoritarian conservatism persisted in opposition to liberalism, nationalism
and socialism for much of the 19th century. Conservative authoritarian
regimes have made much use of the `will of the people' as a guise to
introduce autocratic role.…read more

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As a political philosophy, one-nation reflects the belief that societies exist and
develop organically, and that members within them have obligations. There is
particular emphasis on the paternalistic obligation of the upper classes to
those classes below them, known as noblesse oblige.
Stark contrast to extreme individualism of liberal thinking.…read more

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During the 1950s, paternalism and interventionism dominated conservatism.
Increasing extension of state into social/economic life.
Christian Democratic parties in W Europe adopted interventionist policies
after the war, and this dominated for most of post-war period.
LIBERTARIANISM
Conservatism has been informed by
ideas of classical liberalism,
specifically in the field of economic
management and in the embrace of
the individual and his liberty.…read more

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Pragmatism Principle
Traditionalism Radicalism
Social duty Egoism
Organic society Atomistic individualism
Hierarchy Meritocracy
Social responsibility Individual responsibility
Natural order Market order
`Middle way' economics Laissez-faire economics
Qualified welfarism Anti-welfarism
THE NEW RIGHT
From 1945 onwards, paternalism was the dominant strand in conservative
thinking.
Authoritarian conservatism of the type seen under Franco in Spain collapsed
during the mid-1970s as democracy took hold.…read more

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Classical liberalism Traditional conservatism
Atomism Organicism
Radicalism Traditionalism
Libertarianism Authoritarianism
Economic dynamism Social order
Self-interest/enterprise Traditional values
Equality of opportunity Natural hierarchy
Minimal state Strong state
Internationalism Insular nationalism
Pro-globalisation Anti-globalisation
Neoliberalism
The liberal aspects of NR thinking are drawn from classical liberalism.
Neoliberalism restates the case for a strong but minimal state. Government
has a damaging effect on society, though it remains necessary to constrain
individuals from acting upon their essentially wicked impulses.…read more

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Neoconservatives call for economic freedom alongside the restoration of
authority and social life.
Gamble (1988) calls this an attachment to the free economy and strong
state. Neoconservatism is, in essence, a reaction against the social liberalism
of the permissive society. It does not allow, for example, the possibility of a
moral equivalence between heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
The strict moral standards of society should be championed, `back to basics'
(Major) or a return to `Victorian values' (Thatcher).…read more

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