CONSERVATISM

Summary Notes in Conservatism 

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CONSERVATISM:
Defined by a desire to conserve.
Core Values:
1. Human Nature = A pessimistic attitude in Human nature.
Humankind is born with original sin and must therefore remain severely flawed in
character. Human can never achieve perfection.
Individuals are not driven by reason but by basic appetites like `the desire for physical
prosperity, for property, for power and to avoid deprivation'.
Individuals cannot generally be trusted with government ­ they will simply use it for their
own ends rather than for the welfare of the whole community.
Human nature is not a constant but is also changing as the nature of society itself
changes. Human needs change according to circumstances.
It is a conservative tradition to see people as, on the whole, untrustworthy,
self-seeking and generally feckless.
Humankind is sorely in need of firm government. It should be government by
benevolent rulers who need to be firm but also have people interest at heart.
Relationship between people and government should be like that between a parent and
a child. This view is often referred to as Paternalism.
Individuals who are more concerned with our own welfare than that of the community
as a whole. Margaret Thatcher: `There are Individuals and there are families. There
is no such thing as society'.
Paternalism
The conservative attitude to rest of society-including the working and lower classes- is
paternalistic: a 'fatherly', benevolent and kind exercise of authority to protect them from
harm- like a father who protects a child in the child's own interest.
It is both the function and the duty of the natural governors to rule: noblesse oblige-
privilege entails obligation (Disraeli).
Conservative view of human nature has a number of implications
Law and Order
The causes of crime and disorder lie with the individual. Criminal behaviour is the product
of humankind's inherent sinfulness rather than economic and social deprivation.
Conservatives believe in exemplary punishment rather than social remedies.
The Nature of the Government
Disraeli accepted the need for universal suffrage but implied that people could not be
completely trusted with the government.
The conservative view of representation is that governments should not slavishly follow
the fluctuating desires and demands of the people but should use their wise judgement
to serve the best interest of the whole community.

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E.g.: In a modern context, this is reflected in the conservative suspicion of the referendum as a
governing mechanism.
2. Order and Authority and Hierarchy
Conservatives affirm that humankind's most basic need is for order and security.
Hobbs, `On the one hand, individuals have a desire to be free and to exercise all their
rights. On the other hand, individuals are intensely competitive and self-seeking.
We should allow an absolute ruler to govern and protect us from each other.…read more

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Traditional institutions such as the monarchy, established church and political
constitutions.
Traditional values such as preservation of marriage and the importance of the
nuclear family, religion and established morality.
E.g. British Conservatives argue that the institution of monarchy should be
preserved because it embodies historical wisdom and experience.
4. Resistance to change
Conservatives want to conserve.…read more

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Pragmatism implies a flexible and practical approach to politics: an understanding of
what is best for people, what is acceptable to them and what will preserve a stable
society.
Conservatives prefer moderate change rather than revolution. To do nothing is better
sometimes than to do something which is can harm the status quo.
7. Organic Society = fashioned ultimately by natural necessity.
The term `Organic Society' refers to a belief which became entrenched in traditional
conservative thought.…read more

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Power ought to rest with dominant elites who are believed to possess the skills,
knowledge and mindsets to manage systems which might otherwise collapse into
chaos.
Those at the upper levels of the hierarchy are expected to take responsibility for the
welfare of the lower orders, a principle known as noblesse oblige.
8. Individualism
Conservative individualism has two main elements.
a) Each individual and household should be presented with the widest possible
range of choice and opportunities.…read more

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The defence of property has included opposition to the introduction of
Common ownership (nationalisation),
Resistance to high property taxes and
Heavy stress on law and order since high crime levels tend to mostly affect
private property.
The Types of Conservatism
1. One nation Toryism
Founder: Benjamin Disraeli
DISRAELI was a realist and dealt with the threat posed by the rise of the working class
and their main political tradition ­ socialism.
Disraeli's main contributions were his theories about the organic nature of society.…read more

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Social unifiers criticised the new `Individualist and free-market' policies of Thatcher era.
These new ideas within conservatism were threatening to divide Britain into two
nations ­ the haves and have-nots.
2. The National Authoritarian
Ultra conservatives are radical nationalists placing the national interest above all.
They oppose the activities of the European Union and International organisations and
are extremely resistant to immigration into their countries.
They certainly do oppose multiculturalism- prefer a `monoculture' where citizens are
expected to adopt the dominant domestic culture.…read more

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The New Right
Thatcher- 'We need a far greater degree of personal responsibility and decision, far more
independence from the government and a comparative reduction in the role of the state'.
The term was imported from USA into UK to describe the wing of the Conservative Party that
gathered around the leadership of Margret Thatcher.
The movement has been described as `Thatcherism' Or `Reaganism' or sometimes a blend of
neo-liberalism and neo-conservatives. It was not developed by Thatcher and Reagan.…read more

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In 1980, neo classical economics was renamed as `monetarism'. It was Margret Thatcher
who was the first to dare to experiment with it when she was faces with a severely
depressed British economy. She refused to intervene and the economy recovered
(temporarily).
C. Right-wing Nationalism
The new right was faced by the challenges of both globalisation and the advance of
European integration.
UK supporters reacted strongly by asserting national interests in the face of these
threat to the autonomy of nation-states everywhere.
D.…read more

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Key Thinkers And Influences Of New Right
a) Friedman: Leading figure for New Right.
i) He argued that the rise of socialist thinking has resulted in excessive interference by the
state in the workings of the economy. This was holding back progress, stifling enterprise
and curtailing individual freedom.
ii) He believed that the loss of economic freedom involved in state planning and control
would eventually lead to a wider loss of political freedom.…read more

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