Saturday, 28 May 2011

After a couple of decades of the 'New Right' are Cameron's Conservative party actually philosophical conservatives?

Let it first be made clear that this blog defines philosophical conservatives as those who follow the Burke-Oakeshott line of thinking and is specifically not those members of the new right who are vehemently ideological.

The question of what is Cameron's philosophy seemed to rise a lot in the early days after his leadership election victory, Cameron spoke of compassionate and civic conservatism and people analysed it; like in this interesting Prospect article:

For this blog that excited philosophical analysis has not stopped, the notion of the 'Big Society' being the new plaything. To have a Conservative party leader extolling something that could be taken to mean support for mutuals and co-operatives is a good thing for this blog's own political stance. Furthermore the compassionate conservatism and 'Big Society' theme of this government are a welcome reprieve from the Thatcher and Reagan school.

This blog does not think that the new Conservative party way of thinking is based on the intrinsic value of mutuals, it is might actually be a rather clever return to the roots of traditional philosophical conservative thinking. Traditionally post-Burkean conservative theorists only adopted support for capitalism because it fitted in with their Burkean view that institutions and the economy do better when allowed to naturally evolve because no man or group of men can design something as well as thousands of years of organic development.

The 'founder' of modern conservatism, Michael Oakeshott, then married Burke and these 19th century ideological tendencies into one theory. This is that conservatives are rationalists, pruning institutions and governments of their bad parts and letting the other parts evolve organically. This organic evolution explains conservatives support for laissez-faire capitalism, non-codified laws (Von Savigny originally) and their opposition to revolutions based on abstract concepts of justice and equality.

This blog believes that the 'Big Society' fits in coherently with this type of conservatism, the 'Big Society' would mean letting public services evolve naturally in society. They would be separated from top-down intervention based on abstract ideals and the belief in mans ability to instantly construct something complex well.

This blog does not support Burkean conservatism because this blog is ideological and does believe in abstract ideals, primarily freedom. However, this blog does much prefer this philosophical conservatism to Thatcherism, the New Right and class based conservatism. That is not to say that this blog believes these types of conservatism are not alive and kicking within the Conservative party and its policies.

A Radical Liberal's Perspective concludes by applauding Oliver Letwin and David Willetts specifically. for raising the standard of political debate in this country slightly with the reintroduction of philosophically conservative concepts.


  1. Cheers, you've given me a lot of homework to go and read up on! :p

    Interesting read.

  2. Well do come back and comment if your interpretation is different. I've recently found myself fascinated by study of philosophical conservatism and how it contrasts with Conservative parties.