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POLISCI 1020E: Conservatism, Part I.docx

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Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Charles Jones

CONSERVATISM IN GENERAL  traditionalism o inclined to be suspicious of change, especially large scale revolutionary change  skepticism about political knowledge o wisdom comes from inherited laws and institutions  organic conception of society and the state o analogous to an organism o we are not individuals— we are formed by our social institutions and practices o anti-atomism Conservatism vs. Liberals  liberals: for rational justification and transparency; against appeals to superstition and tradition o everyone should know what the law requires beforehand  conservatives: suspicious of reason; favour sentiment over scrutiny o we shouldn’t investigate too deeply o we are creatures driven by emotions Classical Conservatives  human beings are flawed  hierarchy: against equal rights for everyone because there’s a natural hierarchy  tradition  anti-revolution Contemporary Conservatives  keep a small government  pro-free market  need of a strong military: states need to provide order and security EDMUND BURKE  defender of tradition  called “unthinking man’s thinking man” Career  an Irishman in the British Parliament  critic of the French Revolution of 1789 o saw it as a reckless attempt at radical social transformation o predicted fall of the church, fall of king and queen, etc. from studying history— people started listening to him  against revolutionaries’ views of human nature, society, freedom, and government Human and Nature and Society  we are creatures of habit, custom, tradition o radical enlightenment idea: people are rational, self- interested calculators of our own utility  humans are not perfectible or changeable by social engineering o insane to believe that we can perfect the human race  against the idea of atomistic, isolated individuals o society is not the collection of individuals, we are not free and autonomous— we are dependent on a whole web of relationships o organic conception of society  against the liberal, legalistic, business-like social contract o harmful social fiction: false to believe that we are founded on social contracts and harmful to believe that it is  society is not created by our consent  sacred intergenerational covenant o society is a partnership between those who are living, dead, to be born o not about asking the society to justify itself to you; you owe to those who came before, are around you now, and those who will come Freedom  not necessarily good  rights are concrete, not abstract and universal o natural rights are a complete misconception  ordered liberty to act in accordance with society’s laws and traditions o no such thing as liberty in the abstract: there are freedom
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