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Transcript of Conservatism (incomplete)
The Nature of Conservatism
The Impact of Conservatism
Conservatism is by nature reactionary - it is a reaction to change brought about in part by liberal ideas.
Traditional conservatism seeks to preserve (or conserve) established institutions and values.
is a particular strand of conservatism which favours authoritarian rule. It was more prevalent in continental Europe.
is more pragmatic.
describes the combination of liberal economic ideas and socially conservative ones (cf. the New Right).
More modern conservative views (the
) tend to believe in small (but strong) government but more liberal free market economics.
Conservatism is less openly ideological than other ideologies, with fewer fixed and developed ideas. This has allowed it to adapt to fit to changing attitudes, events and cultures.
Key themes in Conservatism are tradition, human imperfection, organic society, hierarchy and authority and property.
The History of Conservatism
Conservatism grew out of a reaction to change, often resulting from liberal ideas.
Edmund Burke's 'Reflections on the Revolution in France' (1790) was one of the earliest statements of conservatism, arguing against abstract theorising about rights and revolution and for tradition and gradual reform.
19th c conservatism was concerned with defence of monarchy and aristocracy (cf. LEDC conservatism)
2oth c conservatism was focussed on PATERNALISTIC support of state intervention combined with free market economics.
Since the 1970s, Conservatism has seen a resurgence in response to concerns about the welfare state and management of the economy.
Thatcher (UK 1979-90) and Reagan (1981-89) represented the coming to the fore of the NEW RIGHT - which is more ideological than traditional conservatism and more radical. It is influenced by classical liberal economics, but retains social conservative ideas.
Values, practices and institutions passed down over time ('from father to son').
Some conservatives link this to religion (tradition as 'the law of our Creator' [Burke], God given and not to be interfered in).
Modern conservatives tend to support tradition as a store of past wisdom (tried and tested/institutional survival of the fittest - GK Chesterton 'democracy of the dead').
Tradition is also seen as forming identity and creating social cohesion (think red letterboxes, last night of the proms, Shakespeare, the Queen's speech etc).
Conservatives have a PESSIMISTIC view of human nature.
Humans are imperfect and cannot be made perfect. They:
Fear isolation and instability
Need safety, security and familiarity
Like to 'know their place'
As a result providing ORDER trumps liberty (cf. Hobbes).
Conservatism argues criminality is the result of the individual, not society - Humans are selfish and greedy.
People must be 'civilised' through strict enforcement of the law, which exists to preserve order.
Humans are also thought incapable of truly understanding the world, so it is better to trust in tradition than seek to discuss and understand abstract ideas (e.g. justice, liberty, equality).
NB - New Right thinking places less emphasis on the latter idea and relies more on abstract ideas.
Society operates like an organism - it is not atomistic and it is 'organic' not constructed (Organicism).
Being left alone to 'enjoy' negative freedom actually leads to ANOMIE [Durkheim, France, 19th c].
In society, people are not individuals with rights, they are parts of a whole with responsibilities to others.
Bonds of duty and obligation to one another hold society together and institutions exist because they are necessary (like body parts).
Libertarian Conservatives, including the New Right, adopt a more liberal view of society - hence Thatcher's statement 'There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families.'
the breakdown of social bonds and norms linked to feelings of isolation and meaninglessness
Conservatives believe that society is naturally hierarchical and social equality is not desirable (or achievable).
Inequality runs deeper than the liberal view of the unequal distribution of ability/talents (leading to meritocracy).
Conservatives believe that the class system exists are a result of NATURAL ARISTOCRACY: some are born to lead and others are born to follow. Inequality in position and wealth are justified by this.
Conservatives do not believe in the Social Contract.
Instead, authority is 'natural' and essential e.g. the authority of parents over children to provide safety, security and care.
Authority needs imposing as, like children, people oftend do not know what is good for them. This is at all levels (in the home, in schools and the workplace and in the state as a whole).
Authority gives direction and inspiration and ensures people know where they stand.
Some (a minority) AUTHORITARIAN conservatives believe authority is unquestionable.
Most conservatives believe in authority with limits - e.g. you have authority over your child but you cannot abuse them.
Or, the people must be ruled because they're naughty and they just don't know what's good for them
Conservatives agree with liberals that property is 'earned' by those who work hard and/or have talent.
However, they see it as more than just a means of accumulating wealth. They believe it is a source of security, protection and respect; it gives citizens a stake in society and is an extension of an individual's personality.
The belief in 'property as personality' is reflected in Conservatives loathing of burglary - they see it as a crime against the person as well as theft of and damage to possessions.
This is also why Conservatives rail against the socialisation of property: socialised property cannot reflect individual tastes, needs and attitudes.
Property is also a means of passing something on through the generations, so reflects Conservative views of tradition.
Key thinker: Joseph de Maistre (18th-19th c, France)
Very anti French Revolution.
Reactionary; sought restoration of a hereditary monarchy and the supreme authority of the pope [in 'Du Pape'].
Believed in willing subordination to 'the master'.
Examples included Tsarist Russia and Bismarck's role as 'Imperial Chancellor' in Germany (1871-90).
In some places (Germany, Italy) authoritarian conservatives provided support for fascist movements and leaders (Hitler, Mussolini).
In other places conservative-authoritarians sought popular support (Napoleon III, France; Peron, Argentina).
Saw its end in Europe with the collapse of Portuguese and Spanish dictatorships in the 1970s.
Key thinker: Edmund Burke (18th c, Britain)
Pragmatic - accepts some change but is cautious and modest, 'change in order to conserve'.
Suspicious of fixed principles ('the wise conservative travels light', Gilmour, 1978)
Focused on what works, rather than ideological support of the state, the individual or particular ideals and institutions.
Paternalistic conservatism has two main traditions:
Key thinkers: Benjamin Disraeli, Randolph Churchill (19th c, Britain)
Growing inequality in the 19th c was likely to lead to revolution.
Reform to prevent revolution would, in turn benefit the rich.
Additionally, with wealth comes responsibility - the rich may have more material wealth, but in turn they have the responsibility of providing and maintaining the security and livelihoods of many others.
In the past, this responsibility was expressed as 'noblesse oblige' with the nobility caring for their peasants . In modern times it should be expressed through social reform.
NB. It was under Disraeli that the working class first gained suffrage and major social reforms improving housing and sanitation occurred.
One-nations conservatives referred to themselves as Tories, harking back to pre-industrial, paternalistic values.
(R) Churchill argued continuing social reform was the best way of winning working class votes and so broadening conservative support.
Its high point was in the 1950s & 60s when it upheld Keynesian ideas aiming for full employment and a high standard of welfare provision (cf Harold Macmillan, the Middle Way).
Compassionate conservatism was a modern interpretation of ONC.
NOTE: Improving conditions for the poor is justified in ONC as a means of protecting the interests of the rich, by ensuring the poor don't revolt.
A European conservative movement.
Replaced authoritarian conservative movements post WWII.
Highly influenced by Catholic social beliefs in opposition to perceived Protestant individualism.
Focussed on the importance of social institutions e.g. church, unions etc and the notion of 'social partnership.'
Differs from ONC in its belief in subsidiarity (especially in Germany).
NB subsidiarity is a key principle of the EU (Maastricht Treaty).
CD often applies Keynesian welfarist policies, e.g. economic intervention such as a degree of protectionism for new industries.
This ties in with the 'social market economy.' The market operates alongside a comprehensive welfare system and high quality public services. The role of the market is to generate wealth to achieve social goals.
This form of market is sometimes called 'Rhine-Alpine capitalism' or 'social capitalism' (vs. Anglo-American capitalism/enterprise capitalism).
a belief matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.
the exercise of authority to prevent harm or confer benefit. Can be soft (consenting) or hard. Assumes those in authority 'know best'.
Advocate the greatest possible economic liberty and minimal government regulation.
Not simply an adoption of liberalism, but a belief that liberal economics is compatible with social conservatism - Burke himself was a supporter of the liberal economics of Adam Smith.
Views the desire for wealth as natural, defended as tradition and not to be interfered in.
Libertarian conservatives do NOT extend this view to the social arena, still believing humans need a strong state to maintain authority.
It could be argued conservatives see the market as discipline rather than freedom.
The New Right
In the 1970s, mounted a challenge to the ONC ideas of Keynesian-welfarism and managed capitalism.
Initially had an impact in the UK and USA but became influential in Europe, Australia and NZ over time.
The movement marries neoliberalism (the liberal new right - classical liberal economics, critiques of big government) and neoconservatism (the conservative new right - traditional conservative ideas of family values, order and authority).
Both the liberal and conservative new right draw on a supposed, typically Victorian, economic and moral 'golden-age'.
The Liberal New Right is principally concerned with the free market, anti-Keynesianism (see Friedman and Hayek), supply-side economics and is characterised as anti-statist; fighting creeping collectivism and rolling back the state.
The Conservative New Right is anti-permissiveness, the management of society through law and order (not welfare policy), national identity and a fear of multiculturalism, Euroscepticism (in the UK) and neocon foreign policy.
Both the liberal and conservative new right feed into New Right ideologies such as Thatcherism and Reaganism/Reaganomics.
The Fight against Keynes
(20th c) - economist and political philosopher.
Major critic of socialism.
'The Road to Serfdom' argued against central economic planning, saying both socialism and fascism had their roots in this as it was a form of totalitarianism.
He did believe in a role for government in:
regulating methods of production (working hours, use of poisonous substances, working conditions)
Prevention of fraud and deception
The provision of a safety-net welfare system/social insurance.
(20-21st c) - economist and statistician.
Chicago school of economics.
Proposed monetarism - the role of the government in controlling the monetary supply.
Argued there was an natural rate of unemployment and trying to combat this would lead to inflation.
Nigel Lawson (Chancellor, 1983-89) described Thatcherite ideals as: Free markets, financial discipline, control of public expenditure, tax cuts, nationalism, Victorian values, privatisation and 'a dash of populism'.
Neoliberal aspects include monetarism, supply-side economics, low taxation, reducing the power of the unions and a rejection of central planning.
Neoconservative aspects include 'Victorian values' (e.g. regulation of 'video nasties'), a focus on law and order and Euroscepticism (late on in her time as PM).
Andrew Gamble (Prof. of Politics at University of Cambridge) defined Thatcherism as 'the free economy and the strong state).
NB - Thatcher herself voted for socially liberal changes such as the legalisation of homosexuality and legal abortion (1966).