A2 Government and Politics: Conservatism Part One

Revision summary for EDEXCEL A2 Government and Politics Conservatism part one.

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Give one main feature of a Conservative's view of


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Psychologically Imperfect (Dependant and need looking after) - Humans are not self reliant but are viewed like children, as dependant creatures who need guidance and instruction. Humans are security seeking, desiring order and stability. Humans need a sense of belonging as they need to know where to stand in society.

Disraeli (Paternalism) - One Nationism based on the idea that membership of a single nation was more significant than membership of a social class, he believed in the duty to care for the whole of society 'Noblesse Oblige' forming an alliance with the workers.


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Give the second main feature of a Conservatives vi


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Intellectually Imperfect - Humans rationality and intellect is limited and unreliable, as such we are incapable of fully understanding the world around us. The world is far too complex for human reason to grasp fully 'The world is boundless and bottomless'.

Michael Oakeshott (Rationalism in Politics 1962) - To be a Conservative is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible... present laughter to utopian blues'

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Give a third feature of a Conservatives view towar


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Morally Imperfect, Selfish and Greedy - Humans are morally imperfect, humans are innately selfish and greed driven by those base human instincts and appetites. As a result Human progress is limited, abstract utopian ideas and theories are likely to be incorrect. Humans desire power, wealth, and need to be kept in line by fear and punishment.

Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan) - 'A war of all against all'

William Golding (Lord of the Flies) - 'Which is better, to have laws and agree, or to hunt and kill?' Chapter 11.

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Identify and explain the two main Conservative pol


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Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan) - In the Leviathan Hobbes demonstrates the necessity of a strong central authority to avoid the evil and discord of civil war. He believed that 'every man is a threat to everyone: without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war: and such a war is of every man against every man'. He believed this could be solved through absolute power.

William Golding (Lord of the Flies) - Lord of the Flies is a novel which shows what happens when following a plane crash a group of schoolboys find themselves on a deserted island. For the sake of their survival they appoint a leader and attempt to create an organised society, but this crumbles and the boys quickly regress to brutal savagery. 'Which is better, to have laws and agree, or to hunt and kill?'

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Give three implications of a Conservative view of


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Need for social order - Conservatives are prepared to sacrifice liberty, which can cause change and uncertainty, in favour of the need to create a stable and predictable social order. Therefore firm government is needed to provide security. Example: Edmund Burke (Paternalism) - The relationship between the government and the people should be similar to that between a parent and a child.

Importance of Social Institutions - Social institutions are of crucial importance as the complexity of existence makes it necessary to impose order on human conduct. They impose social control and foster respect for society. Example: Traditional institutions like marriage, the family, organised religion and private property give stability.

Pragmatism - As Conservatives destruct abstract ideas they prefer to take a pragmatic approach. This requires not having any fixed political ideas and ensures stability. An imperfect situation is better than striving for an unrealistic utopia. Example: Quentin Hogg 'Conservatives offer in their place no utopia at all but something quite modestly better than the present'.

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Give the two other implications of a Conservative


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Importance of tradition - Conservatives ground their ideas in tradition, experience and history adopting a cautious, moderate approach. 'It is old custom that enables people to live together peacefully'. 'The human condition is characterised by tensions'- Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought. Example: Edmund Burke (Reflections on Revolution in France) - 'The individual is foolish, but the species is wise'.

The need for strong authority - The causes of crime and disorder lie with innate selfish instincts of human nature. The only effective deterrent is the law backed up by the knowledge it will be strictly enforced. Conservatives prevent social disorder. Example: Hobbes (Leviathan) - 'The weakest has the strength enough to kill the strongest'.

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THE NEW RIGHT - Explain Neo-Liberal Economic view


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Neo-Liberal Economic view of Human Nature...

Rational and Self-reliant in Economic Sphere (Based on Classical Liberal view of individual) - The idea that the 'whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that individuals have some collective identity beyond simple ties to family and nation is rejected as non-sensical.' The starting point of society is not the cultural or institutional fabric, but the market place.

Example 'Thatchers economic policy 1980's' -

  • Promotion of the free market
  • Reduction in welfare spending, rolling back the state
  • Privatisation of national industries e.g. British Gas
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THE NEW RIGHT: Identifiy the Neo-Conservative (Soc


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Irrational and Dependant in Social Sphere (Based on traditional Conservative view of individual) - They believe that too much individual freedom in the social sphere leads to immorality and evil behaviour. They fear a breakdown in social order caused by the Liberal belief in Social pluralism, toleration and the sovereign individual. They believed that the lack of social order has damaged society.

Thatcher/Reagans Social Policy 1980's...

  • Strong law and order policies (Increased prison sentences)
  • Traditional Christian Religious values (US only)
  • Promotion of strong family values
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Explain two reasons why Conservatives support trad


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A Natural Law - Religious Conservatives believe that traditional customs and practices are 'God given', having been chosen by an almighty creator. If humans tamper with tradition they are consequently challenging the will of God. This justification is less common in modern Conservative mainstream, but still evident in some New Right Christians.

Example: Edmund Burke 'the law of the creator'. US New Right Christian fundamentalists such as Pat Robertson believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

Accumulated wisdom of the past - The institutions and practices of the past contain 'inter-generational wisdom' , the wisdom and ideals of all past generations preserved for the benefit of the living and for generations to come. Supported by Burke in the continued survival of the Monarchy.

Example: GK Chesterton 'wisdom of the ages', tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors.

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Give an additional reason why Conservatives suppor


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Provides security and belonging - Established customs are recognisable, familiar and reassuring and give both society and individuals a sense of identity- a feeling of rootedness and belonging. Tradition ensures that society remains stable and provides social cohesion by linking people to the past.

Roger Scruton 'Social Knowledge' - the expectations generated through a common observation of tradition. If we break away our customary ways of acting and being are threatened.

Theorist: Edmund Burke (Reflections on Revolution in France) - Burke was appalled by the consequences of the French Revolution of 1789, as they demonstrated the dangers of sudden, dramatic change. They threatened the existing political power and social privilege of the aristocracy throughout Europe. It put power in the hands of the least experienced. 'Individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages'.

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Give three examples when a Conservative would agre


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Inevitable change (change when it can no longer be resisted) - It would be wrong to suggest Conservatism is a doctrine of 'no change', Conservatives are above all pragmatists. Change should be the result of a more gentle relationship between government and governed, decisions should be based on 'limitations and traditions of the community'. Example: Michael Oakeshott: 'The loss of the abilities enjoyed and their replacement by others are changes, none perhaps without compensations which the man of Conservative temperament unavoidably regrets.'

Change in order to conserve - Change is sometimes necessary in order to conserve. Burke emphasised a pragmatic approach to change. Moderate and measured change was acceptable if such change was designed to conserve the natural order. Example: Edmund Burke 'A state without the means of some change is without the means of its own conservation'.

Moderate Incremental Change - Nothing too radical, especially no social engineering or revolution. Organic change: building on existing customs and traditions. Example: Justus Maser: 'There is no reason to believe that our ancestors were fools' Practice which adapts itself closely to every individual circumstance is bound to be more competent than theory which overlooks many circumstances.

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Give two examples when Conservatives have accepted


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19th Century Disraeli - One Nationism - Disraeli accepted the need to look after the poor, he organised the clearing of slums and provided a sewarage system.

20th Century: Churchill and Macmillan acceptance of Welfare State - 1950s: Conservative acceptance of Welfare State, Harold Macmillan accepted the need to provide welfare to poorest in society, and built Council Houses.

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Define Pragmatism and give a traditional Conservat


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Pragmatism (Conservatives generally favour pragmatism over principle) - The Conservative view of tradition and change is based upon Pragmatism, implying a flexible approach to politics: an understanding of what is best for people, what is acceptable to them and what will preserve a stable society. It is also a rejection of the politics of strongly held ideology and of a dogmatic approach to decision making.

Chameleon like - Traditional Conservatives have tended to avoid adopting fixed principle and have opposed political movements based on such principles. Conservatism has thus been described as chameleon like in that it changes its appearance according to dominant political situation at any given time. Example: Perhaps the most striking example of pragmatism occured with the paternalistic One Nation Conservatives of the 1950's.

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Give the argument for and against the New Right ha

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Ideological Principle - The Neo-Liberal wing of the New Right has gone against these views as they did have a clear ideological position favouring principle over pragmatism, and were conviction politicians. The New Right had the fixed view that society would flourish if free from government regulation. Example: Thatcher took a staunchly authoritarian stance on crime and other moral issues, such as using military force abroad. They were also inflexible in their attitudes towards high taxation and welfare.


Defending a type of tradition - They place great emphasis on respect for traditional features of society and have embraced rational and abstract economic theories. Their reason for doing so could be seen as a desire to return to the traditional economic order. Example: The Neo-Conservative wing of the New Right have placed great emphasis on respect for traditional features of society: family, church, nation and respect.

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Give two arguments in favour of the view that The


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Adoption of Ideological Conviction not pragmatism - Paternalistic Conservatives believe that the New Right has abandoned beliefs in social stability and pragmatism in favour of pursuit of economic freedom based on Liberal Ideological Principle. It could be argued that New Right Leaders developed their philosophy around the ideological principles of free market economics, self reliance and a smaller role for the government. The attitude taken by the main proponent and conviction politician supports this. Example: Thatcher 'The Lady's not for turning'. Thatcher refused to entertain the idea of a more pragmatic approach seen in her claim, she also said 'To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something which no-one believes and to which no-one objects'.

Belief in ideological views of Free Market - Many left wing critics view Neo-Liberal and Conservative policies of the New Right as a consistent attempt to impose fundamentalist free market policies on societies, undermining public services. Naomi Klein 'the shock doctrine' criticised the extreme nature of the monetarist policies carried out in the UK, USA and elsewhere. Example: Milton Friedman 'Capitalism and freedom' Friedrich Hayek 'Road to Serfdom'

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Give a further argument and counter argument over


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Effect of economic policies on social stability - The Free Market increases social mobility and the destabilising nature of market libertarianism can be seen in the economic change on the structure of communities and traditional ways of life. The free market uproots communities reducing social cohesion and social stability. With the increasing rationalisation of working practices its harder to rely on comfortable certainties. Example: Ian Gilmour (Dancing with Dogma) - Claimed free market policies destroyed tradition and created social instability, even destroyed national sovereignty. Harold Macmillan 'selling off the family silver'- Thatchers privatisation plan was guilty of this.

Counter argument: New Right Thatcherism is a form of pragmatism - Change for many was not driven by ideology but the practical necessity of reviving a stagnating economy that most people regarded as needing reform. Since keynesian economics no longer appeared to be working, change was slower and more gradual than most people think, and there was no attempt to privatise health, education and postal sectors. Example: Shirley Letwin (The anatomy of Thatcherism) - Thatcherism was a pragmatic response against the evils of the social democratic post war consensus. Thatcherism can therefore be described as a 'consistent moral crusade'.

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Outline a Conservatives view of society as a form

1. Organic + theorist

2. Collectivism + theorist

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Organicism (Rejection of mechanistic view of Liberalism) - Society is organic and shaped by necessity. The organic metaphor implies that through participation individuals become embedded in their community, which acquires a significance and status beyond the original abstract ties that govern association between autonomous individuals in Liberalism.

Theorists: Herder and Hegel - Herder was a Conservative organic society theorist who argued that the Liberal atomistic view devalues politics by placing artificial limits on civic association. Hegel criticised the 'cosmopolitan' tendency of Liberalism which is too idealised.

Collectivism ('Holistic view' and rejection of Liberal Atomism) - Holistic view of society, the whole of scoiety is more than the sum of its individual parts. A rejection of Liberal Atomistic individualism - we are not abstract individuals but defined by wider society.

Theorists: Herder and Hegel - Hegel argued that Liberalism presented an idealistic theory of humanity, fundamentally at odds with the cultural and historical traditions of actual nations.

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Outline the three other features that make up a Co


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Hierachy (A belief in natural inequality and rejection of social equality) - Hierachical views of society. Everyone has a fixed role to play in society- there is little social mobility (not meritocratic). Society works well and is stable when everyone knows their place- know your place and stick to it! Example: Plato (Republic) - 'Everyone has their functions within society - Artisans, Philosophers , Slaves etc'.

Key Social Institutions as bearers of authority - Social institutions can survive because they perform an important function and form part of a greater whole- Church, family, nation and morality. Nation = natural unit. Family = Origin of discipline. Property creates responsibility. Example: Burke (Little Platoons) - Conservatives believe that we should just not rely on the state to instil authority. Burke stressed the little platoons or traditional institutions which are controlled by the bearers of authority in society.

Bonds of tradition - Society is held together by common bonds of tradition, morality and customs. These common bonds help tie individuals together preventing evil human nature from surfacing. Moral and cultural pluralism threaten the fabric of this organic society whereas traditional morality preserves social order. Example: Herder- Volksgemeinshaff (Idea) - It is unwise to reform or change this natural order, duties and obligations help to bind society but rights without duties create an atomistic and disaggregated society. Enoch Powell (Rivers of Blood speech) - 'As I look ahead I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman I seem to see the river Tiber foaming with much blood.'

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Outline the paternalistic Conservative view of soc


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The community is like a biological organism that must be protected from external and internal threats - It believes the state is a legitimate means of protecting established political arrangements and reconciling conflicted interests in society. It emphasises the need for traditional leadership, social cohesion and state intervention to produced managed capitalism.

Example:  Benjamin Disraeli 'One Nationism' - Based on the idea that membership of a single nation was more significant than membership of a social class, he believed in the duty to care for the whole of society. 'Noblesse Oblige' and form an alliance between the ruling and working classes against those who only saw virtue in free market principles, no matter what effect they had on the conditions of the people in society.

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THE NEW RIGHT: Give the neo-liberal and neo-conser

FM + T


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(Neo-Liberal) Free Market Economics - Critical of Keynesian economics (state intervention). The Free Market creates economic growth which produces stability. Belief in monetarism, strict control over the supply of money by reducing public spending. Supply side economics - A need to encourage entrepreuners. Anti-welfarism - Creates a culture of dependancy and damages individual initiative. Example: Thatcher 'there is no such thing as society'... 'I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem its the governments job to cope with it... there are individual men and women and there are families'.

(Neo-Conservative) Strong Authority - Severe punishment for criminals as the best form of deterrence. Traditional Morality - moral pluralism and liberal social policy is viewed as undermining the cohesion of society. Importance of the family - tax benefits to married couples, opposition to homosexuality. Natural Patriotism- stresses the importance of patriotism as a way of binding society together. Example: In the US the New Right focussed on opposition to homosexuality. The Falklands war showed Thatchers determination to provide strong defence and demonstrated her belief in national patriotism as well as opposition to Europe.

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Give six arguments in favour of the view that ther







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Social stability - Uproots communities reducing social cohesion, hard to rely on comfortable certainties.

The Family - Stay at home Mother is unrealistic

Traditional Authority - Economic rationality fosters disrespect?

Organic Society - Conservatives are meant to be attached to customs and conventions.

National Sovereignty - Integration with the global economy rendered traditional concept of sovereignty redundant.

Betrayal of Conservatism.

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Give two arguments against the view that there is


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1. A consistent moral crusade - Right wing supporters view the New Right as a consistent attempt to deal with the failings of the Post War era.

2. The New Right was a form of pragmatism - Change for many was not driven by ideology but the practical necessity of reviving a stagnating economy that most people regarded as needing reform as Keynesian economics was not working.

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Give three reasons why Conservatives support Autho


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Based on necessity (Rejection of Liberal social contract) - Authority arises naturally out of necessity, the need for protection since people are selfish, irrational and have limited abilities etc. They reject the Liberal belief that authority arises out of a social contract and authority is imposed from above. Example: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan) - Hobbes and Burke both plea for the preservation of order and gradual reform as opposed to the order that results from revolutionary change. They favour strong government and communities need for security.

Provides guidance and support for dependant individuals - Importance of leadership and discipline providing guidance and support for those who lack experience, knowledge or education to act wisely in their own interests. It is important that correct leadership exists to perform this role properly. Strong authority enables society to be stable and function well, balanced by social obligations. Example: Disraeli (One Nation) - Noblesse Oblige, appeal to workers.

Social Cohesion - Gives sense of belonging, who they are and what is expected of them. Sets boundaries for people to live their lives. Freedom impossible without authority. Example: Michael Oakeshott - 'The death of friends, the sleep of friendship which the man of Conservative temperament unavoidably regrets'.

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Outline the three different branches of Conservati




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Authoritarian Conservative (Extreme Authority) - Favour hierachy and authority as pillars of social order. Anything other then complete respect for authority was considered heretical. Example: General Pinochet in Chile - Privatised several state controlled industries and rolled back many welfare institutions. However, it drastically reduced economic inequality which led to a monetary crisis in 1982.

Paternalistic Conservative (State as a father figure) - Believed in the feudal notion of 'Noblesse Oblige' and the fatherly role of the state. Example: Disraeli/Macmillan 1950's - Macmillan employed conscious regulation in 'The Middle Way' arguing that the economy should be actively monitored to avoid errors.

The New Right (Free economy but Strong Authoratitive state) - Neo-Liberal free economy, lack of authority . Neo-Conservative strong state - Libertarian Conservatives can be seen to have a consistent view of authority, the key sites of authority are family/community organisations and other forms of organisation which allow for the decentralisation of power and preservation of local autonomy. Example: Thatcher/Reagan 1980's 'Prison Works'

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Outline in detail an Authoritarian Conservative vi



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Authoritarian Conservatism (Extreme Authority) - Authoritarian Conservatives favour hierachy and authority as pillars of social order. Anything other than complete respect for authority was considered heretical. In an attempt to defend the established structure of power and privilege and to control the process of modernisation these governments employ authoritarian measures to restrict the growth of pluralism and democracy. It limits civil freedoms, and can repress all of civil society.

Example: General Pinochet in Chile - From the beginning the government implemented harsh measures against political opponents. 1200 to 3200 people were killed and up to 30,000 were tortured including children. It privatised several state controlled industries and rolled back many welfare institutions. However, it dramatically reduced economic inequality which led to a monetary crisis in 1982.

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emily payne


hi im confused about your titles of each slide! x

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