As with all modern ideologies, there are different variations of conservatism. However, in its beginning, conservatism was more of a philosophical position than an ideology in itself. Over time, it has become a systematic form of political thought with clear ideological positions that have placed it alongside the other “isms.” Originally, conservatism could have been spoken of as an anti-ideology, since it rejected the mechanical explanations of cause and effect to which other ideologies resorted to explain and anticipate political events. While modern ideologies proposed radical changes in the status quo, and put the destiny of men in their own hands, conservatives were skeptical of the notion of progress and other teleological propositions. For them, man was just one more actor within the order of the universe, and as such, he was subject to a higher law. From his point of view, the propositions of modern ideologies were mental monuments that had not the slightest correlation with Reality. Indeed, they feared that these propositions would end up overshadowing Reality and would generate second or third realities based on fiction. By Reality in this case is understood the natural order of things, or the order established by God.
In this way, modern ideologies could provide an explanation for all phenomena, since these would occur within a reality manufactured by themselves. This is how Marxism, for example, managed to couple any phenomenon to its ideology, explaining it as an inevitable step towards the creation of a communist state. Over time, what could be characterized as an attitude of life, became what he attacked so much, and thus, conservative thought was organized into a series of ideological propositions that put it in the same category with the same ideas as fought. Currently conservatism can be defined as a series of values and political positions. On the political spectrum, it tends to be located to the right, but is actually more to the center than other political ideologies. Their main emphasis is on maintaining order, which often means reinforcing the status quo. This is preferable to the alternative of chaos that a power vacuum can generate, as Edmund Burke observed in France during the Revolution. Likewise, they believe that in order to maintain order it is necessary to adhere to the norms that have successfully governed the social order, such as tradition and ethics. Ironically, although liberalism began as an ideology based on the fight for greater personal freedoms, over time the roles have changed, in such a way that conservatism now carries that banner.
Thus, current conservatism prefers to limit the role of the government as much as possible, in such a way that it is only in charge of providing basic services. For this same reason, conservatives tend to favor privatization and decentralization, such that the government plays a minimal role in the affairs of society. It is not surprising then that neoliberalism is associated with conservatism.
What is a Conservatorship?
Conservatism is a term that refers to all those doctrines, tendencies or opinions that are based on the belief in an order, law or natural right, and consequently, adhere to traditions or customs while resisting political changes; that is, they seek to “preserve” the status quo. Thus, conservatism tends to oppose progressive policies, which it understands as threats to the established order.
As a rule, conservatism is often justified on the basis of religious and family values, as well as traditions. For this reason, it is associated with certain movements of the right or center right.
In theory, conservatism is opposed to liberalism or revolutionary movements. Indeed, much of the political conflicts in the nineteenth century were between conservatives, usually slaveholders, and liberals, usually promoters of industrialization.
It follows from this that what is judged as conservatism may vary depending on the historical context. For example, in economic terms, conservatism in the past tended towards protectionist policies, while in contemporary times, conservatism is committed to the free market. However, some recurring or dominant elements are often recognized despite differences or changes in perspective.
Characteristics of conservatism
As we have said, determining that a movement, doctrine, trend or opinion is conservative depends on the context. Even so, there are a number of characteristics that can help identify when we are facing conservatism. Among them, we can mention:
- Defense of the idea of a natural order or natural law.
- Defense of private property.
- Valuation of tradition on the processes of change.
- Religious, moral or ideological justification of order or natural law.
- Tendency to nationalism.
- Distrust in the face of revolutionary processes that imply social changes.