Conservatism Introduction to Political Theory Types of Conservatism Classical Conservatism (Organic) 19 th Century Liberalism Right Wing Populism Neo Conservatism Society Human Nature Freedom Change
Introduction to Political Theory
Society is superior to and distinct from individuals. The state is only one institution for the maintenance of a sound social tradition. The state is the final embodiment and guarantor of society's most vital interests. It is an unlimited partnership of successive generations.
Pessimism about human nature. Human beings are aggressive, irrational, emotional.
Freedom is order.
Change should be gradual. Historically, classical conservatives were not necessarily against change. Liberals overestimated man's rational capacity. Tradition is the force which allows people to rise above their own limitations as passionate beings. Civilization is fragile. Freedom is order.
Duality of Existence
Natural law expresses the moral order and dictates the moral law. It is not a secular natural law as in Hobbes and Locke.
The community has a general will that is superior to and wiser than individuals.
There is a duality of existence between this world and the next, between heaven and earth. This view can lead classical conservatives to resignation about the world as it is.
Structure, Order, and Guidance
Freedom is order.
Structure, order, and guidance are needed because human nature displays irrationality and control by passion. Historically, the conservative reaction was due to the liberal emphasis on innovation. Happiness depends on a strong measure of stability.
Inequality is the natural order of things and should be allowed to run its course.
19th century liberalism
Libertarianism (in its more severe anti-statist version)
Role of the market
Closely approximates early liberalism and classical economics – “bedrock capitalism”
Society and government are for the individual – not the reverse.
The economic market is a sufficient regulator of goods and services in society. It should be the primary determinate of all social policy (much of which falls within the realm of politics, but should not). The "free" market is the primary precondition of political freedom.
Laissez Faire Economics
No Social Contract
Coercion of every kind in the market must be avoided. Freedom from governmental interference must be maintained.
Harmony does not flow from the recognition of shared needs, but from the interdependent needs and desires of millions of satisfaction-seeking self-interested individuals.
Society is held together by mutual self-interest, not by a social contract. This requires a free market where needs and desires can be met.
Struggle for Survival
Role of the Market
Herbert SpencerWilliam Graham Sumner
Life for all species is a struggle for survival. Those who survive are the most fit – hence, the phrase, “survival of the fittest.”
Society is divided into social classes. These are analogous to “species” in Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. According to Sumner, social classes are produced by two types of people: those who are productive, and those who are not.
For human beings, it is the economic marketplace that is the natural arena in which the struggle takes place. Those who succeed financially are more “fit” than those who do not.