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To What Extent is conservatism an ideology?

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To What Extent is Conservatism an Ideology? Conservatism is a belief that has been around for hundreds of years with its main idea being that it is pragmatic and must adapt to changing circumstances. For this reason some people believe it is debatable whether it can be described as an ideology or not. To be able to discuss whether Conservatism is an ideology or not, we need to first define what we mean by an ideology. An ideology is set of ideals and principles that explain how society should work. It offers a "political blueprint" for social order, and concerns itself with how power should be allocated and used. We must now decide what the main ideas of Conservatism are, and whether they fit this description of an ideology. Like all parties, there have been different factions of Conservatives throughout history and differing opinions, but the core beliefs will remain unchanged. I am going to suggest that the main beliefs of Conservatism are: the importance of tradition, the family unit in society and the need to be pragmatic as change occurs. There are many beliefs but these are the most centrally acknowledged and are a fairly sweeping umbrella of the specific values. We can now examine whether conservatism conforms to this definition. Traditional conservatism does not have any sense of progress. Instead, they cling to tradition and order. ...read more.


They suggest the wise politician builds on the wisdom of the past and is informed by that past. This is preference for the known of the past over the unknown of the future. This respects Burke's idea that current cannot believe they are better than the generations before them. Critics say that conservatives are always looking backwards and so cannot be said to have an ideology, as this does not show how society should be run. There is also the fact that Conservatives themselves have sometimes suggested their ideas are not an ideology but are a frame of mind based upon common sense and pragmatism. They have a fear of ideology and believe that basing too much importance on ideological opinions can cause more harm than not. Conservatives actually tend to be sceptical of fixed political principles. They believe that this is artificial; it ignores two of their core beliefs, those of the importance of tradition and the need for social stability. They do not believe social progress will be made in this way. They do believe in social improvement but think it should be in accordance with the emotions and traditions of the people and not abstract principles. Michael Portillo said: "If there were no political nostrums, there would be no need for conservatism". So they see themselves as a contrast to need for set political beliefs. ...read more.


In this climate, there is now a necessity for Conservatives to have some fixed principles as this is the expectation of the public. After the "Winter of Discontent" under James Callaghan, it was necessary for Margaret Thatcher to show some sort of political agenda to improve the country and prevent this amount of unrest from occurring again. It was also important to show how she was going to get the economy to improve. For this reason, it was not possible for her to continue along the Conservative path of pragmatism and no fixed principles. Therefore, from the evidence suggested above, it seems that, while traditional conservatism is a state of mind, with a broad and flexible philosophy, the more modern forms of conservatism have become ideological. The state of mind key to traditional conservatism is to prefer order over liberty, to be suspicious of radical change and to prefer the past to the future. The New Right, however, has been a radical movement whose leaders have been prepared to reject the past in favour of new doctrines and fixed principles. Although the conservatives of the past had limited belief in ideology and their values did not follow the traditional definition of an ideology, the newer factions of the conservative party have become much more ideological and this can partly be explained due to the public's expectations of a political party. ...read more.

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