This article is about conservatism as a political and social philosophy. For other uses of conservatism and conservative, see Conservatism (disambiguation)
The first established use of the term in a political context originated in 1818 with François-René de Chateaubriand
during the period of Bourbon Restoration
that sought to roll back the policies of the French Revolution
. Historically associated with right-wing politics
, the term has since been used to describe a wide range of views
. There is no single set of policies regarded as conservative because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time. Conservative thought has varied considerably as it has adapted itself to existing traditions and national cultures.
For example, some conservatives advocate for greater government intervention
in the economy
while others advocate for a more laissez faire
free market economic system.
Thus conservatives from different parts of the world—each upholding their respective traditions—may disagree on a wide range of issues. Edmund Burke
, an 18th-century politician who opposed the French Revolution, but supported the American Revolution
, is credited as one of the main theorists of conservatism in the 1790s.
Some writers such as Samuel P. Huntington
see conservatism as situational. Under this definition, conservatives are seen as defending the established institutions of their time.
According to Quintin Hogg
, the chairman of the British Conservative Party
in 1959: "Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself".
Despite the lack of a universal definition, certain themes can be recognised as common across conservative thought.
According to Michael Oakeshott
, "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."
Such traditionalism may be a reflection of trust in time-tested methods of social organisation, giving 'votes to the dead'.
Traditions may also be steeped in a sense of identity.
In contrast to the tradition-based definition of conservatism, some political theorists such as Corey Robin
define conservatism primarily in terms of a general defense of social
and economic inequality
From this perspective, conservatism is less an attempt to uphold traditional institutions and more "a meditation on—and theoretical rendition of—the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back".
Conversely, some conservatives may argue that they are seeking less to protect their own power than they are seeking to protect "inalienable rights" and promote norms and rules that they believe should stand timeless and eternal, applying to each citizen.
Conservatism has been called a "philosophy of human imperfection" by Noël O'Sullivan
, reflecting among its adherents a negative view of human nature
and pessimism of the potential to improve it through 'utopian' schemes.
The "intellectual godfather of the realist right", Thomas Hobbes
, argued that the state of nature
for humans was "poor, nasty, brutish, and short", requiring centralised authority.
incorporates the classical liberal
view of minimal government intervention in the economy. Individuals should be free to participate in the market and generate wealth without government interference.
However, individuals cannot be thoroughly depended on to act responsibly in other spheres of life, therefore liberal conservatives believe that a strong state is necessary to ensure law and order and social institutions are needed to nurture a sense of duty and responsibility to the nation.
Liberal conservatism is a variant of conservatism that is strongly influenced by liberal
As these latter two terms have had different meanings over time and across countries, liberal conservatism also has a wide variety of meanings. Historically, the term often referred to the combination of economic liberalism
, which champions laissez-faire
markets, with the classical conservatism concern for established tradition
, respect for authority and religious values. It contrasted itself with classical liberalism
, which supported freedom for the individual
in both the economic and social spheres.
Over time, the general conservative ideology in many countries adopted fiscally conservative arguments and the term liberal conservatism was replaced with conservatism. This is also the case in countries where liberal economic ideas have been the tradition such as the United States and are thus considered conservative. In other countries where liberal conservative movements have entered the political mainstream, such as Italy
, the terms liberal and conservative may be synonymous. The liberal conservative tradition in the United States combines the economic individualism
of the classical liberals with a Burkean
form of conservatism (which has also become part of the American conservative
tradition, such as in the writings of Russell Kirk
A secondary meaning for the term liberal conservatism that has developed in Europe
is a combination of more modern conservative (less traditionalist) views with those of social liberalism
. This has developed as an opposition to the more collectivist
views of socialism
. Often this involves stressing conservative views of free market
economics and belief in individual responsibility, with communitarian
views on defence of civil rights
and support for a limited welfare state
. In continental Europe, this is sometimes also translated into English as social conservatism.
Many conservatives, especially in the United States, believe that the government should not play a major role in regulating business and managing the economy. They typically oppose efforts to charge high tax rates and to redistribute income to assist the poor. Such efforts, they argue, only serve to exacerbate the scourge of unemployment and poverty by lessening the ability for businesses to hire employees due to higher tax impositions.
[I]t is to the property of the citizen, and not to the demands of the creditor of the state, that the first and original faith of civil society is pledged. The claim of the citizen is prior in time, paramount in title, superior in equity. The fortunes of individuals, whether possessed by acquisition or by descent or in virtue of a participation in the goods of some community, were no part of the creditor's security, expressed or implied...[T]he public, whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can pledge nothing but the public estate; and it can have no public estate except in what it derives from a just and proportioned imposition upon the citizens at large.
is a political term used primarily in Europe to describe a variant of conservatism which concentrates more on national interests than standard conservatism as well as upholding cultural and ethnic identity,
while not being outspokenly nationalist
or supporting a far-right
In Europe, national conservatives are usually eurosceptics
National conservatism is heavily oriented towards the traditional family
and social stability as well as in favour of limiting immigration
. As such, national conservatives can be distinguished from economic conservatives, for whom free market economic policies, deregulation
and fiscal conservatism are the main priorities. Some commentators have identified a growing gap between national and economic conservatism: "[M]ost parties of the Right [today] are run by economic conservatives who, in varying degrees, have marginalized social, cultural, and national conservatives".
National conservatism is also related to traditionalist conservatism
support the preservation of the heritage of one nation, or of a shared culture that is not defined by national boundaries.
The shared culture may be as divergent as Western culture
or Chinese culture
. In the United States, the term "cultural conservative" may imply a conservative position in the culture war
. Cultural conservatives hold fast to traditional ways of thinking even in the face of monumental change. They believe strongly in traditional values and traditional politics and often have an urgent sense of nationalism.
is distinct from cultural conservatism, although there are some overlaps. Social conservatives may believe that society is built upon a fragile network of relationships which need to be upheld through duty, traditional values and established institutions;
and that the government has a role in encouraging or enforcing traditional values or behaviours. A social conservative wants to preserve traditional morality and social mores, often by opposing what they consider radical policies or social engineering
. Social change is generally regarded as suspect.
Religious conservatism principally applies the teachings of particular religions to politics: sometimes by merely proclaiming the value of those teachings; at other times, by having those teachings influence laws.
In most democracies, political conservatism seeks to uphold traditional family structures and social values. Religious conservatives typically oppose abortion, LGBT
behavior (or, in certain cases, identity), drug use,
and sexual activity outside of marriage. In some cases, conservative values are grounded in religious beliefs, and conservatives seek to increase the role of religion in public life.
Paternalistic conservatism is a strand in conservatism which reflects the belief that societies exist and develop organically and that members within them have obligations towards each other.
There is particular emphasis on the paternalistic obligation
of those who are privileged
to the poorer parts of society
. Since it is consistent with principles such as organicism
, it can be seen as an outgrowth of traditional conservatism
. Paternal conservatives support neither the individual
nor the state
in principle, but are instead prepared to support either or recommend a balance between the two depending on what is most practical.
Paternalistic conservatives historically favor a more aristocratic
view (as opposed to the more monarchist traditionalist conservatism) and are ideologically related to High Tories
In the United States, Theodore Roosevelt
has been the main figure identified with progressive conservatism as a political tradition. Roosevelt stated that he had "always believed that wise progressivism and wise conservatism go hand in hand".
administration of President William Howard Taft
was a progressive conservative and he described himself as "a believer in progressive conservatism"
and President Dwight D. Eisenhower
declared himself an advocate of "progressive conservatism".
or reactionary conservatism
refers to autocratic
regimes that center their ideology around conservative nationalism
, rather than ethnic nationalism
, though certain racial components such as antisemitism
Authoritarian conservative movements show strong devotion towards religion, tradition and culture while also expressing fervent nationalism akin to other far-right nationalist movements. Examples of authoritarian conservative leaders include António de Oliveira Salazar
and Engelbert Dollfuss
Authoritarian conservative movements were prominent in the same era as fascism
, with which it sometimes clashed. Although both ideologies shared core values such as nationalism and had common enemies such as communism
, there was nonetheless a contrast between the traditionalist nature of authoritarian conservatism and the revolutionary, palingenetic
and populist nature of fascism—thus it was common for authoritarian conservative regimes to suppress rising fascist and National Socialist movements
The hostility between the two ideologies is highlighted by the struggle for power for the National Socialists
in Austria, which was marked by the assassination of Engelbert Dollfuss
Sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset
has examined the class basis of right-wing extremist politics in the 1920–1960 era. He reports:
Conservative or rightist extremist movements have arisen at different periods in modern history, ranging from the Horthyites
in Hungary, the Christian Social Party of Dollfuss in Austria
, Der Stahlhelm
and other nationalists in pre-Hitler Germany, and Salazar in Portugal
, to the pre-1966 Gaullist movements and the monarchists in contemporary France and Italy. The right extremists are conservative, not revolutionary. They seek to change political institutions in order to preserve or restore cultural and economic ones, while extremists of the centre and left seek to use political means for cultural and social revolution. The ideal of the right extremist is not a totalitarian ruler, but a monarch, or a traditionalist who acts like one. Many such movements in Spain, Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Italy-have been explicitly monarchist... The supporters of these movements differ from those of the centrists, tending to be wealthier, and more religious, which is more important in terms of a potential for mass support.
History of conservative thought
In Great Britain, the Tory
movement during the Restoration
period (1660–1688) was a precursor to conservatism. Toryism supported a hierarchical society with a monarch who ruled by divine right
. However, Tories
differ from conservatives in that they opposed the idea that sovereignty derived from the people and rejected the authority of parliament and freedom of religion. Robert Filmer
's Patriarcha: or the Natural Power of Kings
(published posthumously in 1680, but written before the English Civil War
of 1642–1651) became accepted as the statement of their doctrine. However, the Glorious Revolution
of 1688 destroyed this principle to some degree by establishing a constitutional government in England, leading to the hegemony of the Tory-opposed Whig
ideology. Faced with defeat, the Tories reformed their movement. They adopted more conservative positions, such as holding that sovereignty was vested in the three estates of Crown, Lords, and Commons
rather than solely in the Crown. Richard Hooker
(1554–1600), Marquess of Halifax
(1633–1695) and David Hume
(1711-1776) were proto-conservatives of the period. Halifax promoted pragmatism in government whilst Hume argued against political rationalism and utopianism.
(1729–1797) has been widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism
Burke served as the private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham
and as official pamphleteer to the Rockingham branch of the Whig party
Together with the Tories, they were the conservatives in the late 18th century United Kingdom.
Burke's views were a mixture of conservatism and republicanism. He supported the American Revolution
of 1775–1783 but abhorred the violence of the French Revolution
(1789–1799). He accepted the conservative ideals of private property and the economics of Adam Smith
(1723–1790), but thought that economics should remain subordinate to the conservative social ethic, that capitalism should be subordinate to the medieval social tradition and that the business class should be subordinate to aristocracy
He insisted on standards of honor derived from the medieval aristocratic tradition and saw the aristocracy as the nation's natural leaders.
That meant limits on the powers of the Crown, since he found the institutions of Parliament to be better informed than commissions appointed by the executive. He favored an established church
, but allowed for a degree of religious toleration
Burke ultimately justified the social order on the basis of tradition: tradition represented the wisdom of the species and he valued community and social harmony over social reforms.
Both Burke and Maistre were critical of pure democracy in general, though their reasons differed.
Maistre was pessimistic about humans being able to follow rules, while Burke was skeptical about humans' innate ability to make rules.
For Maistre, rules had a divine origin, while Burke believed they arose from custom.
The lack of custom for Burke, and the lack of divine guidance for Maistre, meant that people would act in terrible ways.
Both also believed that liberty of the wrong kindled to bewilderment and political breakdown.
Their ideas would together flow into a stream of anti-rationalist conservatism, but would still stay separate.
Whereas Burke was more open to argumentation and disagreement, Maistre wanted authority and obedience, leading to a more illiberal strain of thought.
History of conservative parties and movements
Conservative political parties vary widely from country to country in the goals they wish to achieve. Both conservative and liberal parties tend to favor private ownership of property, in opposition to communist, socialist and green parties, which favor communal ownership or laws requiring social responsibility on the part of property owners. Where conservatives and liberals differ is primarily on social issues. Conservatives tend to reject behavior that does not conform
to some social norm
. Modern conservative parties often define themselves by their opposition to liberal or labor parties. The United States usage of the term "conservative" is unique to that country.
In Italy, which was united by liberals and radicals (Risorgimento
), liberals, not conservatives, emerged as the party of the right.
In the Netherlands, conservatives merged into a new Christian democratic party in 1980.
In Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain, conservatism was transformed into and incorporated into fascism or the far-right
In 1940, all Japanese parties were merged into a single fascist party. Following the war, Japanese conservatives briefly returned to politics, but were largely purged from public office.
Conservative elites have long dominated Latin American nations. Mostly, this has been achieved through control of and support for civil institutions, the church and the armed forces, rather than through party politics. Typically, the church was exempt from taxes and its employees immune from civil prosecution. Where national conservative parties were weak or non-existent, conservatives were more likely to rely on military dictatorship as a preferred form of government. However, in some nations where the elites were able to mobilize popular support for conservative parties, longer periods of political stability were achieved. Chile, Colombia and Venezuela are examples of nations that developed strong conservative parties. Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador and Peru are examples of nations where this did not occur.
The Conservative Party of Venezuela disappeared following the Federal Wars
Chile's conservative party, the National Party
, disbanded in 1973 following a military coup and did not re-emerge as a political force following the subsequent return to democracy. Louis Hartz
explained conservatism in Quebec and Latin America as a result of their settlement as feudal societies.
The American conservative writer Russell Kirk
provided the opinion that conservatism had been brought to the United States and interpreted the American Revolution as a "conservative revolution".
Historic conservatism in different countries
Although political conservatism developed in most countries, most countries did not have conservative parties. Many conservatives parties disappeared as the reasons for there existence disappeared. Below are listed the historic conservative parties that survive today.
Canada's conservatives had their roots in the Tory loyalists who left America after the American Revolution. They developed in the socio-economic and political cleavages that existed during the first three decades of the 19th century and had the support of the business, professional and established Church (Anglican) elites in Ontario and to a lesser extent in Quebec. Holding a monopoly over administrative and judicial offices, they were called the "Family Compact
" in Ontario and the "Chateau Clique
" in Quebec. John A. Macdonald
's successful leadership of the movement to confederate the provinces and his subsequent tenure as prime minister for most of the late 19th century rested on his ability to bring together the English-speaking Protestant oligarchy and the ultramontane
Catholic hierarchy of Quebec and to keep them united in a conservative coalition.
The conservative and autonomist Union Nationale
, led by Maurice Duplessis
, governed the province of Quebec in periods from 1936 to 1960 and in a close alliance with the Catholic Church, small rural elites, farmers and business elites. This period, known by liberals as the Great Darkness
, ended with the Quiet Revolution
and the party went into terminal decline.
By the end of the 1960s, the political debate in Quebec centered around the question of independence, opposing the social democratic
and sovereignistParti Québécois
and the centrist
and federalistQuebec Liberal Party
, therefore marginalizing the conservative movement. Most French Canadian conservatives rallied either the Quebec Liberal Party
or the Parti Québécois
, while some of them still tried to offer an autonomist third-way with what was left of the Union Nationale
or the more populists Ralliement créditiste du Québec
and Parti national populaire
, but by the 1981 provincial election
politically organized conservatism had been obliterated in Quebec. It slowly started to revive at the 1994 provincial election
with the Action démocratique du Québec
, who served as Official opposition
in the National Assembly
from 2007 to 2008, before its merger with François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec
in 2012, that took power in 2018.
The Colombian Conservative Party
, founded in 1849, traces its origins to opponents of General Francisco de Paula Santander
's 1833–1837 administration. While the term "liberal" had been used to describe all political forces in Colombia, the conservatives began describing themselves as "conservative liberals" and their opponents as "red liberals". From the 1860s until the present, the party has supported strong central government; supported the Catholic Church, especially its role as protector of the sanctity of the family; and opposed separation of church and state. Its policies include the legal equality of all men, the citizen's right to own property and opposition to dictatorship. It has usually been Colombia's second largest party, with the Colombian Liberal Party
being the largest.
Founded in 1915, the Conservative People's Party of Denmark
. was the successor of Højre
). The conservative party led the government coalition from 1982 to 1993. The party was a junior partner in coalition with the Liberals
from 2001 to 2011.
The party is preceded by 11 years by the Young Conservatives (KU)
, today the youth movement of the party. The party suffered a major defeat in the parliamentary elections of September 2011 in which the party lost more than half of its seat and also lost governmental power. A liberal cultural policy dominated during the post-war period. However, by the 1990s, disagreements regarding immigrants from entirely different cultures ignited a conservative backlash.
The conservative party in Finland is the National Coalition Party
(in Finnish Kansallinen Kokoomus
). The party was founded in 1918 when several monarchist parties united. Although in the past the party was right-wing, today it is a moderate liberal conservative party. While the party advocates economic liberalism
, it is committed to the social market economy
Conservatism in France focused on the rejection of the secularism of the French Revolution, support for the role of the Catholic Church and the restoration of the monarchy.
The monarchist cause was on the verge of victory in the 1870s, but then collapsed because the proposed king refused to fly the tri-colored flag.
Religious tensions heightened in the 1890–1910 era, but moderated after the spirit of unity in fighting the First World War.
An extreme form of conservatism characterized the Vichy regime
of 1940–1944 with heightened antisemitism, opposition to individualism, emphasis on family life and national direction of the economy.
Following the Second World War, conservatives in France supported Gaullist groups and have been nationalistic and emphasized tradition, order and the regeneration of France.
Gaullists held divergent views on social issues. The number of conservative groups, their lack of stability and their tendency to be identified with local issues defy simple categorization. Conservatism has been the major political force in France since the Second World War.
Unusually, post-war French conservatism was formed around the personality of a leader, Charles de Gaulle
; and did not draw on traditional French conservatism, but on the Bonapartism
Gaullism in France continues under The Republicans
(formerly Union for a Popular Movement
), which was previously led by Nicolas Sarkozy
, a conservative figure in France.
The word "conservative" itself is a term of abuse in France.
The main inter-war conservative party was called the People's Party
(PP), which supported constitutional monarchy
and opposed the republican Liberal Party
. Both it and the Liberal party were suppressed by the authoritarian, arch-conservative and royalist 4th of August Regime
of Ioannis Metaxas
in 1936–1941. The PP was able to re-group after the Second World War as part of a United Nationalist Front which achieved power campaigning on a simple anticommunist, ultranationalist platform during the Greek Civil War
(1946–1949). However, the vote received by the PP declined during the so-called "Centrist Interlude" in 1950–1952. In 1952, Marshal Alexandros Papagos
created the Greek Rally
as an umbrella for the right-wing forces. The Greek Rally came to power in 1952 and remained the leading party in Greece until 1963—after Papagos' death in 1955 reformed as the National Radical Union
under Konstantinos Karamanlis
. Right-wing governments backed by the palace and the army overthrew the Centre Union
government in 1965 and governed the country until the establishment of the far-right Greek junta
(1967–1974). After the regime's collapse
in August 1974, Karamanlis returned from exile to lead the government and founded the New Democracy
party. The new conservative party had four objectives: to confront Turkish expansionism in Cyprus
, to reestablish and solidify democratic rule, to give the country a strong government and to make a powerful moderate party a force in Greek politics.
Founded in 1924 as the Conservative Party
, Iceland's Independence Party
adopted its current name in 1929 after the merger with the Liberal Party
. From the beginning, they have been the largest vote-winning party, averaging around 40%. They combined liberalism and conservatism, supported nationalization of infrastructure and opposed class conflict. While mostly in opposition during the 1930s, they embraced economic liberalism
, but accepted the welfare state after the war and participated in governments supportive of state intervention and protectionism. Unlike other Scandanivian conservative (and liberal) parties, it has always had a large working-class following.
After the financial crisis in 2008, the party has sunk to a lower support level around 20–25%.
Luxembourg's major conservative party, the Christian Social People's Party
(CSV or PCS), was formed as the Party of the Right in 1914 and adopted its present name in 1945. It was consistently the largest political party in Luxembourg, and dominated politics throughout the 20th century.
The Conservative Party of Norway
(Norwegian: Høyre, literally "right"
) was formed by the old upper class of state officials and wealthy merchants to fight the populist democracy of the Liberal Party
, but lost power in 1884, when parliamentarian government was first practised. It formed its first government under parliamentarism in 1889 and continued to alternate in power with the Liberals until the 1930s, when Labour became the dominant political party. It has elements both of paternalism, stressing the responsibilities of the state, and of economic liberalism. It first returned to power in the 1960s.
During Kåre Willoch's premiership
in the 1980s, much emphasis was laid on liberalizing the credit and housing market, and abolishing the NRK
TV and radio monopoly, while supporting law and order
in criminal justice and traditional norms in education
Sweden's conservative party, the Moderate Party
, was formed in 1904, two years after the founding of the Liberal Party
The party emphasizes tax reductions, deregulation of private enterprise and privatization of schools, hospitals, and kindergartens.
The Swiss People's Party
(SVP or UDC) was formed from the 1971 merger of the Party of Farmers, Traders and Citizens
, formed in 1917 and the smaller Swiss Democratic Party, formed in 1942. The SVP emphasized agricultural policy and was strong among farmers in German-speaking Protestant areas. As Switzerland considered closer relations with the European Union in the 1990s, the SVP adopted a more militant protectionist and isolationist stance. This stance has allowed it to expand into German-speaking Catholic mountainous areas.
The Anti-Defamation League
, a non-Swiss lobby group based in the United States has accused them of manipulating issues such as immigration, Swiss neutrality and welfare benefits, awakening antisemitism and racism.
The Council of Europe
has called the SVP "extreme right", although some scholars dispute this classification. For instance, Hans-Georg Betz describes it as "populist radical right".
The SVP is the largest party since 2003.
According to historian James Sack, English conservatives celebrate Edmund Burke
who was Irish, as their intellectual father.
Burke was affiliated with the Whig Party
which eventually became the Liberal Party
, but the modern Conservative Party
is generally thought to derive from the Tory party
and the MPs of the modern conservative party are still frequently referred to as Tories.
Shortly after Burke's death in 1797, conservatism revived as a mainstream political force as the Whigs suffered a series of internal divisions. This new generation of conservatives derived their politics not from Burke, but from his predecessor, the Viscount Bolingbroke
(1678–1751), who was a Jacobite and traditional Tory, lacking Burke's sympathies for Whiggish policies such as Catholic emancipation
and American independence
(famously attacked by Samuel Johnson
in "Taxation No Tyranny"). In the first half of the 19th century, many newspapers, magazines, and journals promoted loyalist or right-wing attitudes in religion, politics and international affairs. Burke was seldom mentioned, but William Pitt the Younger
(1759–1806) became a conspicuous hero. The most prominent journals included The Quarterly Review
, founded in 1809 as a counterweight to the Whigs' Edinburgh Review
and the even more conservative Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine
. Sack finds that the Quarterly Review
promoted a balanced Canningite toryism as it was neutral on Catholic emancipation and only mildly critical of Nonconformist Dissent; it opposed slavery and supported the current poor laws; and it was "aggressively imperialist". The high-church
clergy of the Church of England read the Orthodox Churchman's Magazine
which was equally hostile to Jewish, Catholic, Jacobin
spokesmen. Anchoring the ultra Tories, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine
stood firmly against Catholic emancipation and favoured slavery, cheap money, mercantilism, the Navigation Acts
and the Holy Alliance
Conservatism evolved after 1820, embracing free trade in 1846 and a commitment to democracy, especially under Disraeli. The effect was to significantly strengthen conservatism as a grassroots political force. Conservatism no longer was the philosophical defense of the landed aristocracy, but had been refreshed into redefining its commitment to the ideals of order, both secular and religious, expanding imperialism, strengthened monarchy and a more generous vision of the welfare state as opposed to the punitive vision of the Whigs and liberals.
As early as 1835, Disraeli attacked the Whigs and utilitarians as slavishly devoted to an industrial oligarchy, while he described his fellow Tories as the only "really democratic party of England" and devoted to the interests of the whole people.
Nevertheless, inside the party there was a tension between the growing numbers of wealthy businessmen on the one side and the aristocracy and rural gentry on the other.
The aristocracy gained strength as businessmen discovered they could use their wealth to buy a peerage and a country estate.
Although conservatives opposed attempts to allow greater representation of the middle class in parliament, they conceded that electoral reform
could not be reversed and promised to support further reforms so long as they did not erode the institutions of church and state. These new principles were presented in the Tamworth Manifesto
of 1834, which historians regard as the basic statement of the beliefs of the new Conservative Party.
Some conservatives lamented the passing of a pastoral world where the ethos of noblesse oblige
had promoted respect from the lower classes. They saw the Anglican Church
and the aristocracy as balances against commercial wealth.
They worked toward legislation for improved working conditions and urban housing.
This viewpoint would later be called Tory democracy
However, since Burke, there has always been tension between traditional aristocratic conservatism and the wealthy business class.
In 1834, Tory Prime Minister Robert Peel
issued the Tamworth Manifesto
in which he pledged to endorse moderate political reform. This marked the beginning of the transformation of British conservatism from High Tory
reactionism towards a more modern form based on "conservation". The party became known as the Conservative Party
as a result, a name it has retained to this day. However, Peel would also be the root of a split in the party between the traditional Tories (led by the Earl of Derby
and Benjamin Disraeli
) and the "Peelites" (led first by Peel himself, then by the Earl of Aberdeen
). The split occurred in 1846 over the issue of free trade
, which Peel supported, versus protectionism
, supported by Derby. The majority of the party sided with Derby whilst about a third split away, eventually merging with the Whigs
and the radicals
to form the Liberal Party
. Despite the split, the mainstream Conservative Party accepted the doctrine of free trade in 1852.
In the second half of the 19th century, the Liberal Party faced political schisms, especially over IrishHome Rule
. Leader William Gladstone
(himself a former Peelite) sought to give Ireland a degree of autonomy, a move that elements in both the left and right-wings of his party opposed. These split off to become the Liberal Unionists
(led by Joseph Chamberlain
), forming a coalition with the Conservatives before merging with them in 1912. The Liberal Unionist influence dragged the Conservative Party towards the left as Conservative governments passing a number of progressive reforms at the turn of the 20th century. By the late 19th century, the traditional business supporters of the Liberal Party had joined the Conservatives, making them the party of business
After a period of Liberal dominance before the First World War
, the Conservatives gradually became more influential in government, regaining full control of the cabinet in 1922. In the inter-war period, conservatism was the major ideology in Britain
as the Liberal Party vied with the Labour Party
for control of the left. After the Second World War
, the first Labour government (1945–1951) under Clement Attlee
embarked on a program of nationalization of industry and the promotion of social welfare. The Conservatives generally accepted those policies until the 1980s.
(1925–2013), under whose leadership the Conservative Party has shifted their economic policies to the right as well as Thatcherism
In the 1980s, the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher
, guided by neoliberal
economics, reversed many of Labour's programmes.
The Conservative Party also adopt soft eurosceptic
politics, and oppose Federal Europe
. Other conservative political parties, such as the United Kingdom Independence Party
(UKIP, founded in 1993), Northern Ireland
's Ulster Unionist Party
(UUP) and the Democratic Unionist Party
(DUP, founded in 1971), began to appear, although they have yet to make any significant impact at Westminster (as of 2014, the DUP comprises the largest political party in the ruling coalition in the Northern Ireland Assembly
), and from 2017 to 2019 the DUP provided support for the Conservative minority government
Modern conservatism in different countries
Many sources refer to any political parties on the right of the political spectrum as conservative despite having no connection with historical conservatism. In most cases, these parties do not use the term conservative in their name or self-identify as conservative. Below is a partial list of such political parties.
The second largest party in the country is the Australian Labor Party
and its dominant faction is Labor Right
, a socially conservative
element. Australia undertook significant economic reform under the Labor Party in the mid-1980s. Consequently, issues like protectionism, welfare reform, privatization and deregulation are no longer debated in the political space as they are in Europe or North America. Moser and Catley explain: "In America, 'liberal' means left-of-center, and it is a pejorative term when used by conservatives in adversarial political debate. In Australia, of course, the conservatives are in the Liberal Party".
Jupp points out that, "[the] decline in English influences on Australian reformism and radicalism, and appropriation of the symbols of Empire by conservatives continued under the Liberal Party leadership of Sir Robert Menzies
, which lasted until 1966".
, the incumbent President of Brazil, known for his conservative stances
Conservatism developed alongside nationalism in Germany, culminating in Germany's victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War
, the creation of the unified German Empire
in 1871 and the simultaneous rise of Otto von Bismarck
on the European political stage. Bismarck's "balance of power" model maintained peace in Europe for decades at the end of the 19th century. His "revolutionary conservatism" was a conservative state-building strategy designed to make ordinary Germans—not just the Junker elite—more loyal to state and emperor, he created the modern welfare state in Germany in the 1880s. According to Kees van Kersbergen
and Barbara Vis, his strategy was:
[G]ranting social rights to enhance the integration of a hierarchical society, to forge a bond between workers and the state so as to strengthen the latter, to maintain traditional relations of authority between social and status groups, and to provide a countervailing power against the modernist forces of liberalism and socialism.
Bismarck also enacted universal male suffrage in the new German Empire in 1871.
He became a great hero to German conservatives, who erected many monuments to his memory after he left office in 1890.
Today, German conservatism is often associated with politicians such as Chancellor Angela Merkel
, whose tenure has been marked by attempts to save the common European currency (Euro
) from demise. The German conservatives are divided under Merkel due to the refugee crisis in Germany and many conservatives in the CDU/CSU
oppose the refugee and migrant policies developed under Merkel.
In India, the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP), led by Narendra Modi
, represent conservative politics. The BJP is the largest right-wing conservative party in the world. It promotes cultural nationalism, Hindu Nationalism
, an aggressive foreign policy against Pakistan and a conservative social and fiscal policy.
By 1945 the extreme right fascist
movement of Benito Mussolini
After World War II, in Italy
the conservative parties were dominated by the Christian Democracy
(DC) party. With its landslide victory over the left in 1948, the Center Right was in power and was, says Denis Mack Smith, "moderately conservative, reasonably tolerant of everything which did not touch religion or property, but above all Catholic and sometimes clerical." It dominated politics until the DC party's dissolution in 1994. 
Under Vladimir Putin
, the dominant leader since 1999, Russia has promoted explicitly conservative policies in social, cultural and political matters, both at home and abroad.
Putin has attacked globalism and economic liberalism. Russian conservatism is unique in some respects as it supports Economic intervention
with a mixed economy
, with a strong nationalist sentiment
and social conservatism
with its views being largely populist
. Russian conservatism as a result opposes libertarian
ideals such as the aforementioned concept of economic liberalism
found in other conservative movements around the world. Putin has as a result promoted new think tanks that bring together like-minded intellectuals and writers. For example, the Izborsky Club, founded in 2012 by Aleksandr Prokhanov, stresses Russian nationalism, the restoration of Russia's historical greatness and systematic opposition to liberal ideas and policies. Vladislav Surkov
, a senior government official, has been one of the key ideologists during Putin's presidency.
In cultural and social affairs, Putin has collaborated closely with the Russian Orthodox Church
. Mark Woods provides specific examples of how the Church under Patriarch Kirill of Moscow
has backed the expansion of Russian power into Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
More broadly, The New York Times
reports in September 2016 how that Church's policy prescriptions support the Kremlin's appeal to social conservatives:
"A fervent foe of homosexuality and any attempt to put individual rights above those of family, community, or nation, the Russian Orthodox Church helps project Russia as the natural ally of all those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition-crushing rush of globalization, multiculturalism, and women's and gay rights."
— Andrew Higgins (The New York Times
: In Expanding Russian Influence, Faith Combines With Firepower)
The meaning of "conservatism" in the United States has little in common with the way the word is used elsewhere. As Ribuffo (2011) notes, "what Americans now call conservatism much of the world calls liberalism or neoliberalism".
American conservatism is a broad system of political beliefs in the United States
that is characterized by respect for American traditions, support for Judeo-Christian
values, economic liberalism
and a defense of Western culture
within the bounds of conformity to conservatism is a core value, with a particular emphasis on strengthening the free market
, limiting the size and scope of government and opposition to high taxes and government or labor union encroachment on the entrepreneur.
In early American politics, it was the Democratic party
practicing 'conservatism' in its attempts to maintain the social and economic institution of slavery. Democratic president Andrew Johnson, as one commonly known example, was considered a Conservative.
"The Democrats were often called conservative and embraced that label. Many of them were conservative in the sense that they wanted things to be like they were in the past, especially as far as race was concerned."
In 1892, Democrat Grover Cleveland
won the election on a conservative platform, that argued for maintaining the gold standard, reducing tariffs, and supporting a laisse faire approach to government intervention.
Since the 1950s, conservatism in the United States has been chiefly associated with the Republican Party
. However, during the era of segregation
, many Southern Democrats
were conservatives and they played a key role in the conservative coalition
that largely controlled domestic policy in Congress from 1937 to 1963.
The conservative Democrats
continued to have influence in the US politics until 1994's Republican Revolution
, when the American South shifted from solid Democrat to solid Republican, while maintaining its conservative values.
The major conservative party in the United States today is the Republican Party
, also known as the GOP (Grand Old Party). Modern American conservatives consider individual liberty
, as long as it conforms to conservative values, small government
of the government, economic liberalism
, and free trade
, as the fundamental trait of democracy, which contrasts with modern American liberals
, who generally place a greater value on social equality
and social justice
Other major priorities within American conservatism include support for the traditional family
, law and order
, the right to bear arms
, Christian values
and a defense of "Western civilization
from the challenges of modernist culture and totalitarian governments".
Economic conservatives and libertarians favor small government
, low taxes, limited regulation and free enterprise. Some social conservatives see traditional social values threatened by secularism, so they support school prayer
and oppose abortion
want to expand American ideals throughout the world and show a strong support for Israel.Paleoconservatives
, in opposition to multiculturalism, press for restrictions on immigration.
Most US conservatives prefer Republicans over Democrats and most factions favor a strong foreign policy and a strong military. The conservative movement of the 1950s attempted to bring together these divergent strands, stressing the need for unity to prevent the spread of "godless communism", which Reagan later labeled an "evil empire
During the Reagan administration
, conservatives also supported the so-called "Reagan Doctrine
" under which the US as part of a Cold War strategy provided military and other support to guerrilla insurgencies that were fighting governments identified as socialist or communist. The Reagan administration also adopted neoliberalism
and trickle-down economics
, as well as Reaganomics
, which made for economic growth in the 1980s, fueled by trillion-dollar deficits.
The Tea Party movement
, founded in 2009, had proven a large outlet for populist American conservative ideas. Their stated goals included rigorous adherence to the US constitution, lower taxes, and opposition to a growing role for the federal government in health care. Electorally, it was considered a key force in Republicans reclaiming control of the US House of Representatives in 2010.
Following the Second World War, psychologists conducted research into the different motives and tendencies that account for ideological differences between left and right. The early studies focused on conservatives, beginning with Theodor W. Adorno
's The Authoritarian Personality
(1950) based on the F-scale
personality test. This book has been heavily criticized on theoretical and methodological grounds, but some of its findings[clarification needed]
have been confirmed by further empirical research.
In 1973, British psychologist Glenn Wilson
published an influential book providing evidence that a general factor underlying conservative beliefs is "fear of uncertainty."
A meta-analysis of research literature by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, and Sulloway in 2003 found that many factors, such as intolerance of ambiguity
and need for cognitive closure
, contribute to the degree of one's political conservatism and its manifestations in decision-making.
A study by Kathleen Maclay stated these traits "might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty". The research also suggested that while most people are resistant to change, liberals are more tolerant of it.
According to psychologist Bob Altemeyer
, individuals who are politically conservative tend to rank high in right-wing authoritarianism
(RWA) on his RWA scale.
This finding was echoed by Adorno. A study done on Israeli and Palestinian students in Israel found that RWA scores of right-wing party supporters were significantly higher than those of left-wing party supporters.
However, a 2005 study by H. Michael Crowson and colleagues suggested a moderate gap between RWA and other conservative positions, stating that their "results indicated that conservatism is not synonymous with RWA".
Psychologist Felicia Pratto and her colleagues have found evidence to support the idea that a high social dominance orientation
(SDO) is strongly correlated with conservative political views and opposition to social engineering to promote equality,
though Pratto's findings have been highly controversial
as Pratto and her colleagues found that high SDO scores were highly correlated with measures of prejudice
. However, David J. Schneider argued for a more complex relationships between the three factors, writing that "correlations between prejudice and political conservative are reduced virtually to zero when controls for SDO are instituted, suggesting that the conservatism–prejudice link is caused by SDO".
Conservative political theorist Kenneth Minogue
criticized Pratto's work, saying: "It is characteristic of the conservative temperament to value established identities, to praise habit and to respect prejudice, not because it is irrational, but because such things anchor the darting impulses of human beings in solidities of custom which we do not often begin to value until we are already losing them. Radicalism often generates youth movements, while conservatism is a condition found among the mature, who have discovered what it is in life they most value".
A 1996 study on the relationship between racism and conservatism found that the correlation was stronger among more educated individuals, though "anti-Black affect had essentially no relationship with political conservatism at any level of educational or intellectual sophistication". They also found that the correlation between racism and conservatism could be entirely accounted for by their mutual relationship with social dominance orientation.
In his 2008 book, Gross National Happiness
, Arthur C. Brooks
presents the finding that conservatives are roughly twice as happy as liberals.
A 2008 study demonstrates that conservatives tend to be happier than liberals because of their tendency to justify the current state of affairs and because they're less bothered by inequalities in society.
In fact, as income inequality increases, this difference in relative happiness increases because conservatives, more so than liberals, possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality
A 2009 study found that conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated. It found that conservatism has a negative correlation with SAT
, Vocabulary, and Analogy test scores, measures of education (such as gross enrollment in primary
, and tertiary
levels), and performance on math and reading assignments from the PISA
. It also found that conservatism correlates with components of the Failed States Index
and "several other measures of economic and political development of nations."
Nonetheless, in a Brazilian sample, the highest IQs were found among centre-rightists
, even after correcting for gender, age, education and income.
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- ^ Fawcett, Edmund (October 20, 2020). Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-17410-5. Gentz did not mock the Declaration of the Rights of Man in the satirical manner of Justus Möser (1720–94), the north-Saxon critic of market society and Enlightenment princely reform. Nor did Gentz fault the declaration, as Burke had done, for misunderstanding the character of rights. Gentz instead subjected the declaration to an article-by-article critique (1793) for errors of drafting and logic
- ^ Fawcett, Edmund (October 20, 2020). Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-17410-5. Less well-known thinkers who influenced later German conservatives were against revolution from the outset. August Rehberg (1757–1836) was a German Burkean and scholar from Hanover who took the Revolution to be antihistorical . . . Müller’s hopes for preserving Germany’s legally privileged classes, its old “estates,” and restoring an imagined premodern unity struck Gentz as out of touch . . . The Revolution took a wrong turn, left history’s “rational” march for freedom, and slipped into violent unreason. The Terror, on that understanding, was a contingent horror, as a little part of intelligible human history, Hegel wrote, as “chopping the head off a cabbage.” . . . After his death, Hegel’s heritage divided like the French assembly into right and left.
- ^ Fawcett, Edmund (October 20, 2020). Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-17410-5. Neither Burke nor Maistre believed that people in general were capable of self-government, though for different reasons.
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- ^ Fawcett, Edmund (October 20, 2020). Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-17410-5. Whether the rules of society came from a divine source, as Maistre insisted, or from custom, as Burke held
- ^ Fawcett, Edmund (October 20, 2020). Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-17410-5. It was plain to Burke that, once freed from custom and good sense, people were capable of the worst follies and crimes. Maistre thought the same once people were freed from God and his earthly ministers..
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