Characteristics of Conservatism

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This essay aims to describe the main features of conservatism with reference to the historical and philosophical origins, the core value, and the perspectives on the welfare state and social policy. Conservatives are hard to define but they tend to want less control over an individual, and like the status quo to be managed. They also prefer good social order and security even if it is at the cost of freedom and equality.

The origins of conservatism come from the latter half of the 18th century. There were many types of conservatism during this time. However, Britain and the United States were careful and cautious and ultimately formed a more successful ideology. Conservatives during the late 19th century welcomed the cause of social reform under social duty and the charge if paternalism. Although, the Industrial Revolution developed a new social class, and subsequently their power grew which presented many new threats to the landed classes. Conservatism understood that their ideas had become diluted and that they needed to expand away from their cynical approach. Benjamin Disraeli developed a new theory called neo-feudalism in an attempt to put the class system back into the old feudal way of operating the country. Disraeli characterized the working class as producers, and the capitalist class were the money makers and were unable to rule due to self-interests. The upper class had to legitimize their role. Traditional conservatism backed Disraeli's theory till the 1960s.

Edward Burke, an English conservatism, posits that the ruling class should play an essential role in politics. He argued this because firstly, the ruling class has both time and money and does not work classifying there is an aspect of self-interest. Secondly, they obtained a wealth of knowledge from their past ancestors who ruled. Lastly, the ruling class was always characterized as superior people. As the 19th century finished, the conservative party was filled with business interests but also gained huge approval from the working thanks to Peel's idea of ‘one nation’. In Britain, the middle class was classified as conservatism during the 20th century. However, socialism would soon create problems. By the 1970's, a new variant of conservatism was produced: New Right Conservatism.

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The core values of conservatism involve:

  • Individualism - People accept responsibility for their actions.
  • Organic society - Everyone with a position of power has an obligation to help the community.
  • Human nature - Regarded humans as imperfect and unchangeable.
  • Order and Hierarchy - Crucial for the continuation of a structured society.
  • Tradition - Associated with the ethics and morals passed through generations.
  • Inequality - Although this term is associated negatively. It is essential for the continuation of society.
  • Private property - Conservatism put emphasis on the significance of owning property.
  • Pragmatism - Disagrees with the idea that conservatism is against change. Understands the requirement for a functioning link between governed and government. (Revisionworld, 2007).

Conservatism is also applied when describing an individual's personality traits.

Conservatism has different perspectives on the welfare state and social policy than other political ideologies like liberalism and radicalism. First of all, conservatives do not emphasize social class and socio-economic division because it would accelerate social cohesion and the common interests then conflict. Also, conservatism dissent the promotion of the secular state because they favor a society built on a belief system that is based on a formal religion as a guiding moral framework. Conservatism also disagrees with facilitating excessive wealth because it is potentially socially destructive. They know the significance of having wealth and the effort it took to earn them. Conservatism perspectives toward the welfare state involve advocating social welfare but only to the deserving poor. They emphasized that there should be compulsory workfare for the able-bodied of the community. Conservatism advocated for charitable organizations to deliver services in a bid to keep to principles of subsidiarity and to eliminate the state from infringing activities. Conservatism reluctantly complies with minimum wage. However, conservatives disagree with unemployment payments that are next to wage levels because it underpins work ethic. Subsequently, it would promote not working. They recognize income tax as essential in terms of the duty and responsibility of citizens. All citizens are obliged to contribute in the form of tax to the society they live in. Conservatives detest positive discrimination and quotas for specific groups of workers. It is too interventionist and symbolizes ‘big government’. Lastly, conservatives concur with the idea of business subsidies and bail-outs. They want to keep economic stability and active markets.

In conclusion, the ideology of conservatism is very interesting and extensive. This assignment examined conservatism as an ideology and the features of conservatism with reference to the historical and philosophical origins, core values, and perspectives held by conservatism regarding the welfare state and social policy.

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Characteristics of Conservatism. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from
“Characteristics of Conservatism.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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