The conservative New Right developed during the 1970s as a reaction to the changing values of the 1960s and 1970s. Neo-conservatives stressed that liberal social attitudes had spread ‘permissiveness’ (people making their own moral choices without a central moral authority).
__Anti-permissiveness __is therefore a rejection of this. Neoconservatives stress the importance of the state as a way of strengthening leadership, authority and joint moral thinking. They worry that individual values will weaken and damage society and that the shared bonds between people should be strengthened.
Although both neoconservatives and paternalistic conservatives support the idea of organic society they interpret it in different ways. Paternalistic conservatives wish to strengthen society by providing guidance, support and a reduction in poverty.
The conservative New Right wish to strengthen society by creating more authority, social discipline and uniformity. It is this idea that links neoliberal economics with neo-conservatism; greater discipline in society is created and this justifies ‘rolling back’ (minimising) the state’s economic role. Society is disciplined and morally upstanding and will therefore be able to look after itself.
The conservative New Right has clear views about the state’s role in society.
They have two clear domestic (within the country) priorities- law and order and public morality. Neoconservatives believe that anti-social behaviour is caused by a general decline in respect for authority that has been created by liberal individualism. People function better when they know ‘where they stand’ and what their place is in society (supporting the conservative belief in human imperfection). This authority provides stability and security. Clear examples are children obeying their parents, students obeying their teachers and employees obeying their employers.
They therefore believe in both social and state authoritarianism – this involves strict traditional family values (children obeying parents, the husband as the wage earner and wife as home maker). This is a naturally forming hierarchy. The state supports this authority by being authoritarian itself through strong law and order policies. Clear examples of this are the Thatcher governments of the 1980s which introduced greater police ‘stop and search’ powers as well as longer prison sentencing.
The neoconservative campaign against ‘permissiveness’ from the 1970s onwards was based on two principles. Firstly, that individuals were likely to make the ‘wrong’ moral choices and therefore destabilise themselves and society. Secondly that individuals may all make different choices and therefore undermine the nature of the naturally connected organic society, undermining the bonds of society. In the UK therefore, Thatcher attempted to promote ‘Victorian values’, and in the USA organisations such as the ‘Moral Majority’ campaigned on family values.
The conservative New Right are also concerned with the need to have a unifying connective identity in society. This is created by individuals and families being connected by shared identities and values. This identity has been referred to as the ‘bonds of society’ or ‘civic values’; liberal individualism would therefore weaken this idea. The society is bonded through shared values of morality, culture and traditions. These ideas explain the neoconservative opposition to immigration; immigration creates multiculturalism and therefore dilutes a single identity or culture in society.
Neoconservatives also see external threats to society that may weaken the bonds and identity of that society.
They see membership of transnational organisations as a clear threat to national identity and therefore campaign on ideas of sovereignty and identity. An example of this would be the UK Conservative party, many of whose members have consistently opposed membership of the EU.
They also advance a theory of national identity based on dominance in foreign affairs. Neoconservative (‘neocon’) foreign policy is based on exporting liberal democracy to other nations on the basis of moral superiority. It also relies on being internationally dominant in terms of military power. These ideas are once again based on developing a proud and unifying national identity to bond society together. An example of neoconservative foreign policy is the USA; successive US governments (especially Reagan and Bush) have used the ideal of US foreign power as a way of creating a strong unifying US national identity.
One Nation Conservatism
This originates from the Conservative politician and Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who talked of Two Nations in Britain with little contact between them, the rich and the poor. He saw the need for the party, at that time dominated by the aristocracy, to pursue policies that helped the working class. His Governments gave the vote to skilled manual workers and carried out some social reforms. In the 20th century Conservative politicians were conscious of the need to appeal to the working class electorate and the Conservative Prime Ministers of the 1920s and 1930s, Baldwin and Chamberlain, were ready to see Government intervene to improve housing and health. The language of One Nation was used to contrast the Conservative as the party of everyone against Labour who were portrayed as carrying out a class war on behalf of just one section of society. After the overwhelming Labour victory in the 1945 general election, the leading Conservative politicians accepted the welfare state, government intervention in the economy to secure full employment, limited nationalisation of industries and good relationships with the trade unions and were able to present this as in the One Nation tradition. Political historians have talked about a Consensus between the leadership of the two main parties until the 1970s.
New Right / Thatcherism
Whereas Conservatives of the One Nation tradition saw the workings of the market as imperfect and needing correction by the Government and a need to bind together the different groups in society, there were always some Conservatives who believed in the need for a market free from government interference and in the importance of individual effort rather than any idea of society as a whole. From the 1970s, groups within the Conservative Party, often referred to as the New Right, rejected the post-war Consensus and the economic problems of the 1970s and gave the impetus for the new leader, Margaret Thatcher, to move the party’s policies in their direction.
The Thatcher Governments from 1979 to 1990 followed many New Right ideas:
Although Thatcherism saw the reduction of economic control by the State, it maintained a Strong State in political terms. A strong law and order policy in relation to criminal activity or against trade unions was pursued and there was little interest in equality for women or minority rights.
- Analyse, evaluate and compare the information in the above extract regarding the differing views of One Nation conservatism and the New Right. In your answer, you should refer to the thinkers you have studied. (25 marks- 2-3 arguments for and 2-3 against)
- Your answer should include: Welfarism / Full / Employment / Working / Class / Market / Intervention / Ineffeciency / Authority