Do you agree with Scruton (1990) that the main aim of Conservatism is preservation of a pre existing social order?

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Do you agree with Scruton (1990) that the main aim of Conservatism is ‘preservation of a pre existing social order?’

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The issue of analysing the aims of any political ideology is difficult mainly due to the often fractured and conflicting natures of ideologies. There are significant issues arising particularly from the analysis of Conservatism, largely due to its positional stance as an approach which focuses on what is rather than normative claims. Such problems necessarily lead to caution when debating Conservatism, as Eccleshall asserts “the ideology poses serious conceptual difficulties” (2003, p.48). However, when analysing Conservatism, it is evident that Scruton's definition is on the right lines, however I shall argue that such a definition of the main aim of Conservatism is too broad, and that more focus should be on the preservation of appropriate pre existing social orders and the preservation of stability. Moreover, when put into practice, there are numerous examples of reformist branches within Conservatism which in fact go beyond Scruton’s claim and seek to reinstate social orders of the past.

One of the key premises in the assertion that Conservatism’s main aim is the preservation of a pre existing social order is the concept that society is going through a process of degeneration. The idea of regression is as Goodwin (1992) asserts, either explained with reference to religious beliefs, or the idea that there was once a moral Golden Age. Whilst naturally in order to survive in the political sphere Conservatism cannot reject modernity. As Scruton (2006, p.208)  himself states “The conservative response to modernity is to embrace it…critically”. There is no doubt a tendency in both British and American Conservatism to see modern society as inferior. We only have to look as far as David Cameron’s ‘broken society’ or Margaret Thatcher’s calls for a reinstatement of order alongside American Conservatives propounding of a return to the values of their founding forefathers to appreciate this. These calls for a return to the past indicate that rather than justifying the pre existing social order, Conservatism actually actively seeks a return to past structures.

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Whilst the preservation of a pre existing social order does carry importance to Conservatism, it would be more appropriate to see stability as a Conservatives fundamental aim. Scruton misplaces his argument by mistaking the desire within Conservatives for stability as a desire to avoid change, however a distinction can and should be made between the two. It is not impossible for stability to be achieved through a process of constant and gradual change, so Conservatism should not be tied too closely to the idea that it is bound to upholding a specific social order, as Goldwater (1960, p.12) argues ...

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4/5 This is for the most part a good, well-argued essay which I would have awarded a 2.1 (which is in line with the submitter's 'upper middle' rating). The author has a clear introduction followed by thematic, well-argued paragraphs which fit within the overall structure suggested by the introduction. I found a couple of the ideas problematic (particularly concerning liberty) but by and large the nuanced argument is well defined and ambiguities successfully carried through. The only structural issue is that it doesn't feel as though the essay comes to a conclusion. I suspect the author ran out of words.