Monday, January 24, 2011

Anti-Conservative Conservatives

Neil Clark has an excellent article detailing why David Cameron's Tories are not really conservative in any real sense. Mr. Clark makes the excellent point that neoliberalism is a destructive, anti-conservative force. Besides attacking popular public services such as libraries and post offices, neoliberals also seem to take a sick delight in seeing young people forced from their homelands because of economic devastation. Those Portuguese and other Europeans that are fleeing economic collapse at home are described as adventurous pioneers, while those who stay behind are timid creatures, too attached to hearth and home.

Of course, this standard is never applied to, say, fleeing aristocrats or other affluent types who are forced to leave their homeland because of political or economic strife. How many people responded to the stories of rich émigrés from the Soviet Union or the Islamic Republic of Iran with moralistic diatribes on the need to toughen up and the benefits of being forced to leave your home? It seems like pioneering is only good for the poor.
Indeed, we see that neoliberalism, like classical liberalism before it, rests upon a kind of twisted moralism that is antithetical to authentic conservatism, in addition to being blatantly hypocritical. Traditional conservatism, for most common folk at least, has always been about a sense of place, a sense of being a part of some kind of greater, organic whole. Traditional societies were less individualistic and more communitarian. People’s lives were enmeshed in a web of familial and religious ties. A certain degree of stability gave people a sense of belonging.

While perhaps it is possible to take the argument too far (history, of course, is full of examples of human migration), and I do have respect for those who are willing to take chances as my own ancestors did when they left Italy and Germany to try to find a better life in the United States, it is important to recognize that many immigrants throughout history were prompted by awful injustices at home, and not necessarily because they woke up one day and decided to become pioneers.

Ultimately, conservatism must, first and foremost, be the enemy of alienation, extreme individualism, and loneliness. It must protect the sense of place and oppose schemes to reduce the world’s population to a mass of high-tech nomads, connected only by Facebook and Twitter. Neoliberalism and globalization are the major enemies of conservatism today.


  1. I remember reading an old Penguin classic on Confucianism and thinking the Philosophy and political thinking is very similar to what traditional Tories stand for, family, respect tradition and in terms of class relationship...a ruling class is necessary but being a elite bring responsibility and a duty to the lower classes.
    This is clearly in total contrast from the Neo Liberal and Conservative agenda, which is about structuring market to discipline the working class.

  2. Hi Mr. Smith,

    Thank you for the comment. You make very good points. The decline of social conscience conservatism is startling and unfortunate. I think today's conservatives are more likely to be influenced by classical liberalism, which helps to explain the widespread disdain for the poor and the reemergence of puritanical arguments in the economic sphere such as those explaining why workers must accept brutal austerity programs.

  3. "Neoliberalism and globalization are the major enemies of conservatism today."

    Not just conservatism, but HUMANITY.