Conservatism 15 Markers

  • Created by: Elena.S
  • Created on: 03-01-17 14:43

View of society - trad. Cons VS neo-liberals

1a) Traditional conservatives - society as organism, the whole is more than collection of individual parts; society held together by network of relationship between parts, to reform such relationships/remodel/abolish parts is a profound threat to society; hence resistance to change/reform
1b) Traditional conservatives - natural hierarchy from older sources of authority
2a) Neo-liberals - society made up of actions of self-seeking/-reliant individuals; Thatcher: "there is no such thing as society. There are only individual men and women and their family
2b) Neo-liberals - inequalities/sources of authority based on merit

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Justification for private property

1) define property: ownership of physical goods + wealth by private indiv./groups of people/state (conservative - property/wealth as important economic incentive)

1) Source of security in insecure world; conservatives believe that people are dependent on security so security prevents feelings of fear if there was to be sudden change; link to conservative ideas of slow change/reform (encourages virtue of thrift i.e private savings + investments in property)

2) Stake in society and fosters positive social values i.e respect for law/property of others and strengthens social cohesion and respect for authority/strong law and order

3) Externalisation of personal identity (source of personal satisfaction/emotional well-being); link to 2 - property damnage feels like personal violation so one wouldn't cause damage as they would know what it would feel like

4) New Right - property as indication of individual merit; economic incentive to not rely on state

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Tradition and extent

1) Define tradition - values/practices/institutions passed down from generation to the next, ensuring continuity with the past

2a) Why? - history/past experience provide guide to present conduct than reason/analysis (tradition is the accumulated wisdom of the past - Darwinian belief in survival of fittest) + tradition ensures rootedness/maintains social stability (sense of identity wards off anomie) therefore change in order to conserve

2b) support of monarchy as embodiment of wisdom + experience + focus of national loyalty

3a) Neo-liberals: critical approach to existing institutions/practices therefore some neo-libs support radical reform; reactionary radicalism based on 1800s "golden age"

3b) Neo-conservatives: greater emphasis on traditional values against permissiveness

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Differences between liberal/conservative New Right

1a) define neo-liberalism: updated version of classical political economy dedicated to market individualism/minimal statism

1b) view of state: minimal state

1c) why? radically individualist; individual rationalism; self-interested individuals make best decisions

1d) evidence: small welfare state, promotion of private property - Thatcher's selling off of council housing

1e) origins: progressive classical liberalism from the Enlightenment

2a) define neo-conservatism: modern version of social conservatism emphasising need to restore order, return to traditional/family values, revitalise nationalism (patriotism)

2b) view of state: strong/authoritarian state

1c) why? flawed human nature, human require protection from capitalism, paternalistic (One Nation)

1d) evidence: strong police/authority - Reagan (increased police numbers)

1e) origins: traditional roots, response to threatening liberalism, regressive, protecting current social order

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Conservative fear of cultural/moral diversity

1) rooted in assumptions about society/human nature
2) belief in organic society: society operating like a living entity; the whole being more than just a collection of individual parts
3) society bound by network of relationships/institutions - order/stability promoted by shared values/common culture -> diversity threaten conflict/social breakdown
4) shared values/common culture serve as rootedness/belonging - diversity poses threat through rootlessness/personal insecurity

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Conservative vs. socialist view of human nature


  • negative -> psychologically imperfect due to need for limitations and dependency; morally imperfect due to non-rational instincts; intellectually imperfect due to human rationality being incapable of fathoming infinite complexities i.e society/world we live in; nature > nurture BUT neo-libs argue human rational self-interested leading to self-reliance


  • positive -> humans are naturally social leading to co-operation/gregariousness; personal/social development, individual fulfilment = social solidatary/equality; nurture > nature BUT social democrats allows some individualism through material incentives
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New Right and minimal statism

1) individualist (liberal) idea of rational humans capable of making the best decision for themselves, paternalistic state breeds dependency upon welfare state i.e benefits losing incentive to work
2) free market self-regulates and require no economic intervention since they tend towards long-term equilibrium
3) increased public spendings increases inflation -> nationalised industries are inefficient i.e coal (Thatcher), high taxation prevents money being spent for enterprise

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Imperfect human nature

1) humans as imperfect + unperfectible

2a) psychologically limited - humans fear instability and seek the security of knowing "one's place" (emphasis of strong social order; suspicious of liberal ideas of freedom; preventing rootlessness/anomie)

2b) morally limited - humans are innately selfish/greedy therefore crime as result of nature not disadvantage (implication: strong law and order - role of law is to preserve order > maintain liberty)

2c) intellectually limited - abstract systems i.e socialism/liberalism are beyond human capabilities so emphasis on tradition/experience/history and little reform to ensure stability; Oakeshott: "the cure is not worse than the disease"

3) New Right - radical in seeking advancement of free-market reforms by dismantling inherited welfarist/interventionist strucutures + based on rationalism + abstract theories of economic liberalism

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Support for authority/hierarchy

1) define authority: the right to exert influence over others by virtue of an acknowledge obligation to obey

2a) support/guidance for those who don't know what is best for them/from above i.e parents with children (paternalism)

2b) source of security/stability (knowing where one stands); countering rootlessness/anomie

2c) constrains selfish/greedy human nature through strong law/order

3) social equality rejected as undesireable + unachievable bc society is naturally hierarchical characterised by by fixed/established social graduation

4) natural hierarchy (Burke): idea that talent/leadership are innate/inbred qualities that cannot be acquired through effort/self-advancement (inequality is unnatural as leaders take on more responsibilities to look after workers - paternalism)

5) neo-con - authority as absolute + unquestionable

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Individual - trad. cons VS New Right

1) traditional conservatives - organic view of society (operating like an organism/living entity; whole being more than just collection of individual parts)
2a) neo-liberalism - atomistic society (society made up of individuals worth more than just as collection); Thatcher: there's no such thing as society... just men and women and their families
2b) neo-conservatism - organic view of society (whole being more than collection of individual parts)

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Authority - conservatives VS liberals (incomplete)

Conservatives: authority comes from above based on natural necessity i.e protection for children; counters anomie bc one knows where they stand

Conservatives: emphasis on authority over freedom i.e war on drugs in second term against drugs epidemic

Liberals: authority comes from below through social contracts in which some liberty is given up by rational individuals for civil order (Roussaeu's General Will - government by consent)

Liberals: authority is ultimately in hands of the governed i.e elected legislatures and executives, constitutions, Locke: right to rebellion if not properly represented i.e no taxation without representation (American Revolution)

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Objection to social equality

WHY - belief that society is naturally hierarchical in unequal social graduations due to deep rooted organic society (society is made up of different parts, some are to be more important i.e leaders and followers)
HOW - opposition to wealth redistribution and equality of opportunity

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Support for One Nation principles

1) One Nation: paternalistic strand of conservatism stating that the privileged have moral responsibility to help those less fortunate in order to compensate advantages (social duty) and maintain social cohesion
2) reform/welfarism neutralises political discontent maintaining social stability/no revolution
3) everything is through accident of birth -> privileged have moral responsibility to use social position to help those who in poverty (who equally cannot help their position and therefore need help)

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Belief in organic society

1) organic society - society operates like a living entity, whole being more than collection of individual parts; humans are dependent upon having roots in society to avoid anomie

2) freedom is willing acceptance of social obligations + recognising indiv. value; bonds of duty/obligation hold society together

3a) radical change is undesirable - society is naturally organic and treating it as a machine won't work; parts just can't be moved so all institutions are natural i.e authority, family etc (disagreement with mechanistic view of society i.e liberals + socialists)

3b) stresses social responsibility/duty (paternalistic/One Nation) (communitarian)

3c) strengthening fabric of society through traditions/common culture/authority/social discipline (keeping it together)

4) New Right: society as product of actions of self-seeking/-reliant indiv. (social contract)

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Support for paternalism

1) define paternalism: power/authority exercised over others with intention of conferring benefit/preventing harm
2) moral obligations - duty is the price of privilege and privileged should help the less fortunate bc they're not suffering due to their own fault (accident of birth)
3) binds hierarchical society - if poor are looked after, they have no need to disrupt the established order preventing social revolution

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State - neo-lib VS neo-con

1) neo-liberals - minimal statism to maintain domestic order/enforce contracts/defence against foreign attack; rollling back the state removes dead hand of the state (pro-free market) and increases individual freedom/personal responsibility (government to leave individuals to do as they wish)
2) neo-conservatives - strong state in all aspects particularly social/moral through effective law/order (harsh punishments for deterrence), traditional values (maintaining common culture to bind society), support for patriotism through common culture

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Core values

values/practices/institutions that have endured through time/been passed down from one generation to the next; democracy of the dead: old practices have proven their worth through survival i.e monarchy/House of Lords; sense of rootedness maintaining social stability
humans are naturally imperfect (psychologically/morally/intellectually)
organicism: belief that society operates like living entity; society is like a living organism and shouldn't be tampered with to prevent anomie; the whole being more than a collection of indiv. parts
hierarchy: graduation of social position/status implying structural inequality unconnected to indiv. ability; inequality is natural and some will be more important and will have more responsibilities; authority: right to exert influence over others by virtue of acknowledged obligation to obey; developed naturally for guidance/support/security from above
ownership of physical goods; security/exteriorisation/obligations for next gen.

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Authoritarian conservatism

  • key thinker: Joseph de Maistre (reaction against French Revolution)
  • define authoritarianism: belief/practice of gov. "from above"; authority exercised over population with(out) consent; social order only maintained by unquestionable obedience
  • examples:
    1) pre-Revolution Russia (Tsar Nicholas I: "orthodoxy, autocracy and nationality")
    2) German Empire (Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck prevented full constitutional gov)
    3) post-Unification Italy (Pope Pius IX as "prisoner of the Vatican" against radical/prog. ideas)
    4) fascist states aided by con. elites i.e Italy, Germany
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Paternalistic conservatism

  • key thinker: Burke ("a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservatism")
  • willingness to change (pragmatism)


  • key thinker: Disraeli
  • reform in order to maintain social order (i.e to prevent revolutions like 1830 + 1848)
  • privileged to carry out social obligation based on organic society
  • Tory welfarism in post-war UK (Keynesian social democracy managing economy for full employment + increased welfare provision i.e NHS
  • currently "compassionate conservatism"
  • embraces idea of hierarchy in using it to improve conditions of lower classes to prevent threats to established order
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Libertarian conservatism

  • define libertarianism: range of theories giving strict priority to liberty > other values i.e authority/tradition/equality seeking to maximise realm of indiv. freedom + minimise scope of public authority
  • key thinkers: Nozick, Hayek
  • Burke: free market as efficient/fair/necessary/natural (reflects desire for wealth) also working conditions in free market are degrading, it is better than disrupting natural process
  • economy should be left alone but not aspects of social life i.e strong state to maintain social order + ensure authority is respected (market forces prevent disorder i.e workers can't push for higher wages bc threat of unemployment)
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New Right: liberal

  • key thinkers: Hayek, Friedman
  • derived from classical liberal thought
  • "private: good; public: bad"
  • anti-statist bc coercive + not liberal; collectivism restricts indiv. initiative + saps self-respect
  • self-reliant indiv. making rational choices in own interest in free market is more beneficial
  • 1970s/1980s - Keynesian managed economy led to economic instability + stagflation
  • state can never plan economies bc difficulties whereas impersonal market forces allocate goods/services efficiently
  • examples: Reagan + Thatcher administrations (decrease in public spending to control supply of money leading to increased unemployment
  • privatisation bc efficiency
  • commitment to indiv. liberty (anti-collectivist i.e welfare policies)
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New Right: conservative

  • reaction against permissiveness of 1960s/1970s leading to social fragmentation
  • emphasis on leadership/authority
  • strengthening community by restoring authority/social discipline to prevent rising crime/delinquency/anti-social behaviour as consequence of decline in authority
  • emphasis on family unit as natural hierarchical (children obey parents, father as breadmaker, mother as homemaker)
  • fear of immoral views in permissive society + moral pluralism threatening social cohesion providing neither guidance/support for indiv. + families
  • nation as binding society together with common culture + civic identity (threat: multiculturalism from within i.e EU integration + foreign threats i.e US position in Cold War from Reagan's Manichaean world view + hard Wilsonianism)
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