The Difference between the New Right and Conservatism

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The post-Thatcherite New Right ideology evolved from a combination of elements of neo-Liberal and neo-Conservative ideologies, and although these are occasionally contradictory in nature, they set the New Right apart from traditional Conservatism.

The neo-liberal principles prevalent in the ideology of the New Right includes a laissez-faire view of welfare, strong support for individualism and the rising middle class, and limited government intervention in both the economy, and society as a whole. Support for individualism stems in particular from the liberal view that individuals are rational beings – and are therefore the best judges of what is in their own best interests - this leads to the idea that they should be allowed the maximum possible individual freedom to determine their own behaviour (subject to the restriction that their behaviour should not harm others). This actually contradicts the neo-conservative aspect of the New Right – which suggest that this kind of individualism is a recipe for disaster, and think that individual freedom, albeit limited, can best be guaranteed via respect for traditional norms, values and institutions. This includes a strong ‘paternalistic’ state in terms of justice, although still relatively ‘loose’ in terms of welfare and economic control. This difference however, is exacerbated when we consider the New Right as a whole, coherent, ideology against traditional Conservatism; followers of Margaret Thatcher’s version of liberal conservatism believed that people were naturally competitive, and that private enterprise should be encouraged because it rewarded effort – a liberal meritocracy. This propagated radical change in the economy as a necessary step, whilst traditional conservatives were opposed to any form of radical change; and this stemmed from differing beliefs of the importance of the individual – Thatcherites proclaim the individual as paramount, and think that the freedom of the individual, particularly in...
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