Roots and Aspects of Conservatism Essay

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Roots and Aspects of Conservatism

Conservatism, as an ideology, emerged in response to the French revolution and in opposition to the idea of the French revolutionaries that human reason and will were powerful enough to regenerate human nature by creating a completely new social order, constructed in accordance with the requirements of liberty, equality and fraternity. Conservatism, then, is characterized, in the first instance, by opposition to the idea of total or radical change, not by the absurd idea of opposition to change as such, or by any commitment to preserving all existing institutions. p. 9  Term first used by Chateaubriand, after the revolution, when he gave the name Le Conservateur to a journal he issued to
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Reform society and suffering will disappear, he argued. p. 10-11  Such sentiment called for a statement of conservative principles. The incipient conservatives had to show that the world imposes limitations upon what either the individual or the state can hope to achieve. Conservative ideology, accordingly, may be defined as a philosophy of imperfection, committed to the idea of limits, and directed toward the defense of a limited style of politics. By a limited style of politics is meant one which has as its primary aim the preservation of the distinction between private and public life (or between the state and society). This distinction is threatened by the ideal of radical change -- which in practice has meant the constant extension of state power into every sphere of life, in the name of equality, social justice and welfare. p. 11-12  'reform' rather than 'change' preserves the essential good. p. 12  Liberalism, which over the 19th century, came increasingly to value 'progress' and the 'improvement' (quotation marks in place in text) of mankind is thus distinguished from conservatism for ultimately such notions are incompatible with conservatism. John Stuart Mill made clear that progress or improvement might even mean interfering with the inner life of man - through social welfare programs, etc. p.13  Positive assertion that "the idea upon which all conservative thought depends…is imperfection." p.14 

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