Conservatism

cultural, social, and political philosophy that seeks to promote and to preserve traditional social institutions and practices
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Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions, practises, and values. The central tenets of conservatism include tradition, human imperfection, organic society, hierarchy and authority and property rights. Conservatives seek to promote a range of social institutions such as the family, organized religion, the military, property rights, and monarchy with the aim of emphasizing social stability and continuity while the more extreme elements called reactionaries oppose modernism and seek a return to a status quo ante.

A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. ~ Edmund Burke

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The intensity of their conservatism was an impulse as well as a guide of their progress. ~ Lord Acton
  • Great Britain had no instinct and no productive power that emancipated it from the customs of its forefathers. Every appeal against oppression was to the hereditary rights; the only protection which the Englishman knew was in the traditional laws of his country. By means of this perpetual recurrence to old principles, and of the gradual contrivance of new forms in which to secure their action, the English people conquered their freedom. The intensity of their conservatism was an impulse as well as a guide of their progress.
    • Lord Acton, "Contemporary Literature", The Home and Foreign Review (1863:3), p. 714
  • The conservative 'attitude' was one of trusting to the past, to long-established patterns of thought and conduct, and of assuming that novelties were more likely to be dangerous than advantageous.
    • Patrick Allitt, The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History (2009), p. 278
  • Caution and conservatism are expected of old age; but when the young men of a nation are possessed of such a spirit, when they are afraid of the noise and strife caused by the new applications of the truth, Heaven save the land! Its funeral bell has already rung.
  • Society will always do better where citizens have a belief in justice, honour and private morality. Where individuals are reduced to the satisfaction of personal appetites society will decline. The need to preserve society is at the very heart of conservatism and the absolute moral truths that are required for this preservation are not subject to change.
  • CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911)
  • This struggle to preserve the old creeds, cultures, and countries of the West is the new divide between Left and Right; this struggle will define what it means to be a conservative. This is the cause of the twenty-first century and the agenda of conservatism for the remainder of our lives.
  • We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation.
 
All great peoples are conservative; slow to believe in novelties; patient of much error in actualities; deeply and forever certain of the greatness that is in law, in custom once solemnly established, and now long recognized as just and final. ~ Thomas Carlyle
  • All great peoples are conservative; slow to believe in novelties; patient of much error in actualities; deeply and forever certain of the greatness that is in law, in custom once solemnly established, and now long recognized as just and final.
  • All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution.
  • A Radical generally meant a man who thought he could somehow pull up the root without affecting the flower. A Conservative generally meant a man who wanted to conserve everything except his own reason for conserving anything.
    • G. K. Chesterton, "The Evolution of Words and Meanings", in The Illustrated London News (3 July 1920)
  • Liberals chose Man. Conservatives chose God.
    • Ann Coulter, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (2003)
  • I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many or the prejudices of the few.
  • Conservatism-under-liberalism should defend human goods that are threatened by liberal ideas taken to extremes. The family, when liberal freedom becomes a corrosive hyper-individualism. Traditional religion, when liberal toleration becomes a militant and superstitious secularism. Local community and local knowledge, against expert certainty and bureaucratic centralization. Artistic and intellectual greatness, when democratic taste turns philistine or liberal intellectuals become apparatchiks. The individual talent of the entrepreneur or businessman, against the leveling impulses of egalitarianism and the stultifying power of monopoly.
  • At core Conservatism stands for the individual, his right to liberty, to justice, to respect for his own distinctive personality. It regards the family as the basic social unit—(cheers)—and the sanctity of family life as vital to the health of the State.
    • Anthony Eden, speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton (2 October 1947)
 
That which is best about conservatism, that which, though it cannot be expressed in detail, inspires reverence in all, is the Inevitable. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • That which is best about conservatism, that which, though it cannot be expressed in detail, inspires reverence in all, is the Inevitable.
  • Conservatives, on Hayek’s account, suffered from the following weaknesses. They feared change unduly. They were unreasonably frightened of uncontrolled social forces. They were too fond of authority. They had no grasp of economics. They lacked the feel for “abstraction” needed for engaging with people of different outlooks. They were too cozy with elites and establishments. They gave in to jingoism and chauvinism. They tended to think mystically, much as socialists tended to overrationalize. They were, last, too suspicious of democracy.
  • To survive, let alone flourish, liberal democracy needs the right’s support. It needs, that is, conservatives who accept liberal and democratic ground rules. Yet conservatism began life as an enemy of liberalism and never fully abandoned its reservations about democracy. Conservatism endured in modern politics by cooperating with liberalism and soon learned how to prevail in democracy. Liberal democracy of the kind that thrived in Western Europe and the United States after 1945 grew from that historic compromise by the right. When, as now, the right hesitates or denies its support, liberal democracy’s health is at risk. With the left in retreat, both intellectually and in party terms, the right commands politics at present. But which right is that? Is it the broadly liberal conservatism that underpinned liberal democracy’s post-1945 successes or an illiberal hard right claiming to speak for “the people”?
  • The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
    • John Kenneth Galbraith, "Stop the Madness," interview with Rupert Cornwell (6 July 2002), Toronto Globe and Mail
  • The perils of change are so great, the promise of the most hopeful theories is so often deceptive, that it is frequently the wiser part to uphold the existing state of things, if it can be done, even though, in point of argument, it should be utterly indefensible.
  • [C]onservatism is not supposed to be against change or progress... It is supposed to be skeptical of grandiose or reckless schemes which throw out the good in pursuit of the perfect.
 
Conservatism, we are told, is out-of-date. This charge is preposterous and we ought to boldly say so. The laws of God, and of nature, have no dateline. ~ Barry Goldwater
  • Conservatism, we are told, is out-of-date. This charge is preposterous and we ought to boldly say so. The laws of God, and of nature, have no dateline. These principles are derived from the nature of man, and from the truths that God has revealed about His creation. To suggest that the Conservative philosophy is out-of-date is akin to saying that the Golden Rule, or the Ten Commandments or Aristotle’s Politics are out-of-date.
  • Conservatism is an instinct rather than an ideology. It is ironic, quizzical, cool-tempered, distrustful of grand theories. Conservatives understand that the things they cherish – property rights, parliamentary government, personal freedom, norms of courtesy – take a long time to build up, but can be quickly destroyed.
  • Continuity is at the heart of conservatism: ecology serves that heart.
  • Conservatism, though a necessary element in any stable society, is not a social program; in its paternalistic, nationalistic and power adoring tendencies it is often closer to socialism than true liberalism; and with its traditionalistic, anti-intellectual, and often mystical propensities it will never, except in short periods of disillusionment, appeal to the young and all those others who believe that some changes are desirable if this world is to become a better place.
  • Conservatism proper is a legitimate, probably necessary, and certainly widespread attitude of opposition to drastic change. It has, since the French Revolution, for a century and a half played an important role in European politics. Until the rise of socialism, its opposite was liberalism... There is nothing corresponding to this conflict in the history of the United States, because what in Europe was called "liberalism" was here the common tradition on which the American polity had been built: thus the defender of the American tradition was a liberal in the European sense.
  • Political conservatism cannot be separated from personal conservatism. Dissolute individuals, those who are incapable of preserving and restoring traditional norms in their own lives, are not a material out of which cohesive and enduring families can be built. No tribe or nation can persist if its sons and daughters are not zealous to preserve their inheritance intact and to restore it when it has decayed or been forgotten.
  • Conservatism begins at home.
    • Yoram Hazony, final words of Conservatism: A Rediscovery (2022), p. 394
  • Conservative theory must always base itself on some form of historical restorationism. The moderate seeks the world of Joseph Chamberlain—or if he is daring, of Disraeli. The really advanced radical looks still further back, to Prince Rupert, or the Middle Ages, particularly if he is a Catholic.
    • Denis Healey, 'The Owl and the Bulldog: Reflections on Conservatism and Foreign Policy', Twentieth Century, Volume 155 (1954), p. 107
  • How is the United States at once the most conservative and commercial and the most revolutionary society on Earth?
  • Donald Trump is a symptom, not a disease. The disease is the death of real political conservatism: a cool, intelligent reluctance to believe that all change is good, a love for the established, the particular and the well-worn. During the 1980s, many people mistook Thatcherism and Reaganism, actually a wild form of liberalism, for conservatism. They lapped up the temporary riches it provided and now find themselves yearning for leaders to take them back to a world of secure jobs and secure borders.
  • Conservatives do not believe that political struggle is the most important thing in life... The simplest among them prefer fox-hunting — the wisest religion.
    • Quintin Hogg, The Case for Conservatism, Penguin Books (1947), p. 10
  • 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.
 
A conservative is someone who does not think he is morally superior to his grandfather. ~ John Howard
  • A conservative is someone who does not think he is morally superior to his grandfather.
    • John Howard, quoted by Keith Windschuttle in The Howard Era (2009)
  • In essence I find that the foundation of modern conservatism is driven by a clinging to God in fear of the world, whereas the foundation of modern liberalism is a clinging to the world in fear of God; albeit, the true foundation should be one's clinging to God in fear of God.
    • Criss Jami, Salomé: In Every Inch In Every Mile (2011)
  • Liberalism, contrary to popular belief, is facing backward in considering the injustice of its ancestors. Conservatism, contrary to popular belief, is facing forward in considering the psychology of its descendants.
    • Criss Jami, Killosophy (2015)
  • Conservatism means we take the things that we know work and we keep and maintain them. If you want to try something new, you're careful, you're cautious, you're skeptical of it. If it turns out it works we'll try incorporating that, but we have a great skepticism about doing that. Well, that's not what we got. We got radical ideas that no one else in the world is doing. These other countries are having fewer problems, and their middle class is better off, because they didn't do these radical things. They were, in fact, conservative. Now the things they did, we might view as liberal, but they were conservative in hanging on to those things.
    • David Cay Johnston, "How The One Percent Enrich Themselves at Government Expense" (23 June 2009)
  • The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can't make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.
  • With reason, conservatives have been called "the party of order." If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum. Ultimate equality in the judgment of God, and equality before courts of law, are recognized by conservatives; but equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.
 
True conservatism rises at the antipodes from individualism. Individualism is social atomism; conservatism is community of spirit. ~ Russell Kirk
  • True conservatism rises at the antipodes from individualism. Individualism is social atomism; conservatism is community of spirit.
  • The twentieth-century conservative is concerned, first of all, for the regeneration of the spirit and character – with the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul, the restoration of the ethical understanding, and the religious sanction upon which any life worth living is founded. This is conservatism at its highest.
  • Conservatives respect the wisdom of their ancestors; they are dubious of wholesale alteration. They think society is a spiritual reality, possessing an eternal life but a delicate constitution: it cannot be scrapped and recast as if it were a machine.
  • [Conservatism:] Our revolutionary message … is that a self-disciplined people can create a political community in which an ordered liberty will promote both economic prosperity and political participation.
  • Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says "we should…"
    • Danny Kruger, On Fraternity: Politics Beyond Liberty & Equality (2007), p. 13
  • Rightist ideas are only truly magnetic if they are absolutely pure; Leftist ideas, on account of their materialistic and heretic essence, never demand perfection. Mediocrity is the death of every Rightist movement, but it is the very air in which Leftism thrives. A totalitarian leader who betrays practically every point of his party program hardly shakes the faith of his fanatical followers, but mediocre monarchs, Popes, and prelates have destroyed the old order.
  • The opposite of conservative is destructive.
  • Conservatism is the antidote to tyranny. It's the only one. It's based on thousands of years of human experience. There is nothing narrow about the conservative philosophy. It's a liberating philosophy. It is a magnificent philosophy. It is a philosophy for the ages, for all times.
    • Mark Levin, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto (2010)
  • The reactionary is anything but a conservative. He is as radical and modern a figure as the revolutionary, someone shipwrecked in the rapidly changing present, and suffering from nostalgia for an idealized past and an apocalyptic fear that history is rushing toward catastrophe. And like the revolutionary his political engagements are motivated by highly developed ideas.
    • Mark Lilla, The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction (2016)
 
What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried? ~ Abraham Lincoln
  • You say you are conservative — eminently conservative — while we are revolutionary, destructive, or something of the sort. What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried? We stick to, contend for, the identical old policy on the point in controversy which was adopted by "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live;" while you with one accord reject, and scout, and spit upon that old policy, and insist upon substituting something new. True, you disagree among yourselves as to what that substitute shall be. You are divided on new propositions and plans, but you are unanimous in rejecting and denouncing the old policy of the fathers.
  • Conservative or rightist extremist movements have arisen at different periods in modern history, ranging from the Horthyites in Hungary, the Christian Social Party of Dollfuss in Austria, Der Stahlhelm and other nationalists in pre-Hitler Germany, and Salazar in Portugal, to the pre-1966 Gaullist movements and the monarchists in contemporary France and Italy. The right extremists are conservative, not revolutionary. They seek to change political institutions in order to preserve or restore cultural and economic ones, while extremists of the centre and left seek to use political means for cultural and social revolution. The ideal of the right extremist is not a totalitarian ruler, but a monarch, or a traditionalist who acts like one. Many such movements in Spain, Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Italy have been explicitly monarchist. The supporters of these movements differ from those of the centrists, tending to be wealthier, and more religious, which is more important in terms of a potential for mass support.
    • Seymour Martin Lipset, "Social Stratification and 'Right-Wing Extremism,'" in British Journal of Sociology (1959:10), pp. 346-382
 
The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. ~ Daniel Patrick Moynihan
  • History, and perhaps that is the case today, can also be an escape from the present. When the world is complicated and changing rapidly, not necessarily for the better, it is no surprise that we look back to what we mistakenly think was a simpler and clearer world. Conservatives dream of small towns painted by Norman Rockwell, where children played innocently in their gardens with no grown-up predators to disturb them, where men and women were comfortable in their roles, and where the sun shone on day after day of happiness. Leftists hearken back to the glory days when the union movement was strong and the bosses were on the run.
  • The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.
  • I never meant to say that the conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.
    • John Stuart Mill, in a letter to the Conservative MP, John Pakington (March 1866)
 
Radicalism often generates youth movements, while conservatism is a condition found among the mature, who have discovered what it is in life they most value. ~ Kenneth Minogue
  • It is characteristic of the conservative temperament to value established identities, to praise habit and to respect prejudice, not because it is irrational, but because such things anchor the darting impulses of human beings in solidities of custom which we do not often begin to value until we are already losing them. Radicalism often generates youth movements, while conservatism is a condition found among the mature, who have discovered what it is in life they most value.
    • Kenneth Minogue, quoted by Adam Kuper in The Social Science Encyclopedia (2nd ed.), pp. 155–156
  • Edmund Burke made the central conservative insight; that a culture and a society are not things run for the convenience of the people who happen to be here right now, but is a deep pact between the dead, the living, and those yet to be born.
    • Douglas Murray, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam (2017)
  • It could be that today's conservative movement remains in thrall to the same narrative that has defined its attitude toward film and the arts for decades. Inspired by feelings of exclusion after Hollywood and the popular culture turned leftward in the '60s and '70s, this narrative has defined the film industry as an irredeemably liberal institution toward which conservatives can only act in opposition—never engagement. Ironically, this narrative ignores the actual history of Hollywood, in which conservatives had a strong presence from the industry's founding in the early 20th century up through the '40s, '50s and into the mid-'60s. The conservative Hollywood community at that time included such leading directors as Howard Hawks, Frank Capra, and Cecil B. DeMille, and major stars like John Wayne, Clark Gable, and Charlton Heston. These talents often worked side by side with notable Hollywood liberals like directors Billy Wilder, William Wyler, and John Huston, and stars like Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Spencer Tracy. The richness of classic Hollywood cinema is widely regarded as a testament to the ability of these two communities to work together, regardless of political differences. As the younger, more left-leaning "New Hollywood" generation swept into the industry in the late '60s and '70s, this older group of Hollywood conservatives faded away, never to be replaced. Except for a brief period in the '80s when the Reagan Presidency led to a conservative reengagement with film—with popular stars like Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger making macho, patriotic action films—conservatives appeared to abandon popular culture altogether. In the wake of this retreat, conservative failure to engage with Hollywood now appears to have been recast by today's East Coast conservative establishment into a generalized opposition toward film and popular culture itself. In the early '90s, conservative film critic Michael Medved codified this oppositional feeling toward Hollywood in his best-selling book Hollywood vs. America.
 
It takes a certain stubbornness, a doggedness of loyalty, even a modicum of unreasonable conservatism maybe, to lose nothing in the long march of the ages. ~ Sister Nivedita
  • A single generation enamoured of foreign ways is almost enough in history to risk the whole continuity of civilization and learning. Ages of accumulation are entrusted to the frail bark of each passing epoch by the hand of the past, desiring to make over its treasures to the use of the future. It takes a certain stubbornness, a doggedness of loyalty, even a modicum of unreasonable conservatism maybe, to lose nothing in the long march of the ages; and, even when confronted with great empires, with a sudden extension of the idea of culture, or with the supreme temptation of a new religion, to hold fast what we have, adding to it only as much as we can healthfully and manfully carry.
  • The conservative is a person who considers very closely every chance, even the longest, of "throwing out the baby with the bath-water," as the German proverb puts it, and who determines his conduct accordingly.
    • Albert Jay Nock, in 'A Little Conserva-tive' in The Atlantic Monthly (October 1936)
  • To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss. Familiar relationships and loyalties will be preferred to the allure of more profitable attachments; to acquire and to enlarge will be less important than to keep, to cultivate and to enjoy; the grief of loss will be more acute than the excitement of novelty or promise. It is to be equal to one's own fortune, to live at the level of one's own means, to be content with the want of greater perfection which belongs alike to oneself and one's circumstances.
  • Neither conservatives nor humorists believe man is good. But left-wingers do.
  • Conservative ideology...may be defined as a philosophy of imperfection, committed to...the defence of a limited style of politics.
 
The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians. ~ George Orwell
  • What do you do […] when you are not blinded by ideology, and you see the world and all its dramatic characters clearly? Well, you do not hope for the infinite perfectibility of humanity and aim your system at some unattainable utopia. You try to design a system that sinners such as you cannot damage too badly—too permanently—even when they are half blind and resentful. To the degree that I am conservative in orientation, I believe in the wisdom of that vision.
  • 12 principles for a 21st century conservatism:
    1. The fundamental assumptions of Western civilization are valid.
    2. Peaceful social being is preferable to isolation and to war. In consequence, it justly and rightly demands some sacrifice of individual impulse and idiosyncrasy.
    3. Hierarchies of competence are desirable and should be promoted.
    4. Borders are reasonable. Likewise, limits on immigration are reasonable. Furthermore, it should not be assumed that citizens of societies that have not evolved functional individual-rights predicated polities will hold values in keeping with such polities.
    5. People should be paid so that they are able and willing to perform socially useful and desirable duties.
    6. Citizens have the inalienable right to benefit from the result of their own honest labor.
    7. It is more noble to teach young people about responsibilities than about rights.
    8. It is better to do what everyone has always done, unless you have some extraordinarily valid reason to do otherwise.
    9. Radical change should be viewed with suspicion, particularly in a time of radical change.
    10. The government, local and distant, should leave people to their own devices as much as possible.
    11. Intact heterosexual two-parent families constitute the necessary bedrock for a stable polity.
    12. We should judge our political system in comparison to other actual political systems and not to hypothetical utopias.
    • Jordan Peterson, "Speech of Jordan Peterson at Carleton Place for the Conservative Party of Ontario"
  • Nobody starts out as a conservative. Everyone starts out as a progressive liberal. If a little child burns himself on the stove, it wasn’t because he was conservative and learned, it was because he was wild and far too liberal. Conservatism is spawned by affliction—it is the philosophy that is learned the hard way. Whereas liberalism is the philosophy that always comes before conservatism. Liberalism produces conservatives in almost every area of the world, where no conservatives are there to check it. Anywhere liberalism has been allowed to run its wild course, you will see people running the opposite direction into conservatism, whether it be from a burning stove or from a burning communist regime.
    • Rob Primeau, The Law of Liberty: A Practical Look at the Judeo-Christian Tradition (2019)
 
I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. ~ Ronald Reagan
  • Suppose you had to remember to beat your heart, contract in exact sequence the muscles you use for every step. … Conservatism comes out of the body, the sense of many things being done for us that any attempt to re-think, or even make conscious, would fatally disrupt.
  • What do we call conservative, and what do we call liberal, in daily life? A conservative explains behavior spiritually, and personalizes responsibility. In Aristotelian terms, the principle of motion is within us. A liberal, by contrast, explains behavior mechanically, and externalizes responsibility: the principle of motion is outside us. Thus, in the typical policy debate, a liberal makes excuses for the human agent, and a conservative places blame. The spark of the liberal argument — He didn’t have the same opportunities you did — meets the conservative conceptual firewall: Lots of people start poor, but still find ways to make it.
  • If movement conservatism is less about hating the state than about fighting Godless modernism, this might explain why conservatives have always found actual or cultural wars to fight, but have never got around to shrinking or controlling the growth of government (though centrists like Eisenhower and Clinton did).
    • Mark Riebling, "Conservatism Turned Upside Down: Sam Tanenhaus' Critique of Conservative Reason," City Journal (16 October 2009)
  • Change is not what we expect from religious people. They tend to love the past more than the present or the future.
    • Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (2004)
  • Conservative: One who admires radicals a century after they're dead.
    • Leo Rosten, as quoted in Ralph Louis Woods, The Modern Handbook of Humor (1967)
  • The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas — uncertainty, progress, change — into crimes.
  • John Locke seems, in an abstract and academic way, to regret economic inequality, but he certainly does not think that it would be wise to take such measures as might prevent it. No doubt he was impressed, as all men of his time were, by the gains to civilization that were due to rich men, chiefly as patrons of art and letters. The same attitude exists in modern America, where science and art are largely dependent upon the benefactions of the very rich. To some extent, civilization is furthered by social injustice. This fact is the basis of what is most respectable in conservatism.
  • It's hard to understand how "conservatives" could oppose safeguarding the environment that all of us—including conservatives and their children—depend on for our very lives. What exactly is it conservatives are conserving?
    • Carl Sagan, Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (1997)
  • I'm a conservative but not because I care very much about the marginal tax rates of the richest Americans, rather I'm a market-oriented localist because I believe in cultural pluralism and I believe in the First Amendment, in voluntarism over compulsion whenever possible, and in as much de-centralized decision-making as is conceivably feasible.
    • Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult (2017)
 
Conservatism is itself a modernism, and in this lies the secret of its success. ~ Roger Scruton
  • The conservative response to modernity is to embrace it, but to embrace it critically, in full consciousness that human achievements are rare and precarious, that we have no God-given right to destroy our inheritance, but must always patiently submit to the voice of order, and set an example of orderly living.
  • Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.
  • Just as liberalism is the main force that drives conservatism and maintains its popularity in some quarters, conservatism is the reason liberalism continues to enjoy the traction that it does in our poor civilization.
    • L. Neil Smith, "Revenge of the Cookie Monster" (31 January 2010), The Libertarian Enterprise
  • Never underestimate the intrinsic, as opposed to ideological, conservatism of an idea like revolution once it’s got some momentum behind it.
  • Reactionism is not the same thing as conservatism. It’s far more potent a brew. Reactionary thought begins, usually, with acute despair at the present moment and a memory of a previous golden age. It then posits a moment in the past when everything went to hell and proposes to turn things back to what they once were. It is not simply a conservative preference for things as they are, with a few nudges back, but a passionate loathing of the status quo and a desire to return to the past in one emotionally cathartic revolt. If conservatives are pessimistic, reactionaries are apocalyptic. If conservatives value elites, reactionaries seethe with contempt for them. If conservatives believe in institutions, reactionaries want to blow them up. If conservatives tend to resist too radical a change, reactionaries want a revolution. Though it took some time to reveal itself, today’s Republican Party — from Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution to today’s Age of Trump — is not a conservative party. It is a reactionary party that is now at the peak of its political power.
  • Within the framework of liberal democracy, protest and dissent can exist in healthy counterpart with orthodoxy and conservatism, contained by a general recognition of the need to balance respect for individual rights with respect for law and order.
 
Every Conservative desires peace. ~ Margaret Thatcher
  • Our opponents like to try and make you believe that Conservatism is a privilege of the few. But Conservatism conserves all that is great and best in our national heritage.
  • Justice cannot be rendered administratively, top-down. It is not a poncho; one size does not fit all. It is a matter of Me and You—and that is, for conservatives, an opportunity. For liberalism, like its kin Communism and fascism, is imposed and propagandized; it thrills at the movements of masses; it is interested in you as woman or worker or minority. But conservatism is evangelized; it requires the conversion of one heart, and another, and another; it is interested in you, full stop.
  • The conservative in financial circles I have often described as a man who thinks nothing new ought ever to be adopted for the first time.
  • Conservatism, being an upper-class characteristic, is decorous; and conversely, innovation, being a lower-class phenomenon, is vulgar. […] Innovation is bad form.
  • The fact that the usages, actions, and views of the well-to-do leisure class acquire the character of a prescriptive canon of conduct for the rest of society, gives added weight and reach to the conservative influence of that class. It makes it incumbent upon all reputable people to follow their lead.
  • The historic content of conservatism stands, above all, for two things: organic unity and rooted liberty.
  • Conservatives are often mocked for supposedly urging "higher things" on some poor proletarian who needs bread. "Let 'em eat culture" is considered as sinful a conservative evasion of social conscience as Marie Antoinette's "Let 'em eat cake." But what happens after the admittedly primary need for bread is satisfied? Thereafter the humanistic conservative can no longer be accused of fleecing the toilers if he insists: American material progress should from now on make increasing concessions to cultural inwardness.
 
The function of the Church in every age has been conservative—to transmit undiminished and uncontaminated the creed inherited from its predecessors. ~ Evelyn Waugh
  • Father Sheerin suggests that Catholic conservatism is the product of the defensive policy necessary in the last century against the nationalistic-masonic secularism of the time. I would ask him to consider that the function of the Church in every age has been conservative—to transmit undiminished and uncontaminated the creed inherited from its predecessors.
    • Evelyn Waugh, letter to the Editor of The Catholic Herald (7 August 1964)
  • The struggle between the opponents and defenders of capitalism is a struggle between innovators who do not know what innovation to make and conservatives who do not know what to conserve.
  • Like Aristotle, conservatives generally accept the world as it is; they distrust the politics of abstract reason – that is, reason divorced from experience.
  • I have one major rule: everybody is right. […] To liberals I say, Have you thought about how important some conservative ideas are? To conservatives I say, Can you perhaps include a more liberal perspective?
    • Ken Wilber, Collected Works of Ken Wilber, vol. VIII (2000)
  • The impact of the age of Reagan is indicated even more strongly by the guiding assumptions and possibilities of American politics and government, and the hold they have on public opinion. Thirty years ago, the proposition that reducing taxes on the rich was the best solution for all economic problems inspired only a few on the right-wing fringe. Today, it drives the national domestic agenda and is so commonplace that it sometimes appears to have become the conventional wisdom. It is only one of many such notions—including proposals that public schools teach the pseudoscience of “intelligent design” as well as Darwin’s theory of evolution, the idea that wealthy business buccaneers should have a large say in formulating federal policy, and the so-called unitary executive theory of presidential power—that have moved from the political margins to the center of power. Buttressed by the mythical accounts of the past thirty-five years, as well as by changed standards of truth and objectivity in the news media, conservatives in the age of Reagan learned how to seize and keep control of the terms of public debate—skills that liberal Democrats once mastered but lost amid their political complacency in the 1970s and disarray in the 1980s.
    • Sean Wilentz, The Age of Reagan: A History 1974-2008 (2008), pp. 6-7
  • Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.
    • Frank Wilhoit, composer (March 22, 2018) [2]
  • Recognizing that “reality” is not inevitable makes it more painful; subversive thoughts provoke the urge to subversive action. But such action has consequences-rebels risk losing their jobs, failing in school, incurring the wrath of parents and spouses, suffering social ostracism. Often vociferous conservatism is sheer defensiveness: people are afraid to be suckers, to get their hopes up, to rethink their hard-won adjustments, to be branded bad or crazy.
    • Ellen Willis "The Majoritarian Fallacy" in Don't Think, Smile!: Notes on a Decade of Denial (1999)
  • Conservatism is a philosophy of social evolution, in which certain lasting values are defended within the framework of the tension of political conflict. And when given values are at stake the conservative can even become a revolutionary.
  • Generally young men are regarded as radicals. This is a popular misconception. The most conservative persons I ever met are college undergraduates. The radicals are the men past middle life.
  • RADICAL—one who goes too far. CONSERVATIVE—one who does not go far enough. REACTIONARY—one who does not go at all.
    • Woodrow Wilson, speech to Kansas Society of New York (23 January 1911)

See also

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Conservative intellectuals
France Bainvillede BenoistBernanosLe Bonde BonaldBossuetBrucknerCamusCarrelde ChateaubriandFayeFustel de CoulangesFaguetDurkheimGirardGuénonHouellebecqde Jouvenelde MaistreMaurrasRenande RivarolTainede TocquevilleZemmour
Germanosphere von BismarckBurckhardtHamannHegelHeideggerHerderJüngervon Kuehnelt-LeddihnKlagesLorenzLöwithMannNietzscheNolteNovalisPieperRauschningvon RankeRöpkeSchmittSloterdijkSchoeckSpenglervon TreitschkeWeininger
Italy D'AnnunzioEvolaGentileMoscaPareto
Iberia & Latin America de CarvalhoCortésDávilaFernández de la Mora y MonOrtega y GassetSalazar
United Kingdom AmisArnoldBalfourBellocBowdenBurkeCarlyleChestertonColeridgeDisraeliFergusonFilmerGaltonGibbonHitchensHumeJohnson (Paul)Johnson (Samuel)KiplingLandLawrenceLewisMoreMosleyMurrayNewmanOakeshottPowellRuskinScrutonStephenTolkienUnwinWaughWordsworthYeats
USA & Canada AntonBabbittCalhounCoolidgeCrichtonBellBellowBloomBoorstinBuchanan (Pat)Buckley Jr.BurnhamCaldwellConquestDerbyshireDouthatDreherDurantEastmanFrancisGoldbergGoldwaterGottfriedGrantHansonHuntingtonKimballKirkKristolLaschLovecraftMansfieldMearsheimerMeyerMurrayNockPagliaPetersonRepplierRufoRushtonShockleySowellSumnerThielViereckVoegelinWeaverYarvin
Russia DostoyevskyDuginHavelKaramzinSolzhenitsyn
Ummah AsadFardidKhameneiKhomeiniQutbShariati
Other / Mixed Alamariu (Bronze Age Pervert)ConradEliadeEysenckHayekHazonyHoppeMannheimMishimaMolnarSantayanaStraussTalmon
Social and political philosophy
Ideologies Anarchism ⦿ Aristocratic Radicalism (NietzscheBrandes...) ⦿ Autarchism ⦿ Ba'athism (• Aflaqal-AssadHussein) ⦿ Communism ⦿ (Neo-)Confucianism ⦿ Conservatism ⦿ Constitutionalism ⦿ Dark Enlightenment ⦿ Environmentalism ⦿ Fascism (• Islamo-Eco-Francoism...) vs. Nazism ⦿ Feminism (• Anarcha-RadicalGender-criticalSecond-wave...) ⦿ Formalism/(Neo-)cameralism ⦿ Freudo-Marxism ⦿ Gaddafism/Third International Theory ⦿ Legalism ⦿ Leninism/Vanguardism ⦿ Juche (• Kim Il-sungKim Jong IlKim Jong Un...) ⦿ Liberalism ⦿ Libertarianism/Laissez-faire Capitalism ⦿ Maoism ⦿ Marxism ⦿ Mohism ⦿ Republicanism ⦿ Social democracy ⦿ Socialism ⦿ Stalinism ⦿ Straussianism ⦿ Syndicalism ⦿ Xi Jinping thought ⦿ New Monasticism (• MacIntyreDreher...)
Modalities Absolutism vs. Social constructionism/Relativism ⦿ Autarky/Autonomy vs. Heteronomy ⦿ Authoritarianism/Totalitarianism ⦿ Colonialism vs. Imperialism ⦿ Communitarianism vs. Liberalism ⦿ Elitism vs. Populism/Majoritarianism/Egalitarianism ⦿ Individualism vs. Collectivism ⦿ Nationalism vs. Cosmopolitanism ⦿ Particularism vs. Universalism ⦿ Modernism/Progressivism vs. Postmodernism ⦿ Reactionism/Traditionalism vs. Futurism/Transhumanism
Concepts Alienation ⦿ Anarcho-tyranny ⦿ Anomie ⦿ Authority ⦿ Conquest's Laws of Politics ⦿ Duty ⦿ Eugenics ⦿ Elite ⦿ Elite theory ⦿ Emancipation ⦿ Equality ⦿ Freedom ⦿ Government ⦿ Hegemony ⦿ Hierarchy ⦿ Iron law of oligarchy ⦿ Justice ⦿ Law ⦿ Monopoly ⦿ Natural law ⦿ Noblesse oblige ⦿ Norms ⦿ Obedience ⦿ Peace ⦿ Pluralism ⦿ Polyarchy ⦿ Power ⦿ Propaganda ⦿ Property ⦿ Revolt ⦿ Rebellion ⦿ Revolution ⦿ Rights ⦿ Ruling class ⦿ Social contract ⦿ Social inequality ⦿ Society ⦿ State ⦿ Tocqueville effect ⦿ Totalitarian democracy ⦿ War ⦿ Utopia
Government Aristocracy ⦿ Autocracy ⦿ Bureaucracy ⦿ Dictatorship ⦿ Democracy ⦿ Meritocracy ⦿ Monarchy ⦿ Ochlocracy ⦿ Oligarchy ⦿ Plutocracy ⦿ Technocracy ⦿ Theocracy ⦿ Tyranny