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:) 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 – I. Authoritarian in so far, as it advocates ‘reform from above’ and rejects ‘ revolution fro below’ II. Libertarian in so far, as it seeks the greatest possible economic liberty and the least possible governmental regulation. III. 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 symbolised 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 statusquo 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 defence, 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.