“A state without the means of some change is without the means of it’s conservation” Edmund Burke.
Conservatism is associated with beliefs that a country or state should hold tradition and custom as the most important aspects of their society. Conservatives do not like the idea of social change unless it is absolutely necessary, conservatism basically favours the long standing traditions of culture, religious beliefs or national defined beliefs. Conservatism carries patriotism for the nation states and believes that a individual will belong into a nation with a history of beliefs and culture which will bring us and the people in our nation closer together. A persons national identity their social structures, norms and values have been built up over thousands of years through many generations to shape the people and make them who they are and conservatism beliefs that this should be preserved and protected.
If I think from conservative perspective then I understand what they are trying to say and implement but it is hard to protect such beliefs and values as change is absolutely necessary, however in the last century or so there have been radical social changes across the western world actually the whole world, as human beings are creatures who are always changing they are learning and evolving so there are obviously going to be social changes because people are always changing. Conservatism is not completely against change but rather it believes that this change should be a slow or gradual process it can be referred to as “Organic change” conservatives do understand that there is social change but they would prefer to control it and ease it in piece by piece in order to not disturb the wider web of society, it does not believe in radical change or any form of revolutionary change in a society.
There has been radical change and revolutionary change in many parts of the world and most of it has been beneficial, conservatism is concerned with social culture but there have been many cultures of oppression and subjugation around the world and conservatives would argue that this still needs to be protected and because of this many people favour liberalism liberalism because it is based on political philosophy centred around the individual, the individual should have as much personal freedom as possible providing their freedom does not affect anyone else other than the individual. For liberals tradition, culture and custom are not important and they see no value in upholding these, it is just down to what the individual wants and how the individual wishes to act or to dress or to live. It is all about personal freedom and giving each person the most amount of freedom possible, in the last century or so liberalism has taken over in the western world and shaped the beliefs of toleration and respect for all human beings no matter how different they are.
Liberalism does run into problems if too much emphasis is put on personal freedom, nation states may find themselves in a situation where all their citizens are completely different where there is no national culture or common beliefs too much differentiation can break down people’s sense of community, togetherness and sense of being one. People will then be left with a nation of lots of individuals but no unity or common beliefs or culture. In order to keep things working in a harmonious way we must think that the society needs a blend of both conservatism and liberalism, as people will have the freedom to be and conservatism will keep them on track in order to keep the society havoc free.
Key ideas of conservatism
Key ideas of conservatism were tradition, pragmatism, human imperfection, organicism, hierarchy, authority, natural aristocracy and property. Tradition, conservatives revolve around the “the desire to converse” conservatism is solely linked to the past traditions, customs and institutions which have been “tested by time”. The traditions, customs and institutions must be followed by the present and future generations for harmonious living in order to have a sense of historical and social belonging. I believe that we as humans do need some traditions, customs and institutions to guide us but these three aspects should not over power our general life and right to freedom because it can inculcate loathing towards them and those who try to implement them on us which can lead to us revolting against them.
Pragmatism, conservatives have always mentioned the limitations of human rationality because of the complexity of the world we reside in, according to them people were not rational because they did not trust the principles and the system of thought instead they solely and completely believed in faith. I believe during those times people were more invested in God and their decisions and thoughts were more driven by that, Conservatives describe their beliefs as “attitude of mind” or “approach to life”.
Human imperfection, conservatives view humans as broadly pessimistic, they say humans are “limited, dependent, security seeking and need stable and orderly communities” I believe humans are not limited when they want, need and have to they will cross those limitations, it is the natural order to be dependent in the sense of father and child but if we speak of rich and poor then people will have to be dependent as the rich during those times took away a lot from the poor hence the dependency. Each and every human is security seeking if I speak from an aspect of nobility many people below them try to secure favours with nobles in order to get close as they know they can seek security for themselves and can also protect their families.
Human beings can not always live in unstable communities they need and deserve stable and orderly communities, conservatives so want to implement their beliefs then stable and orderly communities is a way to go. Conservatives say that individuals are morally corrupt and are tainted by selfishness, greed and are thirsty for power, situations make individuals morally corrupt and their desires mostly for the nobles corruption is a way to hide their crimes and a lot more, I speak of nobles as they have intentions to reach higher and reach higher climbing on bodies of others is a must and here’s were the selfishness, greed thirst for power comes in. Crimes are provoked by the society so for conservatives to say that crime and disorder resides within individuals rather than the society is not something I can agree with.
Organicism, conservatives do not see the society as a product of creativity but as a organic whole or living entity according to conservatives the society is structured by natural necessity and should be preserved to safeguard the fragile “fabric of society” which contributes to stability and health. Hierarchy, conservatives believe that social position, status are natural and are inevitable in an organic society, they reflect on differing roles and responsibilities, conservatives say that the positions of employers and workers, teachers and pupils, parents and children. I believe in two situations like employers and workers and teachers and pupils this position can change but parents and children can not.
Conservatives say that hierarchy and inequality do not give rise to conflict because the society to say is bound together by mutual obligations and reciprocal duties, I believe that this is not completely true as inequality does lead to conflicts and the position of the people does not matter. Conservatives say a person’s “station in life” is determined by luck and accident of birth to change these situations I say one should read the book The Prince theprince by Niccoló Machiavelli niccolòmachiavelli When conservatives say prosperous and privileged acquire a particular responsibility of care for the less fortunate, I believe the Medici family medicifamily in a way did as much as possible for the less fortunate but we can not say the same for the French Royals hence the French Revolution frenchrevolution
Authority, conservatives say that authority is always exercised “from above” to provide leadership, guidance, support to people who lack knowledge, experience or education to act wisely in their own interests, the example which they give is parents over children. Parents over children is a natural form of authority which is to shape the child into a human with knowledge and all necessary guidance but when spoken of authority “from above” it may not be in interest of the subjects as the one’s from above may have the knowledge but might not be wise in guiding to fulfil their best interest rather than the citizens. Like The Prince a guide book for a Prince “leader” who is not a leader by birth is something which citizens should adapt because I believe someone from the normal citizens has the knowledge of everything that is going on with the normal public because the power “from above” might not and a leader from within the citizens has a greater chance at succeeding to guide and support those who like knowledge and provide leadership which will be successful.
Natural aristocracy, says that talent and leadership is something which is innate or inbred hence it can not be acquired through effort or self advancement, this is highly wrong because leaders are not inborn because leaders are made from their knowledge, experience and wisdom, also their drive to do better. The Prince theprince explains how a leader should be and how they are to be made as it is not necessary to be born in a family which will give you authority to rule over others but you can also acquire it. Property, conservatives believe that property gives people security and means of independence from the government also through this it encourages them to respect the law and the property of others, I agree with in order to feel certain amount of security a human being does need property and this property does provide them stability the stability and security they want.
Types of conservatism
Types of conservatism. Traditional conservatism Traditionalistconservatism , response to the French Revolution frenchrevolution , this was largely founded on the work of Edmund Burke edmundburke which was written in the response to the French Revolution of 1789. Traditional conservatives oppose revolutionary change it also opposes egalitarian ideas and the theory so these are kind of grand ideas about this utopian worlds that can be created and they actually kind of emphasise but ordered traditional evidence rather than theory, let’s look at it pragmatically as to what can be done rather than thinking about some great ideology let’s take a look at how the world is and also this very firm belief in property. Some of these ideas go back to Edmund Burke particularly order, tradition, property, we see run through the rest of conservatism although a lot of other things will change one of the reasons for this is, Edmund Burke talks about both the development of state and development of society being organic and not be something you could just sit down one day and write on a piece of paper how it should be but something that would just change over time.
he talks about the state has been like a plant and similar ideas with society focuses particularly on these ideas these localised platoons that he called these ideas of society evolving and people working but not completely individualistically there’s been idea of being support networks that people would naturally gravitate to. Traditional conservatism is a defence of elite rule and of inequality and so it is often accused of essentially coming out of self interest because the likes of Edmund Burke comes from what the elites and therefore they are defending the position of the elites and so this can be seen as already bent not really political ideology. Traditional conservatives did support moderate reform but this is moderate reform to stop the major reforms so it’s to stop revolution.
One Nation conservatism onenationconservatism , the 19th century saw the emergence of one nation conservatism and key figures in this rally in Disraeli in Britain and Bismarck in Germany and when we look at our key thinkers then we see Michael Oakeshott michaeloakeshott as one of the key thinkers on this response to the spread of socialism and socialist ideas. Now the new strands this brings to conservatism is really embracing of nationalism and nationalism had been associated with the previous revolutions for example the revolutions of 1848 and nationalist men really had been a part of conservatism up until this point.
One nation conservatism did is that it embraced class difference but focused on national family so they said, yes there is differences between working in middle and upper classes and that is not something we are going to get rid off but what they were saying is what the people from different classes should do is that they should embrace the fact that they are all part of a national family and the national state is a nation state that all classes should defend they should defend traditional institutions and they should support imperialism as it will make life better for everybody and building on this idea the ruling caste are the paternal and have the responsibility to improve the lives of those who are below the so whether you are in society the people below you, you have a responsibility to essentially look after them and this led to state sponsored social reform so the second Great Reform Act of 1867 reformact1867 , getting conservatives support.
conservative bill we see the Factory Act of 1874 which protected the rights of the workers and the working conditions. The Artisans Dwelling Act which is protecting them in terms of their living conditions, selling food, an interesting way practical and pragmatic way of saying okay you are getting ripped off and you are being fed food and are given drugs which are unsafe and damaging so we are going to protect you against that. While these are quite practical measures to help those who are lower in society and this is very much a sign of paternalism. Germany actually took these things further under Bismarck we see the beginning of national insurance which would support people gains, accident and illness and old age so the state here is trying to prevent socialism and is taking on almost some of their ideas in terms of a bigger state and it is looking after the people who needed it the most.
In the 20th century this response continues and this is a real common thread with conservatism is that the conservatism is looking to maintain the status quo as much as it can at any point and it responds therefore to the radical ideological movements that look to sweep everything away and change it so that starts with the French Revolution in socialist ideas as they spread in the 19th century and then we see the establishment of communist Russia in the 20th century and we see in Britain the growth of Labour Party and we also see the threat of fascism in Europe.
It is the further change in adaptations in the ideas of conservatives and one nation conservatism so we see the acceptance of certain universal suffrage start off with and we see the acceptance of Keynesian economics where the state will intervene in the economy. Now the conservatives are not traditionally completely the one with the free market that is a liberal, liberal ideology and so one nation conservatism we see 19th century things like protectionism and in the 20th century we see acceptance of the welfare state and state ownership of some industries. The conservatives at this point are accepting the reforms that are being brought in by what would have been initially considered a fairly radical labor government.
Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan haroldmacmillan spoke of a middle way and kind of finishing a balance between almost the socialist ideas of the Labour Party and the free market ideas of the 19th century and this is not to accusations that these one nation conservatism in the 20th century had abandoned some of the earlier beliefs of the conservatives but there is still elements of tradition in there and there is still protection of private property and there is still ideas of law and order, the idea is completely gone it is perhaps taking it too far but definitely there seems to be a shift.
Quintin Hogg and a lot of people argued the conservatives there was lot in line with what happened before but critics of the conservatives notice Anthony Crosland who we see is one of the key thinkers of socialism he really attacked the conservatives is that essentially you do not have any principles, there are no principles being preserved you just look and preserve whatever is there. I think this was a part of frustration in terms of the continued electoral success of the Conservative party whilst they manifested change they were arguing for was to not propose ideology but is not getting quite at the same level of success.
About Edmund Burke
In brief about Edmund Burke edmundburke was born on 12 January, 1729 in Dublin, kingdom of Ireland and passed away on 9 July, 1797 in Beaconsfield, England. Edmund Burke was an Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher, he served as a member of parliament between 1766 and 1794 in the House of Commons of Great Britain with the Whig party after he moved to London in 1750. Edmund Burke was praised by conservatives and liberals, Edmund Burke believed “that the government should be in a corporative relationship between rulers and subjects, he also said that most men in a nation are not qualified to govern it, stating that those who are elected to represent the people should posses a greater level of wisdom than the public. The past is important, but change is inevitable so in order to keep a balance between the new and the traditional the society needs to learn how to adapt.”After reading this line “we should construct civilisation by giving weight to our ancestors but also consider ourselves and the needs of future generations” I truly understand why Edmund Burke was praised by the conservatives and liberals.