Conservatism: Values, Classification and Qualitative Characteristics

We explain what conservatism is and what values ??it defends. In addition, its general characteristics and how it is classified.

What is Conservatism?

Conservatism is known as a set of social, ideological and political positions contrary to the notion of radical change (Revolution) and progress ( progressivism ), in favor of the defense and perpetuation of family and religious values of the status quo, or the most of a gradual and very controlled change. This, in some cases, may even mean going back to regimes and orders historically outdated (reaction).

In economic matters, conservative doctrines were historically opposed to the free market , a position that changed in the 20th century when they merged with liberal economic tendencies, in defense of the prevailing capitalist system.

In that sense, conservative positions  tend to approximate the ideological spectrum of the right or center-right , that is, resistance to social change. They tend to enjoy popularity among the wealthiest sectors of society , who are reluctant to lose their benefits, but they are not exclusive positions of any socioeconomic stratum.

Origins of the term conservatism

The conservative term  emerges at the beginning of the 19th century  to describe positions contrary to the  libertarian ideas of the French Revolution of 1789, as well as those of the Enlightenment , or in defense of the so-called Old Regime.

The French diplomat, politician and writer Chateaubriand would have introduced him to the political vocabulary of the time.

Conservative values

conservative values Conservatism advocates a political structure with a defined core.

Traditionally, conservatism has defended certain social, political and moral positions that could be summarized as:

  • Centralism . Preserve a political power structure with a clear core from which decisions are made .
  • Religiosity. The defense of the Church and religion as necessary institutions for society.
  • Order.  The call for order and stability is central  to the conservative view, which often labels movements for social change as anarchic.
  • tradition . Family and local values often have a privileged place in conservatism.
  • Nationalism .  The exaltation of the local often accompanies conservative thinking, opposed to the cosmopolitanism of leftist ideology.

Conservative economy

The economic position of the conservative sectors deserves a separate point.
Traditionally it was that of a protectionist economy , which favored local landowners and went hand in hand with nationalism.

However, the changes that capitalism and the contemporary era introduced in societies led to a new conservative position, which preferred the free market and the little interference of the State in economic matters, against the progressive sectors that clamored for social protection measures. and mediation of the State in front of the great international capitals.

Types of conservatism

types of conservatism Moderate conservatism accepts democracy as a government regime.

Based on his position regarding the role of democracy , it is possible to distinguish between two aspects of conservatism, which are:

  • moderate conservatism. Also called center-right or liberal conservatism, it is supposed to be a modern conservative tradition that has accepted democracy as a regime of government , is little connected with religious values and much more with those of nationalism and the free market.
  • Reactionary or extreme conservatism. It constitutes the so-called “reaction” against the libertarian movements heirs of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment, more attached to the values of the Old Regime such as religion, tradition, authority and fidelity to traditions.

conservative currents

conservative currents The central figure of English conservatism was Edmund Burke.

Another way to distinguish between the various conservatisms is by alluding to their origin, determined by their historical moment and geographical location, as follows:

  • English conservatism.  Its central figure was Edmund Burke, who proposed the utopian impossibility of a State like the one pursued by the French Enlightenment, that is, based on human reason, preferring a return to Christian values and social naturalism. Without denying the need for social change, this movement questions its necessary speed.
  • French conservatism. Opposed to the minimization of Religion and monarchical institutions imposed by the French Revolution, he clung to his traditional values and ultra-nationalist postulates, giving rise to numerous right-wing parties .
  • German conservatism. The first “modern” conservative movement was the German. Starting from the principle of social inequality and poverty as an element that must be resolved, a reformist State is promoted that knows how to adapt to the times and thus avoid any need for violent changes.
  • Neoconservatism. Also called “neocon”, it arose as a reaction to the American counterculture of the 1960s, and was later exported to other countries such as Japan , the United Kingdom or even the Czech Republic. It spreads individualism, the free market and the defense of capitalist democracy at all costs.

Religion and conservative thought

Religion and conservative thought

Conservative thought defends the values proposed by religion.

As has been said before, religiosity and the ecclesiastical institution (especially the great western Christian churches) play a vital role in conservative thought, not only because it considers that religion is a determining actor in the composition of society and should guarantee the continuity of their social (and therefore political) role, but also because conservative thought, at different levels, clings to the metaphysical values traditionally proposed by religion as the “intrinsic” or “transcendent” values of man, for on top of those that come from collective political and social agreements.

Differences with liberalism

Differences with liberalism Liberalism starts from individual and social freedom as the ideal of things.

The opposition between liberalism and conservatism dates from the beginning of the modern age and has been the fuel for numerous political confrontations throughout history , often leading to civil wars, as is the case of the young American nations at the end of the 19th century. and beginning of the XX. The differences between both models can be summarized as:

  • Liberalism starts from individual and social freedom as the ideal of things, while conservatives bet on order and control.
  • Liberalism is committed to the cosmopolitan values of equality, fraternity and freedom of the French Revolution, while some conservative currents prefer traditional nationalist values and natural law.
  • Liberalism and progressivism promote social change as a value per se, while conservatives cling to traditionally prevailing structures.

political conservatism

Today, the term “conservative” can be applied as more or less synonymous with some of its fundamental ideas of respect for authority and a strong, paternalistic state, contrary to the individualistic model of liberalism.

In this sense, the term is used not only to designate right-wing ideologies, but also those systems in which the relationship between the political order and its citizens is verticalized , hierarchical, rigid .

Thus, it is possible to label initially revolutionary government systems as conservative , such as the Stalinist Soviet Union or Fidel Castro ‘s Cuba .

social conservatism

social conservatism Conservatism rejects the social demands of the homosexual population.

Another application of the term “conservative” has to do with certain positions of rejection regarding individual freedoms linked to the social, such as certain contemporary debates on the decriminalization of abortion, social demands for the homosexual or sex-diverse population, or the legalization of marijuana. These positions are not necessarily accompanied by a reactionary ideology or a conservative economic approach.

conservative liberalism

This term is used to refer to the most conservative sector within liberalism, that is, the current of the contemporary right .

Its postulates are inserted within a liberal free market economy (  laissez faire  or “let it be done”) and the naturalization of social inequalities as something intrinsic and inevitable of the human condition.

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