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PS 240 Conservatism Fall 2008
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PS 240 Conservatism Fall 2008

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  • 1. Conservatism Dr. Christopher S. Rice
  • 2. What IS a conservative?
  • 3. All conservatives want to conserve/preserve something (hence the name) (duh)
  • 4. 2 ways of considering conservatism as an ideology
  • 5. Conservatism as resisting change
  • 6. Conservatism as a distinctive political position
  • 7. Classical Conservatives vs. Individualist Conservatives
  • 8. Divisions run deep…
  • 9. How Conservatism differs from other ideologies 1. Rather than being defined in terms of abstract principles of justice, conservatism is commonly defined in relation to changing historical contexts. 2. Conservatism can be considered more of a disposition or temperament, rather than a strict belief system. 3. Conservatism as a belief system (if it is a belief system at all) is marked by many internal tensions. 4. Conservatives, because of their lack of agreement over philosophical principles, tend to unite around specific issues. 5. Conservatives, according to Charles Kessler, often find it easier to say what they are against than what they are for. Specifically, they often tend to oppose aspects of liberal capitalism.
  • 10. How Conservatism differs from other ideologies 1. Rather than being defined in terms of abstract principles of justice, conservatism is commonly defined in relation to changing historical contexts. 2. Conservatism can be considered more of a disposition or temperament, rather than a strict belief system. 3. Conservatism as a belief system (if it is a belief system at all) is marked by many internal tensions. 4. Conservatives, because of their lack of agreement over philosophical principles, tend to unite around specific issues. 5. Conservatives, according to Charles Kessler, often find it easier to say what they are against than what they are for. Specifically, they often tend to oppose aspects of liberal capitalism.
  • 11. “To be conservative…is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.” Michael Oakeshott “On Being Conservative”
  • 12. It is easier to say who is a conservative rather than what conservatism is.
  • 13. How Conservatism differs from other ideologies 1. Rather than being defined in terms of abstract principles of justice, conservatism is commonly defined in relation to changing historical contexts. 2. Conservatism can be considered more of a disposition or temperament, rather than a strict belief system. 3. Conservatism as a belief system (if it is a belief system at all) is marked by many internal tensions. 4. Conservatives, because of their lack of agreement over philosophical principles, tend to unite around specific issues. 5. Conservatives, according to Charles Kessler, often find it easier to say what they are against than what they are for. Specifically, they often tend to oppose aspects of liberal capitalism.
  • 14. How Conservatism differs from other ideologies 1. Rather than being defined in terms of abstract principles of justice, conservatism is commonly defined in relation to changing historical contexts. 2. Conservatism can be considered more of a disposition or temperament, rather than a strict belief system. 3. Conservatism as a belief system (if it is a belief system at all) is marked by many internal tensions. 4. Conservatives, because of their lack of agreement over philosophical principles, tend to unite around specific issues. 5. Conservatives, according to Charles Kessler, often find it easier to say what they are against than what they are for. Specifically, they often tend to oppose aspects of liberal capitalism.
  • 15. How Conservatism differs from other ideologies 1. Rather than being defined in terms of abstract principles of justice, conservatism is commonly defined in relation to changing historical contexts. 2. Conservatism can be considered more of a disposition or temperament, rather than a strict belief system. 3. Conservatism as a belief system (if it is a belief system at all) is marked by many internal tensions. 4. Conservatives, because of their lack of agreement over philosophical principles, tend to unite around specific issues. 5. Conservatives, according to Charles Kessler, often find it easier to say what they are against than what they are for. Specifically, they often tend to oppose aspects of liberal capitalism.
  • 16. IS conservatism an ideology?
  • 17. The public interest “is what men would choose if they saw clearly, thought rationally, acted disinterestedly and benevolently.” William F. Buckley
  • 18. Are Buckley and other conservatives making Marx’s mistake?
  • 19. Classical (Burkean) Conservatism
  • 20. A reaction to the French Revolution
  • 21. A few basic points… • Accepted some increase in democratization, but retained a belief in the importance of strong authorities. • Accepted some aspects of capitalism, but feared that the economic liberties of individuals posed moral dangers to the good of society. • Wanted to protect the world from the onslaught of rapid social, economic and technological changes.
  • 22. IMPOSSIBLE!
  • 23. slow the modernization of society as much as possible
  • 24. The Problem of Abstract Rights
  • 25. the historical development of rights
  • 26. PROBLEM: Abstract demands for rights can lead to redistribution of land and money.
  • 27. Conservatives Say: Politics based on abstract rights promotes individualism at the expense of historical understanding, mitigating institutions and the bonds that hold society together
  • 28. protection of private property provides social stability
  • 29. Noblesse Oblige
  • 30. Undesirable Results of Capitalism
  • 31. What to do?
  • 32. Human Nature
  • 33. human beings are, and always will be, flawed
  • 34. Original Sin
  • 35. Rationality?
  • 36. Law of Unintended Consequences
  • 37. Weak Rationality
  • 38. Atomistic Individualism Vs. Organic/ Interconnected Individualism
  • 39. Social Fabric
  • 40. Liberty worthwhile ONLY when properly ordered
  • 41. Government not perceived as an obstacle
  • 42. Classical Conservative Model of Freedom (Ball and Dagger, Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal) OBSTACLE: Radical ideas, innovation; passions, desires, lack of restraint AGENT: GOAL: Inter- Order, stability, connected, harmony, “organic” continuity individuals
  • 43. Conservatives & Change
  • 44. Reckless & Rapid
  • 45. Ideological Change Change based on preconceived ideological notions which give no concession to the inherent limits of the human condition.
  • 46. The Problem of Innovation
  • 47. An “Anti-Ideology”?
  • 48. Reform change that is slow, thoughtfully considered and based on the past
  • 49. Conservatism and Democracy
  • 50. The Natural Aristocracy
  • 51. Concentration of Power
  • 52. “Little Platoons”
  • 53. 21 Century st Conservatism: 4 Strands
  • 54. Traditional Conservatism
  • 55. Individualist Conservatism
  • 56. The New Christian Right
  • 57. Neoconservatism
  • 58. Irving Kristol on Neoconservatism • Support for welfare state, opposition to bureaucratic paternalism & intrusion • Respect for the free market • Support for traditional values and religion (vs. “counterculture”) • Opposition to “egalitarianism” • Strong anti-communist foreign policy