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Convervatism is an avowed tendency to resist change and to support traditional norms. The term is mostly used in the context of politics -- either to describe movements which attempt to preserve aspects of the status quo (see "Conservatism as an attitude", below), or, more specifically, to describe a particular ideology of this sort in the Western world.

Conservatism as a political doctrine in the contemporary English-speaking world

While the word Conservatism is often used to simply describe the attitude of supporting how things as they currently are, it can also refer to a political doctrine originated by Edmund Burke. Burke wrote at a time when European thinkers were beginning to develop the ideology of modernism, which emphasizes progress guided by reason. Conservatives are not opposed to progress per se, although they are often more doubtful about it than followers of many other ideologies. Conservatives do not reject reason completely, but they place much more emphasis on tradition or faith than is common in other schools of political thought. According to the author of the Conservatism FAQ (http://counterrevolution.net/consfaq), the essence of conservatism is "its emphasis on tradition as a source of wisdom that goes beyond what can be demonstrated or even explicitly stated."

Conservatives emphasize traditional views of institutions such as the family and the church. Generally speaking, they are less likely to consider unmarried couples, even those with children, as families. They are quite unlikely to consider gay couples as families, also even when they have children. They usually oppose the adoption of children by gay couples, and they are extremely unlikely to countenance legal recognition of gay or other unorthodox family structures. In religious life, they are likely to reject any reinterpretation or modification of traditional beliefs, such as in areas of morality and biblical scholarship.

Rather, the conservative embraces an attitude that is deeply suspicious of any attempt to remake society in the service of any ideology or doctrine, whether that doctrine is libertarian, socialist, or developed from some other source. They see history as being full of disastrous schemes that seemed like good ideas at the time. Human society is something rooted and organic; to try to prune and shape it according to the plans of an ideologue is to invite unforeseen disaster. Conservatism is more of a mindset than a doctrine. It is ad hoc by necessity. It is easier to say what it is not, than to define it.

Some commentators have argued that despite the movement's rhetoric, it has been an agent for change, and the traditions which it supports are in fact of relatively recent invention. [links/references?]

Within the United States, there are several distinct elements to conservatism. The Neoconservative movement originates in American liberalism, primarily from the Northeast or the West Coast, but is marked by a significant move to the right from the 1960s onwards. Palaeoconserativism, by contrast, originated in other parts of the United States; its proponents are unlikely to have once been liberals.

Conservative views on the economy often overlap with those of libertarians, but they disagree with the libertarian position on social issues. However, there are some libertarians whose views on social or cultural issues are closer to conservatism than most libertarians are, such as Llewellyn Rockwell or Murray Rothbard; these are sometimes called paleolibertarians.

Other strands of conservatism have been influenced by the counterrevolutionary Catholic thought of figures like Joseph de Maistre, and the distributism of G. K. Chesterton and the French traditionalists (e.g. Henri Corbin[?]). Some conservatives positions originated from the Frankfurt School, after taking (like the neoconservatives) a turn to the right -- such as the editors of Telos.

Paleoconservative publications: Modern Age, Chronicles
Neoconservative publications: Commentary, The Public Interest, First Things (has expressed controversial attitudes towards religion and against separation of church and state that many other neoconservatives reject).

Conservatism as an attitude

Conservatism is the attitude or lack thereof that justifies whatever state of things currently are.

In a communist country, conservatives are communists. In a mercantilist country, conservatives are mercantilists. In a social-democrat country, conservatives are social-democrats. In a feudal country, conservatives are for feudality. In a libertarian country, conservatives are libertarians. etc.

In this sense conservatism is not a consistent ideology per se, and does not refer to any particular idea, unless a reference is given as to the country and times considered.

External links and references

  • LibertyForums (http://www.libertyforums.com/) - Classical Liberal, Libertarian & Objectivist Discussion Board

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