Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Conservatism is a

mass culture and secularism) and seek a return to traditional values, though different groups of conservatives may choose different traditional values to preserve.[3][4]

The first established use of the term in a political context originated in 1818 with François-René de Chateaubriand[5] during the period of Bourbon Restoration that sought to roll back the policies of the French Revolution. Historically associated with right-wing politics, the term has since been used to describe a wide range of views. There is no single set of policies regarded as conservative because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time.

Conservative thought has varied considerably as it has adapted itself to existing traditions and national cultures.[6] For example, some conservatives advocate for greater economic intervention,[7] while others advocate for a more laissez faire free-market economic system.[8] Thus, conservatives from different parts of the world—each upholding their respective traditions—may disagree on a wide range of issues. Edmund Burke, an 18th-century politician who opposed the French Revolution but supported the American Revolution, is credited as one of the main theorists of conservatism in the 1790s.[9]


Some political scientists such as Samuel P. Huntington have seen conservatism as situational. Under this definition, conservatives are seen as defending the established institutions of their time.[10] According to Quintin Hogg, the chairman of the British Conservative Party in 1959: "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".[11] Conservatism is often used as a generic term to describe a "right-wing viewpoint occupying the political spectrum between liberalism and fascism."[2]


Despite the lack of a universal definition, certain themes can be recognised as common across conservative thought. According to Michael Oakeshott:

To be conservative ... 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.[12]

Such traditionalism may be a reflection of trust in time-tested methods of social organisation, giving 'votes to the dead'.[13] Traditions may also be steeped in a sense of identity.[13]


In contrast to the tradition-based definition of conservatism, some left-wing political theorists such as Corey Robin define conservatism primarily in terms of a general defense of social and economic inequality.[14] From this perspective, conservatism is less an attempt to uphold old institutions and more "a meditation on—and theoretical rendition of—the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back".[15] On another occasion, Robin argues for a more complex relation: ”Conservatism is a defense of established hierarchies, but it is also fearful of those established hierarchies. It sees in their assuredness of power the source of corruption, decadence and decline.”[16]

Political philosopher Yoram Hazony argues that, in a traditional conservative community, members have importance and influence to the degree they are honoured within the social hierarchy, which includes factors such as age, experience, and wisdom.[17] The word hierarchy has religious roots and translates to 'rule of a high priest.'[18]


Conservatism has been called a "philosophy of human imperfection" by Noël O'Sullivan, reflecting among its adherents a negative view of human nature and pessimism of the potential to improve it through 'utopian' schemes.[19] The "intellectual godfather of the realist right", Thomas Hobbes, argued that the state of nature for humans was "poor, nasty, brutish, and short", requiring centralised authority.[20][21]


Authority is a core tenet of conservatism.[22][23] More specifically, traditional authority, according to Max Weber, is ”resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of those exercising authority under them”—for example parents, priests, and monarchs.[24][25] Danny Kruger defines conservative authority as ”the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community”.[26]


Reactionism is a tradition in

traditionalist conservative political perspective of a person opposed to social, political, and economic change.[28][29] Some scholars, such as Corey Robin, treat the words reactionary and conservative as synonyms.[30] Others, such as Mark Lilla, argue that reactionism and conservatism are distinct worldviews.[31] Political scientist Francis Wilson defines conservatism as ”a philosophy of social evolution, in which certain lasting values are defended within the framework of the tension of political conflict”.[32]

A reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which that person believes possessed positive characteristics absent from contemporary society. An early example of a powerful reactionary movement was German Romanticism, which centered around concepts of organicism, medievalism, and traditionalism against the forces of rationalism, secularism, and individualism that were unleashed in the French Revolution.[33][34]

In political discourse, being a reactionary is generally regarded as negative; Peter King observed that it is "an unsought-for label, used as a torment rather than a badge of honor."[35] Despite this, the descriptor has been adopted by writers such as the Austrian monarchist Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn,[36] the Colombian political theologian Nicolás Gómez Dávila, and the American historian John Lukacs.[37]


Liberal conservatism

Liberal conservatism incorporates the

classical liberal view of minimal government intervention in the economy. Individuals should be free to participate in the market and generate wealth without government interference.[38] However, individuals cannot be thoroughly depended on to act responsibly in other spheres of life; therefore, liberal conservatives believe that a strong state is necessary to ensure law and order and social institutions are needed to nurture a sense of duty and responsibility to the nation.[38] Liberal conservatism is a variant of conservatism that is strongly influenced by liberal stances.[39]

As these latter two terms have had different meanings over time and across countries, liberal conservatism also has a wide variety of meanings. Historically, the term often referred to the combination of

freedom for the individual
in both the economic and social spheres.

Over time, the general conservative ideology in many countries adopted fiscally conservative arguments and the term liberal conservatism was replaced with conservatism. This is also the case in countries where liberal economic ideas have been the tradition such as the United States and are thus considered conservative. In other countries where liberal conservative movements have entered the political mainstream, such as

American conservative tradition, such as in the writings of Russell Kirk

A secondary meaning for the term liberal conservatism that has developed in

civil rights, environmentalism and support for a limited welfare state
. In continental Europe, this is sometimes also translated into English as social conservatism.

Libertarian conservatism

Libertarian conservatism describes certain political ideologies most prominently within the United States which combine

Agorists such as Samuel Edward Konkin III labeled libertarian conservatism right-libertarianism.[40][41]

In contrast to paleoconservatives, libertarian conservatives support strict laissez-faire policies such as

and other areas of economic intervention. Many conservatives, especially in the United States, believe that the government should not play a major role in regulating business and managing the economy. They typically oppose efforts to charge high tax rates and to redistribute income to assist the poor. Such efforts, they argue, only serve to exacerbate the scourge of unemployment and poverty by lessening the ability for businesses to hire employees due to higher tax impositions.

Fiscal conservatism

Pennsylvania Avenue
, Washington, D.C.

Fiscal conservatism is the economic philosophy of prudence in government spending and debt.[42] In his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke argued that a government does not have the right to run up large debts and then throw the burden on the taxpayer:

[I]t is to the property of the citizen, and not to the demands of the creditor of the state, that the first and original faith of civil society is pledged. The claim of the citizen is prior in time, paramount in title, superior in equity. The fortunes of individuals, whether possessed by acquisition or by descent or in virtue of a participation in the goods of some community, were no part of the creditor's security, expressed or implied...[T]he public, whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can pledge nothing but the public estate; and it can have no public estate except in what it derives from a just and proportioned imposition upon the citizens at large.

National conservatism

Gianfranco Fini, former President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, in 2004

National conservatism is a political term used primarily in Europe to describe a variant of conservatism which concentrates more on national interests than standard conservatism as well as upholding cultural and ethnic identity,[43] while not being outspokenly nationalist or supporting a far-right approach.[44][45] In Europe, national conservatives are usually eurosceptics.[46][47]

National conservatism is heavily oriented towards the traditional family and social stability as well as in favour of limiting immigration. As such, national conservatives can be distinguished from economic conservatives, for whom free market economic policies, deregulation and fiscal conservatism are the main priorities. Some commentators have identified a growing gap between national and economic conservatism: "[M]ost parties of the Right [today] are run by economic conservatives who, in varying degrees, have marginalized social, cultural, and national conservatives."[48] National conservatism is also related to traditionalist conservatism.

Traditionalist conservatism

Traditionalist conservatism is a political philosophy emphasizing the need for the principles of

counterrevolutionary," defying the stigma that has attached to these terms since the Enlightenment. Having a hierarchical view of society, many traditionalist conservatives, including a few Americans (notable examples including Ralph Adams Cram,[50] Solange Hertz,[51] William S. Lind,[52] & Charles A. Coulombe[53]), defend the monarchical
political structure as the most natural and beneficial social arrangement.

Cultural conservatism

Cultural conservatives support the preservation of the heritage of one nation, or of a shared culture that is not defined by national boundaries.[54] The shared culture may be as divergent as Western culture or Chinese culture. In the United States, the term "cultural conservative" may imply a conservative position in the culture war. Cultural conservatives hold fast to traditional ways of thinking even in the face of monumental change. They believe strongly in traditional values and traditional politics and often have an urgent sense of nationalism.

Social conservatism

Social conservatism is distinct from cultural conservatism, although there are some overlaps. Social conservatives may believe that society is built upon a fragile network of relationships which need to be upheld through duty, traditional values and established institutions;[55] and that the government has a role in encouraging or enforcing traditional values or behaviours. A social conservative wants to preserve traditional morality and social mores, often by opposing what they consider radical policies or social engineering. Social change is generally regarded as suspect.

Social conservatives today generally favour the


Religious conservatism

2012 March for Life in Paris, France

Religious conservatism principally applies the teachings of particular religions to politics: sometimes by merely proclaiming the value of those teachings; at other times, by having those teachings influence laws.[60]

In most democracies, political conservatism seeks to uphold traditional family structures and social values. Religious conservatives typically oppose abortion, LGBT behavior (or, in certain cases, identity), drug use,[61] and sexual activity outside of marriage. In some cases, conservative values are grounded in religious beliefs, and conservatives seek to increase the role of religion in public life.[62]

Paternalistic conservatism

Paternalistic conservatism is a strand in conservatism which reflects the belief that societies exist and develop organically and that members within them have obligations towards each other.

High Tories.[citation needed

In more contemporary times, its proponents stress the importance of a

Toryism.[65][66] There have been a variety of one nation conservative governments. In the United Kingdom, the Prime Ministers Disraeli, Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, and Harold Macmillan[67]
were or are one nation conservatives.

In Germany, during the 19th-century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck adopted policies of state-organized compulsory insurance for workers against sickness, accident, incapacity and old age. Chancellor Leo von Caprivi promoted a conservative agenda called the "New Course".[68]

Progressive conservatism

In the United States, Theodore Roosevelt has been the main figure identified with progressive conservatism as a political tradition. Roosevelt stated that he had "always believed that wise progressivism and wise conservatism go hand in hand".[69] The Republican administration of President William Howard Taft was a progressive conservative and he described himself as "a believer in progressive conservatism"[69] and President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared himself an advocate of "progressive conservatism."[70]

In Canada, a variety of conservative governments have been part of the Red Tory tradition, with Canada's former major conservative party being named the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1942 to 2003.[71] In Canada, the Prime Ministers Arthur Meighen, R. B. Bennett, John Diefenbaker, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, and Kim Campbell led Red tory federal governments.[71]

Authoritarian conservatism

Miklós Horthy (1868–1957), Hungarian admiral and statesman who served as the regent of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1920 to 1944

Authoritarian conservatism or reactionary conservatism

autocratic regimes that center their ideology around national conservatism, rather than ethnic nationalism, though certain racial components such as antisemitism may exist.[75] Authoritarian conservative movements show strong devotion towards religion, tradition and culture while also expressing fervent nationalism akin to other far-right nationalist movements. Examples of authoritarian conservative leaders include António de Oliveira Salazar[76] and Engelbert Dollfuss.[77]

Authoritarian conservative movements were prominent in the same era as fascism, with which it sometimes clashed. Although both ideologies shared core values such as nationalism and had common enemies such as communism and materialism, there was nonetheless a contrast between the traditionalist nature of authoritarian conservatism and the revolutionary, palingenetic and populist nature of fascism—thus it was common for authoritarian conservative regimes to suppress rising fascist and Nazi movements.[78] The hostility between the two ideologies is highlighted by the struggle for power in Austria, which was marked by the assassination of ultra-Catholic statesman Engelbert Dollfuss by Austrian Nazis.

Sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset has examined the class basis of right-wing extremist politics in the 1920–1960 era. He reports:

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.[79]


History of conservative thought

In Great Britain, the

religious toleration.[88] Burke ultimately justified the social order on the basis of tradition: tradition represented the wisdom of the species, and he valued community and social harmony over social reforms.[89]

Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821)

Another form of conservatism developed in France in parallel to conservatism in Britain. It was influenced by Counter-Enlightenment works by men such as Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821) and Louis de Bonald (1754–1840). Many continental conservatives do not support separation of church and state, with most supporting state recognition of and cooperation with the Catholic Church, such as had existed in France before the Revolution. Conservatives were also early to embrace nationalism, which was previously associated with liberalism and the Revolution in France.[90] Another early French conservative, François-René de Chateaubriand (1768–1848), espoused a romantic opposition to modernity, contrasting its emptiness with the 'full heart' of traditional faith and loyalty.[91] Elsewhere on the continent, German thinkers Justus Möser (1720–1794) and Friedrich von Gentz (1764–1832) criticized the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen that came of the Revolution.[92] Opposition was also expressed by Adam Müller (1779–1829) and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1771–1830), the latter inspiring both left and right-wing followers.[93]

Both Burke and Maistre were critical and skeptical of democracy in general, though their reasons differed.[94] Maistre was pessimistic about humans being able to follow rules, while Burke was skeptical about humans' innate ability to make rules.[95] For Maistre, rules had a divine origin, while Burke believed they arose from custom.[96] The lack of custom for Burke, and the lack of divine guidance for Maistre, meant that people would act in terrible ways.[97] Both also believed that liberty of the wrong kind led to bewilderment and political breakdown.[98] Their ideas would together flow into a stream of anti-rationalist, romantic conservatism, but would still stay separate.[99] Whereas Burke was more open to argumentation and disagreement, Maistre wanted faith and authority, leading to a more illiberal strain of thought.[100]

History of conservative parties and movements

Conservative political parties vary widely from country to country in the goals they wish to achieve. Both conservative and liberal parties tend to favor private ownership of property, in opposition to communist, socialist and green parties, which favor communal ownership or laws requiring social responsibility on the part of property owners. Where conservatives and social liberals differ is primarily on social issues. Conservatives tend to reject behavior that does not conform to some social norm. Modern conservative parties often define themselves by their opposition to liberal or labor parties. The United States usage of the term "conservative" is unique to that country.[101]

In Italy, which was united by liberals and radicals (

Risorgimento), liberals, not conservatives, emerged as the party of the right.[102] In the Netherlands, conservatives merged into a new Christian democratic party in 1980.[103] In Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain, conservatism was transformed into and incorporated into fascism or the far-right.[104] In 1940, all Japanese parties were merged into a single fascist party. Following the war, Japanese conservatives briefly returned to politics, but were largely purged from public office.[105]

Conservative elites have long dominated Latin American nations. Mostly, this has been achieved through control of and support for civil institutions, the church and the armed forces, rather than through party politics. Typically, the church was exempt from taxes and its employees immune from civil prosecution. Where national conservative parties were weak or non-existent, conservatives were more likely to rely on military dictatorship as a preferred form of government. However, in some nations where the elites were able to mobilize popular support for conservative parties, longer periods of political stability were achieved. Chile, Colombia and Venezuela are examples of nations that developed strong conservative parties. Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador and Peru are examples of nations where this did not occur.

National Party, disbanded in 1973 following a military coup and did not re-emerge as a political force following the subsequent return to democracy.[108] Louis Hartz explained conservatism in Quebec and Latin America as a result of their settlement as feudal societies.[109] The American conservative writer Russell Kirk provided the opinion that conservatism had been brought to the United States and interpreted the American Revolution as a "conservative revolution".[110]

Historic conservatism in different countries

Although political conservatism developed in most countries, most countries did not have conservative parties. Many conservative parties disappeared as the reasons for their existence disappeared. Below are listed the historic conservative parties that survive today.


Having its roots in the conservative

Royal Question, supporting nuclear family as the cornerstone of society, defending Christian education, and opposing euthanasia. The Christian People's Party dominated politics in post-war Belgium. In 1999, the party's support collapsed, and it became the country's fifth-largest party.[111][112][113] Currently, the N-VA (nieuw-vlaamse alliantie/New Flemish Alliance) is the largest party in Belgium.[114]


Canada's conservatives had their roots in the Tory loyalists who left America after the American Revolution. They developed in the socio-economic and political cleavages that existed during the first three decades of the 19th century and had the support of the business, professional and established Church (Anglican) elites in Ontario and to a lesser extent in Quebec. Holding a monopoly over administrative and judicial offices, they were called the "

ultramontane Catholic hierarchy of Quebec and to keep them united in a conservative coalition.[115]

The conservatives combined

Toryism. They generally supported an activist government and state intervention in the marketplace and their policies were marked by noblesse oblige, a paternalistic responsibility of the elites for the less well-off.[116] From 1942, the party was known as the Progressive Conservatives until 2003, when the national party merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada.[117]

The conservative and autonomist Union Nationale, led by Maurice Duplessis, governed the province of Quebec in periods from 1936 to 1960 and in a close alliance with the Catholic Church, small rural elites, farmers and business elites. This period, known by liberals as the Great Darkness, ended with the Quiet Revolution and the party went into terminal decline.[118] By the end of the 1960s, the political debate in Quebec centered around the question of independence, opposing the social democratic and sovereignist Parti Québécois and the centrist and federalist Quebec Liberal Party, therefore marginalizing the conservative movement. Most French Canadian conservatives rallied either the Quebec Liberal Party or the Parti Québécois, while some of them still tried to offer an autonomist third-way with what was left of the Union Nationale or the more populists Ralliement créditiste du Québec and Parti national populaire, but by the 1981 provincial election politically organized conservatism had been obliterated in Quebec. It slowly started to revive at the 1994 provincial election with the Action démocratique du Québec, who served as Official opposition in the National Assembly from 2007 to 2008, before its merger with François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec in 2012, that took power in 2018.

The modern Conservative Party of Canada has rebranded conservatism and under the leadership of Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party added more conservative policies.


The Colombian Conservative Party, founded in 1849, traces its origins to opponents of General Francisco de Paula Santander's 1833–1837 administration. While the term "liberal" had been used to describe all political forces in Colombia, the conservatives began describing themselves as "conservative liberals" and their opponents as "red liberals". From the 1860s until the present, the party has supported strong central government; supported the Catholic Church, especially its role as protector of the sanctity of the family; and opposed separation of church and state. Its policies include the legal equality of all men, the citizen's right to own property and opposition to dictatorship. It has usually been Colombia's second largest party, with the Colombian Liberal Party being the largest.[119]


Danish conservatism emerged with the political grouping Højre (literally "Right"), which due to its alliance with king Christian IX of Denmark dominated Danish politics and formed all governments from 1865 to 1901. When a constitutional reform in 1915 stripped the landed gentry of political power, Højre was succeeded by the Conservative People's Party of Denmark, which has since then been the main Danish conservative party.[120] Another Danish conservative party was the Free Conservatives who were active between 1902 and 1920. The Conservative People's Party led the government coalition from 1982 to 1993. The party had previously been member of various governments from 1916 to 1917, 1940 to 1945, 1950 to 1953 and 1968 to 1971. The party was a junior partner in governments led by the Liberals from 2001 to 2011[121] and again from 2016 to 2019. The party is preceded by 11 years by the Young Conservatives (KU), today the youth movement of the party.

The Conservative People's Party had a stable electoral support close to 15 to 20% at almost all general elections from 1918 to 1971. In the 1970s it declined to around 5%, but then under the leadership of Poul Schlüter reached its highest popularity level ever in 1984, receiving almost every fourth vote. Since the late 1990s the party has obtained around 5 to 10% of the vote. In the 2022 Danish general election, the party received 5.5% of the vote.[122]

Conservative thinking has also influenced other Danish political parties. In 1995 the Danish People's Party was founded, based on a mixture of conservative, national and social democratic ideas.[120] In 2015 the party New Right was established, professing a national conservative attitude.[123] In the 2022 Danish general election, the two parties received 2.6 and 3.7% of the vote, respectively.

The conservative parties in Denmark have always considered the monarchy as a central institution in Denmark.[124][125][126][127]


The conservative party in Finland is the National Coalition Party (in Finnish Kansallinen Kokoomus, Kok). The party was founded in 1918, when several monarchist parties united. Although in the past the party was right-wing, today it is a moderate liberal conservative party. While the party advocates economic liberalism, it is committed to the social market economy.[128]


Conservatism in France focused on the rejection of the secularism of the French Revolution, support for the role of the Catholic Church and the restoration of the monarchy.[129] The monarchist cause was on the verge of victory in the 1870s, but then collapsed because the proposed king, Henri, Count of Chambord, refused to fly the tri-colored flag.[130] Religious tensions heightened in the 1890–1910 era, but moderated after the spirit of unity in fighting the First World War.[131] An extreme form of conservatism characterized the Vichy regime of 1940–1944 with heightened antisemitism, opposition to individualism, emphasis on family life and national direction of the economy.[132]

Following the Second World War, conservatives in France supported Gaullist groups and have been nationalistic and emphasized tradition, order and the regeneration of France.[133] Gaullists held divergent views on social issues. The number of conservative groups, their lack of stability and their tendency to be identified with local issues defy simple categorization. Conservatism has been the major political force in France since the Second World War.[134] Unusually, post-war French conservatism was formed around the personality of a leader, Charles de Gaulle; and did not draw on traditional French conservatism, but on the Bonapartism tradition.[135] Gaullism in France continues under The Republicans (formerly Union for a Popular Movement), which was previously led by Nicolas Sarkozy, a conservative figure in France (see Sinistrisme).[136] The word "conservative" itself is a term of abuse to many people in France.[137]


The main inter-war conservative party was called the

constitutional monarchy and opposed the republican Liberal Party. Both it and the Liberal party were suppressed by the authoritarian, arch-conservative and royalist 4th of August Regime of Ioannis Metaxas in 1936–1941. The PP was able to re-group after the Second World War as part of a United Nationalist Front which achieved power campaigning on a simple anticommunist, nationalist platform during the Greek Civil War (1946–1949). However, the vote received by the PP declined during the so-called "Centrist Interlude" in 1950–1952. In 1952, Marshal Alexandros Papagos created the Greek Rally as an umbrella for the right-wing forces. The Greek Rally came to power in 1952 and remained the leading party in Greece until 1963—after Papagos' death in 1955 reformed as the National Radical Union under Konstantinos Karamanlis. Right-wing governments backed by the palace and the army overthrew the Centre Union government in 1965 and governed the country until the establishment of the far-right Greek junta (1967–1974). After the regime's collapse in August 1974, Karamanlis returned from exile to lead the government and founded the New Democracy party. The new conservative party had four objectives: to confront Turkish expansionism in Cyprus, to reestablish and solidify democratic rule, to give the country a strong government and to make a powerful moderate party a force in Greek politics.[138]



Founded in 1924 as the Conservative Party, Iceland's Independence Party adopted its current name in 1929 after the merger with the Liberal Party. From the beginning, they have been the largest vote-winning party, averaging around 40%. They combined liberalism and conservatism, supported nationalization of infrastructure and opposed class conflict. While mostly in opposition during the 1930s, they embraced economic liberalism, but accepted the welfare state after the war and participated in governments supportive of state intervention and protectionism. Unlike other Scandanivian conservative (and liberal) parties, it has always had a large working-class following.[140] After the financial crisis in 2008, the party has sunk to a lower support level around 20–25%.


Luxembourg's major conservative party, the Christian Social People's Party (CSV or PCS), was formed as the Party of the Right in 1914 and adopted its present name in 1945. It was consistently the largest political party in Luxembourg, and dominated politics throughout the 20th century.[141]


The Conservative Party of Norway (Norwegian: Høyre, literally "right") was formed by the old upper class of state officials and wealthy merchants to fight the populist democracy of the Liberal Party, but lost power in 1884, when parliamentarian government was first practised. It formed its first government under parliamentarism in 1889 and continued to alternate in power with the Liberals until the 1930s, when Labour became the dominant political party. It has elements both of paternalism, stressing the responsibilities of the state, and of economic liberalism. It first returned to power in the 1960s.[142] During Kåre Willoch's premiership in the 1980s, much emphasis was laid on liberalizing the credit and housing market, and abolishing the NRK TV and radio monopoly, while supporting law and order in criminal justice and traditional norms in education[143]


Sweden's conservative party, the Moderate Party, was formed in 1904, two years after the founding of the Liberal Party.[144] The party emphasizes tax reductions, deregulation of private enterprise and privatization of schools, hospitals, and kindergartens.[145]


There are a number of conservative parties in Switzerland's parliament, the Federal Assembly. These include the largest, the Swiss People's Party (SVP),[146] the Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP)[147] and the Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland (BDP),[148] which is a splinter of the SVP created in the aftermath to the election of Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf as Federal Council.[148] The right-wing parties have a majority in the Federal Assembly.

The Swiss People's Party (SVP or UDC) was formed from the 1971 merger of the Party of Farmers, Traders and Citizens, formed in 1917 and the smaller Swiss Democratic Party, formed in 1942. The SVP emphasized agricultural policy and was strong among farmers in German-speaking Protestant areas. As Switzerland considered closer relations with the European Union in the 1990s, the SVP adopted a more militant protectionist and isolationist stance. This stance has allowed it to expand into German-speaking Catholic mountainous areas.[149] The Anti-Defamation League, a non-Swiss lobby group based in the United States has accused them of manipulating issues such as immigration, Swiss neutrality and welfare benefits, awakening antisemitism and racism.[150] The Council of Europe has called the SVP "extreme right", although some scholars dispute this classification. For instance, Hans-Georg Betz describes it as "populist radical right".[151] The SVP is the largest party since 2003.


Authoritarian Ukrainian State headed by Pavlo Skoropadskyi represented the conservative movement. The 1918 Hetman government, which appealed to the tradition of the 17th–18th century Cossack Hetman state, represented the conservative strand in Ukraine's struggle for independence. It had the support of the proprietary classes and of conservative and moderate political groups. Vyacheslav Lypynsky was a main ideologue of Ukrainian conservatism.[152]

United Kingdom

According to historian James Sack, English conservatives celebrate Edmund Burke, who was Irish, as their intellectual father.[153] Burke was affiliated with the Whig Party which eventually split amongst the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, but the modern Conservative Party is generally thought to derive primarily from the Tories, and the MPs of the modern conservative party are still frequently referred to as Tories.

Shortly after Burke's death in 1797, conservatism revived as a mainstream political force as the Whigs suffered a series of internal divisions. This new generation of conservatives derived their politics not from Burke, but from his predecessor, the

Methodist and Unitarian spokesmen. Anchoring the ultra Tories, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine stood firmly against Catholic emancipation and favoured slavery, cheap money, mercantilism, the Navigation Acts and the Holy Alliance.[154]

Conservatism evolved after 1820, embracing free trade in 1846 and a commitment to democracy, especially under Disraeli. The effect was to significantly strengthen conservatism as a grassroots political force. Conservatism no longer was the philosophical defense of the landed aristocracy, but had been refreshed into redefining its commitment to the ideals of order, both secular and religious, expanding imperialism, strengthened monarchy and a more generous vision of the welfare state as opposed to the punitive vision of the Whigs and liberals.[155] As early as 1835, Disraeli attacked the Whigs and utilitarians as slavishly devoted to an industrial oligarchy, while he described his fellow Tories as the only "really democratic party of England" and devoted to the interests of the whole people.[156] Nevertheless, inside the party there was a tension between the growing numbers of wealthy businessmen on the one side and the aristocracy and rural gentry on the other.[157] The aristocracy gained strength as businessmen discovered they could use their wealth to buy a peerage and a country estate.

Although conservatives opposed attempts to allow greater representation of the middle class in parliament, they conceded that electoral reform could not be reversed and promised to support further reforms so long as they did not erode the institutions of church and state. These new principles were presented in the Tamworth Manifesto of 1834, which historians regard as the basic statement of the beliefs of the new Conservative Party.[158]

Rishi Sunak, the current prime minister of the United Kingdom

Some conservatives lamented the passing of a pastoral world where the ethos of

Tory democracy.[161] However, since Burke, there has always been tension between traditional aristocratic conservatism and the wealthy business class.[162]

In 1834, Tory

. Despite the split, the mainstream Conservative Party accepted the doctrine of free trade in 1852.

In the second half of the 19th century, the Liberal Party faced political schisms, especially over Irish Home Rule. Leader William Gladstone (himself a former Peelite) sought to give Ireland a degree of autonomy, a move that elements in both the left and right-wings of his party opposed. These split off to become the Liberal Unionists (led by Joseph Chamberlain), forming a coalition with the Conservatives before merging with them in 1912. The Liberal Unionist influence dragged the Conservative Party towards the left as Conservative governments passing a number of progressive reforms at the turn of the 20th century. By the late 19th century, the traditional business supporters of the Liberal Party had joined the Conservatives, making them the party of business and commerce.[163]

After a period of Liberal dominance before the

Second World War, the first Labour government (1945–1951) under Clement Attlee
embarked on a program of nationalization of industry and the promotion of social welfare. The Conservatives generally accepted those policies until the 1980s.

Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013), under whose leadership the Conservative Party has shifted their economic policies to the right as well as Thatcherism

In the 1980s, the Conservative government of

United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP, founded in 1993), Northern Ireland's Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP, founded in 1971), began to appear, although they have yet to make any significant impact at Westminster (as of 2014, the DUP comprises the largest political party in the ruling coalition in the Northern Ireland Assembly), and from 2017–19 the DUP provided support for the Conservative minority government
under a confidence-and-supply arrangement.

Modern conservatism in different countries

Many sources[

] refer to any political parties on the right of the political spectrum as conservative despite having no connection with historical conservatism. In most cases, these parties do not use the term conservative in their name or self-identify as conservative. Below is a partial list of such political parties.


The Liberal Party of Australia adheres to the principles of social conservatism and liberal conservatism.[168] It is liberal in the sense of economics. Other conservative parties are the National Party of Australia, a sister party of the Liberals, Family First Party, Democratic Labor Party, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, Australian Conservatives, and the Katter's Australian Party.

The largest party in the country is the

socially conservative element. Australia undertook significant economic reform under the Labor Party in the mid-1980s. Consequently, issues like protectionism, welfare reform, privatization and deregulation are no longer debated in the political space as they are in Europe or North America. Moser and Catley explain: "In America, 'liberal' means left-of-center, and it is a pejorative term when used by conservatives in adversarial political debate. In Australia, of course, the conservatives are in the Liberal Party."[169] Jupp writes that "[the] decline in English influences on Australian reformism and radicalism, and appropriation of the symbols of Empire by conservatives continued under the Liberal Party leadership of Sir Robert Menzies, which lasted until 1966".[170]


Jair Bolsonaro, the former President of Brazil, known for his conservative stances

Conservatism in Brazil originates from the cultural and historical tradition of Brazil, whose cultural roots are

Roman Catholic.[171] More traditional conservative historical views and features include belief in political federalism and monarchism

In cultural life, Brazilian conservatism from the 20th century on includes names such as

In contemporary politics, a

Brasil 35
are the conservative parties in Brazil.


Conservatism developed alongside nationalism in Germany, culminating in Germany's victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War, the creation of the unified German Empire in 1871 and the simultaneous rise of Otto von Bismarck on the European political stage. Bismarck's "balance of power" model maintained peace in Europe for decades at the end of the 19th century. His "revolutionary conservatism" was a conservative state-building strategy designed to make ordinary Germans—not just the Junker elite—more loyal to state and emperor, he created the modern welfare state in Germany in the 1880s. According to Kees van Kersbergen and Barbara Vis, his strategy was:

[G]ranting social rights to enhance the integration of a hierarchical society, to forge a bond between workers and the state so as to strengthen the latter, to maintain traditional relations of authority between social and status groups, and to provide a countervailing power against the modernist forces of liberalism and socialism.[176]

Bismarck also enacted universal male suffrage in the new German Empire in 1871.[177] He became a great hero to German conservatives, who erected many monuments to his memory after he left office in 1890.[178]

With the rise of Nazism in 1933, agrarian movements faded and was supplanted by a more command-based economy and forced social integration. Though Adolf Hitler succeeded in garnering the support of many German industrialists, prominent traditionalists openly and secretly opposed his policies of euthanasia, genocide and attacks on organized religion, including Claus von Stauffenberg, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Henning von Tresckow, Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen and the monarchist Carl Friedrich Goerdeler.

More recently, the work of conservative Christian Democratic Union leader and Chancellor Helmut Kohl helped bring about German reunification, along with the closer European integration in the form of the Maastricht Treaty.

European People's Party (EPP) Congress in Bucharest in 2012, whose three conservative leaders in the EPP included Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy (2011–2018), Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán

Today, German conservatism is often associated with politicians such as Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose tenure has been marked by attempts to save the common European currency (Euro) from demise. The German conservatives are divided under Merkel due to the refugee crisis in Germany and many conservatives in the CDU/CSU oppose the refugee and migrant policies developed under Merkel.[179]


In India, the

Hindu Nationalism, an aggressive foreign policy against Pakistan and a conservative social and fiscal policy.[180]


After unification, Italy was governed successively by the Historical Right, which represented conservative, liberal-conservative and conservative-liberal positions, and the Historical Left. After World War I, the country saw the emergence of its first mass parties, notably including the Italian People's Party (PPI), a Christian-democratic party that sought to represent the Catholic majority, which had long refrained from politics. The PPI and the Italian Socialist Party decisively contributed to the loss of strength and authority of the old liberal ruling class, which had not been able to structure itself into a proper party: the Liberal Union was not a coherent one and the Italian Liberal Party came too late. In 1921 Benito Mussolini gave birth to the National Fascist Party (PNF), and the next year, through the March on Rome, he was appointed Prime Minister. In 1926 all parties were dissolved except the PNF, which thus remained the only legal party in the Kingdom of Italy until the fall of the regime in July 1943.

By 1945 Fascists were discredited,[181] disbanded and outlawed, while Mussolini was executed in April that year. After World War II, the centre-right was dominated by the centrist Christian Democracy (DC) party, which included both conservative and centre-left elements. With its landslide victory over the Italian Socialist Party and the Italian Communist Party in 1948, the political centre was in power. In Denis Mack Smith's words, it was "moderately conservative, reasonably tolerant of everything which did not touch religion or property, but above all Catholic and sometimes clerical." It dominated politics until DC's dissolution in 1994.[182][183] Among DC's frequent allies, there was the conservative-liberal Italian Liberal Party. At the right of the DC stood monarchist parties like the Monarchist National Party and the post-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI).

In 1994 entrepreneur and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi founded Forza Italia (FI), a liberal-conservative party. Berlusconi won three elections in 1994, 2001 and 2008, governing the country for almost ten years as Prime Minister. FI formed a coalitions with several parties, including the national-conservative National Alliance (AN), heir of the MSI, and the regionalist Lega Nord (LN). FI was briefly incorporated, along with AN, in The People of Freedom party and later revived in the new Forza Italia.[184] After the 2018 general election, the LN and the Five Star Movement formed a populist government, which lasted about a year.[185] In the 2022 general election the centre-right coalition, this time dominated by Brothers of Italy (FdI), a new conservative party born on the ashes of AN. Consequently, FdI, the re-branded Lega and FI formed a government under FdI leader Giorgia Meloni.


Under Vladimir Putin, the dominant leader since 1999, Russia has promoted explicitly conservative policies in social, cultural and political matters, both at home and abroad.[186] Putin has attacked globalism and economic liberalism. Russian conservatism is unique in some respects as it supports Economic intervention with a mixed economy, with a strong nationalist sentiment and social conservatism with its views being largely populist. Russian conservatism as a result opposes libertarian ideals such as the aforementioned concept of economic liberalism found in other conservative movements around the world. Putin has as a result promoted new think tanks that bring together like-minded intellectuals and writers. For example, the Izborsky Club, founded in 2012 by Aleksandr Prokhanov, stresses Russian nationalism, the restoration of Russia's historical greatness and systematic opposition to liberal ideas and policies.[187] Vladislav Surkov, a senior government official, has been one of the key ideologists during Putin's presidency.[188]

In cultural and social affairs, Putin has collaborated closely with the Russian Orthodox Church. Mark Woods provides specific examples of how the Church under Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has backed the expansion of Russian power into Crimea and eastern Ukraine.[189] More broadly, The New York Times reports in September 2016 how that Church's policy prescriptions support the Kremlin's appeal to social conservatives:[190]

"A fervent foe of homosexuality and any attempt to put individual rights above those of family, community, or nation, the Russian Orthodox Church helps project Russia as the natural ally of all those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition-crushing rush of globalization, multiculturalism, and women's and gay rights."

— Andrew Higgins (The New York Times: In Expanding Russian Influence, Faith Combines With Firepower)

South Korea

Kim Young Sam's Reunification Democratic Party and Kim Jong-pil's New Democratic Republican Party. And again through election its second leader, Kim Young-sam, became the fourteenth President of Korea. When the conservative party was beaten by the opposition party in the general election, it changed its form again to follow the party members' demand for reforms. It became the New Korean Party, but it changed again one year later since the President Kim Young-sam was blamed by the citizen for the International Monetary Fund.[clarification needed] It changed its name to Grand National Party (GNP). Since the late Kim Dae-jung assumed the presidency in 1998, GNP had been the opposition party until Lee Myung-bak won the presidential election of 2007


Workers' Party (WP).[191]

United States

The meaning of conservatism in the United States has little in common with the way the word is used elsewhere. As Ribuffo (2011) notes, "what Americans now call conservatism much of the world calls liberalism or neoliberalism".[192] American conservatism is a broad system of political beliefs in the United States that is characterized by respect for American traditions, support for Judeo-Christian values, economic liberalism, anti-communism, and a defense of Western culture. Liberty within the bounds of conformity to conservatism is a core value, with a particular emphasis on strengthening the free market, limiting the size and scope of government and opposition to high taxes and government or labor union encroachment on the entrepreneur.

The 1830s

Northern Democrats, who tended to support the abolition of slavery, union, and equality.[193] Many Democrats were conservative in the sense that they wanted things to be like they were in the past, especially as far as race was concerned. They generally favored poorer farmers and urban workers, and were hostile to banks and industrialization and high tariffs.[194]

The post-Civil War

Conservative Coalition, which successfully put an end to Blacks being elected to national political office until 1967, when Edward Brooke was elected Senator from Massachusetts.[195][196]

In late 19th century, the

bimetalism, money backed by both gold and silver. The conservative wing nominated Alton B. Parker in 1904, but he got very few votes.[197][198]

Since the 1920s, conservatism in the United States has been chiefly associated with the Republican Party. During the era of segregation, many Southern Democrats were conservatives and they played a key role in the conservative coalition that largely controlled domestic policy in Congress from 1937 to 1963.[199] The conservative Democrats continued to have influence in the US politics until 1994's Republican Revolution, when the American South shifted from solid Democrat to solid Republican, while maintaining its conservative values.

US president Ronald Reagan (1981–1989), whose Reagan Doctrine has reshaped the Republican Party

The major conservative party in the United States today is the Republican Party, also known as the GOP (Grand Old Party). Modern American conservatives consider

Reagan administration, conservatives also supported the so-called "Reagan Doctrine" under which the US as part of a Cold War strategy provided military and other support to guerrilla insurgencies that were fighting governments identified as socialist or communist. The Reagan administration also adopted neoliberalism and Reaganomics (pejoratively referred to as trickle-down economics
), resulting in the 1980s economic growth and trillion-dollar deficits.

Other modern conservative positions include opposition to

opposition to environmentalism.[208] On average, American conservatives desire tougher foreign policies than liberals do.[209] Economic liberalism, deregulation and social conservatism
are major principles of the Republican Party.

The Tea Party movement, founded in 2009, had proven a large outlet for populist American conservative ideas. Their stated goals included rigorous adherence to the US constitution, lower taxes, and opposition to a growing role for the federal government in health care. Electorally, it was considered a key force in Republicans reclaiming control of the US House of Representatives in 2010.[210][211][212]



The Big Five Personality Model has applications in the study of political psychology. It has been found by several studies that individuals who score high in Conscientiousness (the quality of working hard and being careful) are more likely to possess a right-wing political identification.[213][214][215] On the opposite end of the spectrum, a strong correlation was identified between high scores in Openness to Experience and a left-leaning ideology.[213][216][217] Because conscientiousness is positively related to job performance,[218][219] a 2021 study found that conservative service workers earn higher ratings, evaluations, and tips than social liberal ones.[220]

Disgust sensitivity

A number of studies have found that

Research has also found that people who are more disgust sensitive tend to favour their own

out-groups. The reason behind this may be that people begin to associate outsiders with disease while associating health with people similar to themselves.[224]

The higher one's disgust sensitivity is, the greater the tendency to make more conservative moral judgments. Disgust sensitivity is associated with moral hypervigilance, which means people who have higher disgust sensitivity are more likely to think that suspects of a crime are guilty. They also tend to view them as evil and criminal, thus endorsing them to harsher punishment in the setting of a court.[225]


Following the Second World War, psychologists conducted research into the different motives and tendencies that account for ideological differences between left and right. The early studies focused on conservatives, beginning with Theodor W. Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality (1950) based on the F-scale personality test. This book has been heavily criticized on theoretical and methodological grounds, but some of its findings[clarification needed] have been confirmed by further empirical research.[226]

According to psychologist

right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) on his RWA scale.[227] This finding was echoed by Adorno. A study done on Israeli and Palestinian students in Israel found that RWA scores of right-wing party supporters were significantly higher than those of left-wing party supporters.[228] However, a 2005 study by H. Michael Crowson and colleagues suggested a moderate gap between RWA and other conservative positions, stating that their "results indicated that conservatism is not synonymous with RWA".[229]

Ambiguity tolerance–intolerance

In 1973, British psychologist

cognitive closure, contribute to the degree of one's political conservatism and its manifestations in decision-making.[226][231] A study by Kathleen Maclay stated these traits "might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty". The research also suggested that while most people are resistant to change, social liberals are more tolerant of it.[232]

Social dominance orientation

in-group be superior to out-groups. Psychologist Felicia Pratto and her colleagues have found evidence to support the claim that a high SDO is strongly correlated with conservative views and opposition to social engineering to promote equality.[233] Pratto and her colleagues also found that high SDO scores were highly correlated with measures of prejudice.[citation needed

However, David J. Schneider argued for a more complex relationships between the three factors, writing that "correlations between prejudice and political conservatism are reduced virtually to zero when controls for SDO are instituted, suggesting that the conservatism–prejudice link is caused by SDO".[234] Conservative political theorist Kenneth Minogue criticized Pratto's work, saying:

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.[235]

A 1996 study by Pratto and her colleagues examined the topic of racism. Contrary to what these theorists predicted, correlations among conservatism and racism were strongest among the most educated individuals, and weakest among the least educated. They also found that the correlation between racism and conservatism could be accounted for by their mutual relationship with SDO.[236]


In his book Gross National Happiness (2008), Arthur C. Brooks presents the finding that conservatives are roughly twice as happy as social liberals.[237] A 2008 study suggested that conservatives tend to be happier than social liberals because of their tendency to justify the current state of affairs and to remain unbothered by inequalities in society.[238] A 2012 study disputed this, demonstrating that conservatives expressed greater personal agency (e.g., personal control, responsibility), more positive outlook (e.g., optimism, self-worth), and more transcendent moral beliefs (e.g., greater religiosity, greater moral clarity).[239]

See also

National variants

Ideological variants

Related topics


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Further reading

Primary sources

  • Schneider, Gregory L. ed. Conservatism in America Since 1930: A Reader. 2003.
  • Witonski, Peter, ed. The Wisdom of Conservatism. (4 vol. Arlington House; 1971). 2396 pages; worldwide sources.

External links