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Conservatism in America Term Paper

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Updated: Apr 11th, 2019

Conservatives in the United States of America have made a great contribution to the politics since the end of the Second World War. Gregory Schneider identified the following features belonging to conservatives, “respect for tradition, republicanism support, Christian religion and the upholding of the rule of law” (Schneider 19).

There are social conservatives and liberal conservatives as well. Conservatives have a firm admiration for the founding fathers of the nation. Most conservatives are for the status quo and against any form of revolutionary change. It has been noted that the American Revolution disrupted all the forms of conservative links and regimes (Schneider 19).

Hartz attempted to provide a practical explanation for the liberal tradition of America by relating it to the history of the Europeans. This relation, according to him, primarily relied on the absence of feudalism in the United States of America and secondarily on critical influence of European ideas, particularly those of John Locke.

Hartz revealed a great deal about the current state of the liberal American tradition and customs that America could give rise to the concept of liberal society. He saw a liberal tradition as a central one to the American experience home and abroad.

Hartz’s liberal tradition in America has continued to influence how Americans think about their history and traditions. The conservatives and the radicals have embraced Hartz’s analysis to support their devotion to defense of property rights and individualism. The liberal tradition in the United States of America is a historical document that is inadequate in analysis because it is too static and flat.

Hartz dwelt much on the matters of psychology and democracy and ignored the roles played by ethnicity, race, religion and democracy in the history of America. Hartz’s thesis was considered a single-factor analysis characterized by two dimensions, namely: ,the presence of a liberal idea and the absence of feudalism (Kloppenberg 460).

Hartz’s thesis argued that since the US had been found, it remained inherently liberal. This thesis was the subject of various criticism, debate and controversies. Some scholars argued that this thesis was unable to explain the politics of exclusion, but it captured the real political identity of America.

In his argument, Hartz posited that American politics was shaped by distinct social and political theoriesy that were devoid of feudalism and monolithic creed emanating from history. The thesis provided explanations for various social and political outcomes in the US like the failure of socialism, the rise and fall of McCarthyism and the absence of European-like welfare states (Stears 2).

Hartz was a consensus theorist because of his argument that American ideas were influenced by the colonialists who were motivated by political principles.

Consensus theorists’ argument was centered on Lockean liberalism, which argued that the founding generation of Americans had been motivated by the primacy of the government’s role in protecting them and their natural rights. Hartz agreed to the argument that Lockean ideas dominated the American political thoughts.

Hartz found that political conflict with the colonialists as unproductive since it was not motivated by direct engagement with the core principles of their competitors, and he concluded that as long as the liberals did not renounce capitalism, and the conservatives did not renounce equality, the alternatives that they articulated would collapse (Teles and Glenn 351).

The relationship between the ideas of Crick and Hartz was that Crick followed Hartz’ ideas in the absence of class and ideological conflict. Fundamental agreement on values was an important symptom and cause of the principle agreement on the primary political values that re-linked with liberalism hegemony.

Both scholars were in the same vein of argument since they both argued that American conservatism was romantic though politically ineffective, and hence it was considered to be un-American. According to Crick, the development of conservatism was considered to be one of the great post war developments in the United States of America. He posited that conservatism was a respectable social and political philosophy.

On American conservatism, Crick argued that there was a confusion between conservatism and traditionalism; this confusion was only realized in the United States of America, and he attributed it to conservatives like Russell Kirk (Aughey, Greta and Riches 5). Other prominent conservatives in the United States of America were Strauss, Hallowell, Voeglin and Hayek.

Voeglin who provided answers to philosophical questions while Strauss preferred to be considered an academic conservative who could enhance the ability of students to critically think. Hayek utilized the label Old Whig to define individual freedom against the policies that were supported by the liberals. Though Hallowell referred to himself as a conservative, he did not want to be associated with the movement (Schneider 6).

Federalist can rely on a document considered as a product of minority views, which were reconciled. It treated the constitution as a document that forced all the people to be under law. Carey argued that conservatism provided no support for establishing the individual rights that were advocated by the modern liberals.

The federalists reasoned deliberations and recognized higher sources of law founded on the power of the legislature. I agree that the federalist document is not considered a conservative one because it formed a basis for a democratic government, and the conservatives do not subscribe to the tenets of democracy.

To the conservatives, the federalism did not embody the character of American because the last is to guarantee the citizens their rights and offer modalities of power distribution.

Unlike Cray who argued that the federalist document was the principal document that dictated and directed how the society was to be governed, Hartz argued that the constitution did not guarantee minority rights in any liberal society, but it was the dynamic of ideas. Federalists were committed to preservation of civil liberties, and they upheld the traditional opinions that had been adjusted to the American nature.

In his argument, William Buckley was considered as a galvanizing force of the American conservative movement. Kendall in his turn defined classification as one of the conservative thinkers. Kendall argued that there should have been decentralization of power in the society; conservatives agreed that power had to be dispersed from the centre.

He argued that power was not to be concentrated in hands of the federal government, but the local government was to be granted a high degree of autonomy. That implied that the amount of power wielded by the government was to be circumscribed and shared by many people.

Conservatism in the USA had not manifested itself until 1790 when there was a revival of public consciousness and increase in the number of people opposing the forces of conservatism. In the United States, the American Revolution was considered to be stir up by the conservatives.

Edmund Burke is meant to be the founder of conservatism. President Reagan utilized his views and was among the presidents who solidified their political support by supporting the conservatives and demanding for their wishes. Reagan was considered to be the conservative standard of economic, foreign and social policies.

This gave place to the coining of the historical phrase Reagan era. Russell Kirk was the most vocal opponent to liberalism. He argued that both modern and classical liberalism theories focused a lot of attention on financial matters and consequently ended up failing to meet the human desires. Kirk was against libertarian ideas because he considered them a threat to conservatism (Schneider 4).

The views of Kirk and Weaver, who stood in the ranks of the traditional conservatives, were considered moral transcendence and a form of natural law that was advocated by minority of conservatives in the United States of America. Traditional and neoconservative opinions varied based on ultimate principles.

Meyer was considered as one of the prominent conservatism fusionists who thought that neo- and paleo-conservative positions could be reconciled. This was because according to him, they shared common assumptions, particularly about human dignity and the inherent importance of an individual and the significance of virtue, order and value which he argued were much geared towards placing a limitation to the power of the state.

The two opinions from the two schools of thought were on collision regarding the choice between stressing freedom over the need for order and justice in the society. The effort to unify the two positions was made difficult by the emergence of mass men who lacked strong communal organizations and families (Schneider 4).

Neo-conservatives supported an assertive and interventionist foreign policy as long as its intention was to promote democracy and American values abroad. Dick Cheney, Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol were among the prominent neo-conservatives and directly linked to foreign policies of the Bush era. Paleo-conservatism developed during the 1980s as a reaction to neo-conservatism.

It placed a lot of emphasis on tradition, particularly religious or rather Christian tradition and the importance of the society and family. Its key proponents like Huntington Samuel argued that a society that was multiethnic or multiracial was not stable. Paleo-conservative supporters were isolationists and wary of foreign influence (Farmer 3).

The variation in American conservatism was brought to prominence during the rule of President George Bush. It was considered to be a perspective or a persuasion and not a movement. Neo-conservatism denoted the reaction against the champions of village welfare, idealist foreign policies, affirmative action and radical liberationist values.

Irving Kristol was the godfather of the neo-conservatism and argued that patriotism was health and natural sentiment that was to be encouraged and promoted in America because the USA was a home to immigrants, thus that issue was to be the greatest sentiment. Neo-conservatives were wary of international organizations that would cause the creation of the world government and to them, it would result in tyranny.

They argued that Americans were to be ready to defend any democratic nation that would be attacked by an undemocratic one. Traditional conservatives, on the other hand, claimed that that perspective by neo-conservatives was imprudent while the laissez-faire considered that argument as militarism.

Laissez-faire applied the standards of natural law to the social issues while the libertarianism utilized laissez-faire in all the issues. Traditional conservatives considered freedom distorted and burdensome. They argued that the authority of the ancestral institutions was to be protected.

Furthermore, according to them, the rule of law was to be employed in the protection of liberties and fostering rational choices; individuals were to be considered and taken care of in the social context.

During the period of the Cold War, the conservatives were kept intact because of the anti-communism sentiments; this was because they were championing in the Cold War since they were against any intrusion or humiliation of the United States of America (Deutsch and Fishman 11).

American conservatism affirmed that God and capitalism were inherent values in the American society just as social stability and economic ferment. Religion resonated with the values of the Protestant ethics in the culture of America, which considered the pursuit for wealth sanctioned and inspired.

The tension between the Christian societies made the conservatives affirm that it was a process of symbolic differentiation that characterized the American colonial experience.

During the period of the 1950s, conservatives placed a lot of emphasis on the roots of Judeo-Christian; in this regard, they considered the projection of a man as a consuming and producing animal. During his rule, Ronald Reagan stressed Judeo-Christian values as the much-needed ingredients in fighting communism,

Belief in the superiority of Western Judeo-Christian traditions led conservatives to downplay the aspirations of Third World and to denigrate the value of foreign aid. Since the 1990s, the phrase “Judeo-Christian” has been primarily used by conservatives.

Evangelicals had been politicized in the 1920s, battling to impose prohibition and to stop the teaching of evolution in the schools (as in the Scopes Trial of 1925), but had largely been political. The emergence of the “religious right” as a political force and part of the conservative coalition dates from the 1970s and was a response to secularization and Supreme Court rulings on school prayers. (Deutsch and Fishman 11)

I agree with Abbott’s argument. This is because all the arguments on liberalism and tendencies concerning liberal views were analyzed in a paradoxical and confused state. Political theorists reflected the difficulty of defining liberalism in a manner that its relevance was not to be established or inadequate.

Philosophers only speculated on such issues as religion, economics, family and foreign policy and other changes in liberal ideas, but none of the theorists sought to define the purpose and the direction of American liberalism, and only through the arguments and the opinions of Hartz, the American liberalism can be renewed, and the entire history of America can be explained through symbols and cadences of Hartz (Abbott and Levy 3).


Conservatives are interested in the perpetuation of the status quo. Though they believe that change is possible, they strongly argue that it should happen gradually. They are opposed to radical changes in the society and view radicalism as disorderly in the society.

According to them, change should be supported by the existing customs and institutions. Conservatives are skeptical about any society that is devoid of order and justice or the one that lacks constraints; conservatives clash with liberals on matters of expansion of human rights and the usefulness of societal institutions.

Works Cited

Abbott, Philip, and Levy Michael. The Liberal Future in America: Essays in Renewal. Westport, NY: Greenwood Press, 1985. Print.

Aughey, Arthur, Greta Jones, and Riches William. Conservatism in Britain and America. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992. Print.

Deutsch, Kenneth, and Fishman Ethan. The Dilemmas of American Conservatism. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2010. Print.

Farmer, Brian. American Conservatism: History, Theory and Practice. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2005. Print.

Kloppenberg, James. “In Retrospect: Louis Hartz’s: The Liberal Tradition in America.” Reviews in American History 29.3 (2001): 460-478. Print.

Schneider, Gregory. Conservatism in America since 1930: A Reader. New York, NY: New York Univ. Press, 2003. Print.

Stears, Marc. “The liberal tradition revisited.” Wisconsin University, n.d. Web.

Teles, Steven, and Glenn Brian. Conservatism and American Political Development. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

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