conservatism

An everyday notion meaning to ‘preserve’ or ‘keep intact’ which has, at least in Europe and the United States since the nineteenth century, come to be associated with a set of political principles. The major problem in defining the concept is that many conservatives themselves deny conservatism is an abstract theory or ideology ; rather, they defend their judgements on the grounds of tradition, historical experience, and gradualism. Typically, conservatives eschew comprehensive visions of the good society, and favour instead the (as they see it) pragmatism of piecemeal social reform.
That said, modern conservatism tends to draw on two somewhat contradictory intellectual strands, namely the organic conservatism of the Middle Ages and the libertarian conservatism of writers such as Edmund Burke. The former harks back to the medieval ideal of the close-knit local community , a stable social hierarchy with rank ascribed at birth rather than achieved (see ascription ), dominated by aristocratic paternalism towards the poor, and a network of reciprocal rights and obligations linking benevolent master and deferential servant (see deference ). By comparison, Burke (an eighteenth-century English political theorist) favoured laissez-faire economics , unregulated capitalism , and minimal state intervention in economic affairs. Whereas organic conservatism emphasizes ‘one nation’, libertarians endorse the individualism of autonomous individuals following their own self-interest, usually on the grounds of individual freedom, social justice, and (long-term) collective welfare.
These strands have proved difficult to reconcile in the long term. (Burke himself also wrote a passionate defence of the organic political and social traditions of eighteenth-century Britain, denouncing the French Revolution, and thus setting the trend in this respect.) Modern conservatives have grappled to balance the two and offered a full range of hybrids. An excellent account of the difficulties inherent in this exercise, illustrated by reference to the history of political conservatism and the Conservative Party in Britain, is Robert Eccleshall's essay on this subject in hisPolitical Ideologies (1984).

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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  • conservatism — con‧ser‧va‧tis‧m [kənˈsɜːvətɪzm ǁ ɜːr ] noun [uncountable] 1. ECONOMICS unwillingness to take unnecessary risks: • The company s conservatism extends as well to capital spending. 2. ACCOUNTING the principle of being careful not to state an asset …   Financial and business terms

  • conservatism — CONSERVATÍSM s.n. Atitudine, sistem de idei, convingeri politice care acordă importanţă instituţiilor tradiţionale (religie, familie, proprietate) şi susţin dezvoltarea treptată în locul schimbărilor bruşte. – Din fr. conservatisme. Trimis de… …   Dicționar Român

  • Conservatism — Con*serv a*tism, n. [For conservatism.] The disposition and tendency to preserve what is established; opposition to change; the habit of mind; or conduct, of a conservative. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • conservatism — index continence, moderation, prudence Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • conservatism — 1835, in reference to the Conservative party in British politics; from CONSERVATIVE (Cf. conservative) + ISM (Cf. ism). From 1840 in reference to conservative principles generally …   Etymology dictionary

  • conservatism — [kən sʉr′və tiz΄əm] n. the principles and practices of a conservative person or party; tendency to oppose change in institutions and methods …   English World dictionary

  • Conservatism — This article is about conservatism as a political and social philosophy. For other uses, see Conservatism (disambiguation). Part of a series on …   Wikipedia

  • conservatism — /keuhn serr veuh tiz euhm/, n. 1. the disposition to preserve or restore what is established and traditional and to limit change. 2. the principles and practices of political conservatives. [1825 35; CONSERVAT(IVE) + ISM] * * * Political attitude …   Universalium

  • conservatism — [[t]kənsɜ͟ː(r)vətɪzəm[/t]] (The spelling Conservatism is also used for meaning 1.) 1) N UNCOUNT Conservatism is a political philosophy which believes that if changes need to be made to society, they should be made gradually. You can also refer to …   English dictionary

  • conservatism — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ diehard, entrenched (both BrE) ▪ moderate, relative ▪ compassionate ▪ his message of compassionate conservatism …   Collocations dictionary

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