Conservatism  

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"To be conservative ... is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss." --"On Being Conservative" (1956) by Michael Oakeshott

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. The central tenets of conservatism include tradition, human imperfection, hierarchy, authority, and property rights. Conservatives seek to preserve a range of institutions such as monarchy, religion, parliamentary government, and property rights, with the aim of emphasizing social stability and continuity. The more extreme elements—reactionaries—oppose modernism and seek a return to "the way things were".

The first established use of the term in a political context originated in 1818 with François-René de Chateaubriand during the period of Bourbon Restoration that sought to roll back the policies of the French Revolution. Historically associated with right-wing politics, the term has since been used to describe a wide range of views. There is no single set of policies regarded as conservative because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time. Thus conservatives from different parts of the world—each upholding their respective traditions—may disagree on a wide range of issues. Edmund Burke, an 18th-century politician who opposed the French Revolution but supported the American Revolution, is credited as one of the main theorists of conservatism in Great Britain in the 1790s.

According to Quintin Hogg, the chairman of the British Conservative Party in 1959: "Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself". In contrast to the tradition-based definition of conservatism, some political theorists such as Corey Robin define conservatism primarily in terms of a general defense of social and economic inequality. From this perspective, conservatism is less an attempt to uphold traditional institutions and more, "a meditation on—and theoretical rendition of—the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back".

Psychology

Biology and political orientation

Following the Second World War, psychologists conducted research into the different motives and tendencies that account for ideological differences between left and right. The early studies focused on conservatives, beginning with Theodor W. Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality (1950) based on the F-scale personality test. This book has been heavily criticized on theoretical and methodological grounds, but some of its findings have been confirmed by further empirical research.

In 1973, British psychologist Glenn Wilson published an influential book providing evidence that a general factor underlying conservative beliefs is "fear of uncertainty". A meta-analysis of research literature by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski and Sulloway in 2003 found that many factors, such as intolerance of ambiguity and need for cognitive closure, contribute to the degree of one's political conservatism. A study by Kathleen Maclay stated these traits "might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty". The research also suggested that while most people are resistant to change, liberals are more tolerant of it.

According to psychologist Bob Altemeyer, individuals who are politically conservative tend to rank high in right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) on his RWA scale. This finding was echoed by Theodor Adorno. A study done on Israeli and Palestinian students in Israel found that RWA scores of right-wing party supporters were significantly higher than those of left-wing party supporters. However, a 2005 study by H. Michael Crowson and colleagues suggested a moderate gap between RWA and other conservative positions: "The results indicated that conservatism is not synonymous with RWA".

Psychologist Felicia Pratto and her colleagues have found evidence to support the idea that a high social dominance orientation (SDO) is strongly correlated with conservative political views and opposition to social engineering to promote equality, though Pratto's findings have been highly controversial as Pratto and her colleagues found that high SDO scores were highly correlated with measures of prejudice. However, David J. Schneider argued for a more complex relationships between the three factors, writing "correlations between prejudice and political conservative are reduced virtually to zero when controls for SDO are instituted, suggesting that the conservatism–prejudice link is caused by SDO". Kenneth Minogue criticized Pratto's work, saying: "It is characteristic of the conservative temperament to value established identities, to praise habit and to respect prejudice, not because it is irrational, but because such things anchor the darting impulses of human beings in solidities of custom which we do not often begin to value until we are already losing them. Radicalism often generates youth movements, while conservatism is a condition found among the mature, who have discovered what it is in life they most value".

A 1996 study on the relationship between racism and conservatism found that the correlation was stronger among more educated individuals, though "anti-Black affect had essentially no relationship with political conservatism at any level of educational or intellectual sophistication". They also found that the correlation between racism and conservatism could be entirely accounted for by their mutual relationship with social dominance orientation.

A 2008 research report found that conservatives are happier than liberals and that—as income inequality increases—this difference in relative happiness increases because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality.





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