Conservatism

  • Created by: KDallers-
  • Created on: 03-06-19 17:00

Intro and Origins of Conservatism

About literally 'conserving' and 'keeping in tact' - relates back to the rivalry between the Tories and Whigs in the 17th century; POLITICALLY, the Tories wanted to maintain the 'divine right of kings' - a link between monarchy and God, crown and church - believed in the 'Great Chain of Being' (Boudain) - there was a HIERARCHICAL SOCIETY - conservatives wanted to MAINTAIN THIS and were OPPOSED TO RADICAL CHANGE

Visible in the ideas of Plato and John of Salisbury - 'unconscious conservatism', a natural aversion to change; WATERSHED MOMENT was the French Revolution - provided a challenge to conservative views with Enlightenment ideals

- BURKE - the conservative response to this - argued that DIGGING UP TRADITION would be CATASTROPHIC, as traditions were in place for a reason - they worked + could provide the way forward - for example, Disraeli's 'Young England' group (believed in feudalism)

Evolved from the 'father of modern conservativism', and by 19th century, conservatives ACCEPTED DEMOCRACY, but opposed universal suffrage - preferred 'virtual representation' (Burke); various strands emerged - key policies were: - ANTI-INDUSTRIALISM; - ANTI-CAPITALISM (although this evolved) - saw conservatism as a DISPOSITION; a natural aversion to change

Goodwin - the 'chameleon of ideologies'; Mannheim suggests it is not even a real ideology

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Features of Conservatism I

- ORGANIC SOCIETY AND POLITICS - there is a 'social whole' and community, which promotes the nation, traditions and culture - this 'whole' is the link between NATION and SOCIETY - it is not CLASS BASED, but rather about a group of individuals (Novalis) - driven by tradition and this sense of community (Coleridge) - at centre of romantic conservatism

- FUNCTIONALIST - gives analytical priority to the COMMUNITY - sees society as functioning like an organism, with different sections having DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS - everything has its place and this should not be interrupted; relfects the 'social whole' and Great Chain of Being

- NEGATIVE HUMAN NATURE - sees humans as imperfects and in need of order, restrain and authority to behave correctly - Hobbesian view of a 'leviathan'; sees humans as EMOTIONAL creatures which are 'boundless and bottomless' (Oakeshott) - often unreasonable, so uses INSTITUTIONS to guide them and form a social order

- ANTI-RATIONALIST - argues that abstract theorising does nothing for society - there are limits to reason, so we need to look at the past social order and learn from this - context and intuition is much more crucial to this

- SLOW CHANGE - against radical change - sees institutions as evolving; politics is an ART; BURKE - 'change in order to conserve'

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Features of Conservatism II

This is based on TRADITION - guarantees STABLITY, which is seen as THE IDEAL for conservatives (Goodwin) - the present is preferable to revolution; look to more evolutionary change

TRADITION - only good things remain, and 'whatever is, is good' - things endure for a reason - described by Chesterton as 'the democracy of the dead' - romantics argue that RURAL SOCIETY must endure over industrialisation, for example (Coleridge, Muller)

HOWEVER - is preservation really for the best? Why should tradition be binding? - argue that PROGRESS is not everything and always positive, however there should be SOME - Hegel's 'Absolute Spirit'

POLITICS - believe in a more AUTHORITARIAN government, and elitism as opposed to mass politics; are pro-monarchy, or pro-Parliament in the UK; seek to criticise 'populist mass democracy' in favour of elite rule (Carlyle)

- Believe in family values, the rule of law and strict punishment - try to aim for CONSENSUS

ECONOMICALLY - either pro-market or market-sceptic - Burke (pro), Gilmour (anti) - some conservatives are more interventionist (Gilmour, romantics - see market as too mechanistic) - divided

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Strands of Conservatism

A conceptual approach - suggest that there as SCHOOLS OF CONSERVATISM - there is little consensus; also a NATION-STATE approach (differs by country) and a CHRONOLOGICAL approach (differs by period)

TRADITIONAL - based on defending what traditions and hierarchies are already present - want a 'communal state' (Burke, Sumner) - oppose contractarianism and covenants, but favour the monarchy (le Maistre); not overly nationalistic (Savigny), but live in GROUPS (Sumner)

ROMANTIC - nostalgic view, anti-industrial - looks fondly upon the rural age, and wants to return to this - anti-capitalist, and anti-market - instead focus on society and religion (Coleridge, T.S Eliot, Muller)

PATERNALISM - argue for a slightly more interventionist state, to help those most in need - state constructs reality and provides equality - Macmillan's 'middle way' conservatism, and 'planned capitalism' - Oakeshott - tradition is important, but there can be room for POSITIVE CHANGE

NEO-CONS - argue that we need to reconnect with tradition (Scruton), but can also include more libertarian conservatives - Bloom, Nozick, Kristol; overlap with NEW RIGHT - focussed on the market, but social authoritarianism - are nationalistic, and favour family values; tend to be anti-paternalist, and seek to challenge BIG GOVERNMENT - Thatcher, Rand, Hayek, Friedman - seek to 'roll back the state'

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Views of Conservatism

A 'political anti-philosophy' (Allison) - argue it is NOT an ideology; but various views

ARISTOCRATIC VIEW - conservatism as about monarchies and a traditional elite - a social covenant with this elite - post-French Rev., more absolutist view has died - especially since Corn Laws

PRAGMATIC - sees politics as about traditional policies and defending these, but only changing slowly and where absolutely necessary and consensual - for example, democracy in the 19th century - try and avoid anarchy and 'big government' - small tweaks preferred - Burkean

links to SITUATIONAL - this is about being realistic, and defending the current order against 'transcendent ideas' - promoting the conservative ideal of STABILITY - Goodwin

DISPOSITION - Cecil's 'natural conservatism' - about being anti-change and conserving - conservatism is a CONDITION OF THE MIND - we have a natural aversion to change, so we are all conservative - favour stability over radical philosophies

AN IDEOLOGY? Argues that there is prescriptive content that conservatives follow - we oppose revolution, respect authority, challenge the idea of liberty and respect tradition - for example, Burkean conservatism post-1789

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Is Conservatism an Ideology?

Seen as 'the theory which rejects theory' - a broad concept which is fragmented conceptually between many schools - is it an IDEOLOGY? Viewed as a 'chameleon' by Goodwin - it is INCOMPLETE and prevents PROGRESSION

It is not UTOPIAN like LIBERALISM, but is about a mixture of wisdom, knowledge, and pragmatism - a 'positional ideology' with very few PRESCRIPTIVE IDEAS

DIVISIONS - paternalists and the New Right are wildly opposed, with various differing ideas - if you see Macmillian as a conservative, you can hardly consider Thatcher one - INCOHERENT

NATION-STATES - various different meanings between nations as to what conservatism is; arguably, it is more of A DISPOSITION - Cecil's argument - a condition of the mind to be averse to change

BURKE - did he make 'modern conservatism' into an ideology? - has the PROBLEM of rationalism and radical change, the VISION of limiting change, and the METHOD of authority and maintaining what is already there - is it an IDEOLOGY

Overall, conservatism is GREAT AT ADAPTING - 'chameleon' view - it is always RELEVANT

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Key Thinkers of Conservatism

Burke - the 'father of modern conservatism' - Disraeli supports Burkean conservatism

Plato; John of Salisbury - 'unconscious conservatism' + Hegel's 'Absolute Spirit'

Mannheim - conservatism isn't an ideology; Goodwin; Allison; Cecil (disposition) too

Boudain - the Great Chain of Being

Coleridge; T.S Eliot; Wordsworth; Muller - romantic conservatism - also Novalis - community

Hobbes - authority through 'leviathan'; the state of nature (human nature); also Oakeshott

Chesterton - definition of tradition; traditional also Sumner; le Maistre; Savigny

Carlyle - elite rule

Gilmour; Macmillan; Oakeshott - paternalist

Bloom; Nozick; Kristol - neo/libertarian conservatism

Scruton; Thatcher; Rand; Hayek; Friedman - New Right conservatism

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