Conservative Thinkers

 .Michael Oakeshott Politics should not have fixed goals  Likened state to a „ship afloat on a boundless sea‟  State should be governed on pragmatic basis  Political action should not be based on fixed theories and principles  Role of government is simply „to rule‟.

 . and (b) the unpredictability and fallibility of human nature.Oakeshott‟s critique of rationalism Politics as „science‟ is based on flawed understanding that political problems can be solved through social engineering.  Why flawed?  This ignores (a) the immense complexity of human life.

Oakeshott‟s critique of rationalism Rationalists promote a rational design for humanity. The bid to realise these dreams results in large scale social engineering. visualising some form of utopia  Conservative pragmatists see such visions increasing human suffering by offering unrealisable visions.  .

 This is a fatal conceit – the laws guiding human conduct cannot be subject to human will  .Oakeshott‟s critique of rationalism Rationalists believe in uniformity and perfection. which Oakeshott traced back to Enlightenment idea that mankind can order the world at will.

Edmund Burke Opposed rational ways of thinking about politics – emphasised practical experience  The most important quality of any society is order  People have an obligation to obey the state so long as it provides them with order  Affairs of the state should be conducted on basis of measured judgement and past experience – not abstract theories  .

 .Edmund Burke Traditions and institutions are key factors in the preservation of order and continuity  Change in society should only be undertaken when it becomes clear that existing order is untenable.

property. tradition.Burke‟s critique of revolution He emphasised dangers of mob rule  Power should not simply be placed in the hands of those unsuited to wielding it  Revolutionary zeal is destructive of society and sets precedent for future challenges to stability.  .  Key conservative principles are overthrown – authority. hierarchy.

David Hume     Considered Toryism to be consonant with his own scepticism. who were creatures of limited benevolence . and commendable to common sense Defended the then oligarchical regime in Britain because it governed effectively Opposed rationalist ideas in politics – human reason was powerless in political sphere “Rules of justice” emerged naturally to secure order amongst men.

 . Empire.Benjamin Disraeli Paternalist outlook  Articulated danger of Britain becoming „two nations‟ – advocated „one nation‟ conservatism  Tories should take up the cause of the poor – noblesse oblige  Preserve national unity through support for traditional institutions of country – Church of England. monarchy.

European Conservatives .

aristocratic absolutism with some paternalistic welfare policies  Not reactionary – embraced industrialisation as means to national greatness  .Bismarck Made German unity and greatness (nationalism) a conservative cause  United authoritarian hierarchic.

and states were not bound by ordinary morality  Believed in power of state to protect civilised values  Contemptuous of democracy  Explanation of history and society lay in the unfolding of God‟s will  .Heinrich von Treitschke German historian (1834-1896)  Advocated Realpolitik – politics was about power.

Heinrich von Treitschke Exalted war – purified nation of corrupting individualism and self-indulgence  Saw history as a struggle between the races – Germanic peoples superior  His ideas dominated German political thinking until 1918. and he was made required reading under the Nazis.  .

Charles Maurras French journalist and political organiser (1868 – 1952)  Leader of Action Francaise  Blamed Enlightenment ideas and the Revolution for France‟s moral and political decline  Hated liberalism. individualism. democracy and equality  . liberty.

died unrepentant in 1952  .Charles Maurras French nationalist – keen on French civilisation and French greatness  Advocated restoration of strong monarchy and hereditary aristocracy  Irreligious himself. imprisoned afterwards. nonetheless supported idea of Catholic Church as essence of true France  Collaborated with Vichy regime during WW2.