Meta-analysis of dimensions of Ideology of….Conservtism..or any other ideology:


Ideology is commonly mapped across 2 dimensions:

Right (pluralism/accept social or economic hierarchy)/Left wing (pro-egalitarian/reject socio-economic hierarchy) spectrum


Libertarian (freedom)/authoritarian (control) spctrum


But this seems to miss other key dimensions/spectra:




Traditional/Radical (re: individual psychology)


And then the typology of Conservatism (or any other ideology)

As dispositional (17th C onwards)

As political party/movement (19th C onwards)

As popular social Conservatism (1930s onwards – from Baldwin, but especially Macmillan 1957-63)

As popular radical Conservatism (1975 - ?) Thatcher-ism

As Cultural – comes in bursts

As Moral – comes in bursts


I argued in this lecture that, though many have suggested that conservatism is not an ideology, if we look at it historically we may see that it is sometimes a disposition (18th C) and at other times hardens up into an ideology ('one nation toryism'/mid-19th C, or Thtcherism/1980s)..and then relaxes back into more of a disposition (1930s under Stanley Baldwin or even Macmillan in 1950s)

Analytical view of Conservtism:

A particular ideology, (eg.  liberalism,) often criticises other viewpoints .by starting with its own BASIC VALUE(s) and seeing whether other views incorporate that basic value. If they don’t, then the other view is not good enough. Of course, you then start arguing whether that particular ideology’s basic value is itself justified.

For instance:  The SOCIALIST or the CONSERVATIVE will argue against the LIBERAL by saying that individual freedom may be important, but it is not the most important value i.e. not absolutely basic, thus it is not the only test of the other competing ideologies and political ideas.

 A socialist may agree with the liberal on some things, eg. that individual freedom is good in promoting creativity and artistic expression – (we do not want to be obliged to listen to only one kind of music – variety is the spice of life)…

 BUT if individual freedom leads to a greedy me, me, me society of nobody caring for the poor or the elderly, then that is a bad society. The socialist and the conservative – of a traditionalist stripe would argue that the interests of the whole of society must be considered prior to the question of how much individual freedom there should be. Thus for the socialist, the welfare of society as a whole is more basic as a value than the liberal’s individual freedom.

 The liberal and the socialist have different starting-points (primary or basic values) and thus from these will want different kinds of ‘good’ societies and politics using different policies.

 The conservative traditionally stresses the primacy of social order and morality, and thus would argue that individual freedom can only be properly exercised when an individual’s actions do not lead to social disorder that wrecks the very society enabling individuals to have their freedom in the first place. Further, only when individuals have a sense of right and wrong can they be ‘individual’ (they know themselves and why they are doing what they are doing – self-reflection = making oneself individual). Only then can the individual exercise true freedom. Thus the preservation of social order and morality is more basic than (is a condition for) the liberal’s individual freedom.

Conservatism: there should be some shared index of socially responsible and moral behaviour within a defined community (usually the nation-state – ‘the British way of life’ – thus the suspicion of multi-culturalism). Accommodate socio-political and cultural change (being pragmatic) but don’t rush things – resistance to change for changes’ sake -  dislike novelty, prefer the traditional, thus likes to conserve things if they appear to work. Suspicious towards utopian thinking eg.communism’ ‘pure individualism’ etc. Sympathetic to a capitalist economic system (because it works better than wholly state-run economies), but where capitalism disrupts social order and tradition, conservatives call for its regulation by the State. Conservatives believe that there should be a strong state that enhances social and moral stability, so that people will be able to determine their own individual forms of life in a responsible way that is not disruptive of others attempts to do the same.

English Conservatism after the Civil war of the 1640s onwards:

By the 18th century Britain had a robust political culture which was especially vigorous at election times when the populace, even though most could not vote, took sides in support of factions and candidates. The public argued and fought about political issues. They were interested in knowing and reading about political activity whether as serious speeches by politicians or just tittle-tattle.  In this politically charged climate the press could thrive. And thrive they did.

 Whig v Tory.

18th century politics can be divided into two broad factions – whig and tory. But within and between these can be found many quarrelsome factions who fought for political influence over the populace, and power over, or in government. Roughly speaking, in Georgian England,  (the reigns of George I, II, III after the death of Queen Anne in 1714) the Whigs dominated government and enjoyed the support of the Monarch until George III’s reign in the late 1760s. Whig in this time refers to a political faction and a set of attitudes towards certain issues, notably things like religious toleration, individual freedom and so forth, where whig was seen as being the Court party who were close to the Monarch and more generally sympathetic to the interests of the City, finance, and the importance of liberty of the individual. Tories on the other hand, being out of Office (government) for so long across the 18th century, felt alien from favour at Court and saw themselves as aligned with the interests of the country. This condition of exile nurtured resentment against government, London, power, the threat of social, religious, and political change. The ‘country’ symbolised for the Tory, not just being anti-court and anti-cosmopolitan, but also an organic sense of belonging to the land. A sense of the uncorruptable Englishman. The authenticity of roots as opposed to the rootless life of city-based dodgy-dealing politics. This sense of toryism remained with its successor, the Conservative party.


Extended note on 18th century constitutional politics.

Tories have always appealed to the natural order of things and of tradition. This was especially so in the areas of religion and monarchy. The English Civil War in the 1640s had destroyed this idea by causing a Catholic Monarch to be in armed dispute with Parliament and protestant religion. The very structure of the English state with all its evolved traditions were being broken, and with it the Tory sense of good government, of a King by inheritance expressing the religion of his people, and of the continuity of order in the nation. After the Civil war and the republic under Cromwell that followed, Monarchy was restored with Charles II. Being childless there was a threat that after his death, his brother James, a Catholic, would become King. Tories, being now (like the whigs) solidly Anglican Protestants, were torn between their tradition of principled support for a rightful inheritor of the throne (as James was) and the unacceptable matter of a Catholic monarch. James short reign in 1688 was fated by his promotion of Catholics to positions of power. James was quickly driven out in a bloodless coup by both whigs and tories inviting William of Orange (protestant dutch), the husband of James eldest daughter, Mary (a good protestant), to become King of England. (This episode was the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688.) With this rather dodgy arrangement, tories could pretend that the protestant succession had been saved, and the order of tradition, monarchy, nation and state preserved. After William, his daughter, dully protestant Anne, came to the throne in 1702. She was supportive of the Tory administration of Robert Harley, and the mercurial Henry St John, Lord Bolingbroke. But she was childless and her successor was George, Elector of Hanover (Germany). (George was a very distant relative of Anne, whose right to the English throne had been arranged by parliament in 1701 as a pre-emptive manoevre against a future Catholic monarch.) Thus it was that in effect, a monarch was appointed by parliament rather than by some tory ideal of ‘natural’ (by direct line/birth) successor ordained by God. Again the tory sense of the proper order of things was undermined. George I and II were supportive of the whig interest and ministers and thus ensured the dominance of whig politics until the 1760s.

Tory propagandists* as was their wont, appealed to a naturalistic root of rights in the idea of an ancient constitution. Trenchard, and Gordon (Cato letters) and Bolingbroke argued that Britain had once had an ancient division of the ruling powers of lords, commons and monarch that every so often got usurped and the building up of monarchical powers, not the least of which was the emergence of a standing army under the whig govt, was a threat to the power balance. Soldiers and placemen (by patronage) could corrupt the independence of parliament Thus in their pamphlets and papers tory propagandists cavilled at reduction of such powers and the reduction of the standing army.

* note: some of the greatest writers of the 'Augustan age' i.e. early 18th C such as Dean Jonathan Swift (he of 'Gulliver's travels' and 'A Modest proposal') - he was a Dean of a cathedral - and Daniel Defoe (he of  'Robinson Crusoe' and of 'A Journal of the Plague year') and others were hired hands, in effect, using their pens to write Tory propaganda and satirise Whig policies/ideology.


Also check out the ideas and writing of Edmund Burke, the anglo-irish political writer and essayist whose Reflections on the revolutions in France is a classic of conservative thought that makes a response to his horror at the destructive nature of the French revolution at the end of the 18th century (1790s)


19th C + Party stability + ideology of non-ideology: One-nation conservatism (also known as one-nation toryism, or Tory democracy) is a form of British political conservatism that views society as organic and values paternalism and pragmatism. The phrase "One-nation Tory" originated with Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881), who served as the chief Conservative spokesman and became Conservative Prime Minister in February 1868. He devised it to appeal to working class men as a solution to worsening divisions in society. As a political philosophy, one-nation conservatism reflects the belief that societies exist and develop organically, and that members within them have obligations towards each other. There is particular emphasis on the paternalistic obligation of the upper classes to those classes below them.

Disraeli warned that Britain would become divided into two 'nations', of the rich and poor, as a result of increased industrialisation and inequality. Concerned at this division, he supported measures to improve the lives of the people to provide social support and protect the working classes.

Disraeli saw society as naturally hierarchical and emphasised the obligation of those at the top to those below. Noblesse oblige - the aristocracy had an obligation to be generous and honourable to the lower less fortunate classes; to Disraeli, this implied that government should be paternalistic.

 One-nation conservatism pragmatic and non-ideological approach to politics.

 Disraeli justified his views pragmatically by arguing that, should the ruling class become indifferent to the suffering of the people, society would become unstable and social revolution would become a possibility.

My point with this is that in formulating a general sense of principles about social structure in relation to the obligations of government, Disraeli was setting up albeit in a rather loose form, something that was looking suspiciously like an ideology despite may claiming his ideas as non-ideological pragmatism.


And on to the ‘New Right in the US and in UK


In the post-war US: Rise of new and then Neo-Conservatism


The rise of an intellectual struggle between socialism and capitalism that came from the myriad of organisations, pressure groups, think tanks and parties especially emergent after the 2nd WW


If left wing ideas were largely emergent from left pol parties and organised labour movements that were drifting, you got a new-con right that emerges. As George Nash puts in his classic


“In 1945 no articulate, coordinated, self-consciously conservative intellectual force existed in the United States. There were, at most, scattered voices of protest, profoundly pessimistic about the future of their country. Gradually during the first postwar decade these voices multiplied, acquired an audience, and began to generate an intellectual movement. In the beginning one finds not one right-wing renascence but three..


First, there were “classical liberals,” or “libertarians,” resisting the threat of the ever expanding State to liberty, private enterprise, and individualism. Convinced that America was rapidly drifting toward statism (socialism), these intellectuals such as Albert Jay Nock, Frank Chodorov (see this obituary by Rothbard on Chodorov) et al offered an alternative that achieved some scholarly and popular influence by the mid-1950s.  These were inspired by the Austrian emigre scholars Ludwig von Mises and the Nobel prize winner, Fredrich von Hayek. But some such as Murray Rothbard took their thought further and ended up developing a form of anarchism - i.e. anarcho-capitalism, where the state was abolished and everything was left to be provided by capitalist markets including justice, welfare, policing etc.


Concurrently and independently, a second school of thought was emerging: the “new conservatism” or “traditionalism” of such men as Richard Weaver, Peter Viereck, Russell Kirk, and Robert Nisbet. Shocked by totalitarianism, total war, and the development of secular, rootless, mass society during the 1930s and 1940s, the “new  conservatives” urged a return to traditional religions and ethical absolutes and a rejection of and produced an intolerable vacuum that was filled by demonic ideologies.


Third, there appeared a militant, evangelistic anti- Communism, shaped decisively by a number of influential ex-radicals of the 1930s, including Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, (and this), Frank Meyer, and many more. These former men of  the Left brought to the postwar Right a profound conviction that the West was engaged in a titanic struggle with an implacable adversary—Communism—which sought nothing less than conquest of the world.”


* note:  to really get to grips with the ultra anti-communists on the Con right you have to read up about the 'McCarthyite 'witch-hunts' - US purges against 'communists' in the late 1940s and 1950s of which a key initiating case was the accusation that Whittaker Chambers and others made against a top US dept of State official Alger Hiss, that he was a subversive communist and perhaps spy for the soviets. Equally check out the far longer-running House Un-American Activities committee (HUAC)



Through a proliferating network of journals, books, organizations, and political alliances, the intellectual Right steadily approached maturity and recognition— until, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it achieved its long-sought breakthrough.” (Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945) and see here a critique of Nash that argues that Anti-C was not the cement that held together a neo-Com movement in the 50s onwards



Many of these neo-Con organisations that emerged were sponsored or funded by wealthy businessmen and corporations and small payments from supporters and students who bought the magazines and pamphlets, especially in the 60s ad 70s.


Perhaps the odd thing is that the Neo-Cons of the 50s/60s/70s did not seem to be covertly supported by anti-communist orgs incl CIA. That was left to the formation of sponsored cultural fronts and 'think tanks'.



So the first two of these types were not really interested in the Cold War politics of the new post-war globalising order in which America would the central player. The hard anti-communists were supportive of a strong US as global player, but too suspicious of the corporate US liberal state descending into socialism via tax & spend policies.


This in many ways the US post-war anti-communism was a domestic biz for a peculiar assortment of writers, academics, ex-leftists, hard anti-commie cold war warriors, public intellectuals, pamphleteers, journalists, and serial founders of propagandist organisations.





New Right seems to emerge in  mid-70s though its roots were in think tanks such as the IEA founded by Anthony Fisher in the 1950s which promoted very free-market views. Fisher had been influenced by the ideas of Friedrich von Hayek and those more generally of the Mt Perlerin Society that included later luminaries such as Milton Friedman.


Key to the New Right was what broadened out into Neo-liberalism as ideology and policy ad this was taken up by the new leader of the Conservative Party in 1975 - Margaret Thatcher. She herself had been influenced by intellectuals in her party in the early 70s notably Sir Keith Joseph, Enoch Powell and the rather forgotten figure of John Biffen.


But like any god pragmatist despite appearing to be doctrinaire, she picked and chose the ideas of neo-liberalism that were congenial or  fitted into her instinctive moral and cultural outlook which was very conservative and narrow/traditional.


She especially like the free-market economic views which were aimed mostly at abolishing nationalised companies and putting most of the economy into the hands of commercial companies.


He had almost no time for culture in any guise – so cultural conservatism was anathema – the traditional respect for the arts.


She was prone to moral conservatism – viz her backing for Mary Whitehouse whilst not seeing adequately the connection between economics and culture – one drives the other – profits leads to porn.


Roger Scruton and other who formed the Conservative Philosophy group in the late 70s were wishing for a return o a traditional organic idea of Conservatism but he populism economistic neo-liberal Thatcherite version won hands down – Scruton and co were far too intellectual.