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Introduction Conservatives, in general, seek to preserve the traditional way of life in their societies There are considerable disagreements among conservatives.

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Presentation on theme: "Introduction Conservatives, in general, seek to preserve the traditional way of life in their societies There are considerable disagreements among conservatives."— Presentation transcript:

1 Introduction Conservatives, in general, seek to preserve the traditional way of life in their societies There are considerable disagreements among conservatives Which parts of traditions are worth preserving? Traditions and customs vary from one society to another The “political philosophy of imperfection” Humans are naturally flawed and imperfect—goes back to original sin Radical attempts to change human nature or transform society are foolish and dangerous Role of government is to restrain the passions that lead to conflict 1

2 Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) Edmund Burke, the founder of conservatism, developed his views in reaction to the French Revolution ( ) Argued that French revolutionaries had overly optimistic view of human nature and a dangerous propensity for unrestrained liberty 2

3 The Conservatism of Burke The “social fabric” – members of society are individual threads interwoven into a complex tapestry Challenges the “atomistic conception” of society “Organic conception” = individuals in society are like interdependent units of a living organism Society is an intergenerational partnership that is rooted in customs and traditions Freedom as ordered liberty Government should prevent people from acting on whims and impulses Government restraints are necessary to ensure the social peace 3

4 The Classical Conservative View of Freedom 4 Agent: interconnected individuals Obstacle: radical ideas, innovation, passions, desires, lack of restraint Goal: order, stability, harmony, continuity

5 Reform and Revolution Burke drew a distinction between reform and innovation Change should take place gradually through reform rather than radically by starting anew with abstract proposals Reform is safer and surer than innovation Reform is based on “prejudice” rather than abstract reasoning Prejudice = the traditions, habits, and dispositions that store the “latent” wisdom of society Traditions represent the accumulated wisdom of the society French Revolution uprooted the traditional order of society and replaced it with new and untried institutions 5

6 Burke on Government Representative government: Preferable to democracy because it allows wise representatives to rule with good judgment rather than unchecked passion Natural aristocracy: A rare few have the ability and experience to govern wisely Most likely to come from hereditary aristocracy because of their education and knowledge Private Property: Stabilizing force in society that strengthens attachment to government Little platoons: Secondary associations that make up society and ensure that power is dispersed among society 6

7 Conservatism in the 19 th Century Following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo (1815), opponents of the French Revolution and its legacies became known as reactionaries. Count Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821) argued that without institutions such as the monarchy and the Church no society could long survive Clemens von Metternich (1773–1859) guided the attempt to restore the old aristocratic order, settling on hereditary monarchy as the only legitimate form of rule Pope Pius IX issued his Syllabus of Errors (1864), in which he sharply criticized liberalism for undermining religion and the traditional order 7

8 English Conservatism After Burke Reaction was not the only form that conservatism took, as cultural conservatism and Tory democracy became important political forces in Great Britain English conservatism defended the traditional agricultural society against the ravages of industry and commerce, arguing that commerce and capitalism were greater enemies of spirituality and culture than the French revolutionaries The Tory Party formed an alliance between the aristocratic upper class and the working class. Leaders like Benjamin Disraeli ( ) attempted to address the needs of the working class while instilling in the workers a respect for the traditional order of English life 8

9 Conservatism in the United States Lacking experience of feudalism, aristocracy, monarchy, and no established national church, American conservatives were chiefly concerned with preserving an essentially liberal society and way of life Cultural conservatism became more prevalent, as writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) and Herman Melville (1819–1891) criticized what they saw as the foolishly optimistic temper of their times Positioned against welfare liberalism, with its call for government action to promote individual liberty and equality of opportunity 9

10 Conservatism in the 20 th Century In the 20 th century, conservatives feared that “mass society” posed the same threat as democracy José Ortega y Gasset ( ) argued that the masses were completely unrestrained and crushed all opposition Fascist movements were seen as the logical result of democratic expansion Many conservatives oppose attempts to achieve greater democracy or equality through “levelling” Leads to economic and social stagnation Serious cultural institutions will also be overrun by the levelling tendencies of mass society 10

11 Conservatism and Communism: Sources of Disagreement 1.Progress: Conservatives reject the communist faith in progress by arguing that change is not always for the better 2.Perfectibility: Human experience shows that attempts to perfect human nature and society are futile 3.Planning: Planning on a grand scale places too much faith in human reason Planning tends to concentrate power into the hands of a few at the center of society 11

12 Conservatism Today Conservatives today can be divided onto four categories: 1.Traditional 2.Individualist 3.Neoconservatism 4.Religious Right 12

13 Traditional Conservatism Heirs of Edmund Burke View society as a delicate fabric made of interconnected individuals Purpose of political activity is to preserve the social fabric that carries on vital traditions from one generation to another Private property is essential to ordered liberty, but unrestrained capitalism can destroy the traditional bond of society Traditional conservatives view capitalism with some suspicion 13

14 Individualist Conservatism Very similar to neo-classical liberalism Societal problems usually require a simple solution: less government interference in the operations of the free market An unrestrained free market will eventually benefit everyone Freedom = freedom to compete with one another in the economic arena Society is not an intricate web of interconnected individuals, but a competitive marketplace 14

15 Neoconservatism Like traditional conservatives, neoconservatives view capitalism with admiration and suspicion Believe that military power should be used to advance national interests Staunchly anti-communist during the Cold War Ardent supporters of the “war on terrorism” and “regime change” Culture has enormous political implications Popular music, movies, and attitudes have reinforced a deviant culture We should focus on cultural influences that encourage discipline and virtue 15

16 The Religious Right Called for a return to morality in government and society Defines morality according to the moral code of Christian fundamentalism United States was founded a Christian nation and must return to its roots Support an expanded role of government in moral matters Want government to ban abortions, allow prayer in public schools, and outlaw certain sexual activities Still favor limited government interference in economic matters 16Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

17 Conservatism as an Ideology 1.Explanation: Human imperfection explains societal ills 2.Evaluation: Good social conditions favor peace and stability 3.Orientation: The individual is a part of a greater whole and must act with the good of society in mind Individualist conservatives argue that society is made up of competing individuals 4.Program: Proceed carefully with reform so as not to endanger the benefits of society that we presently enjoy 17

18 Conclusion: Conservatism and Democracy Conservatism began as an anti-democratic attitude because democratic forces threatened customs and traditions In the past century, conservatism has come to support democracy in societies where it is part of the traditional and customary way of life Conservatives favor a modest form of representative democracy Weakness of human reason and selfishness can lead to anarchy or despotism People should have limited power and elect prudent, wise representatives to restrain passions 18

19 Readings: Part IV: Conservatism Edmund Burke—Society, Reverence, and the “True Natural Aristocracy” Joseph de Maistre—Conservatism as Reaction Michael Oakeshott—On Being Conservative Russell Kirk—Ten Conservative Principles Robert H. Bork—Modern Liberalism and Cultural Decline Irving Kristol—The Neoconservative Persuasion W. James Antle, III—The Conservative Crack Up 19


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