conservatism

/keuhn serr"veuh tiz'euhm/, n.
1. the disposition to preserve or restore what is established and traditional and to limit change.
2. the principles and practices of political conservatives.
[1825-35; CONSERVAT(IVE) + -ISM]

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Political attitude or ideology denoting a preference for institutions and practices that have evolved historically and are thus manifestations of continuity and stability.

It was first expressed in the modern era through the works of Edmund Burke in reaction to the French Revolution, which Burke believed tarnished its ideals through its excesses. Conservatives believe that the implementation of change should be minimal and gradual; they appreciate history and are more realistic than idealistic. Well-known conservative parties include the British Conservative Party, the German Christian Democratic Union, the U.S. Republican Party, and the Japanese Liberal-Democratic Party. See also Christian Democracy; liberalism.

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Introduction

      political philosophy that emphasizes the value of traditional institutions and practices.

      Conservatism is a preference for the historically inherited rather than the abstract and ideal. Conservatives prefer institutions and practices that have evolved gradually and are manifestations of continuity and stability. In answer to the question “What should be the scope of government?” conservatives insist that government must be the servant, not the master, of existing ways of life and must resist the temptation to transform society and politics. Conservatives are generally, though not invariably, suspicious of government activism. Conservatism thus stands in marked contrast to liberalism, which is a modernizing, antitraditionalist movement dedicated to correcting the evils and abuses resulting from the misuse of power. In The Devil's Dictionary (1906), the American writer Ambrose Bierce (Bierce, Ambrose) cynically (but not inappropriately) defined the conservative as “a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” Conservatism must also be distinguished from the reactionary outlook, which favours the restoration of a previous, and usually outmoded, political or social order.

 From its beginnings, political thought has contained many strains that can retrospectively be labeled conservative, but it was not until the late 18th century, in reaction to the upheavals of the French Revolution (1789), that conservatism began to develop as a distinct political attitude and movement. The term conservative was introduced after 1815 by supporters of the newly restored Bourbon (Bourbon, House of) monarchy in France, including the author and diplomat Franƈois-Auguste-René, Viscount de Chateaubriand (Chateaubriand, François-Auguste-René, vicomte de). In 1830 the British politician and writer John Wilson Croker (Croker, John Wilson) used the term to describe the British Tory Party (see Whig and Tory), and it also was used in the 1830s by John Calhoun (Calhoun, John C), an ardent defender of states' rights in the United States. The originator of modern, articulated conservatism (though he never used the term himself) is generally acknowledged to be the British parliamentarian and political writer Edmund Burke (Burke, Edmund), whose Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) was a forceful expression of conservatives' rejection of the French Revolution and a major inspiration for counterrevolutionary theorists in the 19th century. For Burke and other pro-parliamentarian conservatives, the violent, untraditional, and uprooting methods of the Revolution outweighed and corrupted its liberating ideals. The general revulsion against the violent course of the Revolution provided conservatives with an opportunity to restore pre-Revolutionary traditions, and several brands of conservative philosophy soon developed.

Conservative attitudes
      A common way of distinguishing conservatism from both liberalism and radicalism is to say that conservatives deny the perfectibility of humanity. In other words, they deny the optimistic view that human beings can be morally improved through social and political change. Conservatives who are Christians sometimes express this point by saying that human beings are guilty of original sin. Skeptical conservatives merely observe that human history, under almost all imaginable social and political circumstances, has been filled with a great deal of evil. Far from believing that human nature is essentially good, conservatives tend to assume that human beings are naturally prone to selfishness, anarchy, irrationality, and violence. Accordingly, they look to traditional political and cultural institutions to curb humans' base and destructive instincts. Unlike the French Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques), who believed that the political institutions of his day were so many “chains” hindering man's natural goodness, conservatives regarded them as necessary for making human beings good. Without the restraining power of such institutions, they believed, there could be no ethical behaviour and no responsible use of liberty.

      The conservative temperament may, but need not, be associated with conservative politics or economics. It may sometimes even accompany left-wing politics or economics—as it did, for example, in the late 1980s, when hard-line communists in the Soviet Union were often referred to as “conservatives.” Regardless of a conservative's politics, however, his temperament displays two noteworthy characteristics: a distrust of human nature, rootlessness, and untested innovations, and a corresponding trust in unbroken historical continuity and in the traditional frameworks for conducting human affairs. Such frameworks may be political, cultural, or religious, or they may have no abstract or institutional expression at all.

      A closely related feature of the conservative temperament is an aversion to abstract argument and theorizing and a corresponding rejection of the attempt to “plan society in advance” using principles derived from reason alone. In this respect the conservative temperament contrasts markedly with that of the liberal. Whereas the liberal consciously articulates abstract theories, the conservative instinctively embraces concrete traditions. For just this reason, many authorities on conservatism have been led to deny that it is a genuine ideology, regarding it instead as a relatively inarticulate state of mind. Whatever the merits of this view, it remains true that the best insights of conservatism almost never have been developed into sustained theoretical works comparable to those of liberalism and radicalism.

      In opposition to the “rationalist blueprints” of liberals and radicals, conservatives often point out that, because societies are so immensely complex, there is no reliable and predictable connection between what governments try to do and what actually happens. It is therefore futile and dangerous, they believe, for governments to interfere with social or economic realities—as happens, for example, in government attempts to control wages, prices, or rents.

      If society is too complex to be improved through social engineering, the next question is “What kind of understanding of society is possible?” The most common conservative answer emphasizes the idea of tradition. We are what we are because we have inherited the skills, manners, morality, and other cultural resources of our ancestors. An understanding of tradition—more specifically, a knowledge of the history of one's own society or country—is therefore the most valuable cognitive resource available to a political leader, not because it is a source of abstract lessons but because it puts the leader directly in touch with the society whose rules he may be modifying.

      Conservative influences operate indirectly—i.e., other than via the programs of political parties—largely by virtue of the fact that there is much in the general human temperament that is naturally or instinctively conservative, such as the fear of sudden change and the tendency to act habitually. These traits may find collective expression in, for example, a resistance to imposed political change and in the entire range of values and preferences that contribute to the stability of a particular culture. In all societies, the existence of such cultural restraints on political innovation constitutes a fundamental conservative bias, the implications of which were aphoristically expressed by the 17th-century English statesman Viscount Falkland (Falkland, Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount of, Lord Carye): “If it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.” Mere inertia, however, has rarely sufficed to protect conservative values in an age dominated by rationalist dogma and by social change related to continuous technological progress.

      Conservatism has often been associated with traditional and established forms of religion (religion, philosophy of). After 1789 the appeal of religion redoubled, in part because of a craving for security in an age of chaos. The Roman Catholic (Roman Catholicism) church, because its roots are in the Middle Ages, has appealed to more conservatives than any other religion. Although he was not a Catholic, Burke praised Catholicism as “the most effectual barrier” against radicalism. But conservatism has had no dearth of Protestant or strongly anticlerical adherents.

Intellectual roots of conservatism

The Burkean foundations
 Conservatism is generally dated from Edmund Burke (Burke, Edmund)'s response to the universalist claims of the French Revolution. In 1790, at a time when the Revolution still seemed to promise a bloodless utopia, Burke predicted its later phase of terror and dictatorship—and not by any lucky blind guess but by an analysis of its rejection of tradition and inherited values. More than any other thinker, Burke was able to turn the intellectual tide of his day away from a rationalist contempt for the past and toward a traditionalist reverence for it. His Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) uses brilliant political rhetoric to reinvigorate the idea of political power as a trust to be held by Christians mindful of both the value of what they have inherited and their duties to their inheritors. Burke extended the idea of inheritance far beyond property to include language, manners and morals, and appropriate responses to the human condition. To be human was to inherit a culture, and politics could not be understood outside that culture. In contrast to Rousseau, who envisioned an ideal society based on a social contract among the living (Social Contract [1762]), Burke argued thatSociety is indeed a contract.…[But, a]s the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born….Changing the state as often as there are floating fancies,…no one generation could link with the other. Men would be little better than the flies of a summer.

      Because Burke's contract involves future generations as well those of the present and the past, he can and does urge improvement through political change, but only as long as the change is evolutionary: “A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman.”

      Burke was defending not an abstract conservatism but rather the particular conservatism of the unwritten British constitution. In the politics of his time Burke was a Whig, and he bequeathed to later conservative thinkers the Whig belief in limited government. This belief was partly why Burke defended the American Revolution (1775–83), which he thought was justified as a defense of traditional liberties against the untraditional tyranny of King George III.

      Burke shocked his contemporaries by insisting with brutal frankness that “illusions” and “prejudices” are socially necessary. He believed that most human beings are innately depraved, innately steeped in original sin, and unable to better themselves with their feeble reason. Burke called landed aristocrats the “great oaks” and “proper chieftains” of society, provided that they tempered their rule with a spirit of timely reform and remained within the constitutional framework.

      In Burke's writings the entire political wisdom of Europe is formulated in a new idiom, designed to bring out the folly of French revolutionaries intoxicated by sudden power and abstract ideas of a perfect society. For Burke, modern states were so complex that any attempt to reform them on the basis of metaphysical doctrines alone was bound to end in despotism. Burke's eloquence was influential in stimulating powerful conservative reactions all over Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Maistre and Latin conservatism
 Among the thinkers influenced by Burke was the French diplomat and polemicist Joseph de Maistre (Maistre, Joseph de), who developed his own more extreme brand of conservatism early in the 19th century. Whereas Burkean conservatism was evolutionary, the conservatism of Maistre was counterrevolutionary. Both men favoured tradition over the radical innovations of the Revolution, but the traditions they favoured were very different: Burke rejected the Revolution for the sake of traditional liberties, Maistre for the sake of traditional authority (authoritarianism). Burke was not authoritarian but constitutionalist—and always parliamentary—whereas Maistre, in stressing the authority of the traditional elite, is often justifiably called not conservative but reactionary. To call his position totalitarian, however, would be to go too far, for he did not propose to subordinate all aspects of the individual's life to the authority of the state—only his political, and sometimes his religious, allegiance. This distinction between the authoritarian and the totalitarian separates even the most reactionary conservative from groups like the Nazis.

      Maistre rejected the entire heritage of the Enlightenment, and he attributed the revolutionary disorders of Europe to the influence of its pernicious ideas. He presented a picture of human beings as essentially emotional and prone to disorder and evil unless controlled within a tight political structure dominated by rulers, priests, and the threat of the executioner. Against the French Revolutionary slogan “Liberty, equality, fraternity,” Maistre seemed almost personally to embody the slogan “Throne and altar.” His program called for a restoration of hereditary and absolute monarchy in France, though it would be a more religious and less frivolous monarchy than before. The Bourbon restoration in France after 1815 did in fact attempt to create a modified version of the ancien régime somewhat resembling that suggested by Maistre, but the Bourbons were overthrown in 1830.

      Maistre's writings were an important source of conservative thought in Spain, Italy, and France in the first half of the 19th century. But no work by Maistre or any other anti-Jacobin has approached the influence of Burke's classic essay, which became the basis of all subsequent conservative arguments against the French Revolution. Whereas Maistre's rigid, hierarchical conservatism has died out, Burke's more flexible brand is stronger than ever, permeating all political parties of the West that stress gradual, as opposed to radical or revolutionary, change.

Conservatism in the 19th century
      The 19th century was in many ways antithetical to conservatism, both as a political philosophy and as a program of particular parties identified with conservative interests. The Enlightenment had engendered widespread belief in the possibility of improving the human condition—a belief, that is, in the idea of progress—and a rationalist disposition to tamper with or discard existing institutions or practices in pursuit of that goal. This belief was given powerful expression in the French Revolution and was reinforced by the early Industrial Revolution and by advances in science. The resulting rationalist politics embraced a broad segment of the political spectrum, including liberal reformism, trade-union socialism (or social democracy), and ultimately Marxism. The changes wrought under the banner of rationalist politics were immense and highlighted the dilemma of modern conservatism: in the face of constant rationalist innovation, conservatives were often forced to adopt a merely defensive role, so that the political initiative lay always in the other camp.

Metternich and the Concert of Europe
 The massive social upheavals of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods provoked a reaction of more immediate and far-reaching consequence than the writings of conservative theorists. During the period 1815–48, the Austrian statesman Prince Metternich (Metternich, Klemens, Fürst von), a major influence in Austria and in Europe generally, devoted his energies to erecting an antirevolutionary chain of international alliances throughout Europe.

      Metternich was a dominating figure at the Congress of Vienna (Vienna, Congress of), the international peace conference convened in 1814 near the close of the Napoleonic Wars (French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars). The peace settlement, reached at Vienna in 1815, was based on conservative principles shared by the Austrian delegate, Metternich; the British delegate, Viscount Castlereagh (Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, Viscount); the French delegate, Talleyrand (Talleyrand, Charles-Maurice de, prince de Bénévent); and the formerly liberal Russian tsar Alexander I. These principles were traditionalism, in reaction to 25 years of rapid change; legitimism (hereditary monarchy as the only lawful rule); and restoration of monarchs ousted after 1789.

      The European great powers also attempted to enforce peace through periodic conferences between governments that gave rise to a period of international cooperation known as the Concert of Europe (Europe, Concert of). The Concert system, which amounted to a rudimentary form of international governance, was used to arbitrate peacefully several international disputes and to foster cooperation among member states in suppressing liberal uprisings and preserving the status quo within their borders. Although the attempts at arbitration established an important and positive precedent, the Concert system was flawed by its narrowly aristocratic base and its bigoted opposition to progressive social change.

      According to Metternich, the liberal revolutions of the 1820s and '30s in Spain and parts of Italy and Germany were “unhistorical” and unrealistic. Liberals were engaged in a futile attempt to impose the English institutions of parliamentary government and constitutional monarchy in places where they had no historical roots. Using arguments borrowed from Burke, he insisted on the need for continuity with the past and orderly, organic development. Hence his sarcastic comments on the liberal revolutions in Naples and elsewhere:

A people who can neither read nor write, whose last word is the dagger—fine material for constitutional principles!…The English constitution is the work of centuries.…There is no universal recipe for constitutions.

The retreat of old-style conservatism
      The settlement engineered by Metternich at the Congress of Vienna was reactionary in that it aimed at reinstating the political and social order that existed before the Revolution. Nevertheless, the restored monarchies in France, Austria-Hungary, and Spain thought it prudent to sanction the formation of parliamentary institutions as a sop to liberal sentiment. Political parties were hardly necessary in these states, given the limited powers accorded to the new parliaments and the narrowness of the franchise. As a result, the monarchies' most reliable supporters, the aristocratic landowners and the clergy, were able to secure the allegiance of the general population. They were especially influential in rural areas, where an inherently conservative peasantry was still relatively unaffected by industrialization and other modern innovations.

      This political settlement proved untenable within a few decades of the Restoration, chiefly because of the increasing discontent of urban liberals. City dwellers tended to be more active politically than rural people, and as urban populations grew in both absolute and relative size owing to the Industrial Revolution, their festering discontent began to threaten the Restoration establishment. In the face of their agitations and revolts, conservatives gradually lost ground, and after the Revolutions of 1848 (1848, Revolutions of)—which resulted in the exile of Metternich from Austria and of King Louis-Philippe from France—conservative factions either lost power to liberals and nationalists or clung to influence only in coalitions with other groups.

      French conservatives remained loyal to the restored monarchy, but the revolutions of 1830 (1830, Revolutions of) and 1848 dealt successive blows to that institution, and before the end of the 19th century royalists in France faced the disconcerting fact that there were no less than three families claiming a nonexistent French throne. Supporters of French conservatism among the Catholic clergy, the military officer class, and the landed aristocracy remained haunted by nostalgia for the ancien régime and thus collided with the aspirations of the growing and powerful middle class.

Conservatism and nationalism
      Industrialization hastened the decline of old-style conservatism because it tended to strengthen the commerce-minded middle class and to create a new industrial working class with a diminished allegiance to old institutions. Between 1830 and 1880 liberalism won repeated victories over the conservative establishment in western Europe. Conservatives, like other political groups, had to establish majorities in parliament if they wanted to hold power, and the progressive expansion of the franchise meant that they had to cultivate support from a broad electorate. But their chief source of strength, the rural peasantry, was declining in numbers relative to other social groups and was in any case too small to support an effective national party.

 Conservative parties eventually solved this problem by identifying themselves with nationalist sentiments. This strategy was pursued most vigorously in Germany, where the question of the unification of the German states into a single nation became a central preoccupation of both liberals and conservatives by the middle of the 19th century. The devious but brilliant Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck (Bismarck, Otto von) used nationalist sentiments stirred up by Prussia's successful wars against Denmark (1864), Austria (1866), and France (1870–71) to create a united Germany under the Prussian monarchy in 1871. The conservative governments he headed as Germany's chancellor for the next 20 years undertook various social-welfare measures—such as pensions and unemployment benefits—to draw away working-class support from the leftist Social Democratic Party (Social Democratic Party of Germany). Although Bismarck protected the dominant position of the Prussian landowning and officer classes, his social-welfare measures mitigated class conflict and facilitated a social cohesion in Germany that lasted to the end of World War I.

      By the end of the 19th century the nationalist strategy had been adopted by conservative parties throughout Europe. This gave them increased popular appeal in an era of intensifying patriotic feeling, but it also contributed to the climate of international rivalry that culminated in the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Conservative parties were almost invariably the staunchest and most intractable supporters of this war.

Great Britain (United Kingdom)
 In the 17th and 18th centuries conservative political causes in Great Britain were defended by the Tories (Whig and Tory), a Parliamentary faction representing landed gentry, established merchant classes, and the clergy. This faction became the Tory Party in 1784 and finally adopted the label “Conservative” after 1831. As the Conservative Party it retained great power throughout the 19th century, consistently receiving the support of about half the electorate. Although the party was shaken by the Whig Reform Bill of 1832 (Reform Bill) and by other Whig and Liberal measures that undermined the power of the landed gentry, it was rescued by the fertile imagination and astute management of Benjamin Disraeli (Disraeli, Benjamin, Earl Of Beaconsfield, Viscount Hughenden Of Hughenden), who was prime minister in 1868 and again from 1874 to 1880. Exhibiting considerable foresight, Disraeli nurtured the party's support among the working class by extending the franchise to industrial workers in the Reform Bill of 1867. Disraeli combined a desire to mitigate the harsh conditions of ordinary workers under unrestrained capitalism with a belief in the value of the class system and established institutions such as the monarchy and the church. Under Disraeli the party was able to broaden its electoral support and thereby outflank the Liberal Party and the new commercial class it represented. Disraeli's successor as party leader, Lord Salisbury (Salisbury, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd marquess of, Earl Of Salisbury, Viscount Cranborne, Baron Cecil Of Essendon), was prime minister in 1885 and again from 1886 to 1892 and from 1895 to 1902; Arthur Balfour (Balfour, Arthur James Balfour, 1st earl of, Viscount Traprain) led another Conservative government from 1902 to 1905. This longest era of Conservative rule was marked by imperialism, high tariffs, and the gradual erosion of the party's working-class vote.

      Since Disraeli's time conservatism in Britain has veered between a passive and largely resigned acceptance of changes introduced by its Liberal and (later) Labour opponents and a more “positive” conservatism, the aim of which was to foster a social environment in which the individual could advance his own interests without undue hindrance from, or reliance on, the state. Ironically, this policy is descended from the liberal individualism of the 19th century and is associated particularly with the Liberal Party.

Christian Democracy
      By the end of the 19th century, industrialization had created a large and turbulent working class whose increasing involvement in politics gave it a powerful voice. All Christian churches, but especially the Roman Catholic church, faced anticlerical attacks from liberal reformers on the one hand and working-class socialists on the other. The Catholic church responded by developing social doctrines and political movements that combined protection of the church's institutional interests with policies of social justice intended to draw industrial workers back to the faith. This movement, which eventually came to be called Christian Democracy, achieved varying success in France, Germany, and Italy in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Christian Democrats were conservative in their affirmation of the right to private property as basic to a Christian society, but they also insisted that the rich look after the needs of the poor. Christian Democracy, in other words, recognized both a legal structure that protected private property and a moral imperative to use property in a compassionate way. In practical politics, Christian Democrats tended to be opportunists who aligned themselves with the ideological centre.

Conservatism in the 20th century
      The Allied victory in World War I resulted in the downfall of four great imperial dynasties—those in Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Ottoman Turkey—that were the last major bastions of conservatism based on monarchy, landed aristocracy, and an established church. After the war, conservative parties became the standard-bearers of frustrated nationalism in Germany as well as in Italy and other former Allied countries. In a process that began in the 1930s and intensified during World War II, conservative parties across central and eastern Europe (Europe, history of) were destroyed or co-opted by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany.

      European conservative parties began to recover their strength only after 1946, and then only in western Europe, since Soviet power had extirpated all conservative political organizations in eastern Europe. To the chagrin of western European socialists, conservative parties—or more commonly, Christian Democratic parties in which various moderate and conservative elements had coalesced—began to win victories in West Germany and other countries. After the failure of the fascist regimes, and given socialism's apparent inability to speedily rebuild shattered postwar economies, many Europeans turned once more to conservative policies, which seemed to promise both economic growth and democratic freedoms. This revived conservatism was by now completely shorn of its old aristocratic associations. Instead, it emphasized the raising of living standards through a free-market economy and the provision of a wide array of social services by the state. Thus liberal individualism tinged with a strong sense of social conscience came to characterize conservative parties in virtually all developed nations for the next four decades.

Great Britain (United Kingdom)
      At the start of the 20th century, the Conservative Party in Great Britain seemed to stand at the summit of its popularity. This ascendancy was temporarily halted by the Liberal (Liberal Party) victory in the general election of 1906. By this time, however, the Liberals had begun to lose trade-union and working-class supporters to the Labour Party, and the Labour victory of 1924 spelled the end of the Liberal Party as an effective political force. During the next four decades the Conservatives formed the government most of the time. Their success was partly the result of their having absorbed large numbers of formerly Liberal middle-class voters. The Conservative Party thus became a union of old Tory and Liberal interests combined against Labour.

 In the interwar period, conservatism in Britain became closely identified with the defense of middle- and upper-class privileges, an unconstructive opposition to socialism, and, during the 1930s, “appeasement” (a deal-making and commercialist approach to the rising Nazi menace). However, following the introduction of a mixed economy and the vast extension of state welfare services under the Labour government of Clement Attlee (Attlee, Clement, 1st Earl Attlee of Walthamstow, Viscount Prestwood) after 1945, the Conservatives reversed very few of their predecessors' innovations when they returned to power in 1951. Instead they claimed to be better able to administer the welfare state efficiently. Indeed, to some extent they even tried to outbid their opponents with their own programs of social spending, including measures to encourage the construction of new homes. Three decades later this era of liberal-conservative accomodation came to a dramatic close under the government of Margaret Thatcher (Thatcher, Margaret), whose energetic brand of conservatism stressed individual initiative, fierce anticommunism, and free-market economics.

Continental Europe (Europe, history of)
      Conservatism elsewhere in western Europe was generally represented by two or more parties, ranging from the liberal centre to the moderate and extreme right. The three types of conservative party were the agrarian (particularly in Scandinavia), the Christian Democratic, and those parties allied closely with big business. These categories are very general and are not mutually exclusive.

      The Christian Democratic parties had the longest history, their predecessors having emerged in the 19th century to support the church and the monarchy against liberal and radical elements. After World War I supporters of business became the predominant element in these parties. In Italy clerical interests remained strongly represented in the Christian Democratic Party (from 1993 the Italian Popular Party), which dominated governments in that country for four decades from 1945. This party never possessed a coherent policy, however, because it was little more than a disparate alliance of moderate and conservative interest groups. The Christian Democrats anchored a long series of governing coalitions with smaller centrist parties and the Italian Socialist Party. These coalitions, while often politically ineffective and increasingly corrupt, served to exclude the large Italian Communist Party (from 1991 the Democratic Party of the Left (Democrats of the Left)) from power throughout the Cold War. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and communism was no longer perceived as a threat to Europe, the Christian Democrats lost much of their support. The eclipse of the Christian Democrats coincided with the growth of other conservative and nationalist groups formerly outside the mainstream of Italian politics, such as the Northern League, which called for the creation of a federated Italian republic, and the National Alliance (until 1994 the Italian Social Movement), which many regarded as neofascist.

      In Germany, a country divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants, the church played a far less significant role in the main conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union. After 1950, following an internal debate over economic and social questions, the party adopted a program that included support for a free-market economy and a strong commitment to maintaining and improving social insurance and other welfare programs. Illustrating the conservative temper of Germany's political climate since the end of World War II, the opposition Social Democratic Party of Germany has progressively eliminated the socialist content of its program, going so far as to champion the profit motive in a party congress at Bad Godesberg in 1959. In power continuously from 1982 to 1998, the Christian Democrats presided over the unification of East Germany with West Germany following the collapse of Soviet-supported communist regimes across eastern Europe in 1989-90.

 Unlike in Italy and Germany, moderate conservative opinion in France was not represented by a Christian Democratic party. Instead, a large proportion of French conservatives supported parties such as Rally for the Republic, which espoused a highly nationalistic conservatism based on the legacy of Charles de Gaulle (Gaulle, Charles de), president of France from 1958 to 1969, or anti-immigration groups like the National Front; the latter, some would argue, is not so much conservative as reactionary or neofascist. Gaullist conservatism emphasizes tradition and order and aims at a politically united Europe under French leadership. Gaullists espouse divergent views on social issues, however. The large number of Gaullist and non-Gaullist conservative parties, their lack of stability, and their tendency to identify themselves with local issues make it difficult to categorize these groups in simple terms.

      In general, conservatism in Europe has been a pervasive political influence, finding expression in parties of very different character. These parties represent traditional middle-class values and oppose unnecessary state involvement in economic affairs and radical attempts at income redistribution. They are also characterized by an absence of ideology and often by the lack of any well-articulated political philosophy.

      The political and social changes that took place in Japan after the Meiji Restoration (1868) were significant and extensive, involving the abolition of feudal institutions and the introduction of Western political ideas such as constitutional government. However, despite institutional innovations and the dislocation resulting from rapid industrialization, political developments continued to be shaped primarily by traditional loyalties and attitudes. Except for the period of military government during the 1930s and '40s, Japan has been ruled by conservatives since the beginning of party politics in the 1880s. Conservative parties—the two most important of which merged to form the Liberal-Democratic Party (Liberal-Democratic Party of Japan) in 1955—have been dominated by personalities rather than by ideology and dogma; and personal loyalties to leaders of factions within the party, rather than commitment to policy, have determined the allegiance of conservative members of the Diet. As one American scholar, Nathaniel B. Thayer, describes them, the factions

have adopted the social values, customs, and relationships of an older Japan.…The old concepts of loyalty, hierarchy, and duty hold sway in them. And the Dietman (or any other Japanese) feels very comfortable when he steps into this world.

      The Liberal-Democratic Party is intimately linked with big business, and its policies are guided primarily by the objective of fostering a stable environment for the development of Japan's free-market economy. To this end, the party functions primarily as a broker between conflicting business interests.

United States
      Politics in the United States never quite conformed to the doctrinal patterns exhibited in continental Europe or even Britain, mainly because there was never a monarchy, an aristocracy, or an established church for conservatives to defend or for liberals to attack. The Federalists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries were conservative in their emphasis on order and security but were classic liberals in many other respects. The nearest thing to an American aristocracy was the wealthy plantation-owning class in the South before the Civil War. Members of this class generally favoured the rights of states against the power of the federal government, and prominent defenders of states' rights, such as John Calhoun, have properly been seen as conservative thinkers. This particular brand of conservatism eventually took on an antimodernist tone, as evidenced by the rise of the Southern Agrarians, whose 1930 manifesto, I'll Take My Stand, continues to inspire like-minded traditionalists in the United States today.

      But if there was relatively little explicit conservatism in the United States until well into the 20th century, the political history of the country has also been remarkably resistant to revolutionary radicalism. The American working class generally has shared the hopeful individualism of the middle class. As a result, the common view has been that the United States is a country of one basic political tradition: liberalism. For a long time it seemed that conservatism could not take root in a country founded on the liberal doctrines of the founding fathers.

      This perception began to change in the wake of the New Deal, the economic relief program undertaken by Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt (Roosevelt, Franklin D.) in 1933 to help raise the United States out of the Great Depression. This program greatly expanded the federal government's involvement in the economy through the regulation of private enterprise, the levying of higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and the expansion of social-welfare programs. The New Deal was stubbornly opposed by the Republican Party, whose main supporters were big business, the wealthy, and prosperous farmers.

      As Democratic liberals moved to the left in endorsing a larger role for government, Republicans generally clung to a 19th-century version of liberalism that called for the government to avoid interfering in the free market. This policy produced little success for Republicans at the polls. In matters of foreign policy, however, the Old Right, as these staunch conservatives were known, was powerful and popular enough to prevent the United States from entering World War II until the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941. By the time the Republicans regained the presidency in 1953, they had accepted most of the New Deal reforms and were preoccupied with the battle against communists at home and abroad.

      In the first decades after the war, the United States, like Britain, gradually expanded social services and increased government regulation of the economy. In the 1970s, however, the postwar economic growth that the U.S. and other Western governments had relied on to finance social-welfare programs began to slacken, just as Japan and other East Asian nations were finally attaining Western levels of prosperity. Whatever the causes of the West's economic stagnation, it became clear that liberal policies of governmental activism were incapable of solving the problem.

 At this point a new group of mainly American conservatives, the so-called “neoconservatives (neoconservatism),” arose to argue that the chief factors discouraging economic growth were high levels of taxation and the government's intrusive regulation of private enterprise. Inspired by the work of free-market economists such as Friedrich von Hayek (Hayek, F.A.) and Milton Friedman (Friedman, Milton), they generally accepted a minimal welfare state—something an older breed of conservative would never have done—and fought simply for reductions in social benefits and government spending (except spending on the military), lower taxes, and less government regulation of business. They also shared little of earlier conservatives' isolationist tendencies and protectionist impulses. Indeed, many of them argued that the United States had a right to intervene in the affairs of other nations in order to combat the influence of Soviet communism and to advance its own national interests; some even claimed that the United States had a duty to remake the non-Western world on the model of American democratic capitalism. In economic matters, neoconservatives were often hard to distinguish from classical liberals of the 19th century, who had likewise urged a minimum of government intervention in the economic life of nations. Among American political leaders, the chief representatives of neoconservatism were Republican presidents Ronald Reagan (Reagan, Ronald W.) and George W. Bush (Bush, George W.).

Conservatism at the turn of the 21st century
      Division, not unity, marked conservatism around the world at the end of the 20th century—this despite the defeat of conservatism's chief nemesis of the previous 50 years, Soviet communism. But perhaps this fissure is not surprising. Anticommunism was the glue that held the conservative movement together, and without this common enemy the many differences between conservatives became painfully clear. In Europe, for example, conservatives split over issues such as the desirability of a united Europe, the advantages of a single European currency (the euro, introduced in the countries of the European Union in 2002), and the region's proper role in policing troubled areas like the Balkans and the Middle East. Conservatism was even more divided in the United States. Abortion, immigration, national sovereignty, and “family values” were among the issues that rallied supporters but divided adherents into various camps, from neoconservatives and “paleoconservatives” (descendants of the Old Right who regarded neoconservatives as socially liberal and imperialistic in foreign affairs) to cultural traditionalists among groups such as the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority. The camps battled one another as well as perceived enemies in the so-called “Culture Wars” from the 1990s, and, through it all, each faction was convinced that it alone was carrying the true mantle of conservatism into the next millennium.

Kenneth Minogue Peter Viereck Ed.

Additional Reading

Classic works
The fountainhead of conservative thought is Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790); also significant is his An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs (1791).Many conservative ideas can be found in Richard Hooker, Of the Lavves of Ecclesiasticall Politie (1594–97); George Savile Halifax, The Character of a Trimmer (1688); Jonathan Swift, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (popularly known as Gulliver's Travels,1726); and Henry St. John Bolingbroke, The Idea of a Patriot King (1738; published, with changes, and with other material as Letters on the Spirit of Patriotism: on the Idea of a Patriot King: and on the State of Parties, at the Accession of King George the First, 1749). See also S. T. Coleridge, On the Constitution of Church and State According to the Idea of Each (1830); and Henry Sumner Maine, Popular Government (1885). Lord Hugh Cecil, Conservatism (1912), is an old-fashioned statement of conservative principles.

General studies
Useful anthologies include Peter Witonski (compiler), The Wisdom of Conservatism, 4 vol. (1971, reissued 1981); and Peter Viereck, Conservatism: From John Adams to Churchill (1956, reprinted 1978).Modern works in the Burkean tradition include Roger Scruton, The Meaning of Conservatism, 2nd ed. (1984); Peter Viereck, Conservatism Revisited, rev. and enlarged ed. (1962, reprinted 1978); Robert A. Nisbet, The Quest for Community (1953, reissued 1990; also published as Community and Power, 1962); Henry A. Kissinger, A World Restored (1957, reissued 1977); Eric Voegelin, Order and History, 5 vol. (1956–87); Thomas I. Cook and Malcolm Moos, Power Through Purpose (1954); Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (1953, reissued 1971), and What Is Political Philosophy?: And Other Studies (1959, reprinted 1988); Francis Graham Wilson, The Case for Conservatism (1951, reissued 1990); Ross J.S. Hoffman and Paul Levack (eds.), Burke's Politics (1949, reprinted 1967); and Walter Lippmann, The Cold War (1947, reissued 1972).Other conservative views can be found in Kenneth Minogue (ed.), Conservative Realism (1996); Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, 7th rev. ed. (1986, reissued 1995), Prospects for Conservatives (1956, reissued 1989), and Enemies of the Permanent Things, rev. ed. (1984); Nellie D. Kendall (ed.), Willmoore Kendall contra mundum (1971, reissued 1994); Thomas Molnar, The Counter-Revolution (1969); J. Enoch Powell, Freedom and Reality (1969); Ronald Reagan, The Creative Society (1968); Milton Friedman and Rose D. Freidman, Capitalism and Freedom (1962, reissued 1982); Frank S. Meyer, In Defense of Freedom (1962), and The Conservative Mainstream (1969); Barry Goldwater, Conscience of a Conservative (1960, reissued 1990); Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality (1952, reissued 1993); and William F. Buckley, God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of Academic Freedom (1951, reissued 1986), and Up from Liberalism(1959, reprinted 1984).

Country and regional studies
Conservatism in Great Britain is discussed in James J. Sack, From Jacobite to Conservative: Reaction and Orthodoxy in Britain, c. 1760–1832 (1993); Arthur Aughey, Greta Jones, and W.T.M. Riches, The Conservative Political Tradition in Britain and the United States (1992); Shirley Robin Letwin, The Anatomy of Thatcherism (1993); Michael Oakeshott, Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, new and expanded ed. (1991); Peregrine Worsthorne, The Socialist Myth (1971); Henry Fairlie, The Life of Politics (1968); Quintin Hogg, The Conservative Case, rev. ed. (1959); L.S. Amery, The Forward View (1935, reprinted 1971); F.J.C. Hearnshaw, Conservatism in England (1933, reprinted 1968); Arthur Bryant, The Spirit of Conservatism, 2nd ed. (1932); and Hugh Cecil, Conservatism (1912, reissued 1937).Conservatism in the United States is covered in Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., America's Constitutional Soul (1991); Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America, 2nd ed., rev. (1962, reprinted 1982); George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, since 1945, updated ed. (1996); Jeffrey Hart, The American Dissent (1966); James Burnham, Congress and the American Tradition (1959, reprinted 1996), and Suicide of the West (1964, reissued 1985); Daniel J. Boorstin, The Genius of American Politics (1953, reissued 1973); and Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (1952, reissued 1984); Richard Viguerie, The New Right (1980); and Alan Crawford, Thunder on the Right (1980).Conservatism in other countries is considered in Cameron Hazlehurst (ed.), Australian Conservatism: Essays in Twentieth Century Political History (1979); Katharine West, The Revolution in Australian Politics (1984); Malcolm Anderson, Conservative Politics in France (1974); Larry Eugene Jones and James Retallack (eds.), Between Reform, Reaction, and Resistance: Studies in the History of German Conservatism from 1789 to 1945 (1993); John Weiss, Conservatism in Europe, 1770–1945: Traditionalism, Reaction, and Counter-Revolution (1977); T.J. Pempel, Policy and Politics in Japan: Creative Conservatism (1982); Paul Gifford, The New Crusaders: Christianity and the New Right in Southern Africa, rev. ed. (1991); and Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (eds.), Fundamentalisms Observed (1991), a worldwide study.

Contemporary conservatism
Burton Yale Pines, Back to Basics (1982), recounts the conservative resurgence of the 1970s in the United States. Irving Kristol, Reflections of a Neoconservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead (1983), is a political autobiography by one of the founders of the neoconservative movement. Perspectives on post-Keynesianism can be found in Bruce Frohnen, Virtue and the Promise of Conservatism (1993); Peter H. Merkl and Leonard Weinberg (eds.), Encounters with the Contemporary Radical Right (1993); and Paul Hainsworth (ed.), The Extreme Right in Europe and the USA (1992). Michael Lienesch, Redeeming America: Piety and Politics in the New Christian Right (1993), discusses conservatism and religion.Kenneth Minogue Peter Viereck

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Universalium. 2010.

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