The Conservative Party - Traditional Conservatism

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Traditional conservatism originated in the late part of the eighteenth century. Conservative thinkers such as Edmund Burke became alarmed at the rise of individual freedoms, tolerance of different political and religious beliefs, representative government and a laissez-faire attitude towards economic activity. Traditional Conservatives believed that such a free society, with so little control by government would lead to major social disorder.

Human Nature:

  • Far-right conservatives believe that man is born with a flawed character and however much he tried he will be unable to achieve perfection. Conservatives think that ideologies such as socialism and anarchism are impractical and merely Utopian. Mankind is driven by desire for physical prosperity, property, power, and the avoidance of deprivation. People generally cannot be trusted with government as they will simply use it for their own ends rather than for the welfare of the whole community.
  • It is a conservative tradition to see people on the whole as untrustworthy, self-seeking and generally feckless.They believe that mankind is sorely in need of firm government and should be governed by benevolent rulers who should be firm but who have their general interests at heart. Edmund Burke believed that the relationship between government and the people should be similar to that of a parent and a child - also known as conservative paternalism
  • Traditional conservatists stress social unity rather than social conflict as the state needs to intervene if the pursuit of self-interest is not to take over completely.
  • The causes of crime and disorder lie with the individual and are the product of mankind's inherent sinfulness. This involves exemplary punishment rather than social remedies.
  • If there is an excess of popular democracy then the country is likely to be poorly governed. The conservatives accept the need for universal suffrage but this did not imply that the people could be completely trusted with government. Governments should not slavishly follow the fluctuating desires and demands of the people, but should use their wise judgement to serve the best interests of the whole community. This is reflected in the reluctance of the Conservatives to use referendums as a governing mechanism.


  • The conservatives see mankind's most basic need as order and security.
  • Conservatives prefer strong government and have tended to favour the needs of the community for security above the rights of the individual.
  • The need for order can be seen in the conservative attitude towards law and order and reluctance to champion the cause of civil liberties.
  • Aim for the preservation of order and gradual reform rather than the disorder that results from revolutionary change
  • Traditional conservatives err on the side of caution and preserve order above promoting new ideas

Tradition and Preservation:

  • The preference for the preservation of tradition is closely related to the desire for public order
  • Traditional values and institutions have survived as they carry the accumulated wisdom of the past and should be respected
  • Traditions bring to the existing society some of the best aspects of past societies.
  • GK Chesterton called tradition the 'democracy of the…


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