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Traditional Conservatism. Braunwarth POSC 150. “Prejudice” . How do we know siblings should not have children together? Most societies (past and present) have a taboo against incest How could they have known about the psychological and genetic problems?
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Traditional Conservatism Braunwarth POSC 150
“Prejudice” • How do we know siblings should not have children together? • Most societies (past and present) have a taboo against incest • How could they have known about the psychological and genetic problems? • We know because of society “prejudice” (Burke, p. 147)
Edmund Burke • 1729-1797 • Irish • Commoner who became a member of Parliament • Sympathetic toward American Colonies • Opposed to French Revolution
Individuals are Fallible • Human Rationality is Limited • The life of an individual is short • Society is long lived • Hence we rely on tradition and convention (Burke)
Society • Through society we are connected to the past and the future • Society is our inheritance • Pluralistic - many interests and groups • Each with a role to play
The Individual • Rather than focusing on individuals with rights who use reason to perfect society, • Society is the central concern • Individuals are important as members of society and should have rights and power • But individuals are not isolated actors in a classical liberal sense
Setting • Essentially a critique of liberalism and it’s excesses • French Revolution • Social Dislocation • Anomie • Crime/Prostitution • Turned to poets, not rational discourse
Conservatism as a System of Though • Let’s compare Traditional Conservatism to Classical Liberalism on the same four points: • Epistemology • Human Nature • Society • Polity
Epistemology • Individual reasoning is limited • Knowledge is experiential and piecemeal • We get little hints • World is complex, difficult if not impossible to know • is mysterious, spiritual, natural • Opposed to generalities of truth • Rely on historical knowledge and tradition
Human Nature • We are neither as intelligent or good as we think we are • Human reason is limited and imperfect • Should not try to remake society by light of reason (Oakeshott, p. 160) • We can never foresee all consequences • The boldest attempts do the greatest harm • Society is older and knows better
Human Nature • We are slaves to our passions • Selfish • Put our desires above others • Seek more power and wealth than is good • When we want something we shouldn’t have, we Rationalize our conduct to get what we want, invent “reasons” • Society must Civilize our passions
Society • Public and Private are interrelated • Become who you are by virtue of your relations with others • Community is where values are created • Society has been around a long time, works • Individuals are fallible and will mess up • Every baby is a caveman baby, must be civilized
Polity State: • Central facet of society (organic product) • One institution which civilizes human beast • Promote harmony and reduce friction • Needs to be strong enough to restrain the passions of the people (Burke p. 140,141) • Inequality is natural and a trained and wise leadership aristocracy is appropriate (Burke, p. 144)
Polity Polity and the Individual • Rights: less important than obligations • Liberty: appropriate within certain limitations (state, religion, tradition) • Equality: society is organic and ordered, each has different place in the order • Property: not unlimited right, state reserves right to limit use if appropriate
Discussion Questions • What is more convincing: Conservatism or Liberalism? • What are the main problems with each? • Is there any way to show one as superior? • What is the conservative view of capitalism and democracy?
Democracy • Originally scared of democracy • Could tear apart traditional values • On the one hand correct: more instability • But, on the other hand, intractable force • Technological revolution infused science and knowledge throughout society • Middle class wouldn’t hold back • What aspects of conservatism continue?
Modern Social Welfare Programs • A Conservative Invention! • Produces Social Cohesion and Stability • Prevents Revolution • Mutual Responsibility to the Collective • Inequality is natural, but not too poor • Contrary to U.S. Conservatism • Orange County: highest income, lowest charity, most parents in convalescent homes