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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

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Introduction to Political Theory

types of conservatism
Types of Conservatism
  • Classical Conservatism (Organic)
  • 19th Century Liberalism
  • Right Wing Populism
  • Neo Conservatism
classical conservatism

Human Nature



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.

Classical Conservatism
classical conservatism cont d
Natural Law

General Will

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.

Classical Conservatism cont’d
values and goals of classical conservatism

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.

Values and Goals of Classical Conservatism
19 th century liberalism
Various Names

19th century liberalism

Anti-statist liberalism

Manchester liberalism

Individualistic conservatism

Libertarianism (in its more severe anti-statist version)

19th Century Liberalism
19 th century liberalism main points

Individual self-fulfillment

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.

19th Century Liberalism – Main Points
19th century liberalism main points cont d
Laissez Faire Economics

Antagonistic Cooperation

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.

19th Century Liberalism – Main Points cont’d
19 th century liberalism social darwinism

Struggle for Survival

Social Structure

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.

19th Century Liberalism – Social Darwinism
19 th century liberalism social darwinism cont d
19th Century Liberalism – Social Darwinism cont’d
  • Problems with the Argument
    • Inappropriate use of biological analogy (species vs. class).
    • Differences in opportunity and inheritance between social classes.
    • How to account for individual sloth and wealth among the upper classes and hard work and poverty among the lower classes.
    • The questionable mixture of morality and biology.