CONSERVATISM QUESTIONS – A2 (UNIT 4)
1. How do traditional conservatives and the New Right differ in their views of society? (Jan 02) Traditional conservatives believe in an organic society, arguing that society is best understood as a living entity rather than an artefact or machine. Amongst the implications of this view are that social change should be resisted unless it is 'natural'; that traditional institutions should be preserved because of their role in sustaining the social whole; that society is more important than the individuals or groups who compose it because the whole is more than a collection of its individual parts; that duty and social obligation are vital in upholding the fragile fabric of society; and that hierarchy is an unavoidable feature of society.
By contrast, the liberal New Right's view of society is of atomistic individualism, reflected in the Benthamite or Thatcherite belief that there is no such thing as society only the individuals who compose it. This view implies that individuals are more important than society; that individual rights and freedoms should take priority over duties and social obligations; that social institutions are merely instrumental in that they are fashioned through contractual agreements in order to satisfy mutual interests; and that society should be characterised by equality of opportunity, allowing individuals to rise and fall on the basis of merit.
The conservative New Right, on the other hand, subscribes to a traditional, organic view of society . Key discriminating factors include the strength of the conceptual distinction between organicism and individualism; the extent to which the implications of the two views are highlighted; and whether or not reference is made to differences between neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism.
2. Why, and to what extent, do conservatives value tradition? (Jun 02) Conservatives value tradition for a variety of reasons, including that it provides the surest guide to action, being 'tried and tested' by history; that it engenders stability and rootedness because it is familiar; and that it reflects God's will, being an expression of natural law.
However, the liberal New Right rejects tradition, in that it believes in reason and tends towards radicalism, although the conservative New Right re-emphasises the importance of tradition, especially in the form of traditional values. Level 3 responses will show an awareness of at least two justifications and will reliably address the issue of 'extent', notably in relation to neo-liberalism.
A popular question. Few candidates who attempted this question were unable to at least recognise the 'tried and test' by history justification of tradition. The extent to which they did so by demonstrating insight into conservative ideas and beliefs varied considerably, however. Sound to good candidates developed justifications by reference to themes such as organicism, personal security and social stability. However, few responded in relation to 'extent' by undertaking a full discussion of the implications of New Right for tradition. The neo-conservative view was often better explained than the neo-liberal view, only strong candidates recognising that neo-liberalism is anti-traditional because it draws on rationalist theories and assumptions.
3. Why have conservatives feared moral and cultural diversity? (Jan 03) The conservative fear of moral and cultural diversity is rooted in assumptions about society and human nature. For conservatives, society has an organic character in that the whole is more than the collection of its individual parts. Society is thus bound together by a fragile network of relationships and institutions. Order and stability within such societies is promoted by shared values and a common culture; moral and cultural diversity therefore threaten conflict and even social breakdown. Moreover, as human beings are limited and dependent creatures,...
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