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The Modern Conservative Seeking To Conserve Politics Essay

Political commentators have argued against the ideological nature of Conservatism, favouring the movement as one of pragmatism. Hence, as a pragmatic political movement, pin-pointing its exact themes is made difficult, as with new leaders and through time itself, the central themes of Conservatism change. However, since the 1960s, a period described by Garner and Kelly as the “…birth of modern conservatism” [1] , movements and Conservative leaders have adopted a mixture of both traditional and modern themes, of which they believe create a modern Conservative ideology. The New Right and an adaptation of Disraeli’s One Nation Conservatism; would be examples of the modern Conservative movement; of which the traditions of an Organic State, Order, and Property remain at its heart. Although many still hold that Conservatism is a “knee-jerk defence of the Status Quo” [2] , however as Heywood states if this were true then Conservatism would be “merely a Political attitude rather than ideology.” [3] Therefore, we can say the modern Conservative seeks to conserve the traditional elements of the ideology that have withstood history; and in themselves seek to preserve the State and its Sovereignty.

During his time a Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli noticed the widening gap between the ‘haves and have nots’, and “emphasised the principle of social obligation” [4] , in doing so Disraeli hoped that the danger of Britain’s separation into two nations (rich and poor) would be averted, thus, Disraeli appealed to traditional Conservative values, such as duty, responsibility, obligation and authority. Furthermore these values were again pushed by Harold Macmillan during the 1960s, through what he called the ‘Middle Way’. The ‘Middle Way’ would adopt a “planned capitalism” [5] as well as a “mixed” [6] social structure, with a purpose to consolidate the Conservative idea of Hierarchy, rather than to remove it, in doing so trying to improve the condition of those less well off, O’Sullivan describes this as “Conservative Philanthropy” [7] . Again when the policies of the current Conservative government are explored, one can see that One Nation rhetoric and values, such as ‘The Big Society’ and the importance of the family, are heavily intertwined in its Conservative ideology. Thus, through the progression of One Nation Conservatism it is clear that Modern Conservatives seek to conserve the ‘progressive’ way in which the movements combines the traditional values, of authority and hierarchy, to push the idea that individuals have a duty to his or her fellow citizen. Lord Randolph Churchill; summed up the work of One Nation Conservatism, as using traditional roles for “wider social support” [8] . In order to help fellow citizens Conservatism advocates that therefore, there must be those that lead and those that follow, pushing the Conservative idea of the organic society, which allows individuals to become self-reliant, with minimal state manipulation, thus minimal state intervention allows society to remain organic, just as it was intended by nature. Heywood describes the ideal of the Conservative organic society as a “living organism” [9] , which has survived through “Darwinian tactics” [10] . From this one can infer that Conservatism holds a Hobbesian view of human nature, and thus, in order to provide the security Conservatives believes the organic society requires, Conservatives and their modern counter parts to seek to conserve, a strong hierarchy in order to provide said security and a sense of order so that a fair and “restorative” [11] justice system can protect those who fulfil the duty of One Nation Conservatism, and punish those who seek to attack them. Overall, we can see how Disraeli’s One Nation approach, allows for the traditional and founding values such as hierarchical rule and individual obligation to become part of a modernised Conservative ideology, of which modern Conservatives seek to protect their traditional values, as well as build upon them to create a state that bridges the gap of division.

Libertarian Conservatism has also had great effect upon the way in which modern Conservatives think. Heywood notes that Libertarian Conservatism has had most success in areas “where classical liberal ideas have had the greatest impact” [12] , mainly influencing free market economies and domestic affairs, Libertarian Conservatism acts as a rival to Paternalism, which sees the state as an authoritarian figure providing for the state and preventing individuals from harming themselves and others around. This Libertarian approach enables the “greatest economic liberty and least possible government regulation of social life” [13] , thus the modern Conservative can seek to conserve the ideal of the individual, as this allows for the Conservatives natural instinct for one to better ones self, as well as allowing for the reduction of the state whether this be through taxation or welfare. Kelly believes that the modern Conservatives’ economic policy owes much of itself to the Libertarian Conservative movement advocated by Burke for a free market place, Heywood agrees, and states the Burke was a “keen supporter of the Liberal economics of Adam Smith” [14] , again modern Conservatives seek to protect this liberal economic policy as it allows for the greatest outcome for the state, and enhances individual progression. Heywood believes that a Liberal economic policy has also been used by the modern Conservative in order to protect against the harsh theory of human nature, as it may “deter workers from pushing higher wage increases by threatening them with unemployment” [15] , again we can see that the modern Conservative protection of a liberal economic policy also protects the organic society, that enhances the natural progression of humanity. Libertarian Conservatism, shows the modern Conservative the importance of the protection of authority and a sense of individual duty, as with extension of economic liberty, a stronger state is needed to “maintain public order and ensure that authority is respected” [16] , moreover this encourages the modern Conservative to protect the traditional institutions of justice, the courts and in some respects according to O’Sullivan the Monarchy as a form of “role model” [17] .

Moreover, with the rise of Thatcher and the end of the post-war consensus politics, saw modern Conservatism begin to adopt a more neo-liberal approach to the economy, with the deregulation of the banks and privatisation of once nationalised industries, as well as neo-liberal approach to domestic policy. This became known as the New Right, and as Heywood believes it roots were firmly implanted in “traditional or organic Conservatism” [18] , as the most modern of Conservative movements we can see why modern Conservatives seek to protect the traditional intuitions that bring about justice and order. Heywood and Ludlam alike hold that authority is the staple of the New Right, seeking to preserve the “progressive values” [19] that act as a “Social glue” [20] holding society together as a greater influence upon self-preservation and the individual. The New Rights main advocator, Mrs Thatcher said “There is no such thing a society”; meaning that modern Conservative should seek to improve themselves economically and socially, in turn improving society; and therefore each individual should believe it to be their duty to push society onto greater achievements. The New Rights ideal of the individual brought with it the idea that Property should become a theme that the modern Conservative should seek to conserve, Thatcher made it possible for citizens to purchase their own homes from local authorities, again pushing the notion of less state-reliance, self-preservation and self-worth. Today, it is still the view of the modern Conservative that it is a natural right for man to be entitled to ownership, whether it is of his own home, or his own business. The modern Conservative according to Heywood believes that ownership enables individuals to have a “stake in society…and an interest in maintaining law and order” [21] , again highlighting the modern Conservatives readiness to conserve the traditional view of the organic society. The New Right is heavily influenced by the notion of justice and social authoritarianism, as Heywood states this “can be seen through the strengthening of the family” [22] , where traditional roles and values are passed onto children, in the hope that “crime and delinquency” [23] are opposed by a fear of punishment. During the Thatcher and Major years, the modern Conservative held that ‘Prison worked’, and sentencing rose within the courts and youth crimes was especially punished, to show that order and discipline made for a society that Thatcher believed carried ‘Victorian values’, which in the long-term “stabilised society” [24] . An important area of conservation for the modern Conservative according to Heywood and Harling is the view of national identity, most commonly according to Harling is the issue of “closer European integration” [25] , and Heywood calls to account Thatcher’s unwillingness to provide a devolved assembly for Scotland. For the modern Conservative, the idea of a national identity concerns the conservation of the states “centralised national sovereignty” [26] , which binds society together through the protection of a nation’s history and tradition; Heywood believes in the modern Conservatives need to protect the national identity as it provides citizens with a mandate to take “pride” [27] in their society, and a willingness to protect society form outsider attacks that may cause damage to the successful organic society.

To conclude, the modern Conservative will adopt a more pragmatic rather than ideological approach when considering which central themes appeal to their ideal of Conservatism. However, it is evident through the processes from One Nation Conservatism to the New Right that there are a many great number of themes that the modern Conservative may adopt, with authority, justice, and an organic society just a few to choose from, although when using a pragmatic approach to form an ideology the modern Conservative, can chose which themes appeal to them according to the situations that may arise when considering which direction policy or ideology may take; Heywood compares this pragmatic approach to the era of John Major, and his policy concerning European membership, and the effect it may have on the Conservative doctrine of “national identity” [28] . Moreover, it is apparent that the modern Conservative in fact still holds the Hobbesian view of human nature, thus, they seek to conserve the traditions and institutions that have withstood history, protecting the organic society. Therefore we can conclude that the modern Conservative seeks to Conserve the institutions that keep a “progressive yet stable” [29] society, one could also conclude that the modern Conservative has adopted Fukuyama’s view that ‘we are all Liberals now’, hence then move to a more progressive and less ideological way of conservation.

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