conservatism

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conservatism,

in politics, the desire to maintain, or conserve, the existing order. Conservatives value the wisdom of the past and are generally opposed to widespread reform. Modern political conservatism emerged in the 19th cent. in reaction to the political and social changes associated with the eras of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. By 1850 the term conservatism, probably first used by Chateaubriand, generally meant the politics of the rightright,
in politics, the more conservative groups in the political spectrum, in contrast to the radical left and the liberal center. The designation stems from the seating of the nobility on the right side of the presiding officer in the French National Assembly of 1789.
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. The original tenets of European conservatism had already been formulated by Edmund BurkeBurke, Edmund,
1729–97, British political writer and statesman, b. Dublin, Ireland. Early Writings

After graduating (1748) from Trinity College, Dublin, he began the study of law in London but abandoned it to devote himself to writing.
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, Joseph de MaistreMaistre, Joseph de
, 1753–1821, French writer and diplomat. Born in Savoy, he was Sardinian ambassador at St. Petersburg from 1803 to 1817. A passionate Roman Catholic and royalist, he was master of a rigidly logical doctrine and the possessor of a great store of knowledge.
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, and others. They emphasized preserving the power of king and aristocracy, maintaining the influence of landholders against the rising industrial bourgeoisie, limiting suffrage, and continuing ties between church and statechurch and state,
the relationship between the religion or religions of a nation and the civil government of that nation, especially the relationship between the Christian church and various civil governments.
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. The conservative view that social welfare was the responsibility of the privileged inspired passage of much humanitarian legislation, in which English conservatives usually led the way. In the late 19th cent. great conservative statesmen, notably Benjamin DisraeliDisraeli, Benjamin, 1st earl of Beaconsfield
, 1804–81, British statesman and author. He is regarded as the founder of the modern Conservative party.
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, exemplified the conservative tendency to resort to moderate reform in order to preserve the foundations of the established order. By the 20th cent. conservatism was being redirected by erstwhile liberal manufacturing and professional groups who had achieved many of their political aims and had become more concerned with preserving them from attack by groups not so favored. Conservatism lost its predominantly agrarian and semifeudal bias, and accepted democratic suffrage, advocated economic laissez-fairelaissez-faire
[Fr.,=leave alone], in economics and politics, doctrine that an economic system functions best when there is no interference by government. It is based on the belief that the natural economic order tends, when undisturbed by artificial stimulus or regulation, to
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, and opposed extension of the welfare state. This form of conservatism, which is best seen in highly industrialized nations, was exemplified by President ReaganReagan, Ronald Wilson
, 1911–2004, 40th president of the United States (1981–89), b. Tampico, Ill. In 1932, after graduation from Eureka College, he became a radio announcer and sportscaster.
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 in the United States and Prime Minister ThatcherThatcher, Margaret Hilda Roberts Thatcher, Baroness,
1925–2013, British political leader. Great Britain's first woman prime minister, nicknamed the "Iron Lady" for her uncompromising political stance, Thatcher served longer than any other British prime minister in the 20th
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 in Great Britain. It has been flexible and receptive to moderate change, favors the maintenance of order on social issues, and actively supports deregulation and privatization in the economic sphere. Conservatism should be distinguished both from a reactionary desire for the past and the radical right-wing ideology of fascismfascism
, totalitarian philosophy of government that glorifies the state and nation and assigns to the state control over every aspect of national life. The name was first used by the party started by Benito Mussolini, who ruled Italy from 1922 until the Italian defeat in World
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 and National Socialism.

Bibliography

See R. Kirk, The Conservative Mind (rev. ed. 1960); J. Habermas, The New Conservatism (1989); T. Honderich, Conservatism (1991); C. Robin, The Reactionary Mind (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/

conservatism

  1. any social and political doctrine which seeks to defend the institutions and social values of the existing order.
  2. any relatively stable set of POLITICAL ATTITUDES in support of the status quo, i.e. policies which seek to sustain or renovate rather than reconstruct the social fabric. As such, conservatism is the opposite of radicalism.
  3. support for the British Conservative Party. Conservative political ideology, in its modern forms, first manifested itself as a reaction to the French Revolution. Edmund Burke, in his Reflections on the French Revolution (1790), produced a classic statement in defence of the old order. His central argument was that the established social and political institutions should be defended because they existed; they had grown ‘organically’. Hence, they were a better guide to action than any theoretical construction, no matter how rational the latter may seem. Burke's ideas have provided a core theme. Conservatism has rarely been based on any overtly stated political philosophy, since the danger is that it could be regarded as ‘abstract’ and ‘ideological’.
Another persistent theme of traditional conservatism has been that the social order must be maintained by a leadership composed of ÉLITES holding key positions of political responsibility The STATE is seen as playing a central role in guaranteeing the social order, authority, and the maintenance of social hierarchy Inequalities are seen as necessary elements of society Conservatives also stress the importance of custom and tradition as prerequisites of a stable social order. MANNHEIM (1953), however, distinguishes between conservatism and ‘static traditionalism’. Conservative politics has often involved changes which have been seen as necessary for the preservation of the social order: renovation rather than reconstruction of the social fabric. Such notions rest on another central theme in conservative thought, the belief that the mass of people, because of their inherent qualities, including ignorance and selfishness, are unlikely to create a satisfactory social order through their own efforts. See also WORKING-CLASS CONSERVATISM, DEFERENCE, NEW RIGHT, THATCHERISM, PROPERTY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Conservatism

 

adherence to all that is old, outmoded, and stagnant and hostility and opposition to progress and to everything that is new and progressive in society, science, technology, and art.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Conservatism

Apley, George
scion of an old Boston society family, he exemplifies its traditions and remains in old-fashioned mediocrity. [Am. Lit.: The Late George Apley in Magill I, 499]
Conservative party
British political party, once called the Tory party. [Br. Hist.: NCE, 632]
Daughters of the American Revolution
(D.A.R) conservative society of female descendants of Revolutionary War soldiers. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 132]
elephant
symbol of the Republican party. [Am. Hist.: Misc.]
John Birch Society
ultraconservative, anti-Communist organization. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1421]
laissez-faire
political doctrine that an economic system functions best without governmental interference. [Politics: Misc.]
Luddites
arch-conservative workmen; smashed labor-saving machinery (1779). [Br. Hist.: Espy, 107]
Republican Party
U.S. political party, generally espousing a conservative platform. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 424]
Warbucks, Daddy
espouses a reactionary law-and-order society threatened by decadence, bureaucracy, and loss of Puritan virtues. [Comics: Berger, 84]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
For the chattering classes, the Lott-Gingrich tandem running Congress was seen as completing the triumph of southern ultraconservatism. Many liberals feared that Lott and Gingrich would revert to a take-no-prisoners assault on Big Government that would shake the foundations of the republic.
In the months ahead, every person who values our fundamental liberties will need to get personally involved in the struggle to hold back the tidal wave of militant sectarian ultraconservatism. Among the organizations that readers of this column would do well to support (with money, time, and so forth) are the American Humanist Association, Americans for Religious Liberty, the National Coalition for Public Education and Religious Liberty, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League, the Institute for First Amendment Studies, the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, and People for the American Way, among others.
As a society we seem to vacillate between the so-called liberal stance of "I'm okay, you're okay" to the ultraconservatism of "Nobody's okay except people like me." So between those two extremes there must be a place people can stand.
The authors trace the first big futures project undertaken by a city to Dallas in the 1960s, which, after the shock of the Kennedy assassination, "found itself under attack for its ultraconservatism, its business-dominated power structure, and its resistance to civil rights." What emerged was the Goals for Dallas project, which by 1976 had involved more than 100,000 citizens in a redevelopment plan.
Although builders of mini-environments might be expected to tout their own technology, such a statement still bears the whiff of revolution in an industry known for its ultraconservatism.