Conservatism: Tensions

Conservatism: Tensions

Tension between Tradition and Change

  • Tradition is a cornerstone of conservative thought—the belief that established customs, institutions, and values have intrinsic worth.
  • However, Conservatism requires an ability to accommodate change to ensure social and political stability. This need to preserve the old while accepting the new creates tension.
  • Pragmatic conservatives might lean more towards managing change, whereas traditional conservatives could lean more towards preserving existing structures and values.

Tension between Authority and Liberty

  • Conservative ideas often uphold the concept of authority, which offers social cohesion, order and discipline. This can include support for institutions like monarchy, police, and the church.
  • At the same time, conservatives often emphasise individual liberty—a freedom from excessive state control.
  • This tension within conservatism centres around the balance of preserving social harmony while upholding personal freedoms.

Tension between Free Markets and Social Stability

  • Many conservatives have a preference for free markets due to the economic productivity and freedom they foster.
  • However, free markets can lead to inequality and social instability — issues that can challenge the conservative emphasis on a stable society.
  • Striking a balance between the benefits of economic liberalism and the need for maintaining a stable and cohesive society often manifests as a pressure point within conservative thought.

Tension between Nationalism and International Obligations

  • A strong sense of nationalism is inherent in conservatism, with a focus on preserving national identity, sovereignty and culture.
  • Nevertheless, the reality of an interconnected world demands engagement in international organisations and agreements, which could potentially limit national independence.
  • This creates a tension between the instinct towards nationalism and the practical need for international cooperation and obligation.

Note: Recognising these tensions aids in understanding the dynamics within conservatism as a political ideology. It illuminates how conservative philosophies have had to evolve and adapt in response to changing societal contexts.