Individuals or groups in society have different ideas about how things are to be done. Likewise, there are different kinds of political ideologies with different and similar analysis on society and thus acting on these ideas will reduce or possibly eliminate social problems. Political ideas 'provide a way of understanding policy change and development, not only in the past but at the present time'
This essay is about conservative ideology of lone Parents on benefits. In the first part of my essay, I will define 'ideology' give an overview of the conservative party, the main proponents, their core beliefs I will then discus how social problems are constructed within this ideology. The essay will also discus the implications for social work practice. I will then critically reflect and evaluate my perception of this ideology- does it operate in an anti oppressive way?
Ideologies give an account of what is happening in society, then suggest the ideal way that things should be and go on to explain can and should be brought about. Heywood 2007 pg 11 defines ideology as '...coherent set of ideas that provides the basis for organised political action..'
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Conservatism is 'a state of mind and a political movement that is naturally averse to excessive change and reform. It is sceptical about strongly held political views, prefers the known to the unknown and generally supports the retention traditional institutions and values' McNaughton (2008) pg 54
Conservative ideas started as a reaction to the French revolution. This was a period of political, social and economic change. Industrialisation during the 19th Century resulted in the growth of liberalism, socialism and nationalism This led to some groups in the society to defend tradition, gradual change hereditary status and the status quo. Whilst the new ideologies spoke about reform and even at times supported revolution, conservatism strove to defend and preserve the traditional social order.
Some of the main thinkers behind conservative ideas were Edmund Burke (1729-1797) a British statesman and political theorists and writer; and Thomas Hobbes. Burke was not completely against change, he advocated for the 'preservation of order and gradual reform rather than the disorder which results from revolutionary change' (McNaughton, pg 56 Change this if you can) As a result of Burkes ideas, conservatives have always been cautious and preserving order above promoting unknown new ideas until the introduction of the new right. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) Burke 'described the society as a partnership between those who are living , those who are dead and those who are to be born'.
Thomas Hobbes an English philosopher best known for his political thought. His main concern is the problem of social and political order: how human beings can live together in peace and avoid the danger and fear of civil conflict. He poses stark alternatives: we should give our obedience to an unaccountable sovereign (a person or group empowered to decide every social and political issue)
The most significant core beliefs of the conservatives are tradition, human nature, organic society, hierarchy and authority and property.
Conservatism is known for its preservation of tradition which according to Heywood, refers to 'values, practices and institutions that have endured through time and in particular has been passed from one generation to the next'. Heywood (2008) Values in this context refers to preservation of marriage, religion, the importance of the nuclear family and established morality practices. Whilst traditional institutions refers to the monarchy, established church and political constitutions. Burke described 'society as a partnership between those who are living , those who are dead and those who are to be born' Cited in Heywood 2008 pg 69. According to them, the fact that values and institutions have been helpful in promoting order and stability in the past so they should be preserved.
The conservatives dismiss the idea that human beings are naturally good and argue that they are 'both imperfect and unperfectible' Heywood 2008. Conservatives argue that man is not driven by reason but by their basic appetites which include desire for power, physical prosperity , and for property criminal and immoral behaviour is rooted in the individual and therefore not a product of inequality or social disadvantage. They believe that the only way that people could be deterred from violent and anti social behaviours is through a strict enforcement of the law. TE Utley, a conservative politician and writer sums this up when he said observed that 'human nature is violent and predatory and can be held in check only by three forces, the Grace of God, the fear of the gallows, and the pressure of social tradition, subtly and unconsciously operating as a brake on human instinct' Utley 1949 cited in Leach 2009 . the conservatives also see people as untrustworthy, self seeking and generally feckless and as such in need of a strong but benevolent government who will have their general interest at heart. Burke observed that the relationship between the government and the people should be similar to that between a parent and a child. - source?
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Conservatives believe that 'individual human beings do not exist in isolation but are born into and embedded within specific societies that give them identity and security' leach 2009. Traditional conservatives think of society as a living organism whose parts work together as the brain, heart, liver do within a human organism. They believe that people are part of one single body and they are all interdependent. And even though people may be divided into different social classes, these classes should work together to maintain the welfare of the nation rather than engage in conflict with one another.
The conservatives see inequality and hierarchy in human society as natural and inevitable. They argue that there will always be big differences in wealth, income and social status between individual and classes in any society and that the extent of poverty can be lessened but not completely eliminated. Thus, 'to preach equality and social justice is to stir up envy, hatred and unhappiness ...' Leach 2009-12 the conservatives do not accept the Liberal theory that 'authority rises out of a contract made by free individuals but rather believe that authority develops naturally. They believe authority is necessary and beneficial as everyone needs the guidance, support and security of knowing where they stand and what is expected of them. As a result, conservatives emphasise that leadership is necessary in every society as it ensures a sense of direction as well as provide inspiration for others. Discipline shows a willing and healthy respect for authority. For example the authority of parents over their children does not empower them to abuse the child but reflects an obligation to nurture, guide and if necessary punish them.
Traditional conservatism dominated the British conservative party until late 1970's. Then a second distinctive tradition known as the New Right emerged from within the party. During this period the UK was in recession, the economy with 'high unemployment inflation and lack of growth... ' public sector debt was reaching ne heights , placing enormous burdens on tax payers to pay the interest on the debt.' McNaughton 2009 strike actions were regular occurrences and crime levels were also increasing . (mine)the labour party responded to this by proposing more intervention by the state to solve the problems. Meanwhile, In the conservative party, a radical new set of beliefs largely imported from America was taking hold. This became known as the new right and it became the basis of the new conservative leader m Thatcher. The conservative victory in the election of 1979, brought about remarkable social and economic reforms which has been described as neo liberalism
One of the main beliefs of the new right was deregulation which meant less intervention of government in industry, welfare policy and the management of the economy. This led to the privatisation of major industries that were formerly under state control and public ownership for example, telecommunications among many others. Banks, building societies were forced to allow more competition.
Another policy introduced by the new right was disengagement this meant that the government would no longer intervene to save declining industries. This meant that such industries could go under making way for the creation of new businesses or they would be forced to make themselves more efficient in order to survive.
There were also reforms within the trade unions. Followers argued that trade unions were using their 'power to maintain inefficient working practices, prevent technological innovation ...and force companies to employ more labour than they needed' McNaughton 2009. By so doing inefficiency was retained and this caused excessive price levels because production levels were quite high.
Trade unions were also accused of causing high wages which leads to price increases. To reduce their power, the New Right made it more difficult for workers to go on pay related strikes. The traditional immunity of trade unions was removed making them liable to pay out heavy financial damages to businesses who are not directly involved in strike but are affected by their strike actions. These reforms caused a reduction in industrial unrest and the destruction of trade union power.
The new right reduced levels of income tax on higher income earners
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Another area of reform was within the welfare benefits system. The new right argued that the levels of state welfare benefits were too high. They opposed the 'dependency culture where many members of society had grown used to depending on state welfare benefits and had no incentive to improve their economic circumstances.' McNaughton 2008.
As a result of this, during the 1980s and 1990s the levels of state benefits were gradually reduced. They argued that lower benefits could be seen as an incentive for the unemployed to seek work and the low paid to improve their skills and earning power and for everyone to make better private pension for themselves. Those who chose to remain on dependent on state benefits found their standard of living falling significantly.
The principles of the New Right were mostly concerned with economic and welfare issues and are described as neo liberalism
It was considered to be a radical form of conservatism which is a combination of Traditional conservatism and neo liberalism. Mrs Thatcher's version of New Right ideology has involved a combination of neo-liberal and neo-Conservative ideology