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Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. The central tenets of conservatism include tradition, human imperfection, organic society, hierarchy, authority, and property rights. Conservatives seek to preserve a range of institutions such as religion, parliamentary government, and property rights, with the aim of emphasizing social stability and continuity. The more traditional elements—reactionaries—oppose modernism and seek a return to "the way things were".

The first established use of the term in a political context originated in 1818 with François-René de Chateaubriand during the period of Bourbon Restoration that sought to roll back the policies of the French Revolution. Historically associated with right-wing politics, the term has since been used to describe a wide range of views. There is no single set of policies regarded as conservative because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time. Thus conservatives from different parts of the world—each upholding their respective traditions—may disagree on a wide range of issues. Edmund Burke, an 18th-century politician who opposed the French Revolution but supported the American Revolution, is credited as one of the main theorists of conservatism in Great Britain in the 1790s.

According to Quintin Hogg, the chairman of the British Conservative Party in 1959: "Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself". In contrast to the tradition-based definition of conservatism, some political theorists such as Corey Robin define conservatism primarily in terms of a general defense of social and economic inequality. From this perspective, conservatism is less an attempt to uphold traditional institutions and more, "a meditation on—and theoretical rendition of—the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back".

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Margaret Thatcher cropped2.png
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (born 1925), is a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who served from 1979 to 1990. In the 1959 general election she became MP for Finchley. Edward Heath appointed Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science in his 1970 government. In 1975 she was elected Leader of the Conservative Party, the first woman to head a major UK political party, and in 1979 she became the UK's first female Prime Minister. After entering 10 Downing Street Thatcher was determined to reverse what she perceived as a precipitous national decline. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation, particularly of the financial sector, flexible labour markets, the sale or closure of state-owned companies, and the withdrawal of subsidies to others. Thatcher's popularity waned amid recession and high unemployment, until economic recovery and the 1982 Falklands War brought a resurgence of support resulting in her re-election in 1983. Thatcher was re-elected for a third term in 1987, but her Community Charge was widely unpopular and her views on the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister and party leader in November 1990 after Michael Heseltine's challenge to her leadership of the Conservative Party.

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Conservative: One who admires radicals a century after they're dead.

— Leo Rosten, in R.L. Woods's The Modern Handbook of Humor (1967)

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Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), by Edmund Burke, is one of the best-known intellectual attacks against the (then-infant) French Revolution. In the twentieth century, it much influenced conservative and classical liberal intellectuals, who recast Burke's Whig arguments as a critique of Communism and Socialist revolutionary programmes.

Edmund Burke served in the British House of Commons, representing the Whig party, in close alliance with liberal politician Lord Rockingham. In Burke's political career, he vigorously defended constitutional limitation of the Crown's authority, denounced the religious persecution of Catholics in his native Ireland, voiced the grievances of Britain's American colonies, supported the American Revolution, and vigorously pursued impeachment of Warren Hastings, the governor-general of Bengal, for corruption and abuse of power.

In 1789, soon after the fall of the Bastille, the French aristocrat Charles-Jean-François Depont asked his impressions of the Revolution; Burke replied with two letters. The longer, second letter became Reflections on the Revolution in France, published in 1790.

Credit: Awadewit

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