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'''Conservatism''' is a political and social term from the Latin verb ''conservare'' meaning to save or preserve.<ref>[http://books.google.com/books?id=I0QINMoSGykC&pg=PA114&dq=etymology+conservative+conservare&as_brr=3]Freedom and Consumerism: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman's Sociology
'''Conservatism''' is a political and social term from the Latin verb ''conservare'' meaning to save or preserve.<ref>[http://books.google.com/books?id=I0QINMoSGykC&pg=PA114&dq=etymology+conservative+conservare&as_brr=3]Freedom and Consumerism: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman's Sociology

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Conservatism is a political and social term from the Latin verb conservare meaning to save or preserve.[1] As the name suggests it usually indicates support for tradition and traditional values though the meaning has changed in different countries and time periods. The modern political term conservative was used by French politician Chateaubriand in 1819.[2] In Western politics, the term conservatism often refers to the school of thought started by Edmund Burke and similar thinkers.[3] Scholar R. J. White wrote: "To put conservatism in a bottle with a label is like trying to liquify the atmosphere […] The difficulty arises from the nature of the thing. For conservatism is less a political doctrine than a habit of mind, a mode of feeling, a way of living."[4] Russell Kirk considered conservatism "the negation of ideology".[5]

Conservative political parties have diverse views; the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, the Republican Party in the United States, the Conservative Party in Britain, and the Liberal Party of Australia are all considered major conservative parties with varying positions.

Development of Western conservatism

Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

Template:Refimprove Template:Globalize From the beginning, some political thought could be labeled "conservative" but it was not until the Age of Enlightenment, and the reaction to events surrounding the French Revolution of 1789, that conservatism rose as a distinct political attitude or train of thought. Many point to the rise of a conservative disposition in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, specifically to the works of influential Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker, emphasizing moderation in the political balancing of interests towards the goals of social harmony and common good. Edmund Burke’s polemic Reflections on the Revolution in France helped conservatism gain prominence.

Edmund Burke supported the American Revolution, but opposed the French Revolution, which he saw as violent and chaotic. He pressed for parliamentary control of royal patronage and expenditure.[6]

His classical conservative position insisted that conservatism has no ideology, in the sense of a utopian program, with some form of master plan. Burke developed his ideas in response to the enlightened idea of a society guided by abstract reason. He anticipated the critique of modernism, a term used at the end of the 19th century by the Dutch religious conservative Abraham Kuyper. Burke did not seek "to give praise or blame to any thing which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction".[7]

Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821)

Burke said some people had less reason than others, and thus some people will make better governments than others if they rely upon reason. The proper formulation of government came not from abstractions such as reason, but from time-honoured development of the state, piecemeal progress through experience and the continuation of other important societal institutions such as the family and the Church. He argued that tradition draws on the wisdom of many generations and the tests of time, while reason may be a mask for the preferences of one man, and at best represents only the untested wisdom of one generation. However, Burke wrote, "A state without the means of change is without the means of its conservation." Burke insisted further change be organic rather than revolutionary. An attempt to modify the complex web of human interactions that form human society, for the sake of some doctrine or theory, runs the risk of running afoul of the iron law of unintended consequences.

Western Conservatism has also been influenced by the Counter-Enlightenment works of Joseph de Maistre. Maistre argued for the restoration of hereditary monarchy, which he regarded as a divinely sanctioned institution, and for the indirect authority of the Pope over temporal matters. He also defended the principle of hierarchical authority, which the Revolution sought to destroy. Maistre published in 1819 his masterpiece Du Pape ("On the Pope"). The work is divided into four parts. In the first he argues that, in the Church, the pope is sovereign, and that it is an essential characteristic of all sovereign power that its decisions should be subject to no appeal. Consequently, the pope is infallible in his teaching, since it is by his teaching that he exercises his sovereignty. In the remaining divisions the author examines the relations of the pope and the temporal powers, civilization and the welfare of nations, and the schismatic Churches. He argues that nations require protection against abuses of power by a sovereignty superior to all others, and that this sovereignty should be that of the papacy, the historical saviour and maker of European civilization.

Conservatives strongly support the right of property, and Carl B. Cone, in Burke and the Nature of Politics, pointed out that this view, expressed as philosophy, also served the interests of the people involved.[8] Conservatives are usually economic liberals, diverging from classical liberalism in the tradition of Adam Smith.[9] Some conservatives look to a modified free market order, such as the American System, ordoliberalism, or Friedrich List's National System. The latter view differs from strict laissez-faire, in that the state's role is to promote competition while maintaining the national interest, community and identity.

Most conservatives strongly support the sovereign nation (although that was not so in the 19th century), and patriotically identify with their own nation. Nationalist separatist movements may be both radical and conservative.

Forms of conservatism

Liberal conservatism

Liberal conservatism is a variant of conservatism that combines conservative values and policies with liberal stances. As these latter two terms have had different meanings over time and across countries, liberal conservatism also has a wide variety of meanings. Historically, the term often referred to the combination of economic liberalism, which champions laissez-faire markets, with the classical conservatism concern for established tradition, respect for authority and religious values. It contrasted itself with classical liberalism, which supported freedom for the individual in both the economic and social spheres.

Over time, the general conservative ideology in many countries adopted economic liberal arguments, and the term liberal conservatism was replaced with conservatism. This is also the case in countries where liberal economic ideas have been the tradition, such as the United States, and are thus considered conservative. In other countries where liberal conservative movements have entered the political mainstream, such as Italy and Spain, the terms liberal and conservative may be synonymous. The liberal conservative tradition in the United States combines the economic individualism of the classical liberals with a Burkean form of conservatism (which has also become part of the American conservative tradition, such as in the writings of Russell Kirk).

A secondary meaning for the term liberal conservatism that has developed in Europe is a combination of more modern conservative (less traditionalist) views with those of social liberalism. This has developed as an opposition to the more collectivist views of socialism. Often this involves stressing what are now conservative views of free-market economics and belief in individual responsibility, with social liberal views on defence of civil rights, environmentalism and support for a limited welfare state. This philosophy is that of Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. In continental Europe, this is sometimes also translated into English as social conservatism.

Conservative liberalism

Conservative liberalism is a variant of liberalism that combines liberal values and policies with conservative stances, or, more simply, the right wing of the liberal movement.[10][11][12] The roots of conservative liberalism are found at the beginning of the history of liberalism. Until the two World Wars, in most European countries the political class was formed by conservative liberals, from Germany to Italy. Conservative liberalism is a more positive and less radical version of classical liberalism.[13] The events such as World War I occurring after 1917 brought the more radical version of classical liberalism to a more conservative (i.e. more moderate) type of liberalism.[14]

Libertarian conservatism

See also: Libertarian conservatism

Libertarian conservatism describes certain political ideologies within the United States and Canada which combines libertarian economic issues with aspects of conservatism. Its five main branches are Constitutionalism, paleolibertarianism, neolibertarianism, small government conservatism and Christian libertarianism. They generally differ from paleoconservatives, in that they are in favor of more personal and economic freedom.[citation needed] Agorists such as Samuel Edward Konkin III labeled libertarian conservatism right-libertarianism.[15][16]

In contrast to paleoconservatives, libertarian conservatives support strict laissez-faire policies such as free trade, opposition to the Federal Reserve and opposition to business regulations. They are vehemently opposed to environmental regulations, corporate welfare, subsidies, and other areas of economic intervention. Many of them have views in accord to Ludwig von Mises.[citation needed] However, many of them oppose abortion, as they see it as a positive liberty and violates the non-aggression principle because abortion is aggression towards the fetus.[17]

Fiscal conservatism

Fiscal conservatism is the economic philosophy of prudence in government spending and debt. Edmund Burke, in his 'Reflections on the Revolution in France', articulated its principles:

...[I]t is to the property of the citizen, and not to the demands of the creditor of the state, that the first and original faith of civil society is pledged. The claim of the citizen is prior in time, paramount in title, superior in equity. The fortunes of individuals, whether possessed by acquisition or by descent or in virtue of a participation in the goods of some community, were no part of the creditor's security, expressed or implied...[T]he public, whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can pledge nothing but the public estate; and it can have no public estate except in what it derives from a just and proportioned imposition upon the citizens at large.

In other words, a government does not have the right to run up large debts and then throw the burden on the taxpayer; the taxpayers' right not to be taxed oppressively takes precedence even over paying back debts a government may have imprudently undertaken.

Green conservatism

Green conservatism is a term used to refer to conservatives who have incorporated green concerns into their ideology. The Conservative Party in the United Kingdom under David Cameron has embraced a green agenda that includes proposals designed to impose a tax on workplace car parking spaces, a halt to airport growth, a tax on 4x4 vehicles and restrictions on car advertising. [citation needed]

Cultural conservatism

See also: Cultural conservatism

Cultural conservatism is a philosophy that supports preservation of the heritage of a nation or culture. The culture in question may be as large as Western culture or Chinese civilization or as small as that of Tibet. Cultural conservatives try to adapt norms handed down from the past. The norms may be romantic, like the anti-metric movement that demands the retention of avoirdupois weights and measures in Britain and opposes their replacement with the metric system. They may be institutional: in the West this has included chivalry and feudalism, as well as capitalism, laicité and the rule of law.

In the subset social conservatism, the norms may also be what is viewed as a question of morality. In some cultures, practices such as homosexuality are seen as immoral. In others, it is considered immoral for a woman to reveal too much of her body.

Cultural conservatives often argue that old institutions have adapted to a particular place or culture and therefore ought to be preserved. Others argue that a people have a right to their cultural norms, their own language and traditions.

Religious conservatism

Religious conservatives seek to apply the teachings of particular ideologies to politics, sometimes by proclaiming the value of those teachings, at other times seeking to have those teachings influence laws. Religious conservatism may support, or be supported by, secular customs. In other places or at other times, religious conservatism may find itself at odds with the culture in which the believers reside. In some cultures, there is conflict between two or more different groups of religious conservatives, each claiming both that their view is correct, and that opposing views are wrong.

Because many religions preserve a founding text, or at least a set of well-established traditions, the possibility of radical religious conservatism arises. These are radical both in the sense of abolishing the status quo and of a perceived return to the radix or root of a belief. They are ante conservative in their claim to be preserving the belief in its original or pristine form. Radical religious conservatism generally sees the status quo as corrupted by abuses, corruption, or heresy. One example of such a movement was the Radical Reformation within the Protestant Reformation and the later Restorationists of the 1800s. Similar phenomena have arisen in practically all the world's religions, in many cases triggered by the violent cultural collision between the traditional society in question and the modern Western society that has developed throughout the world over the past 500 years.

United States

Conservatism in the United States includes a variety of political ideologies including fiscal conservatism, supply-side economics, social conservatism, libertarian conservatism, bioconservatism and religious conservatism,[18] as well as support for a strong military. Modern American conservatism was largely born out of alliance between classical liberals and social conservatives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[19]

Contemporary American conservatism traces its heritage back to Irish political philosopher Edmund Burke, who developed his views in response to the French Revolution.[20] US President Abraham Lincoln wrote, that conservatism is "adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried."[21] US president Ronald Reagan, who was a self-declared conservative, is widely seen as a symbol of American conservatism.[22] In an interview, he said "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism."[23] Organizations in the US committed to promoting conservative ideology include the American Conservative Union, Eagle Forum, Heritage Foundation and the Hoover Institution. US-based media outlets that are conservative include Human Events, National Review, The American Conservative, Policy Review, and The Weekly Standard.

In the US, social conservatives emphasize traditional views of social units such as the family, church, or locale. Social conservatism may entail defining marriage as relationships between one man and one woman (thereby prohibiting same-sex marriage and polygamy) and laws placing restrictions on the practice of abortion. While many religious conservatives believe that government should have a role in defending moral values, libertarian conservatives such as Barry Goldwater advocated a hands-off government where social values were concerned.


A meta-analysis of research literature by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, and Sulloway in 2003 found that death anxiety, intolerance of ambiguity, lack of openness to experience, uncertainty avoidance, need for cognitive closure, need for personal structure, and threat of loss of position or self-esteem all contribute to the degree of one's political conservatism.[24] The researchers suggest that political conservatives are resistant to change, justify inequality, and are motivated by reducing threats and uncertainty. They have been supported in these claims by other studies.[25][26] [27]

According to psychologist Robert Altemeyer, individuals who are politically conservative tend to rank high in Right-Wing Authoritarianism on his RWA scale. [28] This finding was echoed by Theodor Adorno. A study done on Israeli and Palestinian students in Israel found that RWA scores of right-wing party supporters were significantly higher than those of left-wing party supporters.[29]

A study by Cunningham, Nezlek, and Banaji, suggests that people who hold a rigid, right-wing ideology tend to be prejudiced toward many disadvantaged groups that have little in common.[30] Psychologist Felicia Pratto and her colleagues have found evidence to support the idea that a high Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) is strongly correlated with conservative political views, and opposition to social engineering to promote equality (such as affirmative action, laws requiring equal pay for women, and laws advocating equal rights for homosexuals.[31] Pratto and her colleagues found that high SDO scores were highly correlated with measures of sexism and anti-black prejudice.

Another study says that opposition to programs that promote equality is based not on racism or sexism, but on a "principled conservatism."[32] This perspective suggests that opposition to such programs is based not on racism, but on a "concern for equity, color-blindness, and genuine conservative values." Furthermore, some principled-conservatism theorists have suggested that racism and conservatism are independent[citation needed], and only very weakly correlated among the highly educated, who truly understand the concepts of conservative values and attitudes[citation needed]. In an effort to examine the relationship between education, SDO, and racism, Sidanius and his colleagues asked approximately 4,600 Euro-Americans to complete a survey in which they were asked about their political and social attitudes.[32] Results indicated partial support for the principled-conservatism position. However, contrary to predictions, correlations among SDO, political conservatism, and racism were strongest among the most well educated, and weakest among the least well educated, because conservatives tend to be more invested in the hierarchical structure of society and in maintaining the status quo in society.[32]

Jonathan Haidt suggests that American conservatives are much better at projecting themselves into the minds of American liberals than American liberals are at projecting themselves into the minds of American conservatives: "Liberals feel contempt for the conservative moral view, and that is very, very angering. Republicans are good at exploiting that anger."[33] Arthur C. Brooks and Peter Schweizer say evidence suggests that American conservatives are, on average, substantially happier and more productive than American liberals.[34]

Kenneth Minogue of the London School of Economics and Political Science wrote "It is characteristic of the conservative temperament to value established identities, to praise habit and to respect prejudice, not because it is irrational, but becasue such things anchor the darting impusles of human beings in solidities of custom which we do not often begin to value until we are already losing them. Radicalism often generates youth movements, while conservatism is a condition found among the mature, who have discovered what it is in life they most value." [35]

David J. Schneider, in "The Psychology of Stereotyping," writes "correlations between prejudice and political conservative are reduced virtually to zero when controls for SDO [social dominance orientation] are instituted." [36]


  1. [1]Freedom and Consumerism: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman's Sociology By Mark Davis, Zygmunt Bauman Edition: revised Published by Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008 ISBN 0754672719, 9780754672715 189 pages page 114
  2. The Scary Echo of the Intolerance of the French Revolution in America Today
  3. BBC: Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)
  4. As part of introduction to The Conservative Tradition, ed. R.J. White (London: Nicholas Kaye, 1950)
  5. "10 Conservative Principles"
  6. BBC: Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)
  7. RRF, Langford 1981-, Volume VIII, 58
  8. Carl B. Cone, Burke and the Nature of Politics, University of Kentucky Press, 1957 Template:OCLC
  9. American Chronicle | Liberal / Conservative (Part 1) Economics
  10. http://www.ipolitique.fr/liberalisme-conservateur.htm
  11. http://www.parties-and-elections.de/contents.html
  12. M. Gallagher, M. Laver and P. Mair, Representative Government in Europe, p. 221.
  13. Allen R.T., Beyond Liberalism, p. 2.
  14. Allen R.T., Beyond Liberalism, p. 13.
  15. "New Libertarian Manifesto". http://agorism.info/NewLibertarianManifesto.pdf. 
  16. "Interview With Samuel Edward Konkin III". http://www.spaz.org/~dan/individualist-anarchist/software/konkin-interview.html. 
  17. Vance, Laurence (January 29, 2008). "Is Ron Paul Wrong on Abortion?" (in English). LewRockwell.com. http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance133.html. Retrieved on 2008-07-01. 
  18. About atheism
  19. Clark, B. (1998). Political economy: A comparative approach. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  20. Kirk, Russell, The Conservative Mind, p. 6.
  21. Kirk, Russell, The Conservative Mind, p. 8.
  22. Template:Cite encyclopedia
  23. Inside Ronald Reagan, a Reason magazine Interview with Ronald Reagan, July 1975.
  24. Jost, J.J, Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A.A., & Sulloway, F.J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129(3), 339-375.
  25. http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/07/22_politics.shtml
  26. http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/09/10/brains-of-liberals-conservatives-may-work-differently/1691.html
  27. http://www.psychologytoday.com/rss/index.php?term=20061222-000001&page=2
  28. Altemeyer, B. (1981). Right-wing authoritarianism. Winnipeg, Canada: University of Manitoba Press.
  29. Rubinstein, G. (1996). Two peoples in one land: A validation study of Altemeyer's Right-Wing Authoritarianism Scale in the Palestinian and Jewish societies in Israel. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 27, 216-230.
  30. Cunningham W.A., Nezlek, J.B., & Banaji, M.R. (2004). Implicit and explicit ethnocentrism: Revisiting the ideologies of prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(10), 1332-1346.
  31. Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., Stallworth, L.M., & Malle, B.F. (1994). Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(4), 741-763.
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 Sidanius, J., Pratto, F., & Bobo, L. (1996). Racism, conservatism, affirmative action, and intellectual sophistication: A matter of principled conservatism or group dominance? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70(3), 476-490.
  33. http://edge.org/3rd_culture/haidt08/haidt08_index.html
  34. Arthur Brooks, Gross National Happiness: Why it Matters for America -- and How We Can Get More of It, Basic Books, 2008, ISBN 9780465002788
  35. The Social science encyclopedia, Jessica Kuper, Taylor & Francis, 1985 ISBN 0710200080, 9780710200082 916 pages pp 155-6
  36. The psychology of stereotyping, David J. Schneider, Guilford Press, 2005 ISBN 1593851936, 9781593851934 704 pages page 275