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November 09, 2013



"If it has, what went wrong?"

Because modern Conservatives tend to be defined by economic liberalism rather than social conservatism. It is the party of capitalists more than the party of conservatives.

Evan Harper

Corey Robin would tell you that "the conservative dispostion" didn't go anywhere because it wasn't there in the first place.


Its mainly because for the last 15-20 years if anyone stuck their head above the parapet and opposed immigration on the grounds of preserving the indigenous culture, they got it shot off by the Left calling them all racists (cf Gordon Brown and 'that bigoted woman').


Small-c conservatism, like progressivism, does not align with any left-right political spectrum, so there is no reason why it shouldn't "fade" on the right. This ideological waxing and waning just reflects changing interests, e.g. Labour's shift from the "conservatism" of the 70s to the "progressivism" of the 90s.

To refer to it as a "disposition" is to treat it as an intrinsic quality, whose fluctuation over time reflects the rise or decline of particular groups and sentiments, when it is better thought of as a pragmatic response to changing circumstance. The idea of a conservative disposition or temper is itself ideological.

It's a commonplace that opposition to immigration is indicative of a fear of wider social change rather than outright racism. The Tory right are (mostly) more progressive than conservative in respect of that underlying change, i.e. they are consciously pushing for a more precarious and unequal society.

Consequently, they are adopting progressive tactics: an appeal to data rather than sentiment (even if misrepresented); lurid anecdotes (the skiver trope is the flipside of older coal-in-the-bath cliches, the one hostile, the other sympathetic); and the criticism of self-interested elites (the EU, the public-school mafia, the BBC etc).

Conversely, the left, which is on the back foot, finds itself employing conservative tactics: the longing for a saviour (Gordon Brown's Freudian slip); the focus on consequences rather than causes (price-caps rather than cartel-busting); and the nostalgic appeal to tradition (the Spirit of '45 etc).

"Good, genuine conservatism" is no more concrete than "good capitalism".

Ralph Musgrave

Jim is of course right to say that lefties like screaming insults like “racist” and “bigot” at anyone who doesn’t adhere to the leftie line on immigration. I could add “xenophobe” and “Nazi”.

Another point is that meetings organised by anti-immigration parties or organisations tend be to on the receiving end of one of the tactics employed by Adolf Hitler: physically disrupting the meetings of organisations one doesn’t like. So the very people who scream “Nazi” at those they don’t like, actually employ Nazi tactics.

And the political party they vote for (Labour) indulged in a classic Nazi pastime: invading other countries (Iraq) for no good reason. Rich, isn't it?


Ironically the problem for Conservatism in modernity is similar to that faced by Marxism, just as it is impossible to conserve the nature of a gentrified society which is no longer traditional in its character and which cannot therefore be conserved so too it is impossible to foster socialism in a society in which the class structure on which the Marxist analysis was based no longer exists because by defending the class interests of a gentrified population in effect is to defend bourgeois interests.


It may be that some of the [small c] conservatives are in UKIP. bjg

John Lofton

FORGET, PLEASE, modern “conservatism.” It has been a failure because it has been, operationally, de facto, Godless. In the political/civil government realm it has ignored Christ and what Scripture says about the role and purpose of civil government. Thus, it failed. Such secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God they are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

”[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.

“American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."

In any event, “politics,” for the most part today, is whoring after false gods. It will not save us. Our country is turning into Hell because the church in America has forgotten God (Psalm 9:17) and refuses to kiss His Son (Psalm 2.) See, please, 2 Chronicles 7:14ff for the way to get our land healed.

John Lofton, Recovering Republican
Dir., The God And Government Project
Active Facebook Wall

Ben Cobley

A lovely post Chris - informative and thought-provoking - in response to my own, which I hope was maybe half of that.

The conservatism of Conservatism wasn't something I addressed in my piece, but it is a really interesting topic. After all, the etymology of conservatism is to conserve (Roger Scruton is interesting on this), yet the strongest, most confident voices on the right preach free markets, in which, as we know, all that is solid melts into the air. Traditional ways get displaced and old cultures are destroyed as the market blazes through, commodifying everything and everyone in sight.

On the left, we have our own conservatisms - things we want to preserve - like the NHS and the BBC - but market forces, media pressure and public opinion put stress on them. And we must admit that those institutions have lost their way as many other institutions have, including political parties and trades unions.

My own feeling, and conviction, is that we need to start rowing back from the hyper-pressurised world of globalisation and start consciously privileging quality of life for all. That is not to abnegate economics - far from it - but to employ economics to another end than indefinite 'growth'.

British business relies on immigration for cheap and motivated labour. The liberal-left in its worst moments allies itself with that view in its disdain for the old white working class. There are issues there, but for me quality of life does involve a large dose of community and familiarity - nothing to do with race or ethnicity, just the commonality of living side by side. The 'free' market is antagonistic to that view.


Deviation From the Mean

Strange article this, because the 'sweet' 'cosy' and gentle anti immigration you talk about actually leads to the holocaust and is relected in some pretty ignorant and extreme views about 'outsiders'.

In some ways I think Jim has it correct, that the PC brigade did cower the racists up to a point. I remember when people used derogatory terms such the 'n' word and the like, I attended football matches where the most vile racist comments were the norm. these days much of that has gone. Thank god the PC brigade won out and racists scum like Jim were defeated.

But the threat is ever present, make no mistake about that.


I agree with your conculsion Chris. But also I think sentiment and tradition is a qualitative human phenomenon. You mention social capital, but wouldn't you need to believe there is such thing as society first, perhaps, for this to even matter? If we're all self-serving atoms, then why worry about group identities, or a sense of belonging (amongst other things)?

I'd argue that the recognition of these virtues fades when you take on the narrow, utilitarian rationalism we have today - we all vulgar Marxists now - and it might be the reason why comment from the right (and left?) around immigration concentrates on the numbers.


"Strange article this, because the 'sweet' 'cosy' and gentle anti immigration you talk about actually leads to the holocaust..."

Because the people who fought the Nazis were all open borders liberals dontchaknow.


"Strange article this, because the 'sweet' 'cosy' and gentle anti immigration you talk about actually leads to the holocaust"

Nice bit of understatement there... Jeez! Anyway, something in what FromArseToElbow said above: social conservatism isn't restricted to the right. A lot of my Catholic colleagues are *very* leftwing economically but combine this with being pretty conservative on a range of social issues that probably don't need spelling out.

Deviation From the Mean


I think understatement is a good way to get to the point quickly!

My argument is that conservatism based on shared identity, values is the very basis of the most extreme and vile forms of prejudice. It is not the good conservatism but the very worst sort of barbarism. The decline of 'good' conservatism is one of the few developments to get optimistic about! That and the marvels of modern technology, which is probably the basis of the undermining of 'good' conservatism!


Thank you Deviation from the Mean for proving my point so eloquently, and with such rapidity.

Deviation From the Mean

Jim - Go watch repeats of Love thy neighbour and dream of being able to throw banana skins at black football players like in the good old days or whatever you imagine sticking your head above the parapet means.

Incidentally, it is quite funny how many people are willing to stick their heads above the parapet every day when it comes to immigration and how the tabloids scream from the parapet on a daily basis. Some effing parapet!

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