Conservative Political Theory

CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL THEORY Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports minimal and gradual change in society. Political science often credits the Irish politician EDMUND BURKE with many of the ideas now called conservative. Conservative political theory thrives on traditionalism, i.e. on traditional values. For conservatives, all that is old is good and thus has to be preserved; all that is present is to be protected; all that is new is to be avoided; all that is innovative is to be opposed. Conservatism is –

1. Authoritarian in so far, as it advocates ‘reform from above’ and rejects ‘ revolution fro below’ 2. Libertarian in so far, as it seeks the greatest possible economic liberty and the least possible
governmental regulation.

3. Paternalistic in so far, as it argues that the wealthy have an obligation to look after the less
well-off, the duty being the price of privilege.

The central themes of the conservative ideology are tradition, human imperfection, organic society, authority and property. Conservatives view authority as the basis for social cohesion, arguing that it gives people a sense of who they are and what is expected of them and reflects the hierarchical nature of all social institutions. SIGNIFICANCE Conservative ideas and doctrines first emerged in the later 18th and early 19th century. They arose as a reaction against the growing pace of economic and social change, which was in many ways symbolized by the French revolution. Using BURKE’S notion of ‘change in order to conserve', conservatism is allowed to adapt values such a tradition, hierarchy and authority to the emerging conditions of mass politics, thereby broadening its social and electoral base. CRITICAL APPRAISAL However, conservative thought has always been open to the change that it amounts to nothing more than ruling–class ideology. In proclaiming the need to resist change, it legitimises the status-quo and defends the interest of dominant or elite groups. Other critics allege that division between traditional conservatism and libertarian conservatism run so deep that the conservative tradition has become entirely incoherent. In their defense, conservatives argue that human beings are morally and intellectually imperfect, and seek the security that only tradition, authority and shared culture can offer. Experience and history, conservatives tell, will always provide a sounder basis for political action than will abstract principles such as freedom, equality and justice.

Marxist Political Theory
Marxism is an ideology that developed out of, and drew inspiration from the writings of Karl Marx (1818-83). The core of Marxism is a philosophy of history that outlines why capitalism is doomed and why socialism and eventually communism are destined to replace it. The Marxists (Marx, Linen, Mao and the likes) do not regard individual or group interests and conflicts as natural. According to the Marxists, the conflicts among the individuals are man-made. The Marxists hold the view that conflicts among the individuals or groups are irreconcilable. Micheal Duverger says, “Politics for the Marxists is conflict, struggle, in which power allows those who possess it to ensure their hold on the society and to profit by it.” According to the Marxists, the so-called common interest, for all practicable purposes, becomes and is always the interest of the economically dominant class, that politics is class politics in a class society.

Normative statements are not capable of being discovered. The common interest is nothing but the interest of the economically dominant classes. 4. against the non-possessed classes. they clash for the power. the empirical approach seeks to discover and describe facts whereas the normative approach seeks to determine and prescribe values. 5. The state is never a neutral institution. In the classless society (socialist society and communist society) there is no class struggle.normative and empirical belong to different times. and among those who have the economic power. the good. That is what makes politics an instrument of class struggle as also a means to bring about socio-economic changes. The crucial point is that empirical statement is concerned with a situation which can be observed by our sense-experience. Law of gravitational force). it protects and promotes the interests of the possessing classes and exploits and suppresses the non-possessing classes. they are beyond man’s control. not its form. Normative approach is concerned with laws and conditions largely created or adopted by human society.The characteristic features of Marxist political theory are:1. The empirical approach aims at making an empirical statement which is concerned with ‘is’ whereas the normative approach aims at making a normative statement which is concerned with what ‘ought to be’ or ‘ should be’. A normative statement requires something to be done in order to serve an intrinsic valuewhich is an end-in-itself (eg. Laws governing property and public order). The conflicts among the individuals and groups are a feature of the class society. 4. Empirical approach seeks to discover laws that are unalterable (eg. On the other hand. it is the content of a statement.Normative and Empirical APPROACHES TO POLITICAL THEORY – NORMATIVE AND EMPIRICAL The two approaches. 3. a normative statement tends to express preference for a particular type of order as dictated by a sense of duty or universal need or by commitment to moral principle or ideal. Hence. 5. 2. In short. Among themselves. Broadly speaking. Politics is a competition among the people of the possessing classes. they wage the class war. which can be verified by repeated observation and whose accuracy can be tested. Approaches to Political Theory . which are alterable (eg. It is an activity of the possessing classes. On the other hand. Revolution serves as locomotive of history. pushing the lower stage of social development (or material development) of society to its higher stage. 3. Politics arises in the class society. 6. The empirical approach remains largely descriptive while the normative approach is mainly prescriptive. one can discover and describe them. 2. One can examine how far they are morally right or wrong and then prescribe the right course. 1. 8. The class war is a phenomenon that exists only in class society. 7. which makes it empirical or normative. . though it remains in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the socialist society so as to abolish capitalism and establish socialism in full. Politics ceases to exist in the classless society. an empirical statement requiring something to be done is intended to serve an instrumental value – which is a means to some higher end (eg. differing in their nature and in their methodologies while addressing the political phenomenon. the truth. ‘Do regular exercise to improve your health’). Rather. described or verified by our sense-experience. the beautiful).

but they criticise its indifference towards values.The champions of empirical approach have been very vocal in criticising the normative approach on the ground that there is no ‘scientifically valid’ or reliable method of determining what is morally right or wrong. The supporters of normative approach do not condemn the empirical approach as such. particularly its ignorance of discrimination between higher and lower values. experience & logic True or False Normative Approach VALUES (It “should be” or “ought be” Critical & Perspective (Intrinsic Values) Speculation & logic Right or Wrong . The Issue Chief Concern Nature Based on Criterion of Validity Empirical Approach FACTS (It is so) Scientific & Descriptive (Instrumental Values) Sense.

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