4.1 Classical Conservatism

Tyler Chamberlain

Classical conservatism is characterized by a complex of themes and values, none of which are completely independent of each other. I will briefly introduce them here, though the following section will explore them in more depth. As the name implies, Conservatism seeks to conserve something from the past, namely traditional (see section 4.1.1) modes of thought, life, and political practice. Conservatives thus tend to believe that the political health of a society is best preserved by holding on to the best traditions of the past. They also assume that social order requires the principles of Hierarchy and Authority (see section 4.1.2). In other words, there must be some members of the political community that exercise legitimate authority over others – for example, political rulers, parents, and (according to some Classical Conservatives) ecclesiastical and religious leaders. Classical Conservatives also believe in what is called the Organic Theory of the State (see section 4.1.3), according to which states or political communities are best understood as being like a living body. In what follows, I discuss two important implications of this theory. Finally, this ideology rests upon an understanding of human nature characterized by Imperfection and Infallibility (see section 4.1.4). This does not necessary mean that people are completely evil and unable to do anything right but rather that the goal of politics should be to make communal life possible by limiting our worst impulses, but not to eradicate all problems from social life.


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Political Ideologies and Worldviews: An Introduction - 2nd Edition Copyright © 2023 by Tyler Chamberlain is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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