Hey guys! Welcome to the second installment of my new series, “Easy Politics”. As you can tell from the title, this one is all about Conservatism as an ideology. I hope you enjoy, and learn something new. And don’t forget to check out my post on Liberalism if you haven’t already!
What is Conservatism?
The core values of Conservatism are the following:
- Tradition and preservation (Tradition reflects the accumulated wisdom of the past, also creates social cohesion and a feeling of rootedness by linking people to the past and providing them with a sense of identity. Change is uncertain and to be feared, whereas established customs are familiar and reassuring).
- Human nature (Conservatives have a negative view of human nature; they believe we are psychologically limited and dependent creatures and we should sacrifice liberty to ensure social order; our only incentive to abide by the law is to have strict laws in place).
- Order (without order, we would have an unpleasantly short life. Control is crucial and there is a necessity for order to maintain institutions. We wouldn’t have hierarchy and structure of government without order – there would be revolution otherwise).
- Hierarchy (society is naturally hierarchical, characterised by fixed social classes. Social equality is undesirable and unachievable – talent and leadership qualities are unequally distributed and cannot be acquired through self-advancement).
- Pragmatism aka practicality (any change should be sensible and gradual.)
- Individualism (Clear distinction between private and public spheres. Best environment for individualism is state of control – a nomocratic (ruled by law) society. Humans are security-seeking creatures. Individual cannot be separated from society, but is part of the social groups that nurture him or her – negative freedom results in the individual suffering from anomie (weakening of values and normative rules – associated with feelings of isolation)
- Property (Provides security – ownership gives people a sense of confidence and assurance. Those who possess property are also more likely to respect other peoples’ property, thus maintaining law and order. They also believe that property can be an extension of an individual’s personality. Why burglary is so frowned upon – individuals feel personally violated – home is personal and intimate).
Conservatives tend to want less state interference – low taxes etc. They like the status quo to be maintained rather than any radical change. They usually want to maintain tradition and institutions like the monarchy; they look to the past as a guide. They want the individual to flourish in terms of pursuing goals and achieving fulfillment (much like classic liberals). Conservatives also want good social order and security even if that is at the expense of freedom, rights and equality.
When did Conservatism originate?
Conservatism began more as a response to other ideologies than as an ideology itself. Before the late 1700s, and the Enlightenment period, there weren’t really any true ideological movements for Conservatism to react against, thus this could be considered the dawn of Conservatism. People were challenging long-held beliefs affecting religion, ethics, politics, the physical sciences, mathematics, the arts and architecture. In the 19th and early 20th century, Conservatism was associated with class interest aka as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace and the economics power of the new capitalist middle glasses grew, the “landed classes” (those whose wealth was inherited) found themselves threatened and wanted to ‘conserve’ the interests of their class.
Does being a conservative mean you have to support the Conservative party?
No. For a traditional Conservative, the Conservative Party’s values may seem too left wing (welfare state etc) and for One-Nation Conservatives, their left wing policies may not go far enough. Similarly, nationalists may agree with the Conservative Party’s policies on leaving the EU etc (follow my blog so you can read my post on Nationalism and find out if you are a nationalist!), and some classic Liberals may vote Conservative for their want for less control over the individual and lower taxes.
Are there different types of Conservatism?
Yes. The main types are Traditional, Liberal New Right (Neoliberalism), Conservative New Right (Neoconservatism) and One Nation Conservatism. Here are some of their core beliefs and values.
– Change is natural and inevitable (the French revolution being an example) and should not be resisted: “change in order to conserve”
– Change should be cautious, modest and pragmatic, drawn from a suspicion of fixed principles whether revolutionary or reactionary.
– Pragmatic conservatives support neither the state nor individual, but are prepared to support either, or both…depending on ‘what works’.
– There should be tough laws in place to discourage criminal behaviour
– They believe in an organic society – people cannot exist outside of society; they need to be nurtured and protected.
– Institutions such as the monarchy, the House of Lords and the Church should be protected (strong respect for tradition)
– Individuals should be left to make their own mistakes – they are anti welfare state for fear that it would weaken people’s values
Liberal New Right Conservatism/Neoliberalism:
– Radical change is better than gradual reform
– Stand for independence of mind and thought free from obligation to any authority
– Tax = legalised theft
– The fact that something exists and has done for a long time is no ground for respecting/keeping it (disrespect for institutions and tradition)
– Free market economics because government intervention causes economic problems
– Universal human rights (commitment to individual liberty and freedom)
– Anti welfare state (cut public spending) because it leads to a culture of dependency
– Privatisation increases quality. Nationalised industries are inefficient
– Support a liberal view of property
New Right Conservatism/Neoconservatism:
– Increase social discipline, authority and leadership
– Anti globalisation and anti immigration
– Belief in a natural hierarchy in society
– Belief in the patriarchy and traditional family values (the man is the leader of the household)
– Let people have freedom of action – anti welfare
– Classic liberal economics + traditional social theory (defence of order, authority and discipline)
– New Right attempts to fuse economic libertarianism with state and social authoritarianism.
One Nation Conservatism:
– We need to reform or there will be revolution: revolution ensures stability. The purpose of one-nationism is simply to consolidate hierarchy, and its wish to improve the conditions of the less well-off is limited to the desire to ensure that the poor no longer pose a threat to the established order
– Progress must be pragmatic, careful, respectful of past practices
– Feudal principle: the rich have a duty of care to the poor; on Nation Conservatives are pro welfare because of the organic conservative belief that society is held together by an acceptance of duty and obligations. Society is naturally hierarchical, but also inequalities of wealth and social privilege give rise to an inequality of responsibilities. Wealthy and powerful people must shoulder the burden of social responsibility – this is the price of privilege.
– Keynsian economics: we need full employment and enlarged welfare provision
– One Nation Conservatism is a middle way between classic Liberalism and socialism; “planned capitalism” – a mixed system which combines state ownership, regulation of certain aspects of economic activity with the drive and initiative of private enterprise.
Stay tuned for my next blog post, and be sure to follow so you are notified when I release a new post 😊 requests are welcome.