Conservatism was formulated in 1790 by Irish politician Edmund Burke as a response to the human perception and incidents of the Enlightenment, Liberalism and the French Revolution.
What is conservatism?
Conservatism emerged as a political movement in the latter half of the 18th century, appealing to the higher and more wealthy classes in society. Conservatism comes from the Latin word ‘conservare’, which means ‘preserve’ and conservative thinkers defend the idea that the institutions and traditions of society (eg private property, royal and folk church) have proven their worth throughout history and should be preserved .
Conservatism fears that major reforms and upheavals in society aims to abolish the traditions and common values that form the basis of society and connect a people together. If you make too many and big changes, it can lead to the destruction of society values. The good community must instead be developed evolutionarily, that is, through a calm and slow process based on generosity of wisdom, logic and intuition.
Conservative ideology sees the state as a positive value, which has a moral responsibility and duty to provide for the weak citizens in the society. Conservatives believe that there is a natural social order. People’s birthplaces and families are important for their prospective roles in society. They must accept the roles naturally given to them and should work for the developmen of the society accordingly.
The Irish politician and social defender, Edmund Burke (1728-1797), is considered to be the father of conservatism. In his criticism of the French Revolution, Burke rejected any idea that freedom should be the key to man’s improved prosperity. He believed that equality is against nature, and he rejected the emerging thoughts of freedom, equality and fraternity of the French Revolution. On the other hand, Burke supported the United States’s independence war against Britain from 1775-1783, because he accepted it as a conservative revolution.
Classic Conservatism, Social Conservatism and National Conservatism
Classic conservatism sees society as an organism where the organs (the people) are born unequal, and therefore each has different roles and places to fill. This differences between people will thus contribute to the natural, mutual respect of the different societal groups. Citizens should make different contributions to society’s well-being according to their roles in the community.
Any struggle between the different parts of society (between classes in the hierarchy) is considered a breach of the harmonious interaction of the natural order (a kind of disease). Therefore, both society and citizens must assume responsibility for themselves in order to avoid social conflicts. This thought alone forms the foundation of social conservatism. Where conservatives have greater focus on preserving national values such as common culture, history, military defense and the royal house it is the national conservatism.
Conservatism vs. Liberalism
Conservatism shares many of liberalism’s ideas, including the importance of market economy, and both ideologies favor free competition and private property. However, there are a number of significant differences.
Unlike the liberalism, the conservatives believe that the state must play an important role in society. First and foremost, the state must take care of the poor citizens in society, this is the greatest difference between conservatism and liberalism. In liberalism, poverty and social inequality are regarded as the individual’s own problem.
The Liberals believe that personal freedom comes first. On the other hand, conservatism has a greater focus on the community and sees the state as an important element in society.
Neoconservatism, or New Conservatism, is a right-wing political concept that emerged in the 1960s, primarily in the United States and the United Kingdom.
In the United States, the neoconservatives advocate citizens to assume greater personal responsibility in society than ever before. The neoconservative ideology is against a large and powerful state and rejects the idea of a centralized society. Instead, more tasks must be delegated to the municipalities. Thus, the neoconservatives are in favor of decentralization that is more power is transferred from the central state to smaller administrations of the local communities. In addition, neoconservatism emphasizes values such as family, traditions, religion and entrepreneurship as important elements of a well-functioning society.
Conservatism in general
|State role||Protect and help the weak citizens and preserve the traditions and values of society.|
|The People||People are born unequal and have naturally different roles to play in society. Everyone has their place.|
|Economy||Market economy and free competition.|