PS 240 Conservatism Spring 2009

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PS 240 Conservatism Spring 2009

  1. 1. Conservatism Dr. Christopher S. Rice
  2. 2. What IS a conservative?
  3. 3. All conservatives want to conserve/preserve something (hence the name) (duh)
  4. 4. 2 ways of considering conservatism as an ideology
  5. 5. Conservatism as resisting change
  6. 6. Conservatism as a distinctive political position
  7. 7. Classical Conservatives vs. Individualist Conservatives
  8. 8. Divisions run deep…
  9. 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. 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. 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. 12. It is easier to say who is a conservative rather than what conservatism is.
  13. 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. 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. 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. 16. IS conservatism an ideology?
  17. 17. The public interest “is what men would choose if they saw clearly, thought rationally, acted disinterestedly and benevolently.” William F. Buckley
  18. 18. Are Buckley and other conservatives making Marx’s mistake?
  19. 19. Classical (Burkean) Conservatism
  20. 20. A reaction to the French Revolution
  21. 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. 22. IMPOSSIBLE!
  23. 23. slow the modernization of society as much as possible
  24. 24. The Problem of Abstract Rights
  25. 25. the historical development of rights
  26. 26. PROBLEM: Abstract demands for rights can lead to redistribution of land and money.
  27. 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. 28. protection of private property provides social stability
  29. 29. Noblesse Oblige
  30. 30. Undesirable Results of Capitalism
  31. 31. What to do?
  32. 32. Human Nature
  33. 33. human beings are, and always will be, flawed
  34. 34. Original Sin
  35. 35. Rationality?
  36. 36. Law of Unintended Consequences
  37. 37. Weak Rationality
  38. 38. Atomistic Individualism Vs. Organic/ Interconnected Individualism
  39. 39. Social Fabric
  40. 40. Liberty worthwhile ONLY when properly ordered
  41. 41. Government not perceived as an obstacle
  42. 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. 43. Conservatives & Change
  44. 44. Reckless & Rapid
  45. 45. Ideological Change Change based on preconceived ideological notions which give no concession to the inherent limits of the human condition.
  46. 46. The Problem of Innovation
  47. 47. An “Anti-Ideology”?
  48. 48. Reform change that is slow, thoughtfully considered and based on the past
  49. 49. Conservatism and Democracy
  50. 50. The Natural Aristocracy
  51. 51. Concentration of Power
  52. 52. “Little Platoons”
  53. 53. 21 Century st Conservatism: 4 Strands
  54. 54. Traditional Conservatism
  55. 55. Individualist Conservatism
  56. 56. The New Christian Right
  57. 57. Neoconservatism
  58. 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
  59. 59. Contemporary Conservatism
  60. 60. 4 Main Problems: • Failure of Western foreign policy to promote the interests of the “free world.” • Promotion of socialist domestic problems by increasingly strong central governments. • Prominence/power of radicals, social engineers, socialist utopians in educational institutions. • Culture of permissiveness, relativism
  61. 61. Strong Anti-Communism
  62. 62. Moral Hazards of Great Society
  63. 63. Problem of Big Government
  64. 64. Deregulation + financial incentives
  65. 65. Strengthen the Traditional Family
  66. 66. Boy, those universities sure are bad, huh?

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