To what extent do conservatives believe in tradition and continuity? Essay

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To what extent do conservatives believe in tradition and continuity?
Tradition refers to ideas, practices or institutions that have endured over time and been inherited
from earlier periods. Its very nature creates continuity between the past, present and future. The
very name `conservatism' suggests that followers of the ideology believe in the maintenance of
tradition and the preservation of continuity. There are certainly numerous examples in which it is
evident that conservatives believe in tradition and continuity; its very development was based on
preserving the pre-Puritan traditions. Despite it being a fundamental part of the ideology, however,
history dictates that conservatives have on numerous occasions abandoned such belief in favour of
realistic pragmatism, such as Disraeli's identification of the Two Nations and the Conservative
government of 1950, following the establishment of the National Health Service in 1946, chose to
maintain this popular institution regardless of conservatives originally favouring the traditional
method of private healthcare. It can even be argued that such pragmatism has created a modern
Conservative party that bares little, if no resemblance of, conservative ideology; whereas tradition
conservatives stressed on tradition, the New Right and modern conservatism has rejected this
The belief in tradition and continuity was given great importance by traditional conservatives. The
original conservative thinkers regarded tradition as reflecting religious faith, fashioned by God,
meaning traditional institutions constitute `natural law', and it would be blasphemous for this tradition
to be broken. Most traditional conservatives by the Enlightenment and afterwards disregarded this
as the reason for the belief in tradition. Thinkers such as Edmund Burke believed tradition to be the
key to social order, and therefore the maintenance of which prevents such chaos as Burke predicted
would follow the upheaval of all French values and institutions during the French Revolution. He
claimed "No generation should ever be so rash as to consider itself superior to its predecessors",
overtly stating his belief in tradition and continuity being the preservation of the wisdom of the past
that created the society the new generation lives in. G.K. Chesterton described this as the democracy
of the dead, or as Burke put it, democracy should be "a partnership between those who are living,
those who are dead and those who are to be born". Tradition provides this continuity to bind all
three. Conservatives are also naturally suspicious of the pure reason behind schemes of radical
reform, as Stanley Baldwin put it: "You will find in politics that you are much exposed to the
attribution of false motive." Traditional conservatives believe it is human nature to prefer the sense
of identity tradition gives a society through established customs and practices and change is feared
as an uncertain and insecure journey into the unknown.
By the twentieth century, although this belief in tradition remained in the hearts of conservatives,
pragmatism was favoured. This move towards pragmatism had begun at the end of the nineteenth
century and is seen through such notions as Benjamin Disraeli's identification of Two Nations that
need to be joined to prevent revolution. Following the Second World War, a consensus of socialist
tendencies had developed, which led to reforms in healthcare and social policy that the
conservatives pragmatically adapted to in order to have some hope of electoral victory. By the time
the New Right developed in the 1970s, the term consensus was one sneered at by conservatives.
Margaret Thatcher described consensus as "the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values
and policies" describing the people in her party who believed in consensus as "Quislings, as traitors".
In many ways, the New Right upheld traditional values that had been disregarded during the era of

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Neo-conservative values firmly believed in the
traditional forms of a nuclear family and a `tough on crime' policy. Economic libertarianism can also be
regarded as a traditional form of economics, dating from the late eighteenth century with the
publication of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. However, the attempts to fuse neo-liberalism
and neo-conservatism created radical and reactionary features as well as tradition.…read more


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