Conservatism - Social Philosophy


Like liberalism, conservatism is not a single, coherent theory, but a style or way of thinking applied to the analysis of individual social phenomena and society as a whole.

To. Manheim compares liberalism and conservatism as special styles of thinking with styles in art (baroque, romanticism, classicism, etc.). In the history of art the concept of style plays a special role, allowing to classify the similarities and differences encountered in different forms of art. Art develops through styles, and these styles appear at a certain time and place, revealing their formal tendencies as they develop. "Human thought," writes Manheim, "also develops" styles " and different schools of thought can be distinguished by different ways of using individual patterns and categories of thinking. The style of thinking concerns more than one area of ​​human self-expression: it encompasses more than one policy, but also art, literature, philosophy, history, etc. Different styles of thinking evolved in accordance with party lines, so that one can talk about the idea of ​​"liberal" or "conservative", and later also about "socialist".

Conservatism originated in England as a direct reaction to the French Revolution of 1789. Its founder was E. Burke. A significant contribution to the development of conservatism was made in the XIX century. S. Coleridge, W. Wordsworth, F. Novalis, A. Muller, J. de Maistre, A. Tocqueville, F. Lamenne, L. Bonald et al.

In the future, the ideological center of conservatism moved to Germany, in which the contradiction between liberal and conservative thought in the first half of the XIX century. acted in the most acute and sharp form. Conservatism has always waged a struggle, on the one hand, with liberalism, with which it shared, however, many important common values, and on the other hand, with socialism.

At the end of the XIX century. socialism resolutely pressed not only liberalism, but also conservatism. In the 1930s, when the destructiveness of radical socialism became clear, liberalism came to the fore, insisting on state regulation of the economy and the transfer of a number of social functions to the state. Conservatives continued to advocate the freedom of market relations. In the 1970s. the so-called neoconservatism, recognizing in principle the need for state intervention in the economy, emerged and gained influence, but it allotted the main role to the market mechanisms of regulation. The 1980s. became a period of victories of political parties of conservative orientation in many developed capitalist countries.

Conservatism can be characterized as a theoretical interpretation of traditionalism - a more or less universal tendency to preserve old patterns, established and proven ways of living. The development and spread of conservatism as a phenomenon different from conventional traditionalism, Mannheim writes, depend ultimately on the dynamic nature of the modern world (the basis of this dynamic is social differentiation) ... Traditionalism can become conservative only in Such a society, where there is a change through a class conflict, i.e. in a class society. "

Traditionalism is, so to speak, "natural conservatism", and conservatism is "theorizing traditionalism".

Conservatism implies respect for the wisdom of ancestors, the preservation of old moral traditions, a suspicious attitude toward the radical transformation of social institutions and values. Conservative understands society as a special reality, having its own inner life and a very fragile structure. He is convinced that society is a living and complex organism, and it can not be reconstructed as a machine.

The philosophical precursors of conservatism were the English "moral philosophers" D. Hume, A. Smith and others, who believed that social institutions are not the implementation of any plans or projects, but rather products spontaneous, going without a preliminary plan of people's activities and the results of a gradual selection of the most effective forms. Conservatism rejects the engineering a view of society, according to which it is capable of consciously monitoring and guiding its future evolution in accordance with a previously formulated rational plan. Conservatives emphasize that the basic social institutions, moral traditions and practices of capitalist society - the sovereignty and autonomy of the individual, private property and private enterprise, political and intellectual freedom, democracy and the rule of law - are spontaneously developed in the course of cultural evolution, without any preliminary plan. The social process is a path of trial and error. The experience accumulated and transmitted from generation to generation is embodied in social institutions and values ​​that are not consciously constructed by man and are not managed by him on a rationally justified plan.

As Burke wrote, the mind of an individual is limited, and it is better for an individual to take advantage of the common bank and the capital of nations accumulated over the centuries. Conservatism does not support the concept of full and does not accept the ideas of the natural rights and freedoms of the natural kindness of man, the natural harmony of interests. Burke, in particular, noted that Englishmen owe their rights and freedoms not to some rationally formulated abstract and universal principles, but to the process of the development of English society from the Magna Carta to the Bill of Manners; for many centuries these rights have been expanded and passed down from generation to generation.

Conservatism as a way of thinking tends toward concrete thinking. This is particularly evident when we compare conservatism with concepts that propose a decisive transformation of the society along a single plan that ensures an effective progress. Conservative reformism, Mannheim notes, is based on the replacement of single factors with other single factors ("improvement"), Progressive reformism seeks to eliminate the inconvenient fact by reforming the entire surrounding world, which makes the existence of this fact possible. Thus, progressive reformism tends to change the system as a whole, while conservative reformism deals with individual details.

Progressist considers the emergence of modern society as the result of sacrificing whole classes for the sake of disintegrating the existing social structure. His thinking must inevitably be abstract, because it relies on the potential possibilities that he himself creates. Conservative thinking, which seeks to preserve the existing state of things and to weaken progress, is concrete, for it does not break out of the framework of the existing social structure.

Another key feature that distinguishes conservative thinking from other styles of thinking is the interpretation of freedom for them.

Another point that shares the supporters of accelerated progress and conservatives is that progressive thought characterizes reality not only in the categories of opportunity, but also in the categories of the norm. Conservative thought, on the contrary, tries to understand reality as a result of the influence of real factors and to comprehend the norm in the categories of reality. As Mannheim notes, these are two different ways of experiencing the world, from which two different styles of thinking grow. One looks at people and on social institutions with the demand "so it should be", instead of approaching the world as a complex of finished products of a long process of action. Another approach leads to an uncritical acceptance of reality with all its shortcomings. Conservative with his strong attachment to the principle of "do not change the situation" treats reality as something that simply exists, and this sometimes leads to the appearance of a note of fatalism.

In practical application, the ideas of conservatism are sometimes brought to the point of absurdity, which undermines confidence in the most conservative thinking. Conservatives from politics understand well that in the very nature of society there are certain limitations, and they can not be ignored. About some factors of social life, we do not know anything. Some conservative practitioners of this also stop, declaring illegal any intervention, all sorts of rational reforms, deliberately condemning any attempts to transform public life on the basis of abstract principles. Such conservatives are ready to bless any political and intellectual abuses that have existed in the society for a long time, on the grounds that the latter are or will be socially functional in the future, although they look out of context and are hideous and absurd. Conservatism does not deny the possibility - and even necessity - of a planned transformation of society, he only emphasizes that such a transformation must be based on past experience and established traditions and be extremely cautious.

Progressive and conservative experiences of experience differ, therefore, in the way of experiencing time. "... Progressist is experiencing the present as the beginning of the future," Mannheim says. "The Conservative considers it to be the last point reached by the past ... The Conservative experiences the past as something equal to the present, so its conception of history is more spatial than temporal, as it highlights coexistence, not sequence."

Conservative thought is different in this respect, Manheim believes, both from bourgeois and proletarian thought. Conservatism focuses on the past to the extent that the past lives in the present. Bourgeois thought, principally focused on modernity, lives by what is at the moment a new one. Proletarian thought, trying to catch the elements of the future, already existing in the present, focuses on those factors that now exist, in which one can see the embryos of the future society.

The methodological conservative criticism of thinking based on the idea of ​​natural law, included several main points.

The conservatives have replaced the concept of intelligence, which their opponents constantly refer to, with concepts such as "history", "life", "nation".

The deductive inclinations of opponents conservatives opposed the idea of ​​the irrational nature of reality.

In response to the liberal postulate of the essential similarity of individuals, conservatives raised the problem of their radical difference.

The liberal-bourgeois belief that all political and social innovations have universal application, the conservatives have opposed the notion of a social organism.

The type of thinking that emerges from the concept of a whole that is not a simple sum of its parts was opposed to constructing a collective whole of isolated individuals and factors. "The state and the nation should not be understood as the sum of their individual members, on the contrary, the individual should be understood only as part of a wider whole ... The conservative thinks in the category" We "while the liberal is a category of" I ". The liberal analyzes and isolates various cultural areas: the Law, the Government, the Economy; the conservative seeks a generalizing and synthetic view. "

In particular, E. Burke in response to the idea of ​​classical liberalism, that people are able to build a civil society "again" and "from nothing", wrote: "I can not comprehend how one or the other person is able to reach such a degree of arrogance to consider his country as nothing more than a" blank form "on which he is free to paint everything that he likes it. A person ... can wish that the society that he found when he came into it was arranged somehow differently, by a true patriot and a true politician always thinks how he could create something better from what his country has given him. The inclination to preserve and the ability to improve, united in one person, is my ideal of a statesman. " Burke noted that between "absolute destruction" and uninstructed being there is some intermediate zone, and defined the task of a statesman as a search for such a zone.

The static theory of reason conservatism contrasted its dynamic concept. Instead of seeing the world as ever changing, unlike the unchanging mind, the mind itself and its norms were interpreted as changing and in motion.

An interesting contrast between conservatism and liberalism belongs to FA Hayek, who clearly sympathizes with the latter and maintains that a true liberal can not be a conservative. The behavior of the conservative, believes Hayek, is mainly characterized by fear of change, everything new as such. The liberal has the confidence in everything new, the readiness to accept a different direction of events, even if it is not known where they can lead. The liberal trusts the forces of market competition, although he does not know how the new conditions will equilibrate. The conservative, on the contrary, does not trust spontaneous forces like the market, and I am sure that top management should be in charge of change and that discipline is above all. Therefore, the conservative is characterized by a passionate desire for power and at the same time a chronic misunderstanding of the nature of economic forces. He does not recognize spontaneous development, understands order as the result of power supervision and discipline. Conservatives do not care about the boundaries of government bodies, he fears only one thing - the threat of weakening power. Conservatives are similar to socialists in that they are always concerned with the problem of control. Like the socialists, they are confident in their right to dictate to others their own values. Liberals consider possible the peaceful coexistence of different value systems and remain tolerant of much that they do not like. Conservatives tended to impose their preferred system of values ​​by coercion. Not only new and unfamiliar is alien to conservatives. They are sincerely attached to national traditions, but sometimes this attachment becomes blind and reaches extreme forms of nationalism. Out of dislike for the new and alien, they are constantly drawn to teach "proper behavior" others, and to train primarily with the help of power techniques available to the state.

Modern conservatism tries to unite two tendencies: respect for the freedom of an individual characteristic of classical liberalism and the traditional protection of values ​​such as morality, family, religion, law and order, etc., for conservatism. Opposition to socialism, which puts forward a plan for a radical collectivist (and in particular communist) reorganization of society, ultimately led to a convergence and even a fusion of liberalism and conservatism based on the protection of the basic values ​​of the modern individualistic (post-capitalist) society.

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