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Conservatism

Not to be confused with Conservationism. This article is about conservatism as a political and social philosophy.Historic conservatism in different countries

Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. The central tenets of conservatism include tradition, organic societyhierarchyauthority, and property rights. Conservatives seek to preserve a range of institutions such as religionparliamentary government, and property rights, with the aim of emphasizing social stability and continuity. The more traditional elements—reactionaries—oppose modernism and seek a return to “the way things were”.

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. 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 Great Britain in the 1790s.

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.” 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. 

Liberal conservatism

Liberal conservatism 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 stances.

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 economic liberal 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 and Spain, 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 what are now conservative views of free market economics and belief in individual responsibility, with social liberal views on defence of civil rightsenvironmentalism and support for a limited welfare state. In continental Europe, this is sometimes also translated into English as social conservatism.

Conservative liberalism

Conservative liberalism is a variant of liberalism that combines liberal values and policies with conservative stances.[12][13][14] The roots of conservative liberalism are found at the beginning of the history of liberalism. Until the two World Wars, in most European countries the political class was formed by conservative liberals, from Germany to Italy. Events after World War I brought the more radical version of classical liberalism to a more conservative (i.e. more moderate) type of liberalism.[15]

Libertarian conservatism describes certain political ideologies most prominently within the United States which combine libertarian economic issues with aspects of conservatism. Its four main branches are constitutionalismpaleolibertarianismsmall government conservatism and Christian libertarianism. They generally differ from paleoconservatives, in that they favor more personal and economic freedom.

Agorists such as Samuel Edward Konkin III labeled libertarian conservatism right-libertarianism.[16][17]

In contrast to paleoconservatives, libertarian conservatives support strict laissez-faire policies such as free trade, opposition to any national bank and opposition to business regulations. They are vehemently opposed to environmental regulationscorporate welfaresubsidies and other areas of economic intervention.

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, do not properly reward people who have earned their money through hard work.

Fiscal conservatism

Main article: Fiscal conservatism

Taxpayer March on Washington, as conservative protesters walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D. C., in 2009

Fiscal conservatism is the economic philosophy of prudence in government spending and debt.[18] In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke argued that a government does not have the right to run up large debts and then throw the burden on the taxpayer:

[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.

National and traditional conservatism

Gianfranco Fini, former President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, in 2004

National conservatism 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,[19] while not being outspokenly nationalist or supporting a far-right approach.[20][21] 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”.[24] National conservatism is also related to traditionalist conservatism.

Traditionalist conservatism is a political philosophy emphasizing the need for the principles of natural law and transcendent moral order, traditionhierarchy and organic unityagrarianismclassicism and high culture as well as the intersecting spheres of loyalty.[25] Some traditionalists have embraced the labels “reactionary” and “counterrevolutionary“, defying the stigma that has attached to these terms since the Enlightenment. Having a hierarchical view of society, many traditionalist conservatives, including a few Americans, defend the monarchical political structure as the most natural and beneficial social arrangement.

Cultural and social conservatism

Cultural conservatives support the preservation of the heritage of one nation, or of a shared culture that is not defined by national boundaries.[26] 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.

Social conservatism 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;[27] 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.

A second meaning of the term social conservatism developed in the Nordic countries and continental Europe, where it refers to liberal conservatives supporting modern European welfare states.

Social conservatives (in the first meaning of the phrase) in many countries generally favour the pro-life position in the abortion controversy and oppose human embryonic stem cell research (particularly if publicly funded); oppose both eugenics and human enhancement (transhumanism) while supporting bioconservatism;[28] support a traditional definition of marriage as being one man and one woman; view the nuclear family model as society’s foundational unit; oppose expansion of civil marriage and child adoption to couples in same-sex relationships; promote public morality and traditional family values; oppose atheism,[29] especially militant atheism, secularism and the separation of church and state;[30][31][32] support the prohibition of drugsprostitution and euthanasia; and support the censorship of pornography and what they consider to be obscenity or indecency. Most conservatives in the United States support the death penalty.

Religious conservatism 

See also: Christian right and Religious fundamentalism

March for Life in ParisFrance, in 2012

Religious conservatism principally apply 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,[34] 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.[35]

Paternalistic conservatism

Main article: Paternalistic conservatism

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.[36] There is particular emphasis on the paternalistic obligation of those who are privileged and wealthy to the poorer parts of society. Since it is consistent with principles such as organicismhierarchy and duty, 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.[37]

It stresses the importance of a social safety net to deal with poverty, support of limited redistribution of wealth along with government regulation of markets in the interests of both consumers and producers.[38] Paternalistic conservatism first arose as a distinct ideology in the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli‘s “One Nation” Toryism.[38][39] There have been a variety of one nation conservative governments. In the United Kingdom, the Prime Ministers Disraeli, Stanley BaldwinNeville ChamberlainWinston ChurchillHarold Macmillan[40] and Boris Johnson were or are one nation conservatives.

In Germany, during the 19th-century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck adopted policies of state-organized compulsory insurance for workers against sickness, accident, incapacity and old age. Chancellor Leo von Caprivi promoted a conservative agenda called the “New Course”.[41]

In the United States, the administration of President William Howard Taft was a progressive conservative and he described himself as “a believer in progressive conservatism”[42] and President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared himself an advocate of “progressive conservatism”.[43]

In Canada, a variety of conservative governments have been part of the Red tory tradition, with Canada’s former major conservative party being named the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1942 to 2003.[44] In Canada, the Prime Ministers Arthur MeighenR. B. BennettJohn DiefenbakerJoe ClarkBrian Mulroney, and Kim Campbell led Red tory federal governments.[44]

Authoritarian conservatism

Main article: Far-right politics

Authoritarian conservatism or reactionary conservatism[45][46][47] refers to autocratic regimes that center their ideology around conservative nationalism, rather than ethnic nationalism, though certain racial components such as antisemitism may exist. 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[49] 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 and materialism, 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.[51] 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, the 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.[52]

History

Development of Western conservatism

United Kingdom

Main article: Conservatism in the United Kingdom

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In Great Britain, conservative ideas (though not yet called that) emerged in the Tory movement during the Restoration period (1660–1688). Toryism supported a hierarchical society with a monarch who ruled by divine rightTories 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, now holding that sovereignty was vested in the three estates of Crown, Lords and Commons[53] rather than solely in the Crown. Toryism became marginalized during the long period of Whig ascendancy in the 18th century.

Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

Conservatives typically see Richard Hooker (1554–1600) as the founding father of conservatism, along with the Marquess of Halifax (1633–1695), David Hume (1711–1776) and Edmund Burke (1729–1797). Halifax promoted pragmatism in government whilst Hume argued against political rationalism and utopianism.[54][55] Burke served as the private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham and as official pamphleteer to the Rockingham branch of the Whig party.[56] Together with the Tories, they were the conservatives in the late 18th century United Kingdom.[57] Burke’s views were a mixture of liberal and conservative.

  • He supported the American Revolution of 1765–1783, but abhorred the violence of the French Revolution (1789–1799).
  • He accepted the liberal 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 the 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 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. Burke was a leading theorist in his day, finding extreme idealism (either Tory or Whig) an endangerment to broader liberties and (like Hume) rejecting abstract reason as an unsound guide for political theory. Despite their influence on future conservative thought, none of these early contributors were explicitly involved in Tory politics. Hooker lived in the 16th century, long before the advent of toryism, whilst Hume was an apolitical philosopher and Halifax similarly politically independent. Burke described himself as a Whig.

Revival

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, JacobinMethodist and Unitarian 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.[61]

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.[65]

Robert Peel (1788–1850)

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 Irish Home 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 and commerce.[70]

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[71][72][73] 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.

Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013), during her 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.[74] 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 since 2017 the DUP has provided support for the Conservative minority government.

France

Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821)

Another form of conservatism developed in France in parallel to conservatism in Britain. It was influenced by Counter-Enlightenment works by men such as Joseph de Maistre and Louis de Bonald. Many continental or traditionalist conservatives do not support separation of church and state, with most supporting state recognition of and cooperation with the Catholic Church, such as had existed in France before the Revolution.

Eventually, conservatives added Gaullismpatriotism, and nationalism to the list of traditional values they support. Conservatives were the first to embrace nationalism, which was previously associated with liberalism and the Revolution in France.[75]

Germany

Main article: Conservatism in Germany

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.

With the rise of Nazism in 1933, agrarian movements faded and was supplanted by a more command-based economy and forced social integration. Though Adolf Hitler succeeded in garnering the support of many German industrialists, prominent traditionalists openly and secretly opposed his policies of euthanasia, genocide and attacks on organized religion, including Claus von StauffenbergDietrich BonhoefferHenning von Tresckow, Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen and the monarchist Carl Friedrich Goerdeler.

More recently, the work of conservative Christian Democratic Union leader and Chancellor Helmut Kohl helped bring about German reunification, along with the closer European integration in the form of the Maastricht Treaty.

Angela MerkelChancellor of Germany since 2005

European People’s Party (EPP) Congress in Bucharest in 2012. Three conservative leaders in the EPP included Prime Minister of SpainMariano Rajoy (2011–18), Chancellor of GermanyAngela Merkel and Prime Minister of HungaryViktor Orbán.

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.[citation needed]

United States

Main article: Conservatism in the United States

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 liberalismanti-communism and a defense of Western cultureLiberty 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.

The major conservative party in the United States is the Republican Party, also known as the GOP (Grand Old Party). American conservatives consider individual liberty, as long as it conforms to conservative values, small governmentderegulation of the government, economic liberalism, and free trade, as the fundamental traits of democracy, which contrasts with modern American liberals, who generally place a greater value on social equality and social justice.[79][80]

Psychology

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”.[157] 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.[156][158] 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.[159]

According to psychologist Bob Altemeyer, individuals who are politically conservative tend to rank high in right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) on his RWA scale.[160] 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.[161] However, a 2005 study by H. Michael Crowson and colleagues suggested a moderate gap between RWA and other conservative positions: “The results indicated that conservatism is not synonymous with RWA”.[162]

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,[163] though Pratto’s findings have been highly controversial[citation needed] as Pratto and her colleagues found that high SDO scores were highly correlated with measures of prejudice. However, David J. Schneider argued for more complex relationships between the three factors, writing “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”.[164] 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”.[165]

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.[166]

A 2008 research report found that conservatives are happier than liberals and that—as income inequality increases—this difference in relative happiness increases because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality.

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